EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Son and De Bruyne can deliver, but so can Fulham's flying Dutchman

By Sports Desk September 30, 2022

The Premier League returns now the September international break is done and dusted, and it will be foot to the floor until the World Cup comes around.

With two disrupted months of the season almost gone, some teams are settling down at this stage, while others are continuing to tinker in the hope of igniting their campaigns.

The Qatar 2022 break is on the horizon, adding an extra dimension as many players jostle to earn tickets on the plane with their national teams.

Opta data points to familiar faces who may be primed to deliver those all-important fantasy football goals and assists this weekend, as well as a couple of less-vaunted prospects who could boost your points tally.

Jose Sa (West Ham United v Wolves)

Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa has seen his side struggle this term, with just one win so far meaning they sit a spot above the bottom three – but it has not been down to his own form, with only Manchester City's Ederson having kept more clean sheets than his three this term.

No side have scored fewer goals than Wolves' weekend opponents West Ham this season (three, tied with Wolves themselves) which suggests Sa could be on course to bank another strong performance between the posts.

West Ham have been wasteful with their chances, and are underperforming against their expected goals (xG) tally by 4.6 goals, the worst such record in the Premier League.

Kenny Tete (Fulham v Newcastle United)

Sitting sixth coming out of the international break, Fulham already look on course to avoid the drop back to the Championship, and that has come with a handy assist from their Dutch right-back.

No Premier League defender has more assists than Tete this season (three), with only Kevin De Bruyne (six) and Bukayo Saka (four) providing more among all players.

In addition, two of those assists from Tete have come in his last two games for the Cottagers, suggesting a rich chance he could maintain his form.

Son Heung-min (Arsenal v Tottenham)

Having endured a dramatic goal drought to start the season, South Korea international Son's freewheeling hat-trick off the bench last time out likely pushes him back to the forefront of Antonio Conte's plans.

If he bags three goals again in the north London derby, he would become the eighth player to achieve the feat in consecutive Premier League games.

What's more, he can continue to build on an exceptional 2022, where only team-mate Harry Kane leads him for overall Premier League goals (18) and involvements (24).

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City v Manchester United)

While team-mate Erling Haaland has been tearing up the goalscoring charts, the Belgian heart of Pep Guardiola's side remains a surefire bet for any fantasy football player.

No player has provided more assists (6) or created more chances (25) than De Bruyne this season – and after his prior exploits against United in March, he'll be eyeing up another superb performance.

In a 4-1 City win on that occasion, he scored twice and assisted once. Only against Wolves in May, when he scored four times, has De Bruyne had more goal involvements in a Premier League game.

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    Roberto Martinez insists this is Belgium's "golden generation" and does not see any similarities with England's flops of the mid-2000s.

    This group of Belgium players has long been lauded, but the Red Devils' best performance of recent years saw them finish only third at the 2018 World Cup.

    As pressure builds on the side at the 2022 finals, where there have been reports of veteran stars quarrelling, coach Martinez has come to their defence.

    He sought to highlight the contributions of Belgium's leading men off the pitch, as well as on it, and suggested the England team given the same label under Sven-Goran Eriksson were not comparable.

    "It's interesting, because when I arrived in 2016, there was talk of a 'golden generation'," Martinez said on Wednesday.

    "Clearly we were not the golden generation. The golden generation of Belgian football was 1986 in Mexico. They were the ones who arrived into the semi-finals.

    "Since then, these players showed incredible commitment to the national team. We're talking about players who left Belgium very young, they went into the best dressing rooms in European football, they win trophies, and they're always committed.

    "We have eight players with over 100 caps; we have Thibaut Courtois reaching his 100th cap against Croatia. You've got players who gave their career for the national team.

    "This generation is the golden generation of Belgian football, there is no doubt.

    "They got the bronze medal in 2018, they kept the national team for four years at the number one spot in the world rankings, a population of 11,000,000.

    "Twenty-one of them got their A [coaching] licences. This generation is going to carry on impacting Belgian football from a coaching point of view for the next 20 years.

    "They were able to build a new training facility, state of the art, that is going to change Belgian football for the next generations.

    "What you can say is this generation haven't won a major tournament. But leaving a legacy goes a lot further than winning a tournament. I'm sure you can find national teams who win tournaments and they don't leave a legacy.

    "This group of players deserve respect, deserve admiration for what they've done.

    "From here, we can win, draw, lose, but with the legacy of this generation, I am the proudest person because I've been able to work with them, to see day to day how much they care.

    "The next 20 years in Belgian football will not be the same because of this generation.

    "You cannot compare it to England. England was a group of players that were sensational, outstanding at a group level, and they never found the way to do that with the international team. Comparisons are totally, totally impossible."

  • Messi and Barcelona deserve one last dance together – Jordi Cruyff Messi and Barcelona deserve one last dance together – Jordi Cruyff

    Lionel Messi is destined to return to Barcelona one day as the player and club "deserve one last dance together", according to the Catalan giants' sporting director Jordi Cruyff.

    Paris Saint-Germain star Messi's 21-year association with Barca came to an end in August 2021 as the club could not afford a new deal under LaLiga's financial fair play rules.

    Messi is now into his second season with PSG, but he is out of contract at the end of the campaign and has been linked with a move to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami.

    The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner turns 36 next year and Cruyff hopes to see him back at Camp Nou in the future, though accepts that it may not be in a playing capacity.

    "It's clear Barcelona and Messi have to be together again one day," Cruyff told RAC1. "It may be after his career, but they deserve a final hug, one last dance together."

    Messi scored 672 goals across 778 appearances for Barcelona and provided a further 265 assists, amounting to 937 goal involvements across that trophy-laden spell.

    He featured more times (219) and scored more goals (211) under Pep Guardiola than any other head coach, with the Catalan winning 14 trophies in four seasons at the helm.

    Guardiola has since spent three seasons with Bayern Munich and is into his seventh season with Manchester City, where he remains under contract until July 2025.

    Speaking this week, Guardiola said he would return to Barcelona one day if the club needed him, adding that "nothing is comparable" to managing a club so close to your heart.

    Asked about the possibility of Guardiola managing the Blaugrana again further down the line, Cruyff said: "He's reached the level of being able to choose his own destiny.

    "Not many have reached that point; it's the dream of every professional. Whether he returns or not, I have no idea. I think he's happy at City."

  • 'We are here on our own' – Martinez says rift reports were 'great own goal' for Belgium 'We are here on our own' – Martinez says rift reports were 'great own goal' for Belgium

    Roberto Martinez has blasted the Belgian media for coverage of a "genius" French-based report detailing supposed unrest in the Belgium camp ahead of a huge World Cup match against Croatia.

    Belgium lost 2-0 to Morocco in their second Group F game and must now defeat the 2018 finalists to be sure of advancing to the knockout stage.

    The Red Devils' preparation for that fixture has been hampered this week by discussion of a rift within the team, first reported by RTL and L'Equipe.

    Belgium's players subsequently came together for a meeting – "it wasn't a crisis meeting, as we might have heard from some quarters," insisted Timothy Castagne – as they aim to "show more solidarity" against Croatia.

    Castagne added the reports had "exaggerated a lot" and he had "seen worse", before Martinez, appearing after the defender at a pre-match news conference, suggested his team now knew they were in Qatar "on our own".

    "For us, nothing changes. The standards come from within," the coach said.

    "We were not happy with our two performances. We got the result in the first game, but we were not happy with our performance.

    "The second game was the first time we lost a game by two goals in a major tournament. You can imagine we were not happy with it. We had to react.

    "Then you see the storm on the outside and realise maybe we were listening too much to the noise on the outside before the tournament.

    "You have some outlets in Belgium who are quite happy to jump on fake news. That's quite astonishing. It's made the group quite aware that the least you listen to the noise from outside the better.

    "It's the biggest sporting event in the world, and you can see there are many World Cups being played. Maybe a country like France did a very good job with a story that became the main talking point of some outlets.

    "There is more desire to find negative news around this team, rather than getting the nation together, supporting this team, enjoying the talent of the best generation we ever had in Belgian football.

    "Probably that was a lesson for all of us: we are here on our own. We are here to fight for what we believe. Hopefully the fans, the real fans of the Red Devils, can enjoy the process."

    Pressed on his suggestion the story had come out of France and been intended to hurt Belgium, Martinez replied: "I've got too many things to do in camp to think about where this story comes.

    "What is clear is whoever came up with it, whoever has done it has scored a great goal, an own goal for Belgium.

    "If I'm an opposition and I can weaken another side and get them out of the World Cup, I would do that as a journalist, I would love to win my own World Cup. Whoever's done it is genius."

    Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said his side would not be "fooled" by the reports around the Belgium team, adding: "I don't have an opinion on them and what's happening there.

    "They are the second-best team in the world. That's all I care about. We are not focusing on any other aspects. We are focusing on Belgium, their quality.

    "They cannot forget overnight how to play football. They are a top-notch team. They're number two, and we're number 12."

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