There’s a cautious optimism around the return of the Premier League next week – albeit with a few major differences. But this pause in play will give fans a chance to see players who would otherwise have been injured the rest of the campaign.
Whether it’s a faltering Manchester City, a mis-firing Tottenham Hotspur or a relegation-threatened Aston Villa – clubs up and down the league will be welcoming back some of their star men.
That being said, we look at four player who have been sorely missed this season.
Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
Harry Kane has become the main man for both Tottenham and England over the last few years, scoring goals at a rate of knots.
But his recent injury record has some suggesting he may never be the same again. Kane likes to do a bit of everything, but he might have to change his game going forward.
To rub salt into the wounds, Jose Mourinho also had to do without crocked pair Steven Bergwijn and Son-Heung Min before football took a pause.
However, it’s Kane who’ll be tasked with taking Spurs back into the Champions League – he won’t have lost his eye for goal, but can his body manage it? Our traders have Mourinho’s side back at 10/1 to finish in the top four.
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Paul Pogba arrived back at Old Trafford in a blaze of glory in 2016. But it seems ever since then he’s been a divisive character for fans and pundits alike.
Capable of the sublime at any given moment – some ask why he doesn’t do it all the time!
Whatever you might say about his performances, Manchester United are far better with an on-form Pogba running things.
Despite Man United sitting just three points outside the top four without him, the World Cup winner makes things tick in the midfield. United are 7/4 to seal a Champions League spot.
He’s had a torrid time with injuries this season, but if he and Bruno Fernandes can strike up a partnership, then Pogba could be the missing link to a resurgent Red Devils.
Aymeric Laporte – Manchester City
The Liverpool express train may well have pulled into Lime Street Station as top dogs regardless, but City would have run them close with a fully fit Aymeric Laporte this season.
When Vincent Kompany left to a hero’s farewell last summer, Pep Guardiola stuck to his guns and didn’t sign a centre back.
His faith in Laporte to be the main man was unmoved. But after suffering a knee injury before August was over, it’s been a long road to recovery – coinciding with City fading in the title picture.
A comeback in January may have re-invigorated a Champions League but he was forced off with hamstring issues in the win over Real Madrid.
The league may be long gone, but Laporte is set to return for the match against Arsenal next week. It does feel like a ‘What if?’ season for both player and club.
John McGinn – Aston Villa
We’ve looked at the top of the division. But how about the fight to avoid relegation? Aston Villa’s promotion charge last season was largely to do with the midfield axis of Jack Grealish and McGinn.
And they appeared to have been striking up something similar for parts of this season. That’s until McGinn fractured his ankle against Southampton in December.
It’s in large part thanks to Grealish that Villa still have a chance of survival, but his team-mate was the glue that kept the team going.
Whether he can last 90 minutes is one thing, but McGinn will be champing at the bit to keep his side in the Premier League. The Villans are 2/5 to go down.
But now it’s up to you. Who are you backing to come back with a bang?
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication