This weekend is the final round of Premier League action before the international break – who wouldn't want to go into the pause top of their fantasy football league?

Well, hopefully that's where Stats Perform's Opta-powered Fantasy Picks can come in handy and give you the edge over your mates.

You've all presumably already got Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah, so don't expect any more oh-so-obvious tips.

Without any further ado, here are the picks that could hand you the advantage ahead of matchday three of the 2021-22 season…

 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Brentford)

Argentina goalkeeper Martinez was one of the buys of the season in 2020-21 and has established himself as one of the Premier League's best in that time.

Since the start of last term, his tally of 16 clean sheets has been bettered by only Ederson and Edouard Mendy. Those equate to 40 per cent of his Premier League appearances for Villa, a club record among goalkeepers to make at least 10 starts for them.

While Saturday's opponents Brentford enjoyed a strong start against Arsenal, it is fair to say Villa will be more confident of keeping promoted opposition at bay than certain other opponents.

MATT RITCHIE (Newcastle United v Southampton)

Admittedly, picking a Newcastle defender any weekend could be something of a risk given only Leeds United (seven) and Norwich City (eight) have conceded more goals than the Magpies (six)

But Ritchie has enjoyed a bright start to the season as a creative source for Steve Bruce's men, creating nine goalscoring opportunities – only Trent Alexander-Arnold can better that.

While Ritchie may have been a midfielder in past years, he's classed as a defender this time around, and his early-season craftiness could lead to some assist points, which are always something of a bonus among backline options.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Leeds United)

Maximising points from your defenders can be key in fantasy football, particularly considering they're among the least likely to score, but one way to potentially give yourself the edge in that respect is, of course, by picking centre-backs who carry a threat at the other end.

Tarkowski has had more touches in the opposition's box (73) than any other centre-back since the start of last season, while his 4.2 expected goals is the highest xG over the same period among all defenders.

Granted, the fact he's only scored twice from those chances suggests a degree of wastefulness, but who's to say he won't improve in that regard this season? He got one against Brighton and Hove Albion, after all.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Watford)

Spurs have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo in spite of Harry Kane's situation. Now he is seemingly staying put, a return to the starting XI may be on the cards, and that could play into Son's hands.

The two are known for their strong relationship on the pitch, and Son boasts a fine record against Sunday's visitors Watford, having scored five times against them – that makes the Hornets his second favourite Premier League opposition after Southampton (nine goals).

Son has looked sharp without being spectacular so far this term. Perhaps this weekend is when he really finds his groove...

RAPHINHA (Burnley v Leeds United )

Raphinha has been a revelation at Leeds since joining from Rennes last year, with his form over the past 12 months recently seeing him called up to the Brazil squad for the first time.

He poses something of a double threat in terms of goals and assists, though it is the latter where his strengths lie. Only Bruno Fernandes (7.7) and Alexander-Arnold (7.6) have a better expected assists record than Raphinha (6.9) since he made his first start in November 2020.

However, no one can better his nine assists, which is level with Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne, and he'll fancy his chances of doing some damage at Burnley this weekend.

MICHAIL ANTONIO (West Ham v Crystal Palace)

After being used as something of a utility man for years, Antonio has seemingly nailed down a spot in West Ham's attack and it's paying dividends.

In his past nine Premier League outings, he's been involved in 10 goals (six scored, four assisted) and the forward has started 2021-22 in irresistible form.

He has already got three goals and two assists this term, with his brace against Leicester City last time out seeing him surpass Paolo Di Canio (47) as West Ham's record goalscorer in the Premier League and leaving him one away from 50.

Given his form, Antonio could be a good bet for the captain selection this weekend.

RICHARLISON (Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton )

He may frustrate on occasion, but few would try to downplay the impact Richarlison has had on Everton since joining from Watford in 2018 and he looks set for a big 2021-22.

No one has as many goal involvements as him (42 – 34 goals, eight assists) during his time at the club and he was a real livewire last time out against Leeds, with his five shots and three key passes the most among Everton players.

Brighton have impressed early on this season, but Richarlison has the ability and confidence to be a real problem.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) could be breathing a sigh of relief as the country remained on the amber list in the latest update of the United Kingdom’s Traffic Light System, which applies to travel to and from the country.

Earlier this week, the Premier League announced that, based on the current quarantine rules, it would not release players for the upcoming round of World Cup qualifiers to countries on the UK’s red list.  It was later joined by the La Liga and Serie A competitions and yesterday, England’s second tier, the EFL also joined the list of clubs.

The concerns stem from the fact that players returning from red-listed destinations would, based on the rules, be forced to quarantine for 10 days.  The leagues argue that those conditions would lead to players missing games, in addition to having to make up for fitness requirements.

Unless an agreement can be worked out the decision will impact the availability of several teams competing in the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, which kick off on September 2.

At current, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica are the teams that have been placed on the red list.  The USA, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Honduras are all on the amber list, while Canada has been moved to the green list.

Individuals returning from red list countries are required to quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 days and are subject to at least two COVID-19 tests.

Fully vaccinated individuals travelling to countries on the amber list would be subject to taking a COVID-19 test two days after arriving or before.  Non-vaccinated individuals returning from countries on the amber list would have to undergo the mandatory 10-day quarantine period.

Based on the interpretation of the rules and the club’s specific stipulation of not allowing players to travel to red list countries, the CONCACAF countries on the amber and green list could potentially have their players available.  Baring a change of circumstances, affected countries on the red list would be left short-handed.  However, vaccine stipulations, which it seems are required to exempt individuals from mandatory quarantine, could complicate things.

Jamaica has at least 10 players who ply their trade between the Premier League and England Football League (EFL).  Among the EPL players are Andre Gray (Watford), Leon Bailey (Aston Villa), and potentially Michail Antonio (West Ham) who recently received official documentation after switching from England.  It is currently not known how many of the team's overseas players are vaccinated.

 

 

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz are likely to be without a few key English-based players ahead of the start of next month’s World Cup qualifiers if the country is shifted to the United Kingdom’s red list of travel destinations.

In recent days both the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga have declared that they will not release club players to countries that are on the UK list of red destinations, due to strict coronavirus quarantine protocols.

According to the region’s current coronavirus re-entry rules, individuals returning from red list destinations face a mandatory 10 days of hotel quarantine on return to England.  In stating that they will refuse the request of those nations for the upcoming qualifiers, the Premier League argued that in addition to the 10 days the athletes will then need more time to regain fitness and could miss a number of games.

At current, the South American countries of  Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru are those most likely to be heavy impacted in the region, but with La Liga also joining the decision, CONCACAF team Mexico is also likely to be affected with five players currently plying their trade in the Spanish Premier League.

Mexico will open their CONCACAF World Cup qualification hexagonal round at home to Jamaica on Thursday, September 2.  Jamaica is currently not affected by the decision as the country remains on the list of amber countries for the time being.  With the list due to be updated on Thursday, however, and a surge of cases in recent weeks it will be worth noting whether their status is changed or not.

In any case, the majority of the country’s English-based players ply their trade in the English Championship who have not issued such a directive on the matter.  The decision may, however, impact the appearance of Jamaica international’s Leon Bailey, who now plays for Aston Villa, and West Ham’s Michail Antonio, the latter having received his national identity documents was expected to make his debut for the country next month.

West Ham duo Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma created a piece of Premier League history on Monday as they once again made crucial contributions in a 4-1 thrashing of Leicester City.

The pair had been prominent in an opening-weekend 4-2 win over Newcastle United, with both recording an assist and also getting a goal at St James' Park.

They repeated the feat against Leicester and, in doing so, became the first players in the competition to both score and assist for their side in the opening two games of a Premier League campaign.

Benrahma set up Pablo Fornals to open the scoring, then doubled the lead shortly after half-time following excellent work by Antonio, who added a late brace after Leicester had pulled a goal back.

With his double, Antonio now stands alone as West Ham's all-time leading Premier League scorer, having previously sat level with Paolo Di Canio on 47.

Speaking after the game, West Ham boss David Moyes told reporters: "[Michail] has got a big personality, he's a big character, and I think he's probably just needed a little bit of real direction. But I think he's got it himself.

"I think his family life, his home life has given him something nice and steady. We've come in and given him a position where I feel he's playing really well.

"He's probably looking back and thinking, 'why was I not a centre-forward earlier? I might have scored loads more goals!'

"Because he's now enjoying the feeling. You can see what he thinks of it in his celebrations. I think he can score more goals, and this year, we're hoping that he can do."

Opposite number Brendan Rodgers, whose five defeats against Moyes rank as his worst managerial head-to-head record in the competition, was impressed by Antonio's performance

"Michail has finished his last two goals really well, and puts a shine on it," the Leicester manager said.

"Michail's performance was outstanding, he was strong and aggressive, but 'Cags' [Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu] has had better days."

Michail Antonio became West Ham's all-time top goalscorer in the Premier League as David Moyes' side crushed Leicester City on Monday.

The 31-year-old scored twice in four minutes in the closing stages of the Hammers' 4-1 victory at London Stadium.

Antonio had earlier teed up Said Benrahma to make it 2-0 after Pablo Fornals broke the deadlock prior to Ayoze Perez's red card. Youri Tielemans netted what proved to be a consolation for Leicester.

Antonio now has 49 Premier League goals for West Ham, two more than previous leading scorer Paolo Di Canio.

The former Sheffield Wednesday player has scored four times in nine appearances against Leicester and already has three in England's top flight this season. No player has scored more.

Antonio celebrated his historic double by holding up a cardboard cut-out to a rapturous home crowd.

The Hammers are now on a four-game winning streak, their best Premier League run since winning five consecutive matches from January 14 to February 13, 2006.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has lost five times against Moyes in England's top flight, more than he has against any other manager in the competition.

 

West Ham forward Michail Antonio and Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey have both been included in a preliminary Jamaica squad for next month’s Gold Cup.

The 31-year-old Antonio switched country’s earlier this year, having never been capped by England after several seasons in the English topflight.  According to reports, the forward, who had an impressive season in the EPL, is still working on finalising his official documents to represent the Caribbean country but it is hoped the issue can be resolved in time for him to make his debut at the tournament.

Bailey also had a strong season for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga but will be fighting to be fit in time for the tournament after breaking his toe in the final few weeks of the season.

The squad will also include the likes of Swansea’s Jamal Lowe, Watford’s Andre Grey, and Reading’s Liam Moore.  The team also includes first-string goalkeeper Andre Blake and defender Damion Lowe who have been part of teams that have made two appearances at the tournament's final.  Should all the players be available it could mark the first time the team’s coach Theodore Whitmore will have a full squad at his disposal.

Jamaica preliminary squad

 MF JAHSHAUN MUSTAF - MIAMI FC (USA)

FW MICHAIL ANTONIO - WEST HAM UNITED FC (ENG)

FW LEON BAILEY - BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN (GER)

GK DILLON BARNES - QUEENS PARK RANGERS FC (ENG)

DF AMARII BELL - BLACKBURN ROVERS FC (ENG)

GK ANDRE BLAKE - PHILADELPHIA UNION (USA)

FW BRIAN BROWN - NEW MEXICO UNITED (USA)

DF JAVAIN BROWN - VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (CAN)

FW CORY BURKE - PHILADELPHIA UNION (USA)

FW NORMAN CAMPBELL - FK GRAFIČAR BEOGRAD (SRB)

GK AKEEM CHAMBERS - WATERHOUSE FC (JAM)

MF JORDAN COUSINS - WIGAN ATHLETIC FC (ENG)

FW EAST JAVON EAST -  SANTOS DE GUAPILES (CRC)

DF ONIEL FISHER - LA GALAXY (USA)

FW JUNIOR FLEMMINGS -  BIRMINGHAM LEGION (USA)

GK KEMAR FOSTER - PORTMORE UNITED FC (JAM)

FW OWAYNE GORDON - AUSTIN BOLD (USA)

FW ANDRE GRAY - WATFORD FC (ENG)

DF WESLEY HARDING - ROTHERHAM UNITED FC (ENG)

DF MICHAEL HECTOR -  FULHAM FC (ENG)

MF KEVAUGHN ISAACS - MOUNT PLEASANT F.A. (JAM)

MF DANIEL JOHNSON - PRESTON NORTH END FC (ENG)

FW  DANE KELLY -  CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE (USA)

GK AMAL KNIGHT - UNATTACHED (JAM)

MF KEVON LAMBERT - PHOENIX RISING FC (USA)

DF KEMAR LAWRENCE - TORONTO FC (CAN)

DF GREGORY LEIGH - ABERDEEN FC (SCO)

MF LUCA LEVEE - HARBOUR VIEW FC (JAM)

DF DAMION LOWE - AL ITTIHAD (KSA)

MF JAMAL LOWE -  SWANSEA CITY FC (WAL)

MF TYREEK MAGEE - KAS EUPEN (BEL)

FW KEMAL MALCOLM - AD CHALATENANGO (SLV)

DF ADRIAN MARIAPPA -  BRISTOL CITY FC (ENG)

MF CHEVONE MARSH - AD CHALATENANGO (SLV)

GK DWAYNE MILLER - SYRIANSKA FC (SWE)

DF LIAM MOORE - READING FC (ENG)

MF RICARDO MORRIS - PORTMORE UNITED FC (JAM)

FW RAVEL MORRISON -  UNATTACHED (JAM)

FW COLORADO MURRAY - WATERHOUSE FC (JAM)

FW SHAMAR NICHOLSON - ROYAL CHARLEROI SC (BEL)

FW DEVER ORGILL - MKE ANKARAGUCU SK (TUR)

MF KASEY PALMER -  BRISTOL CITY FC (ENG)

MF KAHEEM PARRIS - NK KRKA (SVN)

DF ETHAN PINNOCK - BRENTFORD FC (ENG)

DF ALVAS POWELL - PHILADELPHIA UNION (USA)

FW BOBBY REID -  FULHAM FC (ENG)

DF LADALE RICHIE - MOUNT PLEASANT F.A. (JAM)

MF KEMAR ROOFE - RANGERS FC (SCO)

MF KEVIN STEWART -  BLACKPOOL FC (ENG)

DF AJEANIE TALBOTT - HARBOUR VIEW FC (JAM)

GK DENNIS TAYLOR - HUMBLE LION F.C. (JAM)

DF CURTIS TILT - ROTHERHAM UNITED FC (ENG)

FW BLAIR TURGOTT - OSTERSUNDS FK (SWE)

FW PETER VASSELL - INDY ELEVEN (USA)

MF LAMAR WALKER -  MIAMI FC (USA)

MF JE-VAUGHN WATSON - UNATTACHED (JAM)

GK JEADINE WHITE - CAVALIER F.C. (JAM)

MF DEVON WILLIAMS- MIAMI FC (USA)

FW  ROMARIO WILLIAMS - AL ITTIHAD (KSA)

MF CHAVANY WILLIS- PORTMORE UNITED FC (JAM)

 

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.

Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio will not be available for the Reggae Boyz matches against Japan and Serbia that have been scheduled for June as Jamaica’s senior squad continues its preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July and the World Cup qualifiers in September.

West Ham star forward and potential Jamaica international, Michail Antonio, has declared he is hungry for goals following his return to the team’s line-up on Monday.

The burly forward returned in fine style, banging in two goals against Burnley, which gave the Hammers much-needed impetus in the race for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Antonio’s power upfront will no doubt give the team renewed confidence heading into the final weeks of the season, and the forward himself admits he is feeling in good shape and looking to make up for the lost time.

"I trained with the boys all week so I was always in contention," Antonio told the club’s official website.

"I didn't know if I'd start or not, but I did, managed to get my two goals, and should have had more,” he added.

"I'll keep moving on to the next game and hopefully score more goals."

Antonio did, however, miss out on the perfect opportunity to secure a hat-trick after being gifted a golden chance to make it three when a Pablo Fornals shot fell to him just yards from goal, but the striker got the ball stuck under his feet with the goal gaping.

"It wasn't my day to get the hat-trick, but I got my two, and I can't be greedy."

West forward and potential Jamaica target Michail Antonio has reportedly recovered from injury ahead of schedule and could take part in the team's match against Burnley on Monday.

The 31-year-old has not played for the Hammers since sustaining a hamstring injury in a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers in early April.  The knock was a huge blow for West Ham who have seen their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish go off the boil in recent weeks.

At current, the Hammers sit four points behind Chelsea in a race for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

“He is working with the physios and on the grass,” Moyes said of Antonio.

“I wouldn’t rule him out yet, but I don’t want to rule him in either. Let’s hope that he’s got a chance.

The news will also be welcomed by the Jamaica national team, who will be hoping the forward joins its ranks at the end of the Premier League campaign.  Antonio is one of several players England-born players who have opted to change international allegiance from England to Jamaica in recent months.  The players are expected to join up with the squad ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in July.

  

England international, Declan Rice, is confident the Three Lions have plenty of firepower to choose from in light of West Ham teammates Michail Antonio’s decision to represent the Jamaica national team.

The 30-year-old striker, who has Jamaican parents, announced his decision to change nationalities a few months ago and is expected to join up with the Caribbean team at the end of the EPL season.

The powerful forward was called up by England in 2016 but has never made an appearance for the country.  Despite consternation raised in some quarters, regarding the prospect of England losing the forward, Rice believes the team has plenty of cover and tipped his teammate for success with the Reggae Boyz.

“He’s such a handful. I see it every day in training. He’s so strong. He holds the ball up well. He makes efficient runs in behind. He’s a defender's worst nightmare,” Rice told the UK Dailey Star.

“But look he’s chosen his allegiance with Jamaica now. I’m sure he’s going to have a great time there,” he added.

“We’ve got other strikers that pledged themselves to England that haven’t got in the squad lately who can easily fill the boots of Antonio, so, we’re well prepared with strikers.”

The Hammers star Antonio has seven goals and five assists so far this season, as West Ham are locked in battle for a top-four finish.

 

An excited Michail Antonio has begun the process of applying for his Jamaican passport and is eager to represent the country of his parents’ birth, Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts told Sportsmax.TV this morning.

John Stones was on target after Ruben Dias scored his first Manchester City goal as the Premier League leaders extended their winning run to 20 matches with a 2-1 victory over West Ham.

Dias opened the scoring with a first-half header, before Michail Antonio levelled just before the break with the first goal City have conceded at the Etihad Stadium since December.

Fourth-placed West Ham were proving to be hard to break down but Stones joined his central defensive partner Dias on the scoresheet to put City back in the lead 22 minutes from time.

The Hammers were unable to respond as City moved 13 points clear of Manchester United and Leicester City, extending their unbeaten run to 27 matches.

Ederson was called into action to block an Antonio header in an encouraging start from the well-drilled Hammers, operating with three centre-backs, but City were in front with their first attempt on the half-hour mark.

Kevin De Bruyne was the architect, delivering a majestic pinpoint left-footed cross for an unmarked Dias to nod beyond Darren Randolph, who until then had been untroubled after stepping in to replace the injured Lukasz Fabianski.

Antonio scuffed a shot against the outside of the post, although Jesse Lingard appeared to be offside, but the Hammers striker equalised two minutes before the break.

Lingard failed to get a clean contact on a cutback from the marauding Vladimir Coufal, but the on-loan Manchester United midfielder's shot was turned in by the alert Antonio.

Randolph continued despite picking up an injury while taking a goal kick, and the Hammers breathed a sigh of relief when there was no City player on hand to turn in De Bruyne's cross at the end of a surging run down the left.

Gabriel Jesus replaced a rusty Sergio Aguero, starved of service in his first start since October, with an hour played, but it was another centre-back who put Pep Guardiola's men back in front.

Riyad Mahrez teased Ben Johnson in the penalty area and picked out Stones, who drilled clinically beyond Randolph after 68 minutes.

Visiting boss David Moyes introduced Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma in a bid to salvage a point, which Issa Diop failed to do when he headed wide from close range right at the end as City took another stride towards regaining the title.

Jamaica’s World Cup campaign is set to be bolstered by the addition of West Ham striker Michail Antonio, who reports say, is to accept an invitation from the Jamaica Football Federation to represent the Reggae Boyz.

Manchester City are threatening to run away from the rest of the Premier League and their success has been in a large part down to the previously unsung Ilkay Gundogan.

As they prepare to face Sheffield United, who surprisingly may be relishing a second trip to Manchester in four days, we look at who else is making City tick.

A trio of Pep Guardiola's players feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks, along with high performers from Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham and Crystal Palace.

EDOUARD MENDY

One thing is for certain: Chelsea's new boss Thomas Tuchel will know all about Mendy. Tuchel's old Paris Saint-Germain side faced Mendy twice in Ligue 1 during the goalkeeper's Reims days, scoring four the first time but just once second time around in a shock defeat. Last season saw Mendy help Rennes finish third in the French top flight.

The goalkeeper conceded just three times in his first eight Premier League games for Chelsea but has shipped 11 in eight matches since that bright start.

Clean sheets in two of his past three league games, however, suggest Mendy and the Chelsea defence are getting their act together.

Ahead of a home clash with Burnley, only one goalkeeper - City's Ederson (61 per cent) - has kept a higher share of clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Tuchel's new number one, with Mendy avoiding conceding in eight of his 16 appearances.

JOAO CANCELO

Move over Andy Robertson, there's a new defensive assist king in town. City's Cancelo has created more chances from open play than any defender in the Premier League this season after setting up 30 opportunities.

Admittedly, Robertson is second on that list after making 27 chances for Liverpool team-mates, but Cancelo has played four fewer games than the Scot.

With City facing the Blades at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, the flying full-back will doubtless be eyeing up more forward missions.

RUBEN DIAS

If City are to succeed where neighbours Manchester United failed, by keeping out the Blades, then Dias may have a big role to play.

The Portuguese centre-back has achieved more clean sheets than any other Premier League defender this season, playing in 10 games where City have had shutouts.

He is yet to score but has an xG value of 1.4, suggesting he is getting into positions from where he might soon be due a goal.

Only James Tarkowski (1.62) and Adam Webster (1.66) have a higher xG value without scoring among Premier League defenders this season.

HARVEY BARNES

Leicester winger Barnes is enjoying a purple patch after scoring three times and claiming two assists in his past six Premier League games.

Perhaps back him while he's hot as Leicester host Leeds United on Sunday.

Barnes has six goals and three assists in the top flight this season, while he also scored six and assisted eight goals across the previous Premier League campaign.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN

It seemed unlikely that Gundogan would be the man to step up and be City's top scorer in the absence of Sergio Aguero this season.

Despite Aguero having been rarely available, the name of Gundogan at the top of City's list of Premier League top scorers might mystify many.

But his seven goals have come from some exhilarating performances, and all have come in his past eight league games. This weekend he could become the first German player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances.

WILFRIED ZAHA

Where would Palace be without Zaha? The Championship seems a likely answer to that, as again his goals and attacking drive are propping up their campaign.

Palace are suffering at the moment, though, having won just one of their past nine league matches, so Saturday's home game with Wolves would be a good moment for Zaha to fire.

He has nine goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season – only in 2018-19, when he netted 10 times, has he managed more in a single campaign in the competition.

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham are challenging for Champions League football. Those eight words are a lot to take in, but Antonio has had a big say in their success this season.

He has five goals in 12 games in the Premier League and two goals and an assist in his past three outings ahead of a home clash with Liverpool, who sit just behind the Hammers.

Antonio enjoys facing Liverpool, having scored more goals against the Reds than any other West Ham player in the Premier League era. His four goals in six appearances against the reigning champions shows Antonio should not be overawed by Sunday's London Stadium occasion.

Could he rub salt into Liverpool's wounds as Jurgen Klopp's side, and their vulnerable defence, wonder where their title challenge has gone to?

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