EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Back Barnes to bank and Dawson to deliver

By Sports Desk February 10, 2023

The fixtures are coming thick and fast on multiple fronts for many Premier League teams as European football returns, meaning plenty of tinkering from managers between games.

Add into the mix an array of January signings being eased into the sides, selecting a team of guaranteed starters is becoming increasingly difficult. 

But fear not as Stats Perform, using Opta data, has picked out four players who not only look certain to start this weekend but – crucially – also earn plenty of points.

Keylor Navas (Fulham v Nottingham Forest)

Paris Saint-Germain loanee Navas needed no time at all to settle in at Nottingham Forest as he kept a clean sheet on his debut in last week's 1-0 win over Leeds United.

The Costa Rica international made four saves against Leeds – only Hugo Lloris and David Raya (both five) made more while keeping a clean sheet in the last round of games.

Forest have now kept four clean sheets in their past six league matches, while opponents Fulham have failed to score in any of their past three top-flight outings.

Craig Dawson (Southampton v Wolves)

Dawson is another who made a fast start to life at a new club, with the centre-back scoring and keeping a clean sheet on his debut against Liverpool in a 3-0 win for Wolves.

That was Dawson's 20th Premier League goal – always a handy asset for a defender – including at least one in each of his eight top-flight seasons.

Wolves will be hopeful of building on a return of two shutouts in their past three league games when they face bottom side Southampton, who are averaging 0.8 goals per game.

Harvey Barnes (Leicester City v Tottenham)

Leicester midfielder Barnes has scored one and assisted another in his past two Premier League outings, taking his tally to seven goals for the campaign.

The one-cap England international is only two goals short of matching his best tally in a single season in the competition, set in 2020-21 with nine.

Having found their scoring touch with six goals in their past two league games, Leicester appear good value to net against Tottenham, who will have back-up Fraser Forster between the posts.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City v Aston Villa, and Arsenal v Manchester City)

Whether he starts both games remains to be seen, but the fact City have two league matches in the next week means you have double the chance to score points with Mahrez.

He was unable to make a difference in the loss to Spurs, though he has still been involved in six goals in his past six league games for City (three goals, three assists).

Only Marcus Rashford (eight) and Erling Haaland (seven) have been involved in more Premier League goals since the World Cup than the City winger.

Related items

  • Putellas signs two-year deal with Barcelona Putellas signs two-year deal with Barcelona

    Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas has signed a two-year deal until 2026, the club announced on Thursday.

    Putellas was due to be out of contract next month, but extends her 12-year relationship with Barcelona, with the new deal also including an option for an additional season.

    The 30-year-old is a two-time Ballon d’Or winner in 2021 and 2022, though she has struggled with injuries that have kept her sidelined since winning the second.

    Overall, she has made 424 appearances, scoring a record 189 goals for the club, playing a pivotal role in Barcelona’s recent domination in women’s football.

    Putellas has won 29 major trophies with Barcelona and is looking for another on Saturday when they face Lyon in the Champions League final.

    Having already clinched Liga F, the Copa de la Reina and the Spanish Supercopa this season, Putellas can help Barcelona to complete an unprecedented quadruple with a win over the French champions.

  • Southgate envisages central role for 'brilliant' Foden at Euro 2024 Southgate envisages central role for 'brilliant' Foden at Euro 2024

    Gareth Southgate believes Phil Foden's starting position is less important than the spaces he is allowed to attack, pledging to find a way of letting him operate centrally at Euro 2024.

    Foden was included in England's 33-man preliminary squad on Tuesday, and he is expected to be among the first names on the teamsheet after enjoying a fine campaign.

    Foden was named Premier League Player of the Season as he helped Manchester City win an unprecedented fourth straight title, scoring 19 goals and adding seven assists.

    Only three players in the league bettered Foden's goal tally, while he also ranked seventh in the division for chances created (73) and fourth for possession won in the final third (35 times).

    Foden scored two excellent goals as City clinched the title with a 3-1 final-day win over West Ham, drifting infield from the right to find space between the lines and in the penalty area.

    While the presence of Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka has led many to conclude Foden will be stationed on the left in Germany, Southgate is aware of the need to grant him positional freedom.

    "Phil has played off the right, off the left, the key is where he ends up, not his starting position," Southgate said at a press conference on Tuesday.

    "He plays on the left with City, sometimes he stays wide, but he's allowed to drift, and it has always been the same with us. He's allowed to drift. 

    "Then there's where a player has to defend. Jude has played as a 10 all season, and sometimes he has defended on the left for Real Madrid. 

    "It's about where these players arrive and where you allow them to drift, that's the key. I think if you spoke to all of our players, we never pin them to a touchline, that's not how we work so there is that freedom."

    Foden produced a series of talismanic displays for City in the run-in, scoring match-winning hat-tricks against Brentford and Aston Villa and masterminding a vital comeback against Manchester United with two goals in March.

    The 23-year-old stepped up while players like Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland were sidelined through injury, and Southgate has been impressed by his ability to shoulder that responsibility.

    "It's obvious the brilliant season Phil has had, how he stepped up in big games not only when big players have been out but when he's been playing alongside them as well," Southgate added.

    "You want him in central areas as you do one or two others, so we have to find the best way of making that happen."

  • Man City 'head and shoulders' above all teams in Premier League era, says James Man City 'head and shoulders' above all teams in Premier League era, says James

    Manchester City's current crop stand "head and shoulders" above all other teams in the Premier League era after winning four straight titles, says the club's former goalkeeper David James.

    City became the first team in English top-flight history to win four successive titles on Sunday, a 3-1 win over West Ham ensuring they pipped Arsenal by two points.

    Huddersfield Town (1923-1926), Arsenal (1932-1935) and Liverpool (1981-1984) all won the old First Division three times in a row, while Manchester United achieved the feat twice in the Premier League era (1998-2001 and 2006-2009).

    Pep Guardiola's men ended the campaign with a nine-match winning streak, while they are now unbeaten in their last 35 matches across all competitions (29 wins, six draws), the longest such run ever recorded by a Premier League team.

    They have the chance to make more history on Saturday, as they can clinch unprecedented back-to-back league and FA Cup doubles against Manchester United.

    For James, who spent two years with City between 2004 and 2006, Guardiola's champions have cemented their legacy as the Premier League's finest.

    "They're up there. The fact they've broken the record means that no one's done better than them over that period," he told Stats Perform.

    "From the moment they first won that Premier League title to now, they have been head and shoulders better than anyone else. 

    "It's thoroughly deserved and one of the funny things that I love is the way they celebrate. You would think after four in a row that it would be, ‘okay, lads, let's get back in and worry about the FA Cup on the weekend'. They celebrate like they haven't got another match! 

    "This is a group of players and staff who are all with each other, all behind each other, all enjoying all these moments. 

    "I can't think of a team who's had that much dominance over that period of time. They just keep breaking records, don't they?"

    Over the last four seasons, City's total of 359 Premier League points are 49 more than anyone else, while they have averaged 2.4 points per game and won 73.7 per cent of their league matches.

    While James does not feel City's class of 2023-24 have been quite as relentless as 2022-23's treble winners, he says they always seemed to be in control in the run-in.

    "I think it's interesting when we look at the whole season, because I don't think there's been a spell where City have absolutely smashed teams," James said. 

    "I've followed a lot of the games this season where they've won but haven't been overly impressive, especially compared to last season. 

    "But in a way, I could detect from the beginning of the season there was something different about the way Pep was approaching it. I don't think it was all the guts and thunder of last season. 

    "They always had it under control and it was just like a Mo Farah finish, they put the afterburners on at the end."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.