EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Saka to strike against Leeds, Ings to haunt Southampton

By Sports Desk March 31, 2023

After an unwelcome international break the view of many, Premier League football returns this weekend with plenty to decide at both ends of the table.

A gruelling clash between title-chasing Manchester City and top-four hopefuls Liverpool kicks things off on Saturday, with league leaders Arsenal hosting Leeds United later in the day and potentially having the opportunity to extend their lead at the summit.

Bukayo Saka is once again one to watch at Emirates Stadium, having maintained his fine form over the international break on England duty, and it would be wise to draft him into your fantasy squad if he is not yet in the side.

Elsewhere, Kai Havertz's resurgence is one to keep an eye on, while Danny Ings and Jack Harrison are also worth a punt.

Using Opta data, we've highlighted exactly why that quartet should be on your hit list.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal v Leeds United)

The Hale End graduate is the only player in the Premier League to have hit double figures for both goals (12) and assists (10) this season, with Saka in particularly devastating form at Emirates Stadium.

Overall, 14 of his 22 goal involvements have come in north London, standing behind only Erling Haaland (23) for the most direct goal involvements at home in the Premier League.

Last time out against Crystal Palace, Saka scored twice and contributed an assist to help Arsenal maintain their title charge, then carrying that form into England duty and scoring against Ukraine at Wembley.

Kai Havertz (Chelsea v Aston Villa)

Linked with a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season following Thomas Tuchel's appointment in Bavaria, Havertz has hit a fine vein of form at a crucial stage of the season in Chelsea's top-four bid.

Seven goals this season puts Havertz just one shy of his tally from last season, while he enters the clash against Aston Villa having scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances – meaning he could score in three consecutive games for the first time since March 2022.

No player has been involved in more goals under Graham Potter than Havertz (six goals, one assist), scoring twice the amount as Chelsea's next leading scorer under the Englishman (Mason Mount, three).

 

Danny Ings (West Ham v Southampton)

Ings has established a fine record of haunting his former employers in the Premier League, having been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 14 such matches (seven goals, three assists).

That includes involvement in three goals in his last two appearances against Southampton (one goal, two assists), who may wonder what might have been had he been in their ranks in the fight for Premier League survival.

Since January 21, no West Ham player has a higher goals-per-game ratio (0.55) or expected goals (0.56) return, while only Jarrod Bowen (6.43) and Said Benrahma (5.29) have more touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes than Ings (4.66).

Jack Harrison (Arsenal v Leeds United)

With six assists over the course of the season, Harrison ranks sixth across the entirety of the Premier League in that regard, with only Christian Eriksen (seven), Mohamed Salah (seven), Leandro Trossard (eight), Saka (10) and Kevin De Bruyne (12) having more.

In Leeds' bid for survival, Harrison has been the catalyst in pushing the club away from the bottom three and travels to Emirates Stadium having scored in consecutive Premier League matches.

Only Rodrigo (12) has been involved in more Leeds goals this term than Harrison (nine), while nobody has created more chances for the Yorkshire side than the midfielder (41).

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    Michail Antonio felt West Ham were up against 14 players as they bowed out of the Europa League to Bayer Leverkusen.

    Antonio’s early header gave the Hammers hope of overturning a 2-0 first-leg deficit and inflicting a first defeat of the season on Xabi Alonso’s new Bundesliga champions.

    But the bustling striker claimed he did not get a decision all night from card-happy Spanish referee Jose Maria Sanchez and his two assistants.

    “It doesn’t feel like you’re playing against 11 men, it feels like you’re playing against 13 or 14 including the two linos,” Antonio told TNT Sports.

    “You just have to keep pushing and try and make the decisions go your way. And they just weren’t. We had to keep playing our way and keep being professional.”

    West Ham pushed gamely for a second goal to take the tie to extra-time, but as they inevitably flagged Leverkusen substitute Jeremie Frimpong scored with a deflected shot in the last minute to make it 1-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

    It was a valiant effort but ultimately a sad end to another European adventure for last season’s Conference League winners.

    “We’re very proud of ourselves, to achieve what we’ve achieved over the last few years is incredible,” added Antonio.

    “Three back-to-back years in European quarter-finals I would never have thought that. We were a yo-yo team, fighting relegation, then into Europe.”

    Sanchez booked 11 players and sent off West Ham coach Billy McKinlay, and Sebastian Parrilla from Leverkusen’s staff after a touchline altercation.

    Asked if that skirmish had anything to do with some bad-tempered exchanges between the benches in last week’s first leg, Alonso said with a grin: “I wouldn’t say no.”

    Hammers boss David Moyes was not keen to be drawn on the officiating, but he did say: “I watch a lot of Spanish football but if that’s the way it is you wouldn’t want to watch too many Spanish matches.”

    On his side’s performance, he added: “It was a brilliant team performance, I have to say over the two games.

    “We played a really good team and we had chances to be two or three up. I couldn’t fault the players at all. If I was going out of Europe I wanted to go out like that.”

    In the first half Leverkusen looked as though they may have celebrated their first Bundesliga crown on Sunday a little too much, and Alonso admitted they needed to improve after the break.

    “For sure it was a thrilling game,” he said. “Two different halves. First half we knew West Ham would come with high intensity and we were not comfortable with that.

    “After they scored one we were lucky not to concede a second one. But we showed character in the second half and the substitutes had a good impact. It was a lesson for us.”

  • Jurgen Klopp accepts lack of threat cost Liverpool dear in European exit Jurgen Klopp accepts lack of threat cost Liverpool dear in European exit

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp accepted their lack of goal threat failed to put enough pressure on Atalanta to help turn their Europa League quarter-final back in their favour.

    Mohamed Salah’s seventh-minute penalty had raised hopes of a Barcelona 2019-style comeback but the Egypt international missed a relatively straightforward lob to make it 2-0 towards the end of the first half and they faded badly after the break as they exited the competition 3-1 on aggregate.

    That meant for only the third time in the 21st century, England have no teams in the semi-finals of the Champions League or Europa League/UEFA Cup.

    “We didn’t lose the tie tonight, we lost it at home,” Klopp said after a 3-0 first-leg defeat proved decisive.

    “It’s very easy to congratulate Atalanta because they deserved to go through. When you win a tie against us 3-1 in especially this way you deserve it absolutely.

    “But I loved our game, especially the start. I loved the commitment, desire and power we developed in this game but it was clear we had better score from time to time otherwise it could be tricky over 90 minutes.

    “The second goal could have helped a little bit. We have to create a little bit more than we did in the first half as it’s clear you need a result to help destabilise the opponent.

    “If you have a second goal it’s a tricky one as the next goal is extra time but we didn’t get to that point and we will never really know how that would have looked.

    “Disappointed we didn’t go through but not frustrated or angry. If you don’t deserve it, it’s all good.”

    Salah has looked well short of his clinical best since returning from almost two months out with a hamstring problem.

    Even though he has scored six in 11 game since he came back two of those have been penalties and he is squandering more chances he would normally be expected to take.

    “I’m not particularly concerned. That’s what strikers do. That’s how it it is. We have to go through it, he has to go through it,” added Klopp.

    “He is one of most experienced players in the squad. That’s pretty much all.

    “It’s not that Mo didn’t miss chances before in his life, that’s part of the game. The penalty was super convincing, a super penalty then the next chance that was unlucky, but it’s not the first time has has missed chances like that.

    “I won’t make a big story of it. I’m not particularly concerned.”

  • Liverpool exit Europa League despite win at Atalanta Liverpool exit Europa League despite win at Atalanta

    Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League after they failed to turn around their 3-0 first-leg defeat to Atalanta despite winning 1-0 at Gewiss Stadium.

    Jurgen Klopp’s men took the lead from the spot in the seventh minute through Mohamed Salah but could not find the goals needed as they fell to a 3-1 aggregate loss in the quarter-finals.

    West Ham were knocked out by Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen at London Stadium, also going out 3-1 on aggregate.

    The Hammers gave themselves hope, both in the tie and of inflicting a first defeat of the season on Leverkusen, courtesy of Michail Antonio’s first-half goal.

    But it was not enough as Leverkusen scored late on through Jeremie Frimpong.

    Roma held off AC Milan to advance to the semi-finals.

    Daniele De Rossi’s side, who won the first leg 1-0, scored two quickfire goals through Gianluca Mancini and Paulo Dybala to strengthen their advantage.

    Despite Mehmet Zeki Çelik’s red card for a late challenge on Rafael Leao and Matteo Gabbia pulling one back in the 85th minute, the hosts managed to see out the match.

    Marseille had to rely on penalties to claim their last-eight win over Benfica.

    Benfica went to Stade Velodrome with a 2-1 advantage.

    Faris Moumbagna opened the scoring for the hosts but both defences proved to be stubborn as the match went the distance after extra-time.

    Antonio Silva and Angel Di Maria missed from 12 yards before Luis Henrique scored the decisive spot-kick to send the French club through.

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