EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Alexander-Arnold to torment Albion, Aguero can make amends

By Sports Desk May 14, 2021

Time is running out to secure precious fantasy football points as the Premier League season nears an end.

Manchester City have the title in the bag, but it may still be all to play for in fantasy leagues heading into the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

With some teams still having three games to play in a hectic schedule, it will be vital to make the right picks and ensure points could potentially mean prizes.

Here are a few tips to help you out, powered by Opta, as always...

 

EDERSON

City travel to Newcastle United on Friday for their first match since being crowned champions.

They have won 11 consecutive Premier League away matches and a 12th victory at St. James' Park would see them break the all-time record in the top four tiers of English football.

City have kept 16 clean sheets on their travels in all competitions this season and are one away from equalling the record by a top-flight team in a season.

Newcastle have managed just 41 shots in seven Premier League games against Pep Guardiola's side, so another clean sheet could be on the cards for Ederson, who has more than any other goalkeeper in the division this season (18).

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was outstanding in the 4-2 victory at Manchester United on Thursday.

With England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold caught the eye with an influential display as Jurgen Klopp's side claimed three precious points in the battle for a Champions League spot.

The Reds travel to relegated West Brom on Sunday knowing a win would leave them just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two games to play.

Since he was omitted from the last England squad in March, Alexander-Arnold has created more chances than any other top-flight player with 21, making him a necessity for your XI.

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton full-back Lucas Digne has enjoyed another impressive season for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

The Toffees entertain bottom club Sheffield United at Goodison Park on Sunday as they hunt a place in Europe next season.

France international Digne can make an impact at both ends of the pitch, with his seven assists the joint-highest by a defender in the Premier League this season, along with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham.

Everton have kept four clean sheets in their previous six matches with Digne in the side too, so will be aiming to blunt the Blades on Merseyside.

 

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Brazilian forward Matheus Pereira has been a shining light in a poor season for West Brom.

The Baggies were unable to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, a defeat to Arsenal last weekend consigning Sam Allardyce to a first relegation from the Premier League.

Albion will be desperate to keep hold of Pereira, who has scored five goals in six matches ahead of the encounter with Liverpool.

He has been directly involved in 15 goals this season, with only Peter Odemwingie (22 in 2010-11) and Romelu Lukaku (21 in 2012-13) managing more involvements for the Baggies in a Premier League campaign.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN

Tottenham face Wolves at home on Sunday smarting from a 3-1 defeat at Leeds United last time out.

Son Heung-min scored Spurs' only goal at Elland Road, where the London club's slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot were all-but ended.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in four goals in three games under caretaker boss Ryan Mason, scoring three and setting one up.

Son has found the back of the net in three consecutive Premier League games and will be a major threat to Wolves. He had managed just one goal in his previous seven outings in the competition during the final stages of Jose Mourinho's reign.

 

SERGIO AGUERO

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero issued an apology after his embarrassing Panenka penalty gave Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the simplest of saves last weekend.

Aguero will be determined to make amends as he nears the end of his time with City and could take his frustration out on Newcastle.

The Argentina striker has scored 15 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Magpies, averaging one every 61 minutes, and it would be no surprise to see him add to that tally.

 

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham head south to face Brighton and Hove Albion on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton that left their chances of qualifying for the Champions League hanging by a thread.

They will need to respond on the south coast against a Brighton side who are safe now.

Antonio has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 away Premier League starts, netting 11 times and providing three assists.

He can trouble the Seagulls and improve those numbers. Indeed, the forward has scored 24 times for the Hammers on the road in the competition, five more than any other player for the club.

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    Pep Guardiola praised Jack Grealish for "starting perfectly" at Manchester City but is unsure if the playmaker will be fit to feature against former club Aston Villa on Wednesday,

    Grealish has featured in 15 of City's 21 matches since joining the club from Villa in a £100m British record transfer from Aston Villa in August, starting 13 of those.

    The 26-year-old was an unused substitute for the derby win over Manchester United on November 6 and has not played since due to a knock sustained on England duty.

    He returned to training on Monday and will be monitored ahead of Wednesday's clash at Villa Park, where he spent 20 years – seven as a first-team regular – prior to joining City.

    Grealish has a lot of work to do in order to repay his hefty price tag, but Guardiola has been pleased with the attacking midfielder's impact thus far when fit and available.

    "He has started perfectly," Guardiola said of Grealish at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

    "It's easy because of our English players and the other guys here are nice people. He's played good but needs more time to settle." 

    Grealish has scored two goals and assisted three more this term, while his tally of seven big chances created is the joint-most of any City player alongside Joao Cancelo.

    However, the 3.15 chances Grealish has created per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season is down on the 3.34 managed in his final campaign with Villa.

    He is also attempting fewer dribbles (3.39 compared to 4.53) for City and is being fouled less frequently (down from 4.53 to 2.66), a sign that he is getting at opponents less.

    Guardiola puts down that down to the contrasting styles of City and next opponents Villa.

    "If you analyse games, he hasn't played badly. The way we play and our expectations are different to Villa," Guardiola said.

    "He did incredibly well at Villa. His commitment to the club to stay and get promoted was amazing. 

    "Now he has come back from the international break injured. Hopefully he comes back and step by step finds his form. 

    "We have six, seven months ahead of us. I don't think we will have to wait until next season to see the best Jack Grealish – I'm thinking this season."

    Providing an update on City's other recent absentees, Guardiola confirmed Kevin De Bruyne has returned a negative coronavirus test but has yet to train.

    Phil Foden remains doubtful having trained only once, while Ferran Torres is a long-term absentee and Aymeric Laporte is suspended.

    "All the people who have had coronavirus say it drains them and Kevin needs time to show his form," Guardiola said. 

    "Phil and Jack are still in the same situation. Maybe tomorrow they can play but not a lot of minutes – we're going to see after they train today.

    "The rest, we have just 14 or 15 players. But I trust this squad a lot. If one is out, another comes in.

    "December is the toughest month of the year for us and we are in trouble because we have so few players available."

    Wednesday's match at Villa Park will be the first managerial encounter between Guardiola and new Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

    Guardiola has lost just three of his 64 Premier League games against English managers, coming against Roy Hodgson (December 2018), Frank Lampard (June 2020) and Graham Potter (May 2021).

    Gerrard has won his first two Villa games since arriving from Rangers – no manager in the club's history has won their first three matches – and Guardiola is expecting a tough test in the Midlands.

    "He's managing in the Premier League, so he is already a good manager," Guardiola said. "I don't believe there's a manager in the Premier League, even the Championship, who isn't good. 

    "They can train good players in good clubs to punch for the titles. There are incredible managers in all aspects and maybe they win titles because they are lucky to train a good team.

    "I can imagine with a new manager everybody steps forward for training sessions and methodology to convince the manager. 

    "They have had two good results against tough teams like Brighton and Crystal Palace. It will be the toughest game possible tomorrow."

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    Lionel Messi scooped the accolade for a seventh time on Monday, but many felt this would be Lewandowski's time to take the glory.

    Klopp benefited from the brilliance of Lewandowski when both men were at Borussia Dortmund, with the Poland international scoring 103 goals before switching to Bayern.

    At club level, Lewandowski has scored 53 goals already in 2021, with six assists taking him to 59 goal involvements, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

    Messi sits fifth on that list (32 goals, 12 assists) but helped Argentina to win the Copa America, thereby winning one of the few trophies that had eluded him.

    That likely tipped the vote his way, with Messi's form since leaving Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in August having so far been sketchy by his mercurial standards.

    Asked initially whether he was surprised there were six players who ranked higher than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Klopp said: "I was surprised to be honest, but it's not in my hands. If you think he should be higher up, then you'll have to convince your colleagues."

    Then Klopp turned his focus to Lewandowski, a player he once described as the best he has ever coached. Lewandowski was second to Messi for the coveted Ballon d'Or, which is voted for by journalists from across the world.

    The 33-year-old scored 41 Bundesliga goals last season, breaking a record for the most in the division that was previously held by Gerd Muller.

    "I think that you always can give it to Lionel Messi for the career he has and the footballer he is, all these kinds of things, but if you don't give it to Robert Lewandowski this time then it's quite tricky to get it at all," said the Liverpool boss.

    "And yes, Mo definitely should have been high up."

    Lewandowski would also have been a frontrunner in 2020, only for organisers France Football to cancel the awards due to the impact of the COVID-19 enforced break in the football year.

    He managed 57 goals involvements (45 goals, 12 assists) in 2020, which was 10 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (41 goals, 6 assists), who had the second-most in the elite leagues, and 12 ahead of Messi (26 goals, 19 assists).

  • Lukaku set for more minutes as Chelsea aim to rediscover scoring touch Lukaku set for more minutes as Chelsea aim to rediscover scoring touch

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    Lukaku played the final eight minutes plus stoppage time in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday, having missed the previous four league games with an ankle injury.

    The Blues are just a point clear of defending champions Manchester City at the top of the table and could be leapfrogged by Pep Guardiola's men and Liverpool on Wednesday should they fail to claim all three points at Vicarage Road.

    But they look set to be boosted by increased involvement from Lukaku after he came through his cameo in the United game without incident.

    Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Tuchel said: "Romelu is pretty easy. He came on and continues to train. There's no reaction from his ankle. He is ready to progress in minutes and this is where he is."

    N'Golo Kante (knee), Ben Chilwell (knee) and Mateo Kovacic (thigh) are sidelined for Chelsea, who face last-minute calls on Reece James, Jorginho and Timo Werner after they all picked up knocks, though the trio did train on Tuesday.

    Chelsea were held by United despite having 24 shots to the Red Devils' three, the Blues scoring only once despite having an expected goals (xG) tally of 2.5, based on the chances they created. United had an xG of just 0.7.

    Tuchel will hope Lukaku can help Chelsea be more clinical but, asked if his forwards need to do more, he replied: "They try hard. Their contribution to our style of game, contribution to the high pressing is immense, we can see this in the data after the matches.

    "So we should maybe take into account that when they arrive with the chances maybe they don't arrive fully relaxed, sometimes they breathe hard when they arrive and maybe that costs us some precision.

    "But we have scored many goals before. This game I agree, we had a similar game in terms of chances and of course result against Burnley at home.

    "It's a good sign that we are not happy with when we draw against Man United when we have the feeling that we should have deserved more. 

    "We trust them, they have the quality to score for us. It's on us to bring them into positions from where it's possible for them to score and to do this as often as possible."

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