The current Premier League season has been one of the most difficult to predict in recent memory, with only Leicester City previously creating the sort of consistent shocks that have been ever-present throughout 20/21.
This has been made starker still by the fact that a number of high-profile players have been side-lined by injury or illness, meaning that the door is wide open for previously unfancied sides to come from nowhere and stake their claim to the Premier League title.
In this article, we take a look at some of the players who have been out of action for much of the season due to injury, and who may just make all the difference as the Premier League finish line comes into sight.
No matter how much recovery and injury prevention is being done at Premier League clubs around the country, injury crises are increasingly tough to avoid
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
Jordan Pickford would not have been on the Christmas card list of many Liverpool fans, but when his wild and reckless scissor kick challenge cropped Virgil van Dijk, the England number 1 turned himself into public enemy number 1 in the red half of Merseyside.
Indeed, Klopp’s men were already struggling with injuries and the inconsistent form that packed training schedules and fixture congestion are levying on elite footballers in the Premier League these days, with Diogo Jota another star whose body broke down under the workload asked of him before the festive period. More on him later.
However, all the signs are that one of the best defenders in world football is due to make his return long before the end of the season, with his ACL surgery and subsequent recovery having gone better than expected.
With the Reds desperate to cling onto their Premier League crown, the Dutchman could well return to deliver some timely clean sheets and towering headed goals from set pieces.
Sergio Agüero will be licking his lips at the possibility of terrorising depleted Premier League backlines as the season, and his time at City, draws to a close
Sergio Agüero – Man City
This diminutive Argentinian striker has already made himself a legend at the Etihad and will forever be remembered for Martin Tyler screaming his name after his league title clinching goal in 2012.
Unfortunately, his swan song in Manchester has been something of a let-down, with knee and hamstring injuries preventing him from playing a full part in his side’s title push.
Even so, his talents are still admired enough that Barcelona are sniffing around for his services and he may well emerge in the second half of the season as the joker card that Pep Guardiola can play his way to the title with.
Jonny Castro Otto – Wolves
Before an untimely knee injury got in his way, this Spanish wing back was being talked about as one of the best in his position in the Premier League.
However, far from being a player who is willing to give up, Castro Otto has been working feverishly behind the scenes to get back in the first team fold.
He could yet return to help Wolves push away from mid-table obscurity and into contention for the European places.
Diogo Jota – Liverpool
It was another bitter blow for Jürgen Klopp when his star summer signing, who had instantly found his feet at Anfield, was suddenly ruled out for months with a serious knee injury.
Working alongside his teammate Virgil van Dijk, the Portuguese striker is now on the mend, with a return penciled in for February or March.
The quicker his goal threat is back in the team; the more confident Liverpool fans will feel about retaining the league title.
Tariq Lamptey – Brighton
In the early parts of the season this right back who struts his stuff on the south coast was registering the sort of stats that make Europe’s top clubs sit up and take notice.
It is no coincidence that since he picked up his muscle injury Brighton have plummeted towards the dreaded relegation zone.
Seagulls fans will be hoping and praying that he can return asap to save the men in blue from life back in the Championship.