The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

Manchester City picked up from where they left off in 2021 by battling to a late 2-1 win over Arsenal, extending their lead at the Premier League summit.

A Riyad Mahrez penalty and a last-gasp strike from Rodri cancelled out Bukayo Saka's first-half opener after Gabriel Magalhaes received a needless red card for the Gunners in an action-packed game – the first top-flight match of 2022.

City's 11th league win in a row means they end New Year's Day with an 11-point advantage at the top, a tally bettered by only two clubs in the competition's history on January 1 – Manchester United in 1993-94 and City themselves in 2017-18 (both 12 points).

There were also victories for Tottenham and West Ham, the London pair seeing off Watford and Crystal Palace respectively to remain in firm contention for a top-four finish.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of Opta data from Saturday's action. 

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City: Leaders recover to stretch winning run against Gunners

Saka's opening goal against City was only the second the Citizens have conceded in the first half of a Premier League game this season, and the first such goal they have shipped on their travels since May.

That was the England international's sixth league goal of the season and was the 36th goal scored by a player aged 21 or under for Arsenal in the English top flight since Mikel Arteta's first game on Boxing Day 2019 – eight more than any other team.

Mahrez converted a contentiously awarded penalty shortly before the hour mark at Emirates Stadium, the Algeria international scoring for a fifth game running in all competitions, and Gabriel's second yellow card – 78 seconds after his first – swung the game in City's favour.

That was Arsenal's 100th red card in the Premier League era, making them the first side to reach that milestone, with Everton (99), Newcastle United (90) and Chelsea (82) next on the list.

Rodri completed the turnaround with City's latest winning goal in a league game since May 2018 (92:28) as the Citizens made it 10 successive top-flight victories over the Gunners, an opponent Pep Guardiola has yet to lose against in the league in 12 encounters.

Watford 0-1 Tottenham: Sanchez stings Hornets in late Spurs win

Tottenham also left it late to overcome Watford and make it eight Premier League games without defeat under Antonio Conte, extending the longest unbeaten start by a Spurs boss in league competition.

Davinson Sanchez made the breakthrough with 95 minutes and 45 seconds played, with that the latest winning goal Spurs have scored in the top flight since Opta started recording such data from 2006-07.

Watford dug deep but could not quite hold on for a valuable point, meaning they have now lost more Premier League matches (nine) since Claudio Ranieri took charge in October than any other side in the division.

Sanchez's goal was his second in five Premier League matches for Spurs, which is more than he had netted in his first 108 in the competition (one), with the defender heading in from a Son Heung-min free-kick.

Watford boss Ranieri has now lost each of his last five Premier League games against Italian managers, whereas compatriot Conte has never lost against a fellow Italian in the competition in six meetings, winning all but one of those.

Crystal Palace 2-3 West Ham: Hammers survive Olise-inspired scare

Palace fell just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback as they lost a home league match on New Year's Day for the first time in their history, with this their 14th such match.

Michail Antonio's close-range finish and a Manuel Lanzini double gave West Ham a commanding three-goal lead, the latter having now scored 52 per cent of his 25 Premier League goals in London derbies (13) – the highest percentage of any player to have scored at least 20 times in the competition.

Michael Olise made a huge difference from the bench by setting up Odsonne Edouard and then scoring a second for Palace late on, making him the first Eagles player to score and assist as a substitute in the Premier League.

But the visitors held on to ensure boss David Moyes made it six straight away league wins against Palace as a manager, defeating a different coach on each occasion during that perfect run (Alan Smith, Iain Dowie, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson and now Patrick Vieira).

Antonio Conte insisted Tottenham have room for improvement if they are to enjoy future success after his side edged past Watford.

Spurs have yet to lose in eight Premier League games under Conte, extending the longest unbeaten start by a Tottenham manager in league competition.

It seemed for large parts on Saturday that Spurs would have to settle for consecutive draws as Daniel Bachmann repeatedly thwarted the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min at Vicarage Road.

However, Davinson Sanchez headed home Spurs' latest ever winning Premier League goal since Opta began recording data (95:45) as he rose the highest to seal all three points for the visitors in a 1-0 win.

Victory over Claudio Ranieri's struggling side moves Spurs within two points of fourth-placed Arsenal, who have played two games more, but Conte still wants more from his side.

He told Sky Sports: "It is important to get three points. We know we have to suffer to get points. We are building a team to try to be competitive in the future but we know we have to be competitive in this season too.

"It is important to be humble, to fight and to suffer. I think everything can improve.

"It was difficult because we didn't score but created chances and when you find an opponent who is well organised it is not simple.

"But when you score the game changes and you find spaces to attack. I am happy with the commitment and effort from the players. We were a bit tired but I wish the world to my friend Claudio Ranieri the best because [Watford] deserve something."

Conte has never lost a Premier League match against an Italian manager (W5 D1), with three wins to his name against Ranieri.

The former Inter head coach expressed his satisfaction with the performance of his side as he commented on how difficult the busy festive period has been.

He added to BBC's Match of the Day: "To play so many games in a few days is not easy. This was the fifth game in 13 days and if you think we played almost with the same players, this period is busy but at the same time we try to get a result because it is very important, three points is very important.

"We have to improve the last pass, in the first half it was 29 crosses and no goals, it is important for us to improve the quality in the last pass because that gives you the possibility to score."

Before the Watford clash, Conte called for patience as he warned Champions League football will not be sealed with a couple of months of work and one transfer window.

But Conte feels the best way for Spurs to succeed in January is to keep playing the way they are doing, as opposed to focusing on various needs in the transfer market.

"Honestly, when Tottenham put me in charge, I asked for time to make my evaluation about the squad, now I did and for sure we will have a meeting with the club," he continued.

"It is important always to be honest, to understand where we are at in this moment, which is our point of start and then I will see. January is not simple, but maybe we will see what happens.

"We have to continue to work in this way and these players are giving me everything, great commitment and trust – the best buy in January is to continue this way. Then we will see what are our intentions are."

Davinson Sanchez said Tottenham's players have pledged to support "humble" Harry Kane irrespective of how the saga over his future plays out.

England captain Kane has been widely linked with a big-money switch to Premier League champions Manchester City.

City head coach Pep Guardiola has spoken of his desire to sign Kane, who had requested Spurs allow him to leave at the back end of last season.

Tottenham are reported to have turned down a £100million bid for the 28-year-old striker in June and are said to be preparing another offer before the transfer window closes.

Recent reports suggested City would be willing to bid as high as £150million for Kane, who has three years left on his Tottenham contract.

The saga has dragged on and Kane missed last Sunday's meeting between the two sides in their Premier League opener, which Spurs won 1-0.

Kane has been included in boss Nuno Espirito Santo's squad for their Europa Conference League qualifying double header against Portuguese outfit Pacos de Ferreira.

And defender Sanchez claimed Tottenham's squad will help Kane through a difficult period however they can.

"I'm his team-mate so I can't get deep on the situation," Sanchez told Football London. 

"It's a situation that it's being discussed between Harry and the people above. 

"We are just here to support him and if something happens then we are always going to be on his side.

"If he has the chance to be with us on the pitch then of course he's going to help us, there's no doubt about it.

"We are just on his side and any decision that happens or he makes then we are going to support him because he gives everything for the club."

Sanchez added: "Everybody here knows just how professional he is and no-one can have any doubts about how good he is as a player, how good he is as a person and his professionalism, as I say.

"Harry is the best number nine in the world. There's no doubt about it. If someone says differently they just do not understand about football.

"In my position, he helps me a lot as a player and as a captain he's been very humble and is a very good person.

"I could keep going, I will never stop about how good he is as a person."

Harry Kane looks like he might soon get his wish to leave Tottenham.

Spurs had previously dug in their heels and were determined that Kane, who is contracted until 2024, would stay.

The England captain won last season's Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals, and now he could be heading to the champions.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SET FOR BUMPER KANE DEAL

Tottenham forward Harry Kane is poised for a £160million move to Manchester City, reports The Sun.

According to the report, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will allow Kane to exit the club for such a sum.

Kane is said by the newspaper to have agreed personal terms on a £400,000-a-week deal with City, which is reportedly double his current Tottenham contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba has rejected a £50million contract offer at Manchester United and is set to leave this summer, according to The Mirror as rumours swirl about Paris Saint-Germain's interest.

- Marca reports that Kylian Mbappe will reject Paris Saint-Germain's latest contract offer and look to seal a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that talks are ongoing between Atalanta and Tottenham for Cristian Romero with personal terms agreed and a €55m price tag on the table.

- Atalanta want Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez included in any deal, reports Sportitalia.

- Milan are interested in signing Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech on loan, claims Calcio Mercato.

- Donyell Malen 's transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Borussia Dortmund is all but done according to Dutch outlet ED, with an anticipated €30m fee.

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.

Bernard settled a topsy-turvy FA Cup thriller as Everton beat Tottenham 5-4 after extra time to claim a place in the quarter-finals.

The hosts were second best during the opening stages at Goodison Park, either side of falling behind to Davinson Sanchez's third-minute header, although Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson – the latter from the penalty spot – were all on target in a crazy seven-and-a-half-minute spell.

Then it was time for Tottenham's comeback, with Erik Lamela reducing the arrears before half-time and Sanchez improbably poaching his second of the match.

Richarlison arrowed a high-quality finish beyond Hugo Lloris on the angle to convert Sigurdsson's brilliant 68th-minute throughball and, although Harry Kane had the desired effect from the bench to bring extra time, fellow substitute Bernard had the final word.

Tottenham's dominant start gave little indication of what was to come, with Lamela's header forcing a superb reaction stop from Robin Olsen, while Lucas Moura blazed the follow-up over.

Everton did not heed that warning and stood passively as Sanchez headed in Son Heung-min's corner.

Olsen was alert to deny Steven Bergwijn at close quarters after the half-hour mark and his team-mates soon turned the contest on its head.

Lloris kept out a dangerous Calvert-Lewin effort earlier in the half, despite a slight deflection off Ben Davies, but the England striker's sweetly struck 36th-minute effort on the end of Sigurdsson's clever flick proved too hot to handle.

Calvert-Lewin, who limped off early int the second half with a suspected hamstring injury, turned provider with a slick backheel of his own for Richarlison to smash in from the edge of the penalty area with similar venom.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was culpable on the first goal and fouled Calvert-Lewin for Sigurdsson to make it 3-1 from the spot.

That could have been game over, but the defending remained generous and Lamela played a one-two with Son that Yerry Mina failed to cut out and finished with aplomb.

Mina's Colombia team-mate Sanchez prodded in when Olsen kept out Toby Alderweireld's 57th-minute header – Everton's set-piece defending again leaving plenty to be desired.

But there was only fine attacking at which to marvel when Sigurdsson and Richarlison combined, the Brazil forward whipping home a wonderful left-footed finish.

Abdoulaye Doucoure's goal-line clearance to deny Lamela a brace was in vain as Kane converted the latest fine Son cross with a diving header.

Another repeated theme decided matters in the seventh minute of extra time, when Sigurdsson produced an exquisite drag-back and chip for Bernard to lash past Lloris.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.