THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Injury, injury, they've all got an injury
Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head. Joe Gomez is just 23 years old, yet he's already missed a season and a half with a cruciate injury, a few more months with Achilles problems, and then suffered a series of ankle problems that have seen him miss further months. And now, on England duty, this:
I can't tell you how serious it is because he's yet to have scans. What was upsetting was to see he was in a fair bit of pain and the fact that there was nobody around him when the injury happened, so I didn't like that element of it … it's not a good situation and I don't see him being involved in the games with us, that's for sure.
Some excellent man-management from Gareth Southgate, there. Making it clear how worried he is for Gomez, while also assuring an anxious nation that Jordan Pickford was well clear of the scene.
No information yet, but the concern for Gomez will be that this is another cruciate injury, another long, long recovery. He's certainly out of England's internationals: he's headed back to Liverpool for a scan, and then — unless he's been very lucky — he'll join Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Fabinho on Liverpool's extensive defensive injury list.
That's three-quarters of Jürgen Klopp's first choice defence, plus his first-choice second-choice, if that makes sense. Joel Matip did pretty well against City, given he's just back from injury, but after him it's the youngsters: Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams. Or there's James Milner. There's always James Milner.
Injury, injury, they've all got an injury - Football is breaking its players to keep itself alive.
Until Gomez's scans have happened we can't know for sure what's caused this latest setback, but we're happy to take Gareth Southgate's educated guess on the matter:
I spoke about this right at the beginning of the season. With Joe [we have] a good example. We knew the load he has had in the last six weeks or so. We gave him and the other players who had been in European matches who played Sunday, an extra day's recovery. Yet still something like this has happened.
And guessing that Nathan Aké, who lasted four minutes of Netherlands friendly against Spain before limping off, hand on leg and frown on face, would have been better served by a week at home with his feet up.
Nathan Ake of Holland during the International Friendly match between Holland v Spain
Image credit: Getty Images
Elsewhere on the continent, Italy put out an almost unrecognisable side against Estonia, after health officials kept chunks of their squad at home. Denmark beat Sweden despite leaving their coach and nine players back at the hotel, isolated after contact with an infected person. Sweden's coach was also absent after a positive test.
And Croatia's captain Domagoj Vida played 45 minutes against Turkey, then discovered, as the second half began, that he, too, had tested positive for Covid-19.
We know why these games are happening: national FAs need every penny they can get, television deals are locked in, and the entire business of football is now too much of a business to ever be allowed to stop. But we also know, even as we watch, that these games probably shouldn't be happening.
Football is breaking its players to keep itself alive.
Some friendlies happened
As for the actual football, well: that's four games for Ronald de Boer as manager of the Netherlands, and his team hasn't won a single one of them. He remains on course to become the first Dutch manager never to send a team out in front of a crowd. But on the upside, Donny van de Beek scored again. Turns out he's quite good at football, whenever he's allowed to play it.
Comeback of the day goes to Belarus, who found themselves 5-0 down to Romania after an hour but then roared back to 5-3, and were only denied a deserved victory by the unfortunate arrival of the end of the game. If football was played over 110 minutes, they'd be dancing in the streets of Minsk.
And assist of the day goes to Moussa Sissoko. First he rides one tackle and then, as he's making another, he plays a defence-splitting through ball right into the path of the forward. Unfortunately the forward in question was playing for Finland, while the defence in question was his own, but still. We can appreciate the form, if not the function.
IN OTHER NEWS
A cheeky little bit of extra retro action today: it's the international break, we can do what we like, you're not our Dad. And look at this: wasn't Nwankwo Kanu brilliant?
Netherlands vs. Spain means it's time to look back at the 2010 World Cup final. Things we'd forgotten: Fabio Cannavaro cutting about in his sharp suit; Bert van Marwijk's large scarf; just how good that Arjen Robben chance was. Oh, Arjen. What a burglary we were denied.
Ahead of Georgia's playoff final against North Macedonia, the Guardian's Nick Ames speaks to veteran defender Guram Kashia, who has slogged all the way from California for the game, and has some very nice things to say about the Nations League.
The Nations League has changed things for us. It gave us a huge chance but we really deserve to be where we are. We feel comfortable being the number one team on the field. We dominate, like to have the ball, like to create. Maybe we aren’t physically the strongest but quality-wise we have great players, especially the young ones.
It's the finals of the play-offs for Euro 2020! Or Euro 2021, if you like. Scotland have a chance to end their 22-year absence from major tournaments, with Serbia standing in their way. Elsewhere Northern Ireland take on Slovakia, Hungary face Iceland, and Georgia face North Macedonia.
Also England and the Republic of Ireland play one another, friendly-like, while Wales entertain the USA.
Tom Adams will be here tomorrow with an updated list of the injured.