The eyes of the footballing world are already beginning to look into their peripherals and see the opening day of the Fifa World Cup looking back at them. Because, in a little over three weeks, the first Middle Eastern World Cup, held in Qatar, will begin.
It’s been a tournament shrouded in controversy since the bid was awarded to the peninsular state in 2010 but come the opening match on 20 November – between the host nation and Ecuador – many fans will simply want to embrace the beautiful game.
But before then there are three rounds of the Premier League to go and there is still time for players from the 20 top flight clubs and beyond to persuade the managers of the global game that they should be on a flight to Qatar come November.
England head into the tournament off the back of their first major international final since 1966 and off the back a run to the semi-finals of the last World Cup, held in Russia in 2018.
Gareth Southgate’s deadline to name his squad is 13 November, just a week before the curtains open on the World Cup party, but it is thought that the England manager will name his squad on 10 November.
There’s a number of footballing stars of 2018 who are out of the picture this time around – such as Fabian Delph and Phil Jones – but until the squad is confirmed every place remains, theoretically, up for grabs.
But it will be a World Cup without some of the increasingly present stars of global football; England’s Reece James will not feature in Qatar after the wing-back suffered a knee injury against AC Milan in the Champions League.
Liverpool and Portugal forward Diogo Jota will also not feature in the Middle East next month after he sustained a calf injury when the Reds beat Manchester City in the Premier League.
Other names not expected to make international squad lists include Newcastle superstar Alexander Isak and England’s Kyle Walker – fellow Three Lions international Kalvin Phillips has recently had shoulder surgery while Manchester United centre-back Raphael Varane is expected to be touch and go as to whether he makes it to Qatar.
There is, then, an opportunity for the Premier League’s fringe international players to make their case for squad inclusion in the next couple of matchdays.
There are eight Premier League matches tomorrow with the key ties being Newcastle United’s game against Aston Villa and Liverpool’s 7:45 kick-off against Leeds United.
On Sunday Arsenal host Nottingham Forest in the early kick off while Manchester United play West Ham in the later slot.
A good string of performances in the coming weeks could be the difference between making a World Cup squad and being left behind.
It’s the biggest tournament in global football, arguably in sport, and everyone will want to have a piece of the action.
But in the coming weeks, as managers make brutal selections in key positions, some selectors could be looking to their player’s performances across this crucial period to aid, or at least reassure, their choices.