Premier League stars face awkward returns to clubs
ABS-CBN Sports on Sep 07, 2017 02:32 PM
Chile's Alexis Sanchez, right, leaves the field after his team lost a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match 0-3 to Paraguay in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
By Steve Douglas, Associated Press
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was greeted with a high five and a warm hug from Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp ahead of the midfielder's first training session at his new club on Wednesday.
For some of the other high-profile players returning to their Premier League teams following the international break, the reception might be a little frostier.
Unlike Oxlade-Chamberlain, who managed to secure a transfer from Arsenal, three stars of the league — Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and Riyad Mahrez — failed to get the moves they wanted on the final day of Europe's transfer window last week.
They have since been training and playing for their countries, but the time has come to go back to their clubs. And it could be an awkward situation for all concerned.
Mahrez so wanted to quit Leicester that the winger left the Algerian national team's training camp in Sidi Moussa on deadline day and returned to England, so that he would be in a better position to complete the formalities of a transfer if a club made a late bid. Unfortunately, a transfer didn't materialize.
Now Mahrez must put that disappointment behind him and get ready for Leicester's home match against champion Chelsea on Saturday.
It could be even more uncomfortable for Coutinho. The Brazil playmaker hasn't played for Liverpool this season while being the subject of three huge offers from Barcelona, and even lodged a transfer request in early August in an attempt to force through a move to the Spanish side.
Officially, Coutinho was absent for Liverpool's first three league games because of a back injury, yet he trained as normal when he was on international duty and made two appearances as a substitute in World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia.
Liverpool visits Manchester City on Saturday in the standout match of the fourth round of league games, and it remains to be seen if Coutinho is in the right state of mind to be in contention. Oxlade-Chamberlain could make his debut for Liverpool, but would likely have to displace one of Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum — two of the Reds' best players in their 4-0 win over Arsenal in the last game before the international break.
Sanchez is still an Arsenal player after a prospective transfer to Manchester City was aborted hours before the window closed, because Arsenal could not find a replacement at such a late stage.
The forward had a tough time on international duty with Chile — the team lost both of its games and no longer occupies an automatic qualification spot in the South American zone for next year's World Cup in Russia — and he made his frustration clear by saying on Instagram that he was "fed up" with the criticism he was receiving.
Arsenal, which accepted a bid from Man City for Sanchez last week, is at home to Bournemouth on Saturday and is looking to avoid a third straight loss.
Another player who might need to be reintegrated at a Premier League team now the transfer window is closed is Virgil van Dijk, who hasn't trained with Southampton's first-team squad since the end of last season after handing in a transfer request amid interest from Liverpool.
Van Dijk is unlikely to feature for Southampton in its home game against Watford on Saturday.
Here's what else to look out for this weekend:
Manchester United is the only team to have won all of its games, and goes for a fourth straight victory in its trip to Stoke. United has already beaten West Ham, Swansea and Leicester, scoring 10 goals in total without conceding.
West Ham is in last place after losing its first three games, all of which have been played away while the team's home ground at the London Stadium is reconfigured following the world athletics championships.
Its first home game is against promoted team Huddersfield, which has two wins and a draw.
Bournemouth and Crystal Palace are the other teams without a point so far and they take on Arsenal and Burnley away, respectively.