A lot can change over the course of the international break – Newcastle United have gone from losing 2-1 at Wolves to becoming the world's richest football club, in a sense.

It's all change at St James' Park and you can guarantee a charged atmosphere for the first match of a potentially exciting period for a club that has underachieved for years, with Tottenham the visitors on Sunday.

A couple of Newcastle players might be worth your consideration, while Leeds star Raphinha – who would ordinarily be an easy pick – this week represents something of a risk.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform picks out seven players for your consideration.

AARON RAMSDALE (Arsenal v Crystal Palace)

His signing was scoffed at by many in pre-season, probably partly due to the significant £24million fee Arsenal spent, but Ramsdale has enjoyed an encouraging start after dislodging Bernd Leno for the Gunners.

He has featured four times in the Premier League and conceded just once, giving him the best minutes-per-goal-conceded ratio in the division (one every 360 mins).

Ramsdale will be confident of continuing that theme on Monday against Crystal Palace, whose open-play expected goals (xG) of 5.2 is better than only five teams this term.

MATT RITCHIE (Newcastle United v Tottenham)

Now, selecting a Newcastle defender might ordinarily be considered something of a risk, but it's fair to suggest there may be a slightly more positive aura around the team – for obvious reasons – when Spurs visit.

If the feel-good factor at the club following their takeover does translate into a strong performance, the early signs this season would have you believe Ritchie will be influential.

The converted left-back's 21 chances created is second just to Bruno Fernandes, while only Trent Alexander-Arnold (2.6) and Mason Mount (2.1) have better expected assists (xA) records than Ritchie (2.0) – he's also played the third-most amount of passes into the box out of everyone in the top flight (63).

KIERAN TIERNEY (Arsenal v Crystal Palace)

Another left-back who is pretty effective going forward is Tierney, who has widely been considered one of few consistently solid performers for Arsenal during his time at the club – when he's fit, that is.

As mentioned previously, Arsenal's next opponents Palace aren't among the league's most threatening team, so there's undoubtedly potential for clean-sheet points, though Tierney also provides plenty in attack.

Among defenders yet to score or assist, only Everton's Lucas Digne (17) has recorded more than Tierney's 15 shot involvements (shots and key passes), while the Scotland international is third among defenders for chances created (nine, two less than Alexander-Arnold).

RAPHINHA (Southampton v Leeds United)

Admittedly, this one's a bit of a gamble. With Raphinha away with Brazil for their World Cup qualifier against Uruguay on Thursday night (early Friday morning UK time), roughly 36 hours prior to Leeds facing Southampton, Marcelo Bielsa has already acknowledged Raphinha's status is at the very least unclear.

But he's looked exciting in his Brazil cameos so far, and his form in 2021-22 would leave few doubting Raphinha has the ability to have a decisive impact on Saturday even if just playing as a substitute.

Currently, he tops the rankings among Leeds players for goals (three), shots (24), chances created (14) and passes into the box (59) – he's surely too important for Bielsa to leave out entirely.

JESSE LINGARD (Leicester City v Manchester United)

After a brilliant few months at West Ham, Lingard is still waiting for a proper run of games this term at United, but he's already chipped in with a couple of goals in just three league appearances.

The second of those came against the Hammers, and up next is another of his former loan teams: Leicester.

He already boasts a great record in meetings with the Foxes, having been involved in six goals (three goals and three assists) against them – that's a joint-personal best (also six versus Arsenal).

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Newcastle United v Tottenham)

If there's one member of the Newcastle squad who promises to be the most buoyed by the club's new situation, it's surely the one who wouldn't look out of place in a team of expensively assembled superstars.

Saint-Maximin is box office – he's an entertainer and always looks like he's having a rollicking good time on the pitch, but this season the Frenchman has added a little more substance to his play as well.

With two goals and three assists already in 2021-22, he has an involvement every 126 minutes, massively improved on 2020-21 (one every 224 mins). In front of new owners, few would bet against Saint-Maximin dazzling as he looks to prove he'll be right at home in the new era.

RAUL JIMENEZ (Aston Villa v Wolves)

Back from a serious head injury, Jimenez did not have much luck during his first five Premier League appearances of the season, not getting a single goal or assist despite attempting 14 shots and delivering 15 key passes.

But since then, the Mexico international has been involved in all of Wolves' three most recent goals.

Jimenez has been something of a double-threat under Bruno Lage, with his shot involvements tally of 36 bettered by only Bruno Fernandes (47), Mohamed Salah, Michail Antonio and Raphinha.

Hector Moreno and Raul Jimenez helped Mexico re-claim their three-point lead in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win away to El Salvador on Wednesday.

Moreno headed in Jesus Corona's 30th-minute corner before Mexico star Jimenez rounded out the win with a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time.

Hirving Lozano put an early chance wide, while Osvaldo Rodriguez also pushed a header off target before Moreno broke the deadlock with a glancing effort which crept in at the back post.

Both sides were then reduced to 10 men, with El Salvador losing Mario Jacobo to a straight red card for a foul on Rogelio Funes Mori in the 48th minute.

Mexico saw Nestor Araujo sent off with 23 minutes remaining for a second bookable offence, ruling him out of next month's crucial qualifier against the United States in Cincinnati.

Wolves' Jimenez cushioned the victory with his late spot-kick having returned to the national team last month after suffering a serious head injury in November last year.

The win moved unbeaten Mexico to 14 points after six games, three points ahead of USA, who came from behind to beat Costa Rica 2-1 earlier on Wednesday.

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Wolves forward Raul Jimenez has revealed doctors told him it is a miracle that he survived his fractured skull suffered after a clash of heads in November.

Jimenez made his return to Premier League action in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Leicester City after eight months out following the sickening accidental collision with Arsenal's David Luiz.

During a lengthy on-field delay, the Mexican was put on a stretcher and given an oxygen feed, before he was taken to hospital for emergency surgery.

There were initial fears that the 30-year-old may never play again but he revealed the concerns were greater than that when he fronted the media on Tuesday.

"With the skull fracture, the bone broke and there was a little bit of bleeding inside the brain," Jimenez said. "It was pushing my brain to the inside and that is why the surgery had to be quick.

"It was a really good job by the doctors. The skull fracture did take a little longer to heal than we all expected but it is a miracle to be here with you."

He added: "Since the first moment they told me what happened and the risks. They told me it was like a miracle to be there. Because they are doctors they have to tell you the truth and you have to take it. Sometimes this is not what you want to hear but it's their job."

The Mexican has no re-collection of the incident and spent 10 days in hospital after the emergency surgery.

Jimenez outlined the long road back to competitive football, having resumed training with team-mates in May, insisting he always felt he could get back.

"I always felt it was maybe like an ankle injury or a knee injury and that after my recovery, I'll be back doing what I love to do," the former Benfica and Atletico Madrid forward said.

"I never thought about finishing my career or stopping playing. There was a chance of that but I was always confident I was going to return."

Jimenez has been a sensation for Wolves since their promotion to the Premier League, netting 30 top-flight goals across his first two full seasons at the club.

He had scored four goals in 2020-21 prior to his injury at Emirates Stadium, with Jimenez's absence dealing a big blow to Wolves last term.

Raul Jimenez was handed his long-awaited return for Wolves as the Mexico forward started in Saturday's friendly against Crewe Alexandra.

Jimenez has been out of action since he sustained a fractured skull in a clash of heads with Arsenal's David Luiz in November.

The 30-year-old former Benfica striker returned to full training in May, six months after undergoing surgery for what Wolves described as a "major traumatic brain injury and skull fracture".

He was declared ready for his comeback against Crewe, making the starting XI for Wolves' first game under new boss Bruno Lage.

Jimenez has been a sensation for Wolves since their promotion to the Premier League, netting 30 top-flight goals across his first two full seasons at the club.

He had scored four goals in 2020-21 prior to his injury at Emirates Stadium, with Jimenez's absence dealing a big blow to Nuno Espirito Santo's team last term.

Wolves striker Raul Jimenez is ready to return to full training after six months out with a skull fracture but he will require a head guard for the rest of his career.

The Mexico international suffered the injury in Wolves' 2-1 win over Arsenal back in November following a sickening clash of heads with David Luiz.

Jimenez received medical attention on the field for around 10 minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher, with the extent of his injuries later revealed as he underwent surgery for a "major traumatic brain injury [TBI] and skull fracture".

On Wednesday, Wolves' club doctor Matt Parry has confirmed the 30-year-old was now clear to resume training as normal and would likely be fit and ready for the 2021-22 season. However, he did warn that caution was still needed.

"His skull fracture has now healed well; he will wear a protective head guard to cover the area of bony injury for the remainder of his career, but it is adjudged strong enough for him to return to play with this protection," Perry told Wolves' official website.

"A brain injury such as concussion can take weeks and months to recover fully and TBI will sometimes leave lasting deficits. It is wonderful to be able to say that Raul has made a remarkable and excellent recovery to date.

"He has no measurable signs of deficit and is now at the stage when he can contemplate a return to the career he loves; but a degree of caution is still required."

Wolves have recalled forward Patrick Cutrone from his loan spell with Fiorentina, bolstering their attacking options while Raul Jimenez recovers from a serious head injury.

Mexico striker Jimenez sustained a fractured skull in a clash of heads with Arsenal's David Luiz during a 2-1 win at the end of November and does not appear close to a return.

Since then, 18-year-old Fabio Silva, a pre-season recruit from Porto, has filled in as Wolves' main centre-forward and looked lively, if unspectacular.

The youngster has featured seven times in the Premier League and scored once, his eight shot attempts fewer than Ruben Neves, Romain Saiss (both nine) and Pedro Neto (10).

Wolves' options in that part of the pitch are limited, making Cutrone's recall less of a surprise.

The Italian joined for a reported £16million (€17.7m) from Milan in 2019 but he scored just three times in 24 appearances across all competitions before being sent to Fiorentina on a planned 18-month loan in January last year.

However, he fared no better with the Viola, netting only four times in 30 Serie A outings and laying on just six chances for team-mates.

He will hope to take advantage of a clearer run at a first-team spot with Wolves, as Jimenez still has not been given a return date.

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