Crystal Palace have had the joint-fewest number of players at the World Cup compared to other Premier League teams and Patrick Vieira can use that to his advantage ahead of the return of domestic football.
Of the Eagles’ squad, just Joachim Andersen and Jordan Ayew were selected to go to Qatar, with only Bournemouth having the same number of players at the World Cup from all the other sides in the top flight.
While players who remained at home will no doubt have been given some time off, it leaves Vieira in a very promising position ahead of the Boxing Day fixture against Fulham, as he will be able to train with nearly his entire squad.
The Frenchman also won’t have to worry about the fitness of Andersen as his Denmark side surprisingly crashed out in the group stages on Wednesday, and while that was heartbreaking for the centre-back, it is undoubtedly a boost for Palace.
Meanwhile, Ayew faces Uruguay today in a potentially winner-takes-all fixture, so he could also soon be on his way home, which would put the Eagles in a very strong position compared to other Premier League sides.
Fixture congestion means that other sides will be forced to rotate their teams when domestic football does return, as the World Cup final is set to take place on December 18, just a week before the Boxing Day fixtures.
Other players will have to adjust from international styles of play and re-focus on their clubs but in Palace’s case, the vast majority of the players will now be fully focused on pushing up the table with Palace.
For comparison, Fulham had six players at the World Cup in Qatar. Daniel James and Harry Wilson (both Wales) have been knocked out, but influential players such as Joao Palhinha (Portugal), Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson (both USA) have already secured their place in the knockout stages.
Aleksandar Mitrovic could also still reach the knockout stages with Serbia with a win over Switzerland this evening, so it seems clear that a large proportion of the Cottagers’ squad will be returning to the Premier League physically and mentally drained by the demands of a winter World Cup.
With Palace currently lurking outside the European places in the Premier League, Vieira can surely use this situation to his advantage and prepare properly with his squad, to ensure that the Eagles have a strong Christmas period compared to other Premier League sides who have been affected more by the World Cup.