EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Time to back Martial – and three Burnley players

By Sports Desk February 05, 2021

Raheem Sterling struck Manchester City's second goal in their 2-0 win at Burnley to move onto 99 for the club in the Premier League.

With Pep Guardiola's men starting to build an ominous lead at the top of the table, this weekend would be an ideal time for Sterling to score for just the second time against Liverpool in what would be his 11th league meeting with his former employers.

Burnley have had a poor couple of games but there's value to be had in backing three of their top performers to deliver when they host in-form Brighton and Hove Albion.

Meanwhile, Anthony Martial is back among the goals for Manchester United and could well be worth a spot in your fantasy line-up.

NICK POPE

Burnley's number one Nick Pope had a rare moment of misfortune last time out, flapping at a Bernardo Silva shot that allowed Gabriel Jesus a simple goal three minutes in.

Still, he made four saves in total to keep the scoreline reasonably respectable and take his tally to 204 in the competition since the start of last season. No goalkeeper has made more.

In fact, only Ederson (29) has kept more clean sheets than Pope (22) in that same time frame, and the man hopeful of becoming England's regular number one will be determined to add to that against Brighton and prove his City slip-up was a mere blip.

 

JAMES TARKOWSKI

Like his goalkeeper, James Tarkowski has also kept 22 Premier League clean sheets since August 2019, more than any other defender (Harry Maguire is next on 21). He has every chance of getting another here.

Brighton are on a roll after beating Tottenham and Liverpool 1-0 and they won this game last season at Turf Moor 2-1, Aaron Connolly scoring a second-half winner.

However, three of the seven Premier League meetings between these two have finished 0-0, including the reverse game in November. Indeed, this could be the first fixture in Premier League history to see no goals scored in both games in two separate campaigns (there were two 0-0 draws in 2017-18, too).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton left-back Lucas Digne has already registered six assists this season, the most of any defender in the league. Since he joined the Toffees in 2018, only Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) can better his tally of 17.

Digne actually splits the two Liverpool full-backs when it comes to chances created over the same time period, his 165 bettered only by Alexander-Arnold among defenders (166).

His battle with Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be key to the result at Old Trafford.

RAHEEM STERLING

As well as scoring 99 goals, Sterling has provided 55 assists in all competitions for City under Guardiola. Those 154 goal involvements are the most of any player in the Catalan's time in charge, eight more than next best Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has not always enjoyed facing his old club and City have a fairly miserable record at Anfield, having won just once in their previous 29 league visits – and that was back in May 2003.

But with the champions reeling from consecutive home defeats to Burnley and Brighton, Sterling may well sense the Reds are there for the taking.

 

JAMES MADDISON

In Leicester City's 2-0 win at Fulham, James Maddison set up both goals, marking the first time he has recorded multiple assists in a Premier League game.

In his previous 12 appearances in all competitions, the former Norwich City man has been directly involved in 12 goals (six scored and six assisted). There were just three games in that run where he failed to score or set up a team-mate.

Brendan Rodgers' men are flying high and will be confident of a result away to an inconsistent Wolves.

 

CHRIS WOOD

Chris Wood has only scored four league goals all season and just one of those has come in his most recent seven appearances.

That could all change against Brighton. Wood has scored eight times in league football against the Seagulls, making them his favourite opponent in English football.

 

ANTHONY MARTIAL

Anthony Martial had a positive cameo in that 9-0 demolition of Southampton, scoring twice and winning a (controversial) penalty after coming on at half-time.

Everton will not want to see Martial with renewed confidence. The France forward has managed six goals and three assists in his past 11 appearances in all competitions against the Toffees.

Even if Edinson Cavani starts in his place, Martial may well be a threat: he came off the bench to score one and set up another in a 2-0 EFL Cup win at Goodison Park in December.

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  • Brazil v Colombia: Selecao out to secure top spot Brazil v Colombia: Selecao out to secure top spot

    Brazil can secure top spot in Copa America Group B with victory over Colombia on Wednesday.

    The two sides go into the glamour clash of the group on the back of hugely contrasting results against Peru.

    Neymar and Co. ensured the Selecao swept aside Los Incas 4-0 in their last game, but Colombia were stunned as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to the same opposition.

    As a result, Brazil will finish top of Group B should they win against Colombia and Peru fail to beat Ecuador.

    That will secure a quarter-final with the fourth-placed side in Group A, but it may not mean a routine last-eight clash, as Uruguay occupy that spot as it stands.

    A win will secure Colombia's place in the quarters, though a draw could be enough if Ecuador lose to Peru in the earlier game.

    The omens are not good for Colombia heading into the match in Rio de Janeiro. They are winless in their last four meetings with Selecao, Colombia's last victory coming in the 2015 Copa America.

    Brazil are the top scorers in the tournament, having netted seven goals in their opening two games, but they may look to show greater ruthlessness in front of goal against Colombia.

    Their 35 shots have carried an expected goals (xG) value of 8.6 and, with this game likely to be a better barometer of where they stand ahead of the knockout stages, Brazil will be eager to do a better job of taking their chances and send a message to their rivals for the trophy.

    Should Colombia seal progression, it will be the fifth successive Copa America in which they have reached the last eight.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil - Richarlison

    The Everton striker may have earned a place in the starting XI with his performance in the thumping of Peru.

    Richarlison came on at the start of the second half for Gabriel Barbosa and had four shots, with three on target, scored Brazil's fourth and created two chances.

    Colombia - Edwin Cardona

    Though Colombia slumped to a surprise defeat, it was another impressive performance for Cardona against Peru.

    He created a match-high three chances, taking his tally for the tournament to seven, and produced two good crosses in a game Colombia lost despite having an xG of 1.5 to Peru's 0.94.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Brazil have lost only of their last 19 games against Colombia in all competitions (W11 D7). Their only defeat against them in that run was in Copa America 2015 (1-0).

    - Brazil are unbeaten at home since their defeat to the Netherlands in third-place play-off at the 2014 World Cup. Since then, they have played 25 games (W22 D3) and only failed to score in two games.

    - Colombia boss Reinaldo Rueda is looking for his first win against Brazil: he has managed two games against them, one as Ecuador manager and another in his previous spell with Colombia (D1 L1). His draw was for Colombia on Brazilian soil in qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

    - Brazil have scored more goals (7) and had more shots on target per game (8) than any other team in Copa America 2021, and only Paraguay (16.5) have created more chances per game than the Brazilians (12.5) in the competition. Brazil have score one goal every 26 minutes on average.

    - Colombia have made their shots, on average, closer to the target than any other side (13.7 metres): 82.5 per cent of their shots were from inside the box, the highest percentage in Copa America 2021.

  • Portugal v France: Champions feel 'responsibility' to recover from record-breaking defeat Portugal v France: Champions feel 'responsibility' to recover from record-breaking defeat

    A record-breaking defeat to Germany on matchday two leaves Portugal with work to do against France in a repeat of the previous European Championship final.

    Portugal became the first defending champions to concede four goals at the Euros and now need at least a point to reach the last 16.

    Top spot in Group F could still be theirs if they beat France, although Portugal's Euro 2016 final triumph was their only win against Les Bleus in 13 attempts.

    Reflecting on the Germany match ahead of this tough test, coach Fernando Santos said: "We all felt disappointed on our way back.

    "Everyone feels a sense of responsibility, and the following day the players reacted well.

    "They are experienced players and appreciate that sometimes you don't win. There are times when even the top teams don't deal well with defeat."

    France have never previously played Portugal before the semi-final stage of a major tournament, but their meetings tend to be low scoring. The previous four have provided only three goals.

    Although Didier Deschamps' men are already through as at least one of the four best third-placed sides, the coach insists they do not lack motivation.

    "To be honest, in the situation where we are now, if we had six points I would have the same thoughts because a negative result would have the same impact," he said.

    "We have the insurance of being qualified already, that gives us some kind of tranquillity but it won't change our playing style.

    "Of course we owe it to ourselves and the French people to deliver the best possible result."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo

    When is Ronaldo not Portugal's player to watch? He has history in his sights, too, having tied Miroslav Klose as the leading scorer at Euros and World Cups combined (19 goals) and moved within three of Ali Daei's world-record 109-goal tally last time out. The Juventus superstar has never scored against France, though, his six goalless appearances his worst record in international football.

    France – Antoine Griezmann

    Griezmann was the subject of praise from Santos ahead of this match and is himself only three goals adrift of a benchmark for France. He has 11 goals at major international tournaments, with Michel Platini's 14 leading the way. He has Thierry Henry (12) and Just Fontaine (13) to leapfrog before reaching that record, though.
     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    – This is the fifth match between Portugal and France at a major tournament, but it is the first time they have met in the group stages; all four previous encounters took place in the semis (Euro 1984, Euro 2000, World Cup 2006) or final (Euro 2016). France won the first three while Portugal came out victors in the Euro 2016 showpiece match.
    – Following their 1-1 draw with Hungary on MD2, France have avoided defeat in more matches when trailing at half-time than any other team in European Championship history (six – W4 D2).
    – France are unbeaten in each of their past 11 group stage games at major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros), winning seven and drawing four. However, each of their past three MD3 group games in these tournaments have ended level (D3).
    – Last time out versus Germany (4-2), Portugal became the first reigning champions in European Championship history to concede four goals in a single match in the competition. Indeed, Portugal had never conceded four goals in a single European Championship match before facing Germany on MD2.
    – Portugal have lost two of their past three matches at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), one more than they had lost in the previous 17 such games combined (W8 D8 L1). They last lost consecutive such matches within a single tournament at Euro 2008.

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    The World Test Championship final remains delicately poised after India ended the penultimate day at the Ageas Bowl on 64-2, giving them a slender lead of 32 runs.

    After Monday's play was washed out at a sodden Southampton, New Zealand finally moved on from 101-2 to post 249 in their first innings, captain Kane Williamson pointing the way with 49.

    There were also useful runs from the lower order – Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee contributed 21 and 30 respectively – as the Black Caps managed to overhaul India's total of 217.

    Trailing by 32 as they came out to bat for a second time, India lost opener Shubman Gill, trapped lbw by Southee for eight, before they had erased the deficit in the final session.

    Rohit Sharma also fell to the same bowler for 30 in the closing stages of proceedings, leaving Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to see their side to the close. They will resume on 12 and eight respectively.

    New Zealand will hope to make early inroads on the sixth and final day, which was added by the International Cricket Council as a provision for time being lost to bad weather.

    Mohammed Shami helped restrict New Zealand's advantage with 4-76, including dismissing BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme as the Kiwis slipped to 162-6.

    Yet the resolute Williamson remained, producing a crucial 177-ball knock that included six fours. His vigil finally came to an end when he was well caught by opposite number Kohli at a wide third slip off Ishant Sharma when one shy of a half-century.

    Spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja wrapped up the innings, though New Zealand's wagging tail means they appear the more likely winners on Wednesday.


    Go-slow approach sees Kane able to move up

    During his battling knock, Williamson surpassed Stephen Fleming (7,172) to become New Zealand's second highest run-scorer in Test cricket on 7,178, only behind current team-mate Ross Taylor (7,517) on the list. The latter reached a personal milestone while making 11, bringing up 18,000 international runs across all formats.

    Shami shines with leather but still comes up short

    Despite Kohli giving him every opportunity, Shami was unable to register his sixth five-wicket haul in Tests. The pace bowler produced a beauty to dismiss Watling, bowling the wicketkeeper for just one as India sensed the opportunity to seize a first-innings lead.

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