Mid-season friendlies: How are PL clubs preparing for when season resumes?


The Premier League has now 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 have now begun departing for Qatar, and the latest round of completed fixtures will be the last in the league until 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…

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta
Image: Mikel Arteta is set to take Arsenal abroad

Mikel Arteta will take 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.

The Gunners has 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.

The Athletic report that Arsenal will also arrange three friendlies during the course of the break which are yet to be confirmed.

French outlet Le Progres have reported that Arsenal will face Lyon in Dubai but this has not yet been confirmed by the clubs. The Daily Mirror also claim that the Gunners will take on AC Milan in another friendly, with the Italian club set to be in the same part of the world.

Which players are going to the World Cup? Nine 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).

Aston Villa

a: Emery would be fantastic appointment for Villa | Dyche: Off air you said it it would be me!
Image: Unai Emery is back in management at Aston Villa

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 likely to remain at Bodymoor Heath this winter.

Villa will take on Cardiff at the end of November in memory of the late Peter Whittingham, who represented both clubs.

  • November 30 – Cardiff City vs Aston Villa, Cardiff City Stadium – Kick Off 7.30pm

Which players are going to the World Cup? Four players: Leander Dendoncker (Belgium), Jan Bednarek, Matty Cash (both Poland), Emiliano Martinez (Argentina).

Bournemouth

To be confirmed

Which players are going to the World Cup? Two players: Chris Mepham, Kieffer Moore (Wales).

Brentford

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Brentford goalkeeper David Raya believes teammate Ivan Toney has done ‘more than enough’ to be included in England’s World Cup squad.

To be confirmed

Which players are going to the World Cup? Four players: Mikkel Damsgaard, Mathias Jensen (both Denmark), Bryan Mbeumo (Cameroon), David Raya (Spain).

Brighton

The Seagulls are looking into a warm weather training camp for those left behind.

Which players are going to the World Cup? Four players: Kauro Mitoma (Japan), Leandro Trossard (Belgium), Robert Sanchez (Spain), Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina).

Chelsea

Graham Potter
Image: Graham Potter’s Chelsea are still to finalise plans

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 still seeking to prove his fitness in time for the World Cup.

Graham Potter said last month: “We’re probably in the planning stage. 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.”

Which players are going to 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).

Crystal Palace

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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.

Crystal Palace have announced they will host Brazilian outfit Botafogo in a pre-season friendly at Selhurst Park on December 3. The match will be the first time the club has played a top-tier Brazilian side.

  • Saturday December 3 – Crystal Palace vs Botafogo, Selhurst Park – Kick Off 12.30pm

Which players are going to the World Cup? One player: Joachim Andersen (Denmark).

Everton

Frank Lampard returned to west London
Image: Everton head to Australia for the Sydney Super Cup

Everton head Down Under to play in the Sydney Super Cup alongside Scottish Premiership champions Celtic.

“We are really looking forward to travelling to Australia later this year,” manager Frank Lampard said. “The winter World Cup has provided us with this opportunity to visit an amazing country and play against really strong opposition.

“We’ve also got a lot of passionate Evertonians in Australia and we can’t wait to catch up with them. Other than the players on duty at the World Cup, we will be taking our strongest possible squad. This promises to be a very worthwhile tour on every level, and we are delighted to be making the trip.”

  • Sunday 20 November – Everton vs Celtic, Accor Stadium – Kick Off 3.45am
  • Wednesday 23 November – Western Sydney Wanderers vs Everton, CommBank Stadium – 6.45am

Which players are going to the World Cup? Four players: Jordan Pickford (England), Amadou Onana (Belgium), Conor Coady (England), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Senegal).

Fulham

Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kevin Mbabu, Daniel James and Joao Palhinha are all in line to feature at the World Cup, but Marco Silva will be hoping to maintain Fulham’s positive return to the Premier League.

Which players are going to the World Cup? Six players: Harry Wilson, Daniel James (both Wales), Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson (both USA) Joao Palhinha (Portugal), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia).

Leeds

Leeds are considering heading to San Francisco for a training camp – although a final decision hasn’t been made. Leeds boss Jesse Marsch is American.

“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.”

Which players are going to the World Cup? Three players: Rasmus Kristensen (Denmark), Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams (both USA).

Leicester

Brendan Rodgers will allow his players time off before the first-team squad leaves the East Midlands for a warm-weather trip – although the destination is still unclear at this stage.

Which players are going to the World Cup? Six players: Danny Ward (Wales), Wout Faes, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans (all Belgium), James Maddison (England), Nampalys Mendy (Senegal).

Liverpool

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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 will be in action at the World Cup with Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alisson, Jordan Henderson, Darwin Nunez and Trent Alexander-Arnold among those set to be on international duty.

Jurgen Klopp will take the rest of his squad to Dubai for a training camp and friendlies will be announced in due course.

“We’ve decided to go to Dubai,” assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders said earlier this year. “It’s close [to Qatar] so players can come quickly back, so they can prepare quick with the team again, and it gives us real time to prepare for the second sprint of the season.”

French outlet Le Progres have reported that Liverpool will face Lyon in Dubai but this has not yet been confirmed by the clubs. The Daily Mirror also claim that the Reds will take on AC Milan in another friendly, with the Italian club set to be in the same part of the world.

Which players are going to 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

Manchester City are yet to fully finalise plans but Pep Guardiola has revealed the first-team members not heading to Qatar will take a break once the World Cup starts.

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 earlier this month. “Take a break, for staff go there. Good weather, our owners are there. We are going to do that.

“I would say right after or 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.”

Which players are going to 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).

Manchester United

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Has Callum Wilson made himself a must-pick for Gareth Southgate? Peter Smith and Nick Wright reveal who has moved up and down the Sky Sports England World Cup squad ladder.

The Manchester United players not heading out to Qatar will 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.”

  • Monday December 7 – Cadiz, Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla – Kick Off 8pm
  • Saturday December 10 – Real Betis, Estadio Benito Villamarin – Kick Off 5pm

Which players are going to 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

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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.

  • Saturday December 17 – Newcastle vs Rayo Vallecano, St James’ Park – Kick Off 12.30pm

The Magpies will also head 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 are going to the World Cup? Five players: Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson (all England).

Nottingham Forest

To be confirmed

Which players are going to the World Cup? Five players: Remo Freuler (Switzerland), Wayne Hennessey, Neco Williams, Brennan Johnson (all Wales), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal).

Southampton

There are not too many Saints players heading to Qatar, but new boss Nathan Jones will want to use the break to training hard with his squad to ensure they hit the ground running after the break.

Which players are going to the World Cup? One player: Armel Bella-Kotchap (Germany).

Tottenham

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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 would like to take 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 are going to 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

Full details of West Ham’s mid-season preparations will be announced in due course but the club have confirmed they will face League One side Cambridge United on Tuesday 6 December.

  • Tuesday December 6 – Cambridge United vs West Ham, Abbey Stadium – Kick Off 7pm

Which players are going to the World Cup? Five players: Lucas Paqueta (Brazil), Alphonse Areola (France), Nayef Aguerd (Morocco), Thilo Kehrer (Germany), Declan Rice (England).

Wolves

To be confirmed

Which players are going to the World Cup? Three players: Matheus Nunes, Ruben Neves, Jose Sa (all Portugal), Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea).

World Cup key dates

  • November 20: World Cup commences
  • December 3/6: Round of 16
  • December 9/10: Quarter-finals
  • December 13/14: Semi-finals
  • December 18: World Cup final
  • December 20/21: Carabao Cup fourth round
  • December 26: Premier League resumes

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