Premier League preview
International injuries hit domestic managers
By Rob Parrish. Last Updated: 17/10/08 2:49pm
Benitez: Torres trouble
The international action may be over, but the ramifications of the latest round of matches are still being felt in the Premier League.
Anxious managers generally spend the majority of international breaks chewing their fingernails and awaiting the safe return of their precious Premier League protagonists.
And the news from abroad has not been kind this time, with a number of key players hobbling home having served their country.
Liverpool feel that they have been the hardest hit, with star striker Fernando Torres damaging his hamstring in Spain's victory over Belgium, an injury which will rule him out against Wigan on Saturday, plus a meeting with his former club Atletico Madrid and the following clash with Chelsea.
Emile Heskey will lead the Latics line against his former club after reaching the 50 cap mark for his country with an impressive display against Belarus.
Rafa Benitez was predictably grumpy when he announced Torres' absence, bemoaning the number of international matches in the calendar. Presumably, the Spaniard was less concerned about Torres turning out for his country when he scored the winning goal in the final of Euro 2008?
Arsenal's midfield talisman Cesc Fabregas replaced the Reds forward against Belgium, but suffered a broken nose during the match, although he was able to play on until the final whistle.
Fabregas is expected to be fit as the Gunners welcome Everton to Emirates Stadium, but his recent comments about the lack of strength in depth in the Arsenal midfield may not have endeared him to manager Arsene Wenger or his team-mates.
Toffees boss David Moyes finally ended the speculation over his future earlier this week when he put pen to paper on a new five-year contract, and will hope that helps bring some stability with the Goodison Park outfit not at their best this term.
West Brom's defenders will have to be on their toes at Old Trafford on Saturday with the in-form Wayne Rooney set to lead Manchester United's attack.
The England striker continued his recent spree with two superb goals against Belarus and, provided Sir Alex Ferguson does not decide to rest his young charge, will be eager to add to his tally against the Baggies.
Tony Mowbray's side will not simply be cannon-fodder for the Red Devils, as they boast the joint-tightest defence in the Premier League away from home, having conceded just once in three games - the same record as Chelsea.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's league leaders make the trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday with the match live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1, but Ashley Cole will avoid a continuation of the jeers he faced after his blunder for England against Kazakhstan as he remains troubled by a hamstring problem.
John Terry was unfit to lead his country in their World Cup qualification matches - proof that injuries can occur in club football too, Rafa - and instead of travelling to Minsk with his colleagues spent time at Stamford Bridge receiving treatment on his injured back, which has responded well.
Beleagured Tottenham fans aghast at comparisons with the Titanic after their worst start to the season since 1912 can gain a crumb of comfort by Luka Modric's goalscoring display for Croatia against the mighty Andorra.
Whether Modric blossoms with his confidence boosted or stays a shrinking violet in midfield as Juande Ramos' men face a tricky trip to Stoke on Sunday remains to be seen, a match you can follow live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.
Rory Delap's long throws at the Britannia Stadium may not be a secret weapon any more, but few teams have managed to combat them effectively this season, and shaky Spurs are unlikely to be the first to do so.
Manchester City hope Brazil star Robinho will be fit, after he was stretchered off in the South Americans' World Cup qualifier against Colombia, as they prepare to face Newcastle on Monday night.
Interim manager Joe Kinnear will be in the dug-out for the first time for the Magpies, alongside Michael Owen, who may not be required by England at present, but joins the star names on the sidelines with a groin injury.
Hull City have the chance to continue their remarkable Premier League success story on Sunday with West Ham making the trip to the KC Stadium.
Successive away victories against Arsenal and Tottenham helped Tigers boss Phil Brown to the Barclays manager of the month award for September as the club climbed to an improbable third place in the table.
For all Gianfranco Zola's bright smiles and obvious charm, the Hammers have work to do having suffered their first home defeat of the season last time out when Bolton took all three points from their trip to Upton Park.
The Trotters have a North West derby to relish on Saturday, with bitter local rivals Blackburn making the short journey to the Reebok Stadium for what is sure to be a fiercely-contested affair.
Paul Ince may have made a solid start to his top-flight managerial career, but he received a lesson from the master in his last game, with former mentor Ferguson leading his United side to a well-deserved three points at Ewood Park.
Aston Villa duo Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner may have a point to prove when Portsmouth arrive in the Midlands on Saturday, following Harry Redknapp's comments about the England Under 21 side.
The Pompey boss fears there is a lack of quality in Stuart Pearce's side and claimed the young Lions were hanging on against Wales when they booked their place in next summer's European Championships in Sweden.
Given Agbonlahor would have joined up with Fabio Capello's senior squad had it not been for an injury concern, he will be particularly keen to show Redknapp that he is wide of the mark.
The visitors have their own full international strike duo to call upon, with the blossoming partnership of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch expected to be fresh and firing after being used sparingly by Fabio Capello.
The final fixture of the weekend sees Sunderland make the trip to Fulham, with Steed Malbranque back on his old stamping ground with his latest club.
The classy French midfielder enjoyed five years at Craven Cottage, but returns to the banks of the Thames determined to pile more misery on his former employers.
Successive defeats by West Brom, West Ham and Blackburn have left Fulham on the brink of the relegation zone they spent far too much of last season entrenched in.