With just nine days to go until the start of Euro 2020, preparations are hotting up.
There are systems to train, friendlies to navigate and injuries to heal – hopefully – for the 24 teams involved before the delayed competition begins on June 11.
That year-long wait for the finals has helped some, with certain players able to recover form and fitness after looking likely to miss out entirely had the tournament gone ahead last year.
However, there are others for whom the rescheduling has come as a bit of a blow.
Using Opta data, Stats Perform examines some of the major contenders for the trophy and why the postponement could prove a particular problem…
Roberto Martinez has been left with a major headache around three of his biggest names.
Eden Hazard may have hoped the extra year would help him recover peak form with Real Madrid but, if anything, matters have become worse.
He was limited to just 21 Madrid appearances in 2020-21, scoring four goals and providing two assists from a mere nine chances created, as fitness problems and fan frustrations persisted.
There are also worries now around Kevin De Bruyne, whose magnificent season for Manchester City ended with broken facial bones in a losing Champions League final, while Axel Witsel has not played since January 9 due to an Achilles injury.
Ivan Rakitic caused a shock last September when he announced his retirement from international football, having been all set to play at the Euros had they gone ahead as planned.
While the 2018 World Cup finalists still have Luka Modric at the heart of their midfield, the Real Madrid man will be 36 this year and has come off a hectic season in which he played 48 games.
Another veteran, Ivan Perisic, last played a full match for Inter in February and Mateo Kovacic missed seven of Chelsea’s final nine games of the season through injury.
England have some concern around Raheem Sterling, who has scored one league goal since February and fell out of favour at Manchester City. There are also problems with Marcus Rashford, who has been managing an ankle issue for several weeks and only has four league goals to his name since the turn of the year.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson has not played since undergoing groin surgery in February, Jack Grealish missed three months of action for Aston Villa and Harry Maguire’s ankle ligament damage has left him battling to be fit enough for the start of the group stage.
And what of Trent Alexander-Arnold? The Liverpool right-back, sensational in 2019-20, was left out of the World Cup qualifiers in March after an inconsistent season and is hardly guaranteed a starting spot under Gareth Southgate.
The Netherlands will have to make do without Virgil van Dijk. The Liverpool star was integral to the Oranje’s run to the inaugural Nations League Finals and seemed destined to head into the tournament as Europe’s best centre-back. As it is, he will watch from afar, having failed to recover from the knee injury he sustained in October.
Frank de Boer became the first Netherlands head coach to fail to win any of his first four fixtures, and though he managed to correct that dismal form, his record since leaving Ajax does not exactly bode well heading into a major tournament.
There is also the issue of Donny van de Beek, who has started just four Premier League games for Manchester United and finished his first season with the Red Devils as an unused substitute as they lost on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.
Ansu Fati is the big new hope for Barcelona and Spain, but injury ended the winger’s season prematurely and he has not recovered in time to make Luis Enrique’s 24-man squad – a selection that does not feature Sergio Ramos or any of his Real Madrid team-mates.
Ramos has only played only once – in a Champions League defeat to Chelsea – since March, and it was felt he needed time to recover away from the international stage.
It also seemed as though Adama Traore would prove a valuable impact player in the Spain attack, but the Wolves forward managed only two goals and two assists in 37 Premier League games in 2020-21.
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