EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Castagne can shine and why Mitoma is your man

By Sports Desk April 07, 2023

Following the two-week international break and then a double gameweek, the Premier League fixture schedule returns to normal this weekend with 10 fixtures across two days.

That is not to say there are not still some huge selection decisions to make when it comes to picking your fantasy side in what is now very much the business end of the campaign.

Some players are quite simply undroppable at this stage, while others look good value for those willing to take a gamble and make up some points.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has picked out four players – one for each position – that look good value to help your side this weekend.

Emi Martinez (Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest)

Villa conceded against Leicester City last time out, but they have kept six Premier League clean sheets in 2023, with that tally bettered only by – surprisingly – Liverpool (seven).

Martinez has been in goal for five of those games, the Argentina international bringing the form he showed at the World Cup with him back to Villa Park.

He has made 38 saves this calendar year and has prevented 2.02 goals – only three goalkeepers have fared better – and is up against a low-scoring Forest side this weekend.


Timothy Castagne (Leicester City v Bournemouth)

Leicester are enduring a poor campaign and have struggled badly to keep clean sheets, doing so just six times all season in the Premier League.

Right-back Castagne has masked defensive inadequacies with some solid attacking play, however, with only three other defenders being involved in more goals this term (four).

In fact, of the defenders to have created at least 15 chances, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (33 per cent) has a higher proportion that are big chances than Castagne (31 per cent).


Kaoru Mitoma (Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Brighton attacker Mitoma is not quite the unknown figure he was a few months back, with more and more flocking to put him in their team as the weeks go by.

The Japan international is the first Brighton player to register a goal involvement in five successive Premier League games, with that the longest ongoing run in the competition.

All 11 of his goal involvements this season have come since his first start on October 29 – only four midfielders have been involved in more during that period.

 


Gabriel Jesus (Liverpool v Arsenal)

Having slowly built up his fitness since returning from a three-month lay-off, Jesus marked his first start in the win over Leeds United with two goals.

The Brazil international, whose most recent start at club level prior to that was against Wolves in November, now has seven goals and five assists in 17 league games this term.

Jesus tends to perform well against next opponents Liverpool, too, as only against three other sides has he been directly involved in more goals than he has versus the Reds (six).

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    United twice trailed at the Vitality Stadium and were fortunate to escape with a point following a poor first half in which the impressive hosts wasted a series of chances.

    While Bruno Fernandes’ double prevented defeat in Dorset, Ten Hag’s seventh-placed side face an uphill task to secure European qualification and also avoid the club’s worst Premier League finish.

    Defender Dalot believes battling back on the south coast was an encouraging sign but concedes the team have significant room for improvement going into their final six top-flight fixtures.

    “The big positive is we fought always for the result,” the Portuguese told United’s website.

    “That hunger of trying to fight until the end is something we have been showing this season.

    “It’s been a positive thing, in my opinion, although we have a lot of things we should improve, as a team, as individuals.

    “There are some things we obviously need to take responsibility (for), we cannot hide from it.

    “The standards are always high at this club so we have to be really, really accountable for these types of mistakes that we are making as a team that we cannot (make) if we want to fight for the big trophies.”

    United, who have never finished below seventh position in the Premier League era, are 10 points adrift of the Champions League positions following a fourth league outing without a win.

    Dominic Solanke and Justin Kluivert capitalised on sloppy defending to score for the Cherries but Fernandes’ volleyed equaliser ensured the visitors were only a goal behind at the break.

    United’s captain converted a 65th-minute spot-kick in a more even second period to again level before his side breathed a sigh of relief when Bournemouth were denied an added-time penalty by VAR when Willy Kambwala’s foul on Ryan Christie was adjudged to have been outside the box.

    United next weekend face a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Championship club Coventry before returning to top-flight action at home to bottom side Sheffield United on April 24.

    “We are already focusing on a big opportunity for us to be again in the FA Cup final and it’s a massive competition we want to win,” said Dalot, who was an unused substitute in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City in last year’s final.

    “We know the feeling of being there, now we want the feeling of being there again and winning it. Next week we are going to have a huge opportunity to be there again.”

    Bournemouth were denied a first league double over the 20-time English champions on the back of December’s thumping 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.

    Striker Solanke became the Cherries’ record scorer in a single Premier League season with his 17th strike this term, moving clear of former team-mate Joshua King’s tally in the 2016-17 campaign.

    “For the last few games I wanted to get that next goal,” he told Bournemouth’s website.

    “It’s a great achievement and I’m over the moon with that record. Hopefully I can get a few more towards the end of the season.

    “Sorry Kingy about that – records are there to be broken!”

    Speaking about the late VAR drama, Solanke added: “I only managed to see it back on the big screen in the stadium and it looked like it was on the line. It definitely could have been a penalty.

    “I’m a bit gutted not to get the win.”

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    It was their third win in four games since the international break, a run in stark contrast to a sequence of eight defeats in 10 outings in all competitions around the turn of the year, during which the club’s Saudi-backed owners remained steadfast despite the first murmurings of disquiet around their 46-year-old head coach.

    Howe said: “I always say the most important thing for me is not during the good times, but the difficult moments which will inevitably be there.

    “There will always be negative and difficult moments and it’s the support you get then that is the defining factor.

    “You need stability, calmness, level heads and to be allowed to focus on your work. The people behind the scenes have done all of that for me.”

    Howe, his staff and his players have done much the same in the face of an injury list which has remained stubbornly lengthy throughout a challenging campaign.

    On Saturday, they started with their back-up goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, winger Jacob Murphy at right-back, third-choice right-back Emil Krafth and left-back Dan Burn playing as two of three central defenders and left-sided frontman Anthony Gordon operating on the right.

    But it was the way in which the players implemented Howe’s game-plan to the letter which won the day as they lured Spurs into their trap by allowing them possession and then hitting them with devastating counter-punches.

    Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon punished two errors from defender Micky van de Ven inside as many first-half minutes to set the ball rolling, and the imperious Sweden international ran away from his Netherlands counterpart after the break to make it 3-0 before Fabian Schar completed the job at the death with a bullet header.

    With six games to go, Newcastle could yet drag themselves to within three points of last season’s tally of 71 – and they will have key midfielder Bruno Guimaraes available to aid their cause after he safely negotiated an 11th outing on nine bookings – although Howe is refusing to look too far ahead.

    He said: “We’ve got a long way to go to get there. Six games to go and we’ll give our best to try to win every one.”

    Opposite number Ange Postecoglou headed back south chastened, but ready to come out fighting once again.

    He said: “There’s no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. There’s another game in two weeks. We’ve just got to get ready for that.

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    The champions kept the pressure on rivals Arsenal and Liverpool at the Premier League summit with an emphatic 5-1 win over relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday.

    City now have just six games remaining of what has been an enthralling title race.

    Kovacic, who scored City’s second goal in a commanding display at the Etihad Stadium, said: “It’s amazing, it’s entertaining. Three amazing teams doing great.

    “It will be tough until the end and let’s see who will have the strongest nerves until the end.

    “It was important to keep the pressure on them but we are focused on ourselves, to win our games and then in the end we’ll see what happens.”

    City dominated in all departments against the Hatters but they benefited from a huge slice of luck to take the lead after just two minutes.

    Erling Haaland’s acrobatic volley was heading well wide until catching Daiki Hashioka in the face and deflecting into the net for a highly unfortunate own goal.

    Perhaps with next Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Real Madrid in mind, City then played at a slow tempo and it was not until the 64th minute when Kovacic doubled the lead with a thunderous strike.

    Haaland then added a penalty and the hosts finished strongly with further goals from Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol after Ross Barkley had grabbed a consolation.

    “We kept going, doing our job and in the end scoring five goals,” said Kovacic. “It could have been even more but we are happy with the three points. We have to keep going now.

    “We approach every game focused, to be 100 per cent and do our best. I think this game was as important as Wednesday. We need to keep the same focus and try to win.”

    Despite seeing his side outplayed and still rooted in the bottom three, Luton manager Rob Edwards was not downhearted and remained confident of survival.

    Edwards said: “This game was never going to derail us, whatever happened.

    “The supporters have been incredible all season long, home and away. They are all behind the players and me and that is really special. It gives me belief.

    “The players and the staff give me that belief as well and we know we are capable of winning the next five games. I’m not saying we’re going to win them all but we feel we can win enough games.

    “We have got three home games and I think it is difficult for any team to come to Kenilworth Road. We are up for this challenge.”

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