The Premier League returns three weeks today having halted to accommodate a winter World Cup for the first time, but how are clubs preparing for when the season resumes?
Players selected for the tournament are either still in Qatar or having some downtime before the Premier League resumes on Boxing Day – eight days after the World Cup concludes – with those clubs still in the Carabao Cup playing their fourth-round ties in the week leading up to Christmas.
Clubs have been putting the finishing touches to their plans for the unprecedented mid-season hiatus, as they attempt to maintain the fitness of those players not heading out to the World Cup.
Sky Sports runs through each club’s respective plans…
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Image: Mikel Arteta is set to take Arsenal abroad
Mikel Arteta has taken Premier League leaders Arsenal on a training camp to Dubai during the World Cup. The first-team squad made the same trip last January having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round.
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The Gunners have been looking at possible destinations for a warm-weather training camp and Dubai has emerged as the preferred option.
It is a suitable venue as players who drop out of the World Cup can make the short excursion to join up with their team-mates. Arsenal will head out at the start of December and stay there until the middle of the month.
They will play two fixtures against top European opposition at the Al Maktoum Stadium.
- December 8: Arsenal vs Lyon – Kick off 3.30pm
- December 13: Arsenal vs AC Milan – Kick off 2pm
- December 17: Arsenal vs Juventus – Kick off 6pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? 10 players: Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli (both Brazil), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), William Saliba (France), Matt Turner (USA), Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Bukayo Saka (all England), Thomas Partey (Ghana).
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Aston Villa manager Unai Emery will use the World Cup break to acclimatise to his new surroundings with John McGinn, Ashley Young, Calum Chambers, Leon Bailey, Robin Olsen, Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho among those remaining at Bodymoor Heath this winter.
Villa took on Cardiff at the end of November in memory of the late Peter Whittingham, who represented both clubs.
- November 30: Cardiff City 3-1 Aston Villa
- December 8: Aston Villa vs Brighton – Kick off 1pm
- December 11: Chelsea vs Aston Villa – Kick off 2.10pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Four players: Leander Dendoncker (Belgium), Jan Bednarek, Matty Cash (both Poland), Emiliano Martinez (Argentina).
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Bournemouth’s plan was for a new manager to be appointed during this window – and Gary O’Neil has now been made permanent boss.
O’Neil gave the players not participating in the World Cup a fortnight from the training ground to reset. The players returned to the Vitality Stadium on November 28 for two days’ training before jetting off for Dubai.
The Cherries have flown out to Jalalabad, where they will undergo a week-long training camp.
Right-back Jack Stacey told the club’s official website: “It was great to have a two-week break. We’ve got such a bolstered squad here, so that should be an advantage for us. We did a few days training in Bournemouth in the wind and the rain but it’s nice to be able to come out here and do a bit of warm-weather training. It took a bit of time to get used to, but I think it’s going to be really beneficial going into the second half of the season.
“I think luckily a few of us were away in warmer climates, so that has probably helped a little bit more with training. Again, hopefully that’s an advantage when we come back as we’ll be even fitter.
“I think it’s good to come away for a week together. We’re obviously training hard, but it’s also little things like having breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Things like that will only bring us closer as a group which is a huge asset.
“I probably speak for most of the lads in that we were really pleased to see Gary get the job. Since he came in, he was a breathe of fresh air. Some of the performances were really good and hopefully we can take that into the second half of the season.”
Which players have been at the World Cup? Two players: Chris Mepham, Kieffer Moore (Wales).
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Brentford’s squad members not going to the World Cup have been given a couple of weeks off to rest.
Thomas Frank has a list of injured players; Pontus Jansson, Aaron Hickey and Thomas Strakosha will step up their recovery process during this period, with Tottenham at the Gtech Community Stadium on Boxing Day the Bees’ next fixture.
The club’s new training facility, the Robert Rowan Performance Centre, is opening at the start of December. Brentford will then fly out to Spain for a week and build up their fitness with a couple of friendlies, but their opponents have not been announced yet.
Which players have been at the World Cup? Six players: Mikkel Damsgaard, Mathias Jensen, Christian Norgaard (all Denmark), Bryan Mbeumo (Cameroon), David Raya (Spain), Saman Ghoddos (Iran).
As with most Premier League clubs, players not involved with their countries at the World Cup were given time off until Monday, November 28, when they returned to training.
The Seagulls have regrouped for a warm weather training week in Dubai, which will include at least one friendly.
Which players have been at the World Cup? Eight players: Kauro Mitoma (Japan), Leandro Trossard (Belgium), Robert Sanchez (Spain), Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina), Tariq Lamptey (Ghana), Pervis Estupinan, Moises Caicedo, Jeremy Sarmiento (all Ecuador).
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There is a growing injury list at Cobham, with Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell and N’Golo Kante set for a period of rehabilitation and Reece James falling short in his bid to prove his fitness in time for the World Cup.
Graham Potter said last month: “We’ll have some time off, and then we’ll look at a warm-weather camp, I think. So it will be a combination of the two.”
- December 11: Chelsea vs Aston Villa – Kick off 2.10pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Twelve players: Mateo Kovacic (Croatia), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Denis Zakaria (Switzerland), Christian Pulisic (USA), Hakim Ziyech (Morocco), Kai Havertz (Germany), Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling (all England), Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly (both Senegal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain).
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Patrick Vieira says Eberechi Eze needs to maintain the high standards he has set this season to stand any chance of being included in England manager Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
Patrick Vieira has given those players not heading out to Qatar some time off but Crystal Palace will also seek warm weather training ahead of the season resuming.
Palace have travelled to Turkey for a friendly with Napoli while the club are also in the process of arranging a home friendly with La Liga side Real Valladolid later in December. James McArthur, Nathan Ferguson, Chris Richards and Jack Butland will be part of the squad going abroad.
Palace drew 0-0 with Brazilian outfit Botafogo in a pre-season friendly at Selhurst Park on December 3. The match was the first time the club has played a top-tier Brazilian side.
- Saturday December 3: Crystal Palace 0-0 Botafogo
- Wednesday December 7: Crystal Palace vs Trabzonspor – Kick Off 4pm
- Sunday December 11: Crystal Palace vs Napoli – Kick Off 3pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Two players: Joachim Andersen (Denmark), Jordan Ayew (Ghana).
Image: Everton head to Australia for the Sydney Super Cup
Everton headed Down Under to play in the Sydney Super Cup alongside Scottish Premiership champions Celtic. Frank Lampard’s squad sustained injuries to Tom Davies and Yerry Mina while James Garner has been ruled out for two months.
- Sunday 20 November – Everton 0-0 Celtic (Everton won 4-2 on penalties)
- Wednesday 23 November – Western Sydney Wanderers 1-5 Everton
Which players have been at the World Cup? Four players: Jordan Pickford (England), Amadou Onana (Belgium), Conor Coady (England), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Senegal).
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Daniel James, Antonee Robinson and Joao Palhinha have all featured at the World Cup, but Marco Silva will be hoping to maintain Fulham’s positive return to the Premier League.
Those not on international duty have been handed a two-week break before heading to Portugal, as they did during the summer pre-season, for a week-long warm weather camp.
- Thursday December 17: Fulham vs West Ham, Craven Cottage – Kick off 1pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Six players: Harry Wilson, Daniel James (both Wales), Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson (both USA) Joao Palhinha (Portugal), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia).
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Leeds are currently in Valencia as Jesse Marsch looks to get his players up to speed for when the Premier League season resumes.
“We will take two weeks and then we will get back to work,” explained Marsch last month. “There’s a little bit of how the match against Wolves goes and then are we in the Carabao Cup still, so that’ll have a little bit of a factor of the timing of some things, but we feel like two weeks is a good time for everyone to get away and then we’ll get back to work.”
Leeds have been talking about playing three before the Premier League season resumes against Manchester City on December 28.
Real Sociedad at Elland Road has been confirmed for December 16 and the club are also discussing training and playing in Spain.
- Thursday December 8: Elche vs Leeds – Kick Off 7.15pm
- Friday December 16: Leeds vs Real Sociedad – Kick Off 7.45pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Three players: Rasmus Kristensen (Denmark), Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams (both USA).
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Brendan Rodgers has allowed his players time off before the first-team squad leaves the East Midlands for a warm-weather trip in Abu Dhabi. Behind-closed-doors friendlies will be arranged at their Seagrave training ground upon the Foxes’ return.
Rodgers’ side resume the season with their Carabao Cup fourth-round tie with MK Dons before the return of the Premier League on Boxing Day against Newcastle.
Which players have been at the World Cup? Seven players: Danny Ward (Wales), Wout Faes, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans (all Belgium), James Maddison (England), Nampalys Mendy (Senegal), Daniel Amartey (Ghana).
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes the players shouldn’t be blamed for wanting to participate at the World Cup in Qatar, despite the controversial awarding of the tournament.
A host of Liverpool players have been in action at the World Cup with Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alisson, Jordan Henderson, Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold among those on international duty.
Liverpool have named an initial 33-man squad for their training camp in Dubai.
The squad departed for the United Arab Emirates on December 5, where they will begin preparations for the second half of the season.
Liverpool squad for Dubai training camp
Adrian, Kelleher, Davies, Mrozek, Pitaluga, Salah, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Elliott, Tsimikas, Ramsay, Robertson, Carvalho, Bajcetic, Phillips, Gordon, Keita, Matip, Gomez, Jota, Arthur, Diaz, Thiago, Firmino, Chambers, Quansah, Clark, Frauendorf, Stewart, Doak, Cain, Corness.
The travelling party includes Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Naby Keita and Arthur Melo, who will continue to work on their individual rehabilitation programmes from their respective injuries.
Liverpool will face Lyon and AC Milan in two matches in the Dubai Super Cup – before they return to Merseyside ahead of the Carabao Cup tie with Manchester City on December 22.
- Sunday December 11: Liverpool vs Lyon – Kick off 2pm
- Friday December 16: Liverpool vs AC Milan – Kick off 3.30pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Seven players: Alisson, Fabinho (both Brazil), Ibrahima Konate (France), Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson (both England), Darwin Nunez (Uruguay), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands).
Manchester City are yet to fully finalise plans but Pep Guardiola has revealed the first-team members not heading to Qatar have taken a break.
At the start of December, the squad will travel to Abu Dhabi for a training camp in the United Arab Emirates, where the club’s owner Sheikh Mansour is the deputy prime minister.
“We will try, maybe in two, three weeks for these guys in winter in Manchester,” Guardiola said. “Take a break, for staff go there. Good weather, our owners are there. We are going to do that.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he is fine with the inclusion of Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker in England’s World Cup squad despite concerns about their fitness.
“I would say right after or a few days after we come back from 10 days off. After Brentford one or two days off, after we come back we travel. Not confirmed but we will try.”
Guardiola also said he expects Erling Haaland to enjoy some down time in Spain having missed out on reaching the World Cup with Norway.
“I’m pretty sure he will love to be at the World Cup and maybe the next one or Euros he will,” Guardiola said on his striker. “But he has a house in Marbella – go there, play golf, hopefully don’t drink much, eat much and come back fit.”
Haaland has said: “First of all, I wish I was playing in the World Cup of course. But, that’s reality now. I don’t do. But first of all, I will relax my body and my mind a lot and then I will train.
“What I will train on? Nothing special I think, it’s been going quite well I think, my first months in City so I don’t need to do so much things, or so many changes to be honest. So yeah, it’s about preparing myself for the next half of the season and being ready when the next game kicks in after the break.”
Which players have been at the World Cup? Sixteen players: Manuel Akanji (Switzerland), Ederson (Brazil), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Ilkay Gundogan (Germany), John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish (all England), Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva (all Portugal), Nathan Ake (Netherlands), Aymeric Laporte and Rodri (both Spain), Julian Alvarez (Argentina).
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The Manchester United players not heading out to Qatar travel to Spain for a training camp at the start of December.
Erik ten Hag’s side are then due to fulfil two friendlies against La Liga sides Real Betis and Cadiz.
“Erik and the team have made good progress during this first half of the season, and it is important we maintain this momentum coming out of the World Cup break,” United’s football director John Murtough said. “A winter training camp will be a vital part of the team’s preparations for the second half of the season.
“We have lined up a high-quality local opponent to play against, ensuring match fitness and sharpness is retained. The camp and game will also allow for some of our young talent to experience training and playing in a first-team environment, as well as provide entertaining club football for fans.”
- Wednesday December 7: Cadiz, Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla – Kick off 8pm
- Saturday December 10: Real Betis, Estadio Benito Villamarin – Kick off 5pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Fourteen players: Antony, Casemiro, Fred (all Brazil), Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Raphael Varane (France), Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford (all England), Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo (all Portugal), Facundo Pellistri (Uruguay), Tyrell Malacia (Netherlands), Lisandro Martinez (Argentina).
Newcastle striker Callum Wilson says he is ready to be part of England’s World Cup squad and believes he offers something different to other strikers.
Newcastle have announced they will host La Liga club Rayo Vallecano in a friendly fixture at St James’ Park in December.
- Thursday December 8: Al Hilal vs Newcastle – Kick Off 1pm:
- Saturday December 17: Newcastle vs Rayo Vallecano, St James’ Park – Kick Off 12.30pm
The Magpies headed to Saudi Arabia for a training camp between December 4 and 10 which will include a friendly against Al-Hilal. Despite widespread criticism of the decision due to the country’s poor human rights record, manager Eddie Howe has defended the call.
“We’ve made a football decision,” Howe said. “We’ve looked at the World Cup break, what’s the best thing for the team. The best thing for the team, I believe, is to take the team away like you would in pre-season, away from distractions.
“[It’s] a chance to really train the group, enhance the team spirit with hopefully some good weather – so that’s what we’ve done. We’ve made it from a purely footballing backdrop.”
Which players have been at the World Cup? Five players: Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson (all England).
Nottingham Forest headed to Greece for a mid-season training camp, spending six days at Olympiacos’ Training Centre in Athens from Sunday, December 4.
Evangelos Marinakis owns both Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos and the two will play a friendly match against the reigning Greek league champions on Saturday, December 10. The two sides last met in a pre-season friendly in July 2019.
Steve Cooper’s side will also play a behind-closed-doors training match against Atromitos on Tuesday, December 6 at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Forest are back in Carabao Cup action against Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday, December 20.
Which players have been at the World Cup? Five players: Remo Freuler (Switzerland), Wayne Hennessey, Neco Williams, Brennan Johnson (all Wales), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal).
There were not too many Saints players heading to Qatar, but new boss Nathan Jones will want to use the break to train hard with his squad to ensure they hit the ground running after the break.
Southampton were set to travel to Miami for a warm-weather training camp prior to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s sacking but it has not been confirmed if the trip is now going ahead due to the appointment of Jones and no fixtures having been scheduled in USA.
Which players have been at the World Cup? Two players: Armel Bella-Kotchap (Germany), Mohammed Salisu (Ghana).
Harry Kane would love to break Wayne Rooney’s record and become England’s leading goalscorer at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Antonio Conte is taking his Tottenham squad on a warm-weather training camp.
“I gave my idea to the club,” he said last month, “For sure I think every team will go to have a bit of rest – 10 days to two weeks – and then you need to make the best solution.
“Then I would like to go to a place where the temperature is good, to stay there and have good training sessions and wait for the players to come back from the World Cup. At the same time you have to understand if the club can help me to do it or we have to stay in London but for sure I gave them my idea.”
Which players have been at the World Cup? Eleven players: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Ivan Perisic (Croatia), Richarlison (Brazil), Ben Davies (Wales), Hugo Lloris (France), Eric Dier, Harry Kane (both England), Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay), Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal), Cristian Romero (Argentina), Son Heung-min (South Korea).
West Ham have confirmed they will face League One side Cambridge United on Tuesday December 6, with Fulham at Craven Cottage on December 17 providing another test before the season resumes.
David Moyes gave his squad time off before returning to training on December 1 but there are no plans for a training camp abroad when the players return.
- Tuesday December 6 – Cambridge United vs West Ham, Abbey Stadium – Kick Off 7pm
- Thursday December 17 – Fulham vs West Ham, Craven Cottage – Kick Off 1pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Five players: Lucas Paqueta (Brazil), Alphonse Areola (France), Nayef Aguerd (Morocco), Thilo Kehrer (Germany), Declan Rice (England).
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Several Wolves players missed out on the World Cup due to the team’s poor form. Joao Moutinho, Nelson Semedo, Goncalo Guedes and Daniel Podence were all overlooked by Portugal boss Fernando Santos.
New boss Julen Lopetegui has given his squad some time off before flying to Spain next week for a warm-weather training camp in Marbella, and club officials are working to arrange some friendlies.
- Friday December 9: Empoli vs Wolves – Kick Off 12pm
Which players have been at the World Cup? Five players: Matheus Nunes, Ruben Neves, Jose Sa (all Portugal), Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea), Raul Jimenez (Mexico).