You could be forgiven for thinking the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred into one this week with the seemingly doomed experiment of the European Super League.

But fans of actual fantasy football can rest assured we have still scoured the best prospects to help you in your quest to top your private leagues and earn bragging rights among your pals.

With Premier League leaders Manchester City not in action due to playing the EFL Cup final against Tottenham this weekend, there are sure to be a few transfers needed in several teams.

That being said, take a look at our hand-selected picks, powered as always by Opta data…

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Brighton and Hove Albion have a poor record against teams in the Premier League's bottom three, winning only four of 24 such games – the 17 per cent win rate representing the lowest return of any team in the competition to have played a minimum of 10 such games.

However, Sheffield United are the lowest scorers in the division this season (17) and have failed to score in 18 different games, a league worst.

Moreover, Brighton's Robert Sanchez has eight Premier League clean sheets to his name in 2021. Only Ederson (10) has managed more.

VLADIMIR COUFAL

West Ham have won three of their last five home league encounters against Chelsea and another victory would significantly boost their chances of a top-four finish.

Hammers full-back Vladimir Coufal could well be a valuable source of fantasy points this weekend.

Coufal has four home assists in the Premier League this season, which represents the best in the division among defenders.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate for the latest round of international fixtures, Trent Alexander-Arnold has responded in impressive fashion.

The dangerous full-back has been involved in three goals in Liverpool's last three fixtures (two assists, one goal) – as many as he managed in his previous 24 games in the competition.

With Liverpool unbeaten in 24 home matches against Newcastle United, Alexander-Arnold is sure to feature heavily in many fantasy sides this weekend.

JESSE LINGARD

Another player for Chelsea to be extremely wary of this weekend, Jesse Lingard has been in the form of his life since moving to West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January.

The attacking midfielder has been involved in 12 West Ham goals so far in the Premier League (nine goals, three assists) to become a key component in their battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Only Mick Quinn (Coventry City), Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United) and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) have had more goal involvements in their first 10 appearances for a club in the competition (all 13).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has found form at an ideal time as he aims to be a part of Southgate's England squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

And fantasy football fans perhaps should be looking to make room for a player who has scored four goals across his most recent three top-flight appearances for Manchester United.

Not since Francis Jeffers in the year 2000 has a teenager managed to score in four consecutive Premier League games. Can Leeds United stop the Red Devils' own fox in the box?

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace have beaten Leicester City eight times in the Premier League, earning more wins than they have achieved against any other side, while their four away victories against the Foxes is also a joint-high for them in the competition (also four at Everton).

Leicester are also a side who Eagles dangerman Wilfried Zaha has traditionally flourished against, so a trip to the King Power Stadium could be up his street on Monday.

The tricky forward has been involved in six goals in his last six appearances against Leicester (five goals, one assist). Palace won three of those games with Zaha scoring in each.

JAMIE VARDY

On the flip side, Leicester have their own reasons to be optimistic against Roy Hodgson's men.

Jamie Vardy's record against Palace is very favourable, with the experienced striker involved in six goals in his previous nine versus the Eagles (five goals, one assist).

Jesse Lingard has opened up on how he pondered taking a break from football due to his struggles with mental health.

The attacking midfielder endured a difficult 2020 having fallen down the pecking order at Manchester United.

Off the pitch, Lingard's cared for his brother and sister while his mother – who has suffered with depression – received treatment in London.

Lingard spoke to entertainment show "Presenting" back in January, with the video released on Thursday, and he was asked if his personal struggles and those of his mother left him contemplating quitting football.

"Not quit football, just have a time out really," he said.

"I was going into games happy sitting on the bench and that's not me. I was telling my brother the other day: 'Remember when I was happy sitting on the bench and all this?'

"I didn't want to play because my mind wasn't there, I wasn't focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up; trying to play football, you can't do it.

"Through the years we had the help for her, but even just for me it's hard to bottle things up. It feels like you're not the same person. I felt like I wasn't Jesse Lingard.

"Even in football matches, I felt like the game was just passing me by, like I just didn't want to be there – it was crazy. So, I opened up to [Manchester] United and told them what I was going through, what my mum was going through and they're always there to help."

Lingard departed Old Trafford for West Ham on loan in January and he has flourished for David Moyes' Champions League hopefuls.

The 28-year-old has scored nine goals in 10 league games since joining West Ham, equalling his best return for a top-flight season set back in 2017-18.

Lingard also has three assists to his name, making him the quickest Hammers player in history to reach double figures for direct goal involvements, form that has seen him earn an England recall with the rescheduled Euro 2020 on the horizon.

He spoke about how the first national lockdown in the United Kingdom in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic helped to change his outlook.

"I could have easily quit in lockdown, been like: 'Nah I don't want to do it,'" he added.

"I could have easily given up but the fight in me always brings me back to life and in lockdown I was just smashing gym, doing runs. I wanted to get back to training fitter and faster than anyone else and I did that.

"I feel like lockdown has kind of transitioned me in a way. I watched my old games back and watched the World Cup games back and I thought: 'Yeah, that's the real Jesse Lingard.'

"The time that I had going a couple seasons back or last season, it just wasn't me at all and you can see that. My brother who lives with me, he could see that and he's got a video of me literally laying on the couch and I'm just staring for three minutes into thin air and he's just thinking: 'What is he going through? He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders.' And even he didn't know what I was going through at the time.

"I feel like with my mum and me I've learnt that when you open up you feel like a butterfly – you're in a cocoon and then you can spread your wings, you can fly. It's an amazing feeling and now I've got all that behind me and I can concentrate on football and my family."

Jose Mourinho has been out of work less than 48 hours but speculation of his next job is already mounting.

The Portuguese has already declared he is "ready to go again", despite a sizeable pay-out from Tottenham.

Tottenham sacked Mourinho on Monday with Spurs sitting seventh in the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO ENTERS CELTIC COACHING RACE

Mourinho is in the mix to be the new coach of Scottish powerhouse Celtic according to The Sun.

Former Bournemouth coach Eddie Howe is the favourite to be appointed Neil Lennon's replacement at Celtic Park.

But 'The Special One' is in contention, despite his hefty wage demands and line of suitors.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich's David Alaba has agreed a five-year deal with Real Madrid with the contract to be signed in the coming weeks according to Sky Sports.

- Departing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero has been offered a two-year contract by Barcelona according to TyC Sports.

- Football Insider reports Aston Villa may enter the race for Jesse Lingard who has enjoyed a super loan spell at West Ham United from Manchester United.

- Manchester United defender Eric Bailly is wanted by Spanish LaLiga club Real Betis claims The Sun.

- Julian Draxler is ready to leave PSG with a return to his homeland to join Bayern Munich his preference reports Foot Mercato.

Scotsman David Moyes has little interest in protecting Jesse Lingard for England duty but allayed fears of an injury after he was substituted in West Ham's 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United.

Lingard has been in sensational form since joining the Hammers on loan from Manchester United, forcing his way back into the Three Lions set-up.

His goal at St James' Park on Saturday was his ninth for West Ham, already his best tally in a single Premier League season.

But seven minutes after that penalty strike, by which time Newcastle had restored their lead against the visiting side who were reduced to 10 men, Lingard went down and required treatment.

The midfielder had to be substituted, concerning supporters of both West Ham - who have come to rely on their loan star - and England.

But manager Moyes said: "I think it was just cramp. I've not had the chance to speak to the physio about it, but I don't think it was anything serious, to be honest."

Lingard had a team-high four shots against Newcastle but was less effective than in previous weeks, besides the spot-kick which looked to have completed a stunning second-half fightback.

Moyes is not worried West Ham are running Lingard into the ground ahead of Euro 2020, though. England will play Scotland in the group stage of the tournament on June 18.

"I think the one thing about Jesse is he is a really fit boy," Moyes said. "I think Jesse wants to play.

"I think I push all my players hard - I've never done anything else but push them hard - and I pushed them hard today to go out and play better and try to give ourselves a chance.

"Jesse is no different. He won't get any favoured treatment - certainly not for a Scotsman going into the Euros this year.

"Overall, we're really pleased with him. He does a lot of good things.

"He was quieter today, I have to say. I know he got us the goal, but he was a bit quieter because we just didn't play well enough playing into the forward players and around them."

Awful defensive errors had given Newcastle a 2-0 lead on Tyneside.

First, Craig Dawson - already on a booking - lunged in on Joelinton following a heavy touch. Play continued and Allan Saint-Maximin's shot was turned into his own net by Issa Diop.

Dawson was credited with an error leading to a goal but was also sent off, his first red card in 345 English league appearances.

Diop's own goal was West Ham's fourth of the season - a league high - yet their defensive woes did not end there. Five minutes later, Lukasz Fabianski dropped a routine corner for his own error leading to a goal as Joelinton tapped in.

Newcastle appeared reluctant to push for a third, though, and a Diop header - making him the second player, after team-mate Tomas Soucek, to score at either end in a game this season - gave West Ham hope 17 minutes from time.

Lingard then punished Ciaran Clark's handball from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to go, before Joe Willock was introduced from the restart and quickly nodded the winner.

Moyes' Champions League-chasing side are still fourth despite the defeat, but have played a game more than Chelsea and Liverpool, one and three points behind respectively.

"It was an opportunity for us to take three points," Moyes said. "We like to talk about the Champions League - we love the sound of that - but we're realistic.

"The quality of the teams who are around us and below us have been over this course many more times than us.

"The way the players are playing is fantastic. Today we made a couple of mistakes which probably cost us the game."

Jesse Lingard has been in blistering form during his six-month loan spell at West Ham.

As a result, speculation is rife over the 28-year-old England international's future.

Lingard is contracted with parent club Manchester United for one more season.

 

TOP STORY - EUROPEAN GIANTS CIRCLE FOR LINGARD

European powerhouse clubs Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Inter are all interested in Lingard, claims ESPN.

Lingard has scored eight goals in nine games for the Hammers, who are surprisingly sitting fourth in the Premier League.

ESPN reports those clubs are monitoring Lingard's situation, with West Ham keen to sign him permanently and the player yet to declare a preference, although it is believed he wants to play  Champions League football.

 

ROUND-UP

- Serbia international Sergei Milinkovic-Savic has garnered interest from European giants Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The midfielder is contracted with Lazio until 2024.

- Manchester United may have missed out on Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho last off-season but they are set to revive their interest, says the Manchester Evening News.

- Calciomercato reports that French winger Ousmane Dembele is open to joining Juventus from Barcelona in the next transfer window.

- Tottenham are making their move to sign off-contract Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, reports Sky Germany.

- Arsenal have joined the race to sign Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, alongside Leicester City, according to the Telegraph.

- Tuttosport says Torino's Italy international forward Andrea Belotti is being courted by Chelsea, Everton, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid.

- Fiorentina want to hire Gennaro Gattuso from Napoli as their next coach, claims Sky Sport Italia. Gattuso is out of contract at Napoli at the end of the season.

Mason Greenwood emulated a feat last achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo and Jesse Lingard's astonishing purple patch continued in another enthralling weekend of Premier League action.

Greenwood came off the bench to play a big part in second-placed United's 3-1 victory at Tottenham on Sunday.

Lingard also starred in London earlier in the day, scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Leicester City to keep West Ham on course to defy the odds and seal a Champions League spot.

Leeds United shocked champions-elect Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, while Alexandre Lacazette brought up a half-century of goals in Arsenal's 3-0 success at rock-bottom Sheffield United.

Using Opta data, we look at some quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches.

 

Greenwood sets high sub standard

As cameo appearances go, Greenwood's short time on the field against Spurs was right up there.

The 19-year-old replaced Marcus Rashford after 72 minutes at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with the game in the balance at 1-1.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could surely not have wished for a bigger impact from the forward, who laid on a goal for Edinson Cavani before sealing all three points by finding the back of the net himself deep into stoppage time.

Greenwood became the first teenager to score and assist as a substitute for United in a Premier League match since the legendary Ronaldo did so against Portsmouth in November 2003.

Lethal Lingard outfoxes Leicester

On the subject of big impacts, Lingard has been a revelation for the Hammers since his loan move from Manchester United in January.

The England forward can do no wrong at the moment and helped himself to a first-half double in a huge victory over the Foxes, moving David Moyes' men back up to fourth.

Lingard has now scored in four consecutive games for the high-flying London club, taking his tally in the Premier League to eight.

That equals his best goalscoring return in a top-flight campaign and he has only made nine appearances. Lingard also netted eight times for his parent club in the 2017-18, but that was from 33 matches.

Manchester United kept up their extraordinary form for coming from behind as they defeated Tottenham in Sunday's big Premier League match.

Earlier, West Ham continued their push for a Champions League spot with a second straight 3-2 victory, this time over fellow top-four contenders Leicester City.

In the late match, Arsenal moved up to ninth thanks to a routine 3-0 dispatching of lowly Sheffield United.

Meanwhile, at the bottom, Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin returned to boost Newcastle United to a potentially crucial 2-1 win at Burnley, and we take a look at the best facts from Sunday's games, courtesy of Opta data.

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United: Super-sub Saint-Maximin snatches vital points

Newcastle picked up their first win in eight Premier League games – since beating Southampton 3-2 at the start of February – as they came from behind to beat Burnley.

Matej Vydra's third goal in his last five league appearances, as many as he had across his previous 53 appearances in the competition beforehand, put Burnley ahead, but Saint-Maximin proved the difference after the break.

Coming on in the 57th minute alongside the returning Wilson, Saint-Maximin swiftly set up Jacob Murphy's equaliser – all three of the winger's league strikes have come away from home.

Saint-Maximin scored himself five minutes later, becoming only the fifth player to both score and assist a goal as a substitute in a Premier League match for Newcastle, and first since Rolando Aarons against Tottenham in May 2016.

In all competitions, Newcastle have failed to win any of the four matches in which neither Wilson nor Saint-Maximin have featured.

With both of them playing, Newcastle have six wins from 13 matches, while without at least one of their star attacking duo, the Magpies have registered just two victories.

West Ham 3-2 Leicester City: Lingard at the double as Hammers knock at the door

West Ham have recorded their first Premier League double over Leicester since the 1999-2000 season, after Jesse Lingard inspired them to a 3-2 victory at London Stadium.

Leicester have suffered consecutive league defeats for the first time since November, when they lost to Liverpool and Fulham, with Kelechi Iheanacho's double not enough to inspire a comeback.

Iheanacho has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season, equalling his best tally in a single campaign; the Nigerian scored 14 for Manchester City in 2015-16.

However, the damage was already done for Leicester, with Lingard's first-half double making him the first West Ham player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances since Michail Antonio in September 2016.

In only his his ninth Premier League appearance for West Ham, Lingard reached double figures for goals and assists combined (eight goals, three assists). It is the quickest a Hammers player has ever done so, with Paul Kitson previously reaching double figures the fastest (12 games in 1997).

Jarrod Bowen scored what was ultimately the decisive goal, putting West Ham 3-0 up early in the second half at the culmination of a slick attack in which Lingard and Tomas Soucek combined.

In 2021, only Man City (16) have won more Premier League matches than West Ham (10), who have picked up 32 points from a possible 45 this calendar year (W10 D2 L3).

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United: Greenwood closes in on Rooney record as Spurs give up another lead

Jose Mourinho is now winless in his last five home matches in all competitions against sides he has previously managed (D2 L3), having won 12 such matches in a row between 2002 and 2018.

Tottenham led in Sunday's headline fixture – Son Heung-min becoming the first player to score three or more goals against United in a single Premier League campaign since Sergio Aguero in 2014-15.

Edinson Cavani had a goal harshly disallowed after a VAR check prior to Spurs' opener, but the Red Devils hit back in the second half. Spurs have dropped 18 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, second only to Brighton (20).

Mason Greenwood proved decisive, coming on from the bench to set up Cavani and then score one himself after Fred had restored parity.

Only Wayne Rooney (15) has scored more Premier League goals for Manchester United as a teenager than Greenwood (13).

United have gained 28 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season – in the competition's history, only Newcastle in 2001-02 (34) and United themselves in 2012-13 (29) have earned more points from such positions.

Meanwhile, in English top-flight history, United's current 23-game unbeaten run away from home in the league (W15 D8) is bettered only by a 27-game run from Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004.

Sheffield United 0-3 Arsenal: Lacazette at the double as Gunners hunt Europe

In Premier League history, only Chelsea (42) have beaten the side starting the day bottom of the table more than Arsenal, with this win the Gunners' 37th such victory (alongside Spurs).

It was a comfortable win for Mikel Arteta's team, with Sheffield United having suffered their 25th league defeat of the season, the most by a non-newly promoted side since Huddersfield Town in 2018-19 (28). 

Arsenal are now unbeaten in their last four away games in the Premier League (W2 D2), their longest such run of the season. Indeed, the Gunners have earned more victories on the road (seven) than they have at the Emirates this season (six).

Paul Heckingbottom has seen his Blades side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge, the joint-most after a manager's first three games in the competition, alongside David Moyes (2002, Everton) and Christian Gross (1997, Spurs).

Gabriel Martinelli's strike was his first Premier League goal of the season for Arsenal, and his first in 446 days since netting against Chelsea in January 2020.

It came in between Alexandre Lacazette's double. He is the sixth Frenchman to score 50 Premier League goals for a single club, with four of the six doing so for Arsenal.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, while Ronaldo's future at Juventus is far from certain.

A possible switch to the Spanish capital could reportedly impact Ronaldo.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could join Paris Saint-Germain if Kylian Mbappe leaves for Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid, who have been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

If Mbappe makes the move to the Santiago Bernabeu, it could send Ronald to Paris as Juve look to reduce their wage bill in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic reports Harry Kane will ask to leave Tottenham if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League. The Spurs star has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Madrid.

Barcelona are eyeing Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, claims Mundo Deportivo. The LaLiga giants are not rumoured to be interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who is set to depart Bavaria at season's end.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are interested in signing Barca star Pedri, who reportedly has a release clause around £70million (€81m).

United have been warned West Ham will not accept an offer to include Jesse Lingard as part of a deal to prise Declan Rice to Old Trafford, claims The Sun. United are also keen to bring back Sam Johnstone from West Brom if David de Gea or Dean Henderson leave.

- Bild says Liverpool are entering the final stages of a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Premier League rivals United have also been linked.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not alone in facing a conundrum as he decides on who will play in goal for Manchester United against Tottenham.

Fantasy football players across the globe may also be wondering who to back between the sticks this weekend. Well, we might just be able to settle the debate.

As the Premier League season enters its decisive final weeks, we've got a handful of suggestions to give you the edge when it comes to your fantasy leagues, and one or two may just surprise you.

Without further ado, here are our picks for matchday 31, based on Opta data.

 

DEAN HENDERSON

Since taking over the number one spot with United while David de Gea was on parenting duties, Henderson has given little reason to suggest he should be dropped.

The England man might only have made four appearances in the top flight in 2021 but, of the 11 shots he has faced, he has saved all but one of them. That gives him a save percentage of 91, the best in the competition among keepers to play at least twice.

He could well be entrusted to keep Harry Kane and company at bay when United face Tottenham.

ANDY ROBERTSON

Even during a much more difficult season at Liverpool, Robertson continues to offer value as a defender given his undiminished attacking proclivities.

Only Aaron Cresswell (seven) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals among defenders this season than Robertson (six).

The Scotland left-back has had 80 touches in the opposition box, by far the most for a defender this term. He's an attacking threat to rely on.

 

JOHN STONES

Not only has Stones won back his place in Pep Guardiola's first-choice defence, he's even started proving a menace in the opposition box this year.

The centre-back has scored four goals in 2021, the most of any Premier League defender, having only managed one in his first 170 games in the top flight.

Given he already has eight clean sheets this year, behind only Cesar Azpilicueta (nine) among defenders, he should practically walk into fantasy teams at present.

JESSE LINGARD

He's been talked about pretty much every week since joining West Ham on loan – and for good reason.

Since his league debut for the Hammers in February, Lingard has been directly involved in nine goals (six scored, three assisted), matching Kane (seven scored, two assisted) for the most involvements of any player in the competition in that time.

West Ham face a tough test against Leicester City on Sunday, but Lingard has good recent memories of facing the Foxes: he scored the second goal when Manchester United won 2-0 at the King Power Stadium on the final day of last season.

 

RAPHINHA

Patrick Bamford has enjoyed a strong first Premier League season for Leeds United, but few would deny that Raphinha has been their standout attacking performer.

No Leeds player has created more chances (55) or provided more assists (six) than the Brazilian, who has also scored six goals of his own in 2020-21, most recently in the 2-1 win at Fulham on March 19.

If anyone can cause problems for Manchester City on Saturday, it's him.

DANNY WELBECK

Welbeck is enjoying a decent run of form for Brighton and Hove Albion, with goals in his previous two games against Newcastle United and boyhood club Manchester United.

The 30-year-old hasn't managed to score in three in a row in the Premier League since January 2014, but Everton might just be the ideal opposition for him to do just that.

Welbeck has more direct goal involvements (eight – four scored, four assisted) against the Toffees than he does against any other top-flight team. His goals have come for three different teams, too: United, Arsenal and Sunderland.

 

AYOZE PEREZ

Perez is another man with fond memories of his coming opponents.

The forward has managed three goals and three assists in his previous seven league games against West Ham, making them his most profitable opponents after Southampton.

Kelechi Iheanacho is the man in form at Leicester City, but Perez could well be a safe bet to make a decisive impact against the Hammers.

Jesse Lingard continued his sensational run of form for West Ham with a fine solo goal in the 3-2 win over Wolves on Monday.

After collecting the ball in his own half at Molineux, Lingard carried the ball into the Wolves box, surging clear of Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss before beating Rui Patricio with a left-footed finish.

Lingard later assisted a goal for Jarrod Bowen, as West Ham won 3-2 to boost their chances of finishing in the Premier League top four, a position they hold with eight matches to go.

The attacking midfielder has nine goal involvements in eight matches (six goals, three assists) since making his West Ham debut on February 3.

Lingard earned an England recall for his impressive West Ham displays in a loan spell that was initially expected to precede a permanent move, either to the Hammers or elsewhere.

When he made a flying start at West Ham, reports initially focused around how his transfer price-tag had increased.

But the continuation of his impressive play means there are now questions over whether he can force his way back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans at Old Trafford.

It is a scenario that looked highly unlikely two months ago, but one former United captain Gary Neville now thinks has merit.

LINGARD AT UNITED

Lingard was often criticised but had his moments at United, where he came through the youth system.

He scored in their FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace in 2016 and won the Europa League a year later.

Lingard played 33 Premier League matches (20 starts) for United as recently as 2018-19, scoring eight times and adding five assists.

But his playing time continued to decrease from there until he was frozen out by Solskjaer in the first half of this season, not appearing in the Premier League and making only three domestic cup appearances.

Prior to his exit, Lingard did not score or assist a single Premier League goal for United in a period of 33 matches over 18 months.

WEST HAM RESURGENCE

Now, though, Lingard's nine goal involvements since debuting are tied for the best over that span in the Premier League with Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who himself is having a memorable campaign.

He sits above the likes of other in-form stars like Gabriel Jesus (7) and Bruno Fernandes, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ilkay Gundogan (all 6).

West Ham's win over Wolves saw the Hammers show off their counter-attacking ability.

Only Leeds United (6) have scored more goals from fast breaks than David Moyes' side this season (5), with two of those coming at Molineux.

United have been at their best under Solskjaer when they have soaked up pressure and thrived on the counter-attack.

So there is an argument Lingard could fit in with United and just needed a run of matches to get his rhythm and confidence back, boosting his hopes of playing for England at Euro 2020 in the process.

NEVILLE ON LINGARD DILEMMA

Neville believes there can be a role for Lingard at United, though it would come at the cost of not playing week in, week out.

"He does an incredible amount of running," Neville said to Sky Sports. "It's what he does. He's good out of possession and good in possession.

"At Manchester United because there is that expectation of what you need to be, to be a wide player there, he's always going to get a difficult press.

"But if he was playing in a world-class team, if he was, say, Park Ji-sung 10 years ago playing with Ronaldo and Rooney, doing that supplementary role, then people would be saying he's perfect for this squad.

"The problem is he was not playing in Manchester United teams as good as that, so he gets a bit of stick.

"He's a really good player. He's going to have a great career. 

"Manchester United have sent him out to West Ham to boost his career, maybe with the thought of boosting his price tag, but they might be thinking, 'Actually, we might want him back, he could be a real help to us'.

"If Jesse wants to play, and you can see he does want to play, then he needs to leave, because he's not going to play every single week for a United team that's competing for second or first place in the league.

"But if he's willing to go back there and compete and be the player that Dan James has been for the last few weeks, in and out, then there's no doubt he can play for Manchester United."

 

LINGARD COMPARED TO MAN UTD STARS

Given he did not play for the first half of the season, we are dealing with a smaller sample size with Lingard compared to the key attackers at United.

But Lingard comes out on top of all West Ham and United players with 0.74 goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season, above Fernandes (0.56), Edinson Cavani (0.54) and Michail Antonio (0.41).

Lingard (0.38) is on almost the same level as Fernandes (0.39) for assists per game, coming second among both squads in players to feature for at least 500 minutes.

Alex Telles (0.35) and Said Benrahma (0.33) are the others to fare well for assists P90.

At 3.95 dribbles attempted per game, only Marcus Rashford (5.65) takes on an opponent more often than Lingard in that category among United players.

There are three West Ham players who do so more often, led by Benrahma (5.26).

When it comes to created chances, it is one area where Lingard falls slightly short.

Fernandes (3.03) and Luke Shaw (2.26) are well clear of the pack, with Benrahma (1.5) and Aaron Creswell (1.43) coming out best for West Ham. 

Lingard (1.15) would rank fifth among United players, which is also where he sits at West Ham.

Overall, Lingard has made a huge impact at West Ham, spearheading an unlikely Champions League pursuit.

His performance levels compare favourably to most of United's forwards and attacking threats.

It is a move that has worked out superbly for him and David Moyes, but also for United.

They can either welcome back a revived squad player as part of their plans for 2021-22 or cash in at a much greater level than they could have done prior to Lingard's London switch.

West Ham United coach David Moyes has heaped praise on Jesse Lingard who has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player since his Hammers debut.

Lingard scored West Ham's opening goal in Monday's 3-2 win away to Wolverhampton which sees Moyes' side move above Chelsea in fourth spot.

The on-loan Manchester United winger has scored six goals and provided three assists since debuting for the Hammers on February 3.

"We were worried about their speed, when you think about the speed Adama Traore’s got and Pedro Neto’s got, so we had a real concern about them, but I’ve got to say Jesse’s speed was there too," Moyes said.

"He showed a bit of old-fashioned dribbling and used his speed to get away from people.

"I said to him at the end that he’s made a big difference and I don’t give praise too easily, but I certainly gave it to Jesse tonight."

The 28-year-old winger is enjoying near career-best form having fallen out of favour at Old Trafford in recent seasons.

"It’s just consistency behind my form I think," Lingard said.

"Obviously I hadn’t played much for the past two years, so to be playing week-in, week-out and keeping up this form is great, but the team have helped me tremendously."

Romelu Lukaku is Chelsea's back-up plan if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

Haaland is being circled by several top clubs including Chelsea, along with Manchester City and Real Madrid.

The Borussia Dortmund talent will demand a significant transfer fee which the Blues may be able to afford.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU FIRMS AS CHELSEA'S PLAN B

Chelsea have turned their attention to their former striker Romelu Lukaku as they look to bolster their forward options.

The Telegraph reports that Haaland still remains top priority but Inter forward Lukaku is being heavily considered.

The Manchester Evening News are also reporting City are interested in Lukaku as both clubs prepare to miss out on Haaland.

Inter have indicated that Lukaku, who was at Chelsea from 2011 to 2014 but spent spells on loan at West Brom and Everton, is not for sale.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca's front page discusses Real Madrid setting Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe as their transfer priorities amid a major reconstruction whilst reinforcing a Cristiano Ronaldo return is not part of their plans.

- ESPN claim Borussia Dortmund have set a €180m valuation on Haaland, as numerous clubs circle for the Norwegian forward's services.

- Manchester United are considering offering Jesse Lingard a new deal following his exceptional form on loan at West Ham United, according to The Sun.

- AS is reporting that Manchester United have also made an approach to sign Atletico Madrid's Marcos Llorente for £68.5m.

- Turkish outlet Ajansspor reports that Fenerbahce have contacted ex-Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri about potentially taking up their head coach role.

Gareth Southgate is set to bring up 50 games in charge when England start their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup.

San Marino are the visitors to Wembley Stadium for the milestone match, with Southgate the seventh to make it to a half-century at the helm for England.

His record so far is impressive: 29 wins, 10 draws and 10 defeats. He has also introduced some notable names to international football, many of which will form the backbone for the Three Lions in this year's delayed Euro 2020 tournament. 

In total, 42 players have made their senior debuts under the current boss. Plenty have made an impact, though some have fallen by the wayside since getting a taste of the senior team. 

HITS 

Jesse Lingard 

Lingard is the only member of the current England squad to have made his debut in Southgate's first match in charge, a 2-0 win over Malta in October 2016. The 28-year-old was a key member of the 2018 World Cup squad but has not featured for his country since the Nations League Finals nearly two years ago, having struggled for minutes at Manchester United. 

However, a January loan move to West Ham has paid off. No player has been involved in more goals – Lingard has scored five while also providing two assists – since his debut for the Hammers in February. Southgate – who advised the player to remain in the Premier League – has duly taken note, handing him a recall. 

Harry Maguire 

Maguire made his first England appearance against Lithuania in October 2017, when he was playing for Leicester City. The centre-back quickly established himself in Southgate's side for the World Cup semi-final run, while he has continued to be a mainstay since for the national side.  

Indeed, the Manchester United defender has missed just 14 possible outings for club and country since that maiden outing, starting 28 out of England's 30 matches. 

Kieran Trippier 

Paris was the setting for Trippier's bow, the full-back handed a chance in a 3-2 friendly defeat against France that saw him start alongside then-Tottenham team-mates Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane. 

Now playing his club football in Spain with Atletico Madrid, the 30-year-old continues to be a key attacking outlet for Southgate's teams. His total of 55 chances created since June 2017 is comfortably the highest for England, with striker Kane second on the list with 37. 

Jordan Pickford 

No player has both played and started more games for England under Southgate than Pickford, whose debut came in November 2017.  With 30 appearances, he sits one ahead of Maguire.

The Everton goalkeeper will not be involved as his manager celebrates his 50th match at the helm, though, as an abdominal muscle injury sees him missing for March's World Cup qualifiers. His absence also offers some of his rivals for the starting job an opportunity to stake their claim to be considered number one, with Pickford's form having been somewhat unconvincing for a while.

Declan Rice 

Rice's introduction to action for England came via a substitute appearance during a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic two years ago, replacing Alli just after the hour mark. 

The midfielder started all six of the Nations League qualifiers in 2020-21, including scoring his first international goal in a 4-0 triumph over Iceland. As for his club career, only Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole played more minutes in the Premier League for West Ham than Rice before the age of 22.


MISSES 

Nathaniel Chalobah 

Having represented England through the youth levels from under-16s upwards, Chalobah has so far played one solitary minute for the senior team, with his late, late opportunity coming against Spain in October 2018.  

Since then, the former Chelsea midfielder has started just 42 league games for Watford. This season he is plying his trade in the Championship, contributing three goals and an assist as the Hornets aim for an immediate return to the top flight. 

Dominic Solanke 

Solanke was part of the England squad that won the 2014 European Under-17 Championship, including scoring in a final against the Netherlands that was eventually settled by a penalty shoot-out. 

His senior debut came against Brazil in November 2017, but he has not been involved since. The striker signed for Bournemouth in January 2019 but failed to score in his first 38 Premier League appearances for the club, a barren run finally ended with a brace against Leicester in July 2020. He has been far more prolific in the Championship, getting 11 goals.

Lewis Cook 

Cook had success with England at youth level, captaining the squad that went all the way at the Under-20 World Cup. Solanke was also involved in that tournament, along with full internationals Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dean Henderson - who was not first choice in goal - and Fikayo Tomori. 

The midfielder's maiden appearance for the senior side earned his grandfather a tidy windfall through a winning bet, but that outing as a substitute against Italy at Wembley remains his only cap. Since then, he has started 58 games for Bournemouth, scoring once. 

Jack Cork 

Another to be handed a late cameo by Southgate, Cork featured for all of four minutes in a friendly with Germany in November 2017. A young line-up that included new faces Pickford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek managed a 0-0 draw at Wembley. 

The midfielder – who was part of the Great Britain squad coached by Stuart Pearce at the 2012 Olympic Games in London – was a regular at Burnley before injuries hampered him in the current season, restricting him to just nine league outings for Sean Dyche's team in the 2020-21 campaign. 

Lewis Dunk 

Dunk has helped Brighton and Hove Albion rise from League One to the Premier League, with his performances earning him an England opportunity against the United States in November 2018. He started in a 3-0 win that saw Wayne Rooney make his 120th and final appearance for the Three Lions. 

The centre-back has not featured since, however, despite remaining a mainstay for his club. Since August 2018, Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (10) is the only defender to have scored more Premier League goals than Dunk's impressive total of nine.  

Jesse Lingard has revealed Gareth Southgate pointed him down the path towards an England recall.

Southgate will take charge of his 50th game when England begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against San Marino at Wembley on Thursday.

His first, against Malta in October 2016, was also Lingard's international debut and the attacking midfielder became one of Southgate's key performers as England charted a surprise run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

However, struggles for form and fitness at Manchester United, along with difficulties in his private life, saw Lingard fall out of the Three Lions picture.

In January he joined West Ham on loan and has been a player revitalised.

Five goals in seven Premier League appearances for David Moyes' men earned an England recall for the 28-year-old, who thanked Southgate for his counsel and his influence over the Hammers move.

"He's shown a lot of support and belief in me, he gave me my England debut, which I'm proud of," Lingard told talkSPORT.

"I still kept in contact with him even though I wasn't playing, just to get his advice on what I should do.

"It was just about the right move, whether it was going out to Europe or staying in the Premier League.

"He said, 'If I was you, I would stay in the Premier League'. After that, it was about finding a Premier League side and West Ham fitted in perfectly."

Since his West Ham debut against Aston Villa on February 3, only Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho (six) has more Premier League goals than Lingard (five), while he is level with England captain Harry Kane and Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan over the period in question.

His 12 shots on target are a joint Premier League best along with Kane, giving him a shot conversion rate of 23.8.

Lingard also has two assists for the Hammers and has created eight opportunities for team-mates overall.

 

Another man in from the cold, although less dramatically, is Manchester City centre-back John Stones.

Like Lingard, Stones was a mainstay at Russia 2018 but last played for England in November 2019 after his club form dwindled.

However, a supreme centre-back alliance with Ruben Dias for Premier League leaders City made a recall for the 26-year-old a virtual formality – not that he necessarily viewed it that way.

"It was difficult watching from home," Stones told reporters, having also acknowledged Southgate "texted now and then" when he was out of favour.

"You feel a bit helpless that you can't contribute and be a part of the squad, but I used it as a motivation to strive to be better.

"When I got the text the other day, it was a great feeling to be back involved and see all the faces I've got some great memories with.

"I was very nervous. I had worked so hard and I was hearing people say, 'you should be in'.

"But I didn't take any of that in until the text arrived. I wanted to hear from the source. I was absolutely made up."

City remaining in contention for four major honours shows how impressive their overall performances have been this season, but with Stones in the team their record verges on the absurd.

In 20 games where the former Everton defender has not played, Pep Guardiola's men have won 13, drawn five and lost two for a 65 per cent win rate. In these games they conceded 19 times.

Out of Stones' 26 appearances, City have won 24 alongside a draw and a loss and have conceded only seven times. This tallies to 0.3 goals against and 2.8 points per game and a win percentage of 92.3.

As the Premier League season heads towards the home straight, so too do your fantasy football leagues.

Hurt by captaining Raheem Sterling last week before he twice missed out for Manchester City? Or wondering how to replace the injured Son Heung-min?

Time is of the essence when making these big calls, especially when there are only four league fixtures this weekend.

Fortunately, you can consider our weekly Opta-powered picks, this time featuring two of Son's Tottenham team-mates.
 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

If your confidence in Spurs is wavering, with Son out and a north London derby defeat fresh in the memory, you might prefer to hedge your bets.

Aston Villa, Tottenham's opponents, have the standout goalkeeper in action this week in the form of Martinez, who is a reliable source of frequent clean sheets. His 14 is a total only topped by Ederson (16) this season.

Among keepers to play 500 minutes in the Premier League this term, ex-Arsenal man Martinez has the best save percentage (77.6).

LEWIS DUNK

The big battle at the bottom sees Brighton and Hove Albion host Newcastle United on Saturday, in a match that is unlikely to provide a wealth of goals based on the form of both sides.

However, defender Dunk is perhaps as likely a scorer as any. He has four in the league this season, making this his best top-flight campaign for goals, while only Neal Maupay (seven) has more for Brighton in 2020-21.

Add in the potential boost of a clean sheet and Dunk could be a real difference-maker.

STUART DALLAS

The versatile Dallas is listed as a defender, allowing him to accrue additional points for attacking contributions despite spending large parts of his career in midfield.

Indeed, no defender in the division has netted more goals than the Northern Ireland international (five) this season.

Dallas, set to face struggling Fulham with Leeds United on Friday, also has two assists for seven total goal involvements.

JESSE LINGARD

Midfield loanee Lingard was kept on the sidelines last weekend as West Ham visited Manchester United, his parent club.

But this week has already improved for the Hammers star following his return to the England fold, earning a recall following four goals and an assist in six league appearances since his temporary move. He has been on target in his past two London Stadium outings.

Now Lingard has Arsenal in his sights, and he has a great record against the Gunners. Indeed, he has not scored more against any other team in English football, having managed four goals in seven starts in all competitions against the north London giants.

GARETH BALE

Still fancy Tottenham to beat Villa? Great, we have some options for you - starting with Bale.

The winger was quiet against Arsenal but has still been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists) in his past five Premier League games, having netted just once in his first seven on his return to the competition this season.

Bale's previous meeting with Villa, back in December 2012, saw him score his first career league hat-trick in a 4-0 Spurs win.

HARRY KANE

If not Bale, then why not Kane? Or pair the two, as they are each likely to be heavily involved if Tottenham turn in a much improved performance from the Arsenal match.

Kane has six goals in six Premier League games against Villa, including five in his past three.

His most recent two meetings with Villa have seen the England captain net braces - in March 2016 and August 2019.

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE

While Bale and Kane cannot again perform as poorly as they did in the north London derby, Lacazette will hope to match the standard he set.

Handed the captaincy and the central striking role from the start as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was disciplined, the Arsenal number nine netted the winner and is now the club's leading marksman in the Premier League this season with 10.

West Ham should be especially wary of Lacazette, who has scored six goals in his past eight league London derbies. He has been on target in four of those encounters this term and Arsenal have won all of them.

Page 1 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.