EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Saka to strike against Leeds, Ings to haunt Southampton

By Sports Desk March 31, 2023

After an unwelcome international break the view of many, Premier League football returns this weekend with plenty to decide at both ends of the table.

A gruelling clash between title-chasing Manchester City and top-four hopefuls Liverpool kicks things off on Saturday, with league leaders Arsenal hosting Leeds United later in the day and potentially having the opportunity to extend their lead at the summit.

Bukayo Saka is once again one to watch at Emirates Stadium, having maintained his fine form over the international break on England duty, and it would be wise to draft him into your fantasy squad if he is not yet in the side.

Elsewhere, Kai Havertz's resurgence is one to keep an eye on, while Danny Ings and Jack Harrison are also worth a punt.

Using Opta data, we've highlighted exactly why that quartet should be on your hit list.

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal v Leeds United)

The Hale End graduate is the only player in the Premier League to have hit double figures for both goals (12) and assists (10) this season, with Saka in particularly devastating form at Emirates Stadium.

Overall, 14 of his 22 goal involvements have come in north London, standing behind only Erling Haaland (23) for the most direct goal involvements at home in the Premier League.

Last time out against Crystal Palace, Saka scored twice and contributed an assist to help Arsenal maintain their title charge, then carrying that form into England duty and scoring against Ukraine at Wembley.

Kai Havertz (Chelsea v Aston Villa)

Linked with a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season following Thomas Tuchel's appointment in Bavaria, Havertz has hit a fine vein of form at a crucial stage of the season in Chelsea's top-four bid.

Seven goals this season puts Havertz just one shy of his tally from last season, while he enters the clash against Aston Villa having scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances – meaning he could score in three consecutive games for the first time since March 2022.

No player has been involved in more goals under Graham Potter than Havertz (six goals, one assist), scoring twice the amount as Chelsea's next leading scorer under the Englishman (Mason Mount, three).

 

Danny Ings (West Ham v Southampton)

Ings has established a fine record of haunting his former employers in the Premier League, having been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 14 such matches (seven goals, three assists).

That includes involvement in three goals in his last two appearances against Southampton (one goal, two assists), who may wonder what might have been had he been in their ranks in the fight for Premier League survival.

Since January 21, no West Ham player has a higher goals-per-game ratio (0.55) or expected goals (0.56) return, while only Jarrod Bowen (6.43) and Said Benrahma (5.29) have more touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes than Ings (4.66).

Jack Harrison (Arsenal v Leeds United)

With six assists over the course of the season, Harrison ranks sixth across the entirety of the Premier League in that regard, with only Christian Eriksen (seven), Mohamed Salah (seven), Leandro Trossard (eight), Saka (10) and Kevin De Bruyne (12) having more.

In Leeds' bid for survival, Harrison has been the catalyst in pushing the club away from the bottom three and travels to Emirates Stadium having scored in consecutive Premier League matches.

Only Rodrigo (12) has been involved in more Leeds goals this term than Harrison (nine), while nobody has created more chances for the Yorkshire side than the midfielder (41).

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    Roberto De Zerbi insisted he does not have another job lined up after overseeing his final game as Brighton and Hove Albion boss on Sunday.

    One day after surprisingly announcing De Zerbi's departure, Brighton ended their Premier League campaign with a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United.

    That meant they slipped below rivals Crystal Palace to finish 11th in the table, their first bottom-half placing since finishing 16th in 2020-21.

    De Zerbi has been linked with several big clubs since leading Brighton to European qualification last season, with Bayern Munich, Milan and Napoli touted as possible landing spots for the former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk coach.

    However, De Zerbi says he has not reached an agreement with any other club, telling reporters: "There isn't any club – no-one offered me anything. At the moment, nothing.

    "I hope to work in the Premier League again. I don't know where or when, but it was an honour to work in the Premier League."

    Sunday's defeat was De Zerbi's 70th Premier League game in charge of Brighton, with his top-flight win percentage of 37 per cent (26/70) the highest of any boss in the Seagulls' history.

    Battling a lengthy injury list for much of 2023-24, Brighton made a total of 143 changes to their starting lineup throughout the course of the campaign, with only Manchester City in 2019-20 (144) ever making more in a single Premier League season.

    Asked by BBC Match of the Day if there was a particular reason for his exit, the Italian added: "We didn't find the agreement to move on. I want to keep my way. 

    "I know very well what I want to do and I know I am a coach and I have to accept the policies of the club.

    "They gave me an incredible chance. They gave me the possibility to know incredible people, to play and to work in the Premier League, to play in the Europa League. They gave me the opportunity to know this club, this city, these fans and that I cannot forget."

    Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna and Nice coach Francesco Farioli have both been tipped as possible contenders to replace De Zerbi, with Brighton having a reputation for excellent succession planning under owner Tony Bloom.

    Asked about the search for a replacement on Sunday, Bloom said: "We always try and have a plan. We have got a plan. We now need to execute that plan."

  • Mateta 'finishing everything that comes to him' as Palace rout Villa Mateta 'finishing everything that comes to him' as Palace rout Villa

    Jean-Philippe Mateta is "finishing everything that comes to him", according to his Crystal Palace team-mate Eberechi Eze.

    Palace thumped fourth-placed Aston Villa 5-0 at home on the last day of the Premier League season to seal an unlikely top-10 finish, with Mateta scoring a hat-trick and Eze adding two goals of his own.

    They ended the season with a seven-match unbeaten run under Oliver Glasner, who made a huge impact after replacing Roy Hodgson in February.

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    He ended the campaign with 16 top-flight goals, putting him level with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Jarrod Bowen in the scoring charts. Only Andrew Johnson has netted more for the Eagles across a single campaign in the competition, when he netted 21 in 2004-05.

    "He is what I'm playing for," Eze said about Mateta, per Palace's official website.

    "He is finishing everything that comes to him, which makes our life a lot easier when I'm playing for him, so it's good.

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    "Of course it's an honour [to play for your country]," said Eze. "It would be a great experience.

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    Villa are the first side to concede five or more goals in their first and final matches of a top-flight season since Manchester City in 1962-63, having been beaten 5-1 at Newcastle on the opening weekend.

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    "Thank you to our supporters because even today they were with us," said Villa boss Unai Emery after Sunday's loss.

    "We achieved our objective on Tuesday [when UCL qualification was confirmed] and we did everything we could with our supporters in Villa Park on Monday [in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool].

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    "We have to be happy and share with our supporters the whole season, not just today. Every match is very important and we lost, but we’d achieved our target.

    "We have to accept it and keep going forward. Now it’s time to rest and try to follow our players with their national teams and prepare as best as possible the next season.

    "We have to enjoy the season we did and we’re very excited for the next season, but we have to take our time now."

  • Howe taking plenty of positives despite frustrating Newcastle campaign Howe taking plenty of positives despite frustrating Newcastle campaign

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    Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes were among the goalscorers as Newcastle won 4-2 at Brentford to finish their Premier League campaign.

    The victory ensured a seventh-place finish, and a Manchester City victory over Manchester United in next Saturday's FA Cup final will confirm Newcastle's place in next season's Europa Conference League.

    While this season did not quite live up to the heroics of last term, which saw the Magpies finish in the Champions League spots, Howe still feels it has been a successful campaign.

    "It summed up our season," Howe told BBC Sport. "We weren't totally secure at the back, but great credit to the players. They've done their job - now we wait and see.

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