EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Gundogan hard to resist as Bamford and Rashford show striking away form

By Sports Desk February 12, 2021

Manchester City are five points clear at the top of the Premier League after their demolition of defending champions Liverpool last time out.

With Guardiola getting the better of one managerial rival already this term in Jurgen Klopp, City's focus now switches to a clash with Jose Mourinho's Tottenham.

Key to City's superb form has been Ilkay Gundogan, who has scored nine goals this season in the league, three more than his previous best of six from 2018-19.

Given he scored twice at Anfield – while also missing a penalty – it would seem a smart decision for fantasy football managers to back Gundogan again this weekend, though which other players should make the cut?

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Another team in fine form as of late have been Brighton and Hove Albion, who have conceded just one goal in their last five top-flight matches, with goalkeeper Robert Sanchez certainly playing his part.

Sanchez ousted Mat Ryan – now on loan at Arsenal – as first choice earlier in the season, and of all goalkeepers to have played at least 10 Premier League games this season, only Ederson (one every 145 minutes) and Edouard Mendy (114 minutes) have a better minutes-per-goal conceded rate than Sanchez (one every 98 minutes). He has played 12 times, conceding 11 goals.

MATT TARGETT

Going up against Brighton this weekend are Aston Villa, and one defender to look out for could be Matt Targett.

Brighton have not scored more than once in a league match since a 3-3 draw with Wolves on January 2, and Villa left-back Targett has been involved in 11 clean sheets this season – more than any other Premier League defender apart from Ruben Dias.

AARON CRESSWELL

If you are looking for a more attacking option, however, then that player may well be West Ham's Aaron Cresswell.

The full-back has registered five league assists this season, second to only Everton's Lucas Digne (six) in terms of defenders, while only Liverpool's Andrew Robertson (38) and Manchester United's Luke Shaw (36) can better his tally of 34 chances created by a defender.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN

In Kevin De Bruyne's absence, Gundogan has come to the fore for Guardiola's team, and the former Borussia Dortmund man is the highest scorer in the Premier League so far in 2021 with seven goals in eight games.

The German's previous seven goals in the competition came over a period of 62 games, dating back to 2018.

JACK GREALISH

With Brighton's Sanchez in such fine form for Brighton, it could be a tough decision for fantasy managers, especially with Jack Grealish being so prominent in Villa's attack.

Grealish, arguably the league's player of the season so far, has been directly involved in five goals in his last five appearances against Brighton in all competitions (four goals, one assist), scoring in his last two games at the Amex.

PATRICK BAMFORD

Leeds United returned to winning ways as they saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 on Monday, with a trip to Arsenal up next on Sunday.

Patrick Bamford scored Leeds' second at Elland Road against Palace, and he has been involved in five goals in his last three Premier League games, netting twice and providing three assists. Eight of his 12 Premier League goals this season have been away from home (67 per cent).

MARCUS RASHFORD

Another forward who has thrived on the road in 2020-21 is Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

He has netted eight times in the Premier League this season, with six of those goals – 75 per cent – having come away from Old Trafford. The England international has never scored more in a single campaign on the road.

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  • Klopp claims Courtois performance proved final was 'going wrong' for Madrid Klopp claims Courtois performance proved final was 'going wrong' for Madrid

    Jurgen Klopp congratulated Real Madrid on their Champions League final win but highlighted the number of statistics in Liverpool's favour as they came up just short in Paris.

    Indeed, Klopp claimed a historic performance from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could only be possible if "something is going wrong" for victors Madrid.

    Courtois made nine saves against Liverpool to preserve a clean sheet, capping one of the great individual Champions League campaigns.

    He finished top of the competition's charts for saves (59), save percentage (80.6, minimum five saves) and goals prevented according to expected goals on target data (4.7).

    Courtois capped his terrific European run in style at the Stade de France, as his save tallies for both the final and the campaign as a whole were highs for any single Champions League season since Opta records began in 2003-04.

    His heroics also contributed to Liverpool setting a new record for the most shots attempted in a final without scoring (24).

    Despite this profligacy, with Vinicius Junior putting away one of just four Madrid attempts in a 1-0 success, Klopp put forward Liverpool's case for winning the match and pinpointed Courtois' display as a concern for their opponents.

    "After the game, when I saw the stats, it was 50-50 possession," he told a news conference. "We had a lot more shots, a lot more shots on target, but the most decisive stat is absolutely on Madrid's side.

    "Just to make sure that nobody thinks I wouldn't congratulate Real Madrid, I do that now, but I [also] congratulated everybody present and involved outside personally.

    "They scored a goal, we didn't – that's the easiest explanation in the world of football, and it's hard, harsh to get anyway, [but we] respect that of course.

    "When the goalkeeper is man of the match then something is going wrong for the other team, so we had, I think, three really big chances where Courtois made incredible saves. I would have loved to have had a few more of this calibre."

    This was Liverpool's 63rd game of a long season, in which they played three finals and took the Premier League title race to the wire, and Klopp acknowledged fatigue could have been a factor while still believing the Reds did enough to go home with the trophy.

    "Let me say, [the number of matches] doesn't help, but I don't think it was the reason," he added.

    "We all know, the chances we had, when the player shoots a ball, the ball going in or is on the foot actually only an inch, that's all. Nothing to do with being at the peak of your physical things or not.

    "We had these situations, the chance in the one-on-one situation from close range from Mo [Salah]; we know how often Mo scored in these situations. It was just an outstanding save from Courtois, we have to respect that as well.

    "I think Madrid had one shot on target, is that right? And that was a goal.

    "But, look, I understand 100 per cent and I respect 100 per cent the reason for playing football and having these kinds of competitions is to win the game, and whatever you do – as long as it's in the rules – it's allowed and you can do it. It's completely fine."

  • Robertson: Liverpool players 'devastated' after Champions League final defeat Robertson: Liverpool players 'devastated' after Champions League final defeat

    Andrew Robertson described Liverpool's players as "devastated" by their Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, as Vinicius Junior's winner condemned the Reds to a heartbreaking reverse in Paris.

    The Brazil winger's 59th-minute goal ensured Madrid repeated their 2018 final win over Liverpool to earn their 14th European crown, while only Juventus (five) have now lost more Champions League finals than the Reds (three).

    Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp has now lost more finals in the competition than any other coach (three), and despite winning the EFL Cup and FA Cup after penalty shoot-outs, Liverpool have failed to score a single goal in five and a half hours of football in major finals this term.

    Having threatened a quadruple after embarking on a brilliant four-front trophy hunt this season, Liverpool only have the domestic cups to show for their efforts after also missing out on the Premier League title to Manchester City.

    Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Robertson said the Liverpool dressing room was a sombre place following the narrow reverse, admitting his side had not reached their highest level at the Stade de France.

    The Scotland international also hailed Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after he put in a remarkable performance to keep out the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

    "Obviously it's quiet, devastated – that's what happens when you come to finals and don't win," Robertson said of the atmosphere among the Liverpool ranks.

    "We had chances, we came up against an unbelievable goalie tonight, he pulled off some unbelievable saves. But if we're being honest as well, I think we could have played a bit better, especially in the second half. 

    "I thought first half we played well, we were in control, we were the ones pushing. Second half, we didn't start great, they started getting a hold of the game a bit more. 

    "When you come up against an experienced team, they know how to win finals. Once they got their noses in front, they showed that."

    Liverpool dominated for long periods in the French capital, attempting 24 shots across the contest.

    That tally is the most a team have mustered without scoring in a Champions League final since records began (in 2003-04), and Liverpool were punished for their failure to break the deadlock when Vinicius turned home from Federico Valverde's cross.

    Robertson was left to rue Madrid's counter-attacking excellence after the loss, also praising the LaLiga champions for their ability to see out the lead.

    "We're a pressing team, we try to press from the front, and it's worked so much for us this season," he added. 

    "We were trying to win the ball high up, and obviously they've ended up breaking, and then we've been caught at the back post, and next minute it's in the back of your net. That's football for you, and you have to deal with that. 

    "Obviously it's hard to get back into the game when you're playing against a very experienced team in these finals, they know exactly how to see out a game. 

    "We had our chances, but it just wasn't meant to be."

  • Klopp reveals Liverpool players' families were caught up in Champions League final chaos Klopp reveals Liverpool players' families were caught up in Champions League final chaos

    Jurgen Klopp has revealed the families of Liverpool's players were caught up in the chaotic scenes ahead of their Champions League final with Real Madrid at the Stade de France.

    Saturday's contest was delayed by 36 minutes due to large numbers of Liverpool fans still being outside the ground ahead of the scheduled start time of 21:00 CET.

    Police outside the venue have been reported to have used tear gas or pepper spray, while a number of fans were recorded attempting to climb over safety barriers.

    European football's governing body blamed the delays on supporters with fake tickets trying to get into the 81,000-capacity stadium.

    However, in a statement released shortly before full-time in their 1-0 loss, Liverpool hit out at those in charge of security and called for an investigation to be held.

    Asked at his post-match news conference about the incident, and the ensuing fallout, Klopp said: "I haven't been able to speak to my family about it yet.

    "I know families had a real struggle getting into the stadium. I heard a few things were not good.

    "What I heard is that we will have further investigations to figure out what was going on there. Obviously it was pretty tricky out there, but I don’t know more about it."

    Vinicius Junior scored the only goal in the 59th minute, though Madrid required a number of fine saves from Thibaut Courtois to land their fifth Champions League in nine years.

    Liverpool end a gruelling 2021-22 campaign with an EFL Cup and FA Cup double, having missed out by a point to Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

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