As we exit the last international break of the season and prepare to enter the final stretch of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, managers will be formulating plans to squeeze every last drop out of their squads in one final, frenetic pursuit of success.
Minimising injuries to important players is often the key to winning matches and building momentum in the final throes of a season, though it’s extremely rare for any Premier League squad to get through an entire campaign unscathed.
Losing players to injury at a crucial juncture of a season can severely hamper a team’s chances of glory, however, a player returning from a lengthy lay-off can provide a timely, and sometimes destiny-altering boost.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the Premier League players hoping to make a positive impact on their imminent respective returns from injury.
Joe Gomez – Liverpool
Gifted 21-year old Liverpool centre-half Joe Gomez had been building a formidable relationship with Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence before he sustained a lower-leg fracture against Burnley at Turf Moor on December 5th.
After approximately 15 weeks on the sidelines, Gomez returned to full first team training last week and it won’t be long before he is ready to slot back into the Liverpool starting XI.
Liverpool could certainly do with his services – Jurgen Klopp’s title chasers have kept only 6 clean sheets in their last 15 matches in all competitions, though a fit and firing Joe Gomez would certainly help to plug some of those defensive holes.
Benjamin Mendy – Manchester City
Unfortunate French left-back Benjamin Mendy has been cursed with injuries since making the £50m switch from Ligue 1 side Lyon to Manchester City in the summer of 2017.
A cruciate knee injury inside the second month of his first competitive Citizen’s campaign kept him out from September to April of the 2017/18 season, and after a blistering start to the current season, a succession of fitness issues have severely restricted Mendy’s minutes on the pitch.
The 24-year old hasn’t kicked a Premier League ball since Man City’s 3-1 derby win against United on November 11th, though recent reports suggest that the 9-times capped French international is a hair’s breadth away from a comeback.
Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Danilo and Aymeric Laporte have all filled in admirably for City in Mendy’s absence, though the return of the dynamic left-back specialist would add fuel to the Citizen’s title-charge.
Mario Lemina – Southampton
Any team scrapping for their lives near the foot of the Premier League table need to have a healthy sprinkling of combative, aggressive players in their ranks.
Southampton’s midfield destroyer Mario Lemina certainly falls into that crucial category and the 25-year old Gabon international is close to making his return from an abdominal complaint that has kept him on the periphery of the action since the end of December.
Despite his lengthy absence, Lemina still ranks second for average tackles (2.6) and third for average interceptions (2.2) made per Premier League game for Southampton this season, and the Saints will undoubtedly need his devilish possession recovery skills to aid their push for survival.
Jack Wilshere – West Ham
The technically brilliant but glass ankle-d Jack Wilshere’s appalling injury record has been well documented and long lamented by fans of his unique midfield skill-set.
West Ham took a calculated punt on Wilshere last summer after the 27-year old’s contract with Arsenal expired. Unfortunately for both parties, the fitness issues that have plagued Wilshere career followed him from the Emirates to the London Stadium, and the former England international has started just 4 Premier League games in total this season.
Wilshere hasn’t been on the pitch for West Ham since December 1st, though the ex-Bournemouth loanee revealed this week that he was back in full first team training at Rush Green.
His return could provide the Hammers will a huge injection of quality in central areas and in turn help to strengthen their late push for Europa League qualification.
West Ham currently occupy 9th place in the Premier League table, though the Irons trail 7th placed Wolves by just 2 points. If Man City beat Wanderers to the FA Cup in May, the team that finishes 7th would take the UEL spot that was initially reserved for the cup winners.
Steven Defour – Burnley
Last season’s surprise packages and critic-defying dark horses Burnley have had to endure a highly contrasting Premier League campaign in 2018/19.
With 7 matches left to play, the Clarets are just one place and two points clear of the drop zone, though Cardiff City, who sit directly behind them, have a hugely important game in hand.
Burnley need all the assistance they can get if they are to beat the drop, and the return from injury of one of their most accomplished players, Steven Defour, would give everyone at Turf Moor a sizeable lift ahead of the Clarets’ impending relegation dogfight.
Having started 24 Premier League games for Burnley last season, Defour has amassed just 6 top-flight appearances this time around, and the 30-year old schemer’s last Premier League involvement of any description was back on December 1st against Crystal Palace.
Defour is still in the treatment room with a calf strain that’s proving difficult to shake, though Burnley manager Sean Dyche will be desperate to get him fully fit as soon as possible.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Liverpool
Versatile midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not featured for Liverpool since sustaining multiple ligament damage to his knee during the Reds’ Champions League semi-final first leg against AS Roma in April 2018.
The 25-year old has had to undergo a lengthy and intense period of rehabilitation that included a major operation to rebuild the ligaments around his knee in early May last year.
Almost a year on from his horrific injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain is just weeks away from making his long-awaited return to Liverpool’s first team, and his recovery would come just in time to add weight to the Merseysiders’ bid for Premier League and continental glory.
The former Arsenal star had played 40 minutes for Liverpool’s U23 team on March 8th, but a muscle issue picked up against Derby that evening pushed his full comeback date a little further down the road.
Jurgen Klopp will be keen to release a fresh and eager to perform Oxlade-Chamberlain on the Premier and the Champions League’s tired defences before the season finishes.