With Swansea City due to visit the London Stadium on Saturday in the last match before the international break, speculation as usual is over whether any of the main trio of injured players are likely to return.
Nobody expected James Collins to be fit at this stage following his ankle injury; but Slaven Bilić has already suggested that Manuel Lanzini might make an unexpected, if early, return to the side.
And in Thursday’s press conference, Bilic confirmed that both Lanzini and Michail Antonio would play against Swansea.
The question is whether Slaven’s team selection has been influenced by the coming international break; which gives people not involved with their countries an extra week to recover from injuries; either new ones or ongoing as the case may be.
If this is the case, with every decision that Slaven Bilić makes at the moment being questioned, he needs to think very carefully.
Throwing both players in against the Swans on the basis that they will have two weeks to recover could be the one decision that comes back to bite him if it all goes wrong.
There’s no doubt whatsoever that Slaven needs a boost and a return to the team by both Manuel and Michail at this point would provide exactly that.
The problem is that if they play and they’re just not ready, then the whole situation could be a lot worse after the Swansea game has faded into distant memory.
In football terms, distant memory tends to mean anything longer than a few days; and in two weeks time we might well be sitting here wondering if either of the duo are going to recover enough in time to make it to Turf Moor!
Gary Lewin indicated earlier this week that he wouldn’t be prepared to allow either to return to the team too soon if the odds were against them completing their part in the game without suffering a reaction as a result.
Returning to the team also means being on the subs’ bench of course; and as we saw last week with Andy Carroll, the subs need to be prepared to come on at a moments notice.
Slaven Bilić isn’t the type of manager to pick a player just to sit him on the bench knowing full well that he has absolutely no intention of bringing him on, simply because that player’s presence happens to give everybody a boost.
If they are both available, Manuel Lanzini and Michael Antonio will be expected to be fit and ready to come into the game if the circumstances dictate it. If that happens, Slaven needs to be sure that he’s not taking any risks.
We read every week about how one player or another is either due to return to the team in so many days time, or that he will be on the substitutes’ bench, or is hoping to fit for a specific game.
When they’re deemed not ready to return, people start to ask why. Slaven is the one who has to face the media and answer the usual questions.
All this does is create the situation where everyone outside the club is expecting players to return a lot sooner that they are actually able to.
If the players themselves start to listen to all the hype as well, then the temptation is there for them to push the rehab boundaries that bit further.
Nobody in any medical team wants a player to be out of action through injury for a moment longer than necessary; and no player wants to spend any more time in the treatment room, rehab gym or training with the injured group than the absolute minimal amount of time required to get back to full fitness.
Sometimes, though, you have to respect the injuries; and recognise that many of these are simply not going to recover in a week or a fortnight or whatever.
In those cases, we have to accept the situation for what it is; even if the hard facts aren’t what we want to hear.
The nest 24 hours or so will be an important time for Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio. If they do play, let’s just hope that they don’t suffer any adverse reactions as a result.