EPL

Premier League Festive Fantasy Picks: The Spurs star who loves Boxing Day a must-pick

By Sports Desk December 23, 2021

It's the most wonderful time of the year… To many that means Christmas, to some it means a packed festive football schedule!

While the relentless flow of Premier League matches at this time of year might seem like overkill for the players, it's a somewhat bizarre British tradition that shows no sign of stopping.

The swift turnaround between matchdays barely gives players a moment to catch their breath, and fantasy football managers (don't say we're not thinking about the big issues…!) have to react quickly as well if they're to make the most of the action.

But if you're one of those players who's liable to forget to make changes around this time of year because you slept through the deadline after eating too much leftover Christmas dinner, Stats Perform has some player tips that might just come in handy for each of the next two matchdays…
 

EDERSON (Manchester City v Leicester City, and Brentford v Manchester City)

Sure, Leicester may have impressed against Liverpool in midweek, but Man City have been impressively resolute at the back again this season.

Unsurprisingly, Ederson leads the way with 10 clean sheets in 2021-22, making him virtually a must-select if you're worried about potentially forgetting to change your goalkeeper between matchdays.

No on else in the division has reached double figures for clean sheets yet this term, and City will fancy their chances of getting a shutout at Brentford in their second game post-Christmas.

EMILE SMITH ROWE (Norwich City v Arsenal, and Arsenal v Wolves)

Christmas time, Emile Smith Rowe and wine…

Forgive us the bad pun, but like mistletoe, Smith Rowe is a solid choice for some festive joy, particularly given Arsenal have two very winnable matches on the horizon.

Ahead of their Boxing Day trip to Norfolk, Smith Rowe is the joint-second highest-scoring Englishman in the Premier League this term with seven goals, highlighting just how much of a threat he's been in 2021-22.

Three of those have come in his last three games as well – hopefully he's the gift that keeps giving.

MARCUS RASHFORD (Newcastle United v Manchester United, and Manchester United v Burnley)

Remember Manchester United? It feels like it's been about two months since they last played, so they'll surely be raring to go when they face Newcastle at St James' Park on Monday.

Myrrhcus (sorry) Rashford will presumably be even more excited than the rest of the team, such is his record against the Magpies.

The England star has seven goal involvements in as many meetings with Newcastle (four goals, three assists), making them his favourite opposition.

Additionally, Newcastle have won just once all season, so there's every chance it won't just be the Christmas turkey getting stuffed.

HARRY KANE (Tottenham v Crystal Palace, and Southampton v Tottenham)

Spurs star Harry Kane loves Boxing Day, so much so that these days he's arguably more synonymous with Christmas than his namesake, Candy.

He'll be hopeful of stocking up again this year as he is just one behind Robbie Fowler's record of nine Boxing Day goals – it's worth saying he looked sharp against Liverpool at the weekend, so who's to say he won't sleigh Crystal Palace?

A trip to Southampton awaits after that, and Saints haven't exactly been watertight at the back recently, conceding 12 goals in their past five Premier League games.

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  • Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United

    Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has hit back following criticism concerning his commitment to the club.

    The 26-year-old England international has faced questions this season for issues both on and off the field.

    Last month Rashford was under the spotlight after reportedly being seen in a Belfast nightclub before missing the following day’s training due to illness and he subsequently missed United’s FA Cup tie against Newport.

    However, in a piece for the Players’ Tribune website, Rashford has responded to his critics, asking them to show “a bit more humanity”.

    “When I make a mistake, I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say that I need to do better,” he wrote.

    “But if you ever question my commitment to Man United, that’s when I have to speak up. It’s like somebody questioning my entire identity, and everything I stand for as a man.

    “I grew up here. I have played for this club since I was a boy. My family turned down life-changing money when I was a kid so I could wear this badge.

    “I can take any criticism. I can take any headline. From podcasts, social media and the papers. I can take it.

    “But if you start questioning my commitment to this club and my love for football and bringing my family into it, then I’d simply ask you to have a bit more humanity.”

    Rashford came under scrutiny in October last year after attending a nightclub party following United’s 3-0 home derby defeat to Manchester City.

    He has also faced criticism for performances on the pitch having scored only five goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season.

    The forward suggested there is a “tone” to media coverage surrounding him, which he believes may stem from his campaigning for free school meals during the pandemic in which he was made an MBE.

    Rashford added: “I’m not trying to have a go at the media. I understand the game, you know what I mean? They’re not really writing about me. It’s like they’re writing about this character, ‘Marcus Rashford.’

    “It can’t just be about me as a 26-year-old lad on a night out, or a lad getting a parking ticket. It’s got to be about how much my car costs, guessing my weekly salary, my jewellery or even my tattoos.

    “It’s got to be about my body language, and questioning my morals, and speculating about my family, and my football future.

    “There’s a tone to it that you don’t get with all footballers. Let’s just leave it at that.

    “I think some of it goes back to the pandemic. I was just trying to use my voice to make sure that kids weren’t going hungry, because I know exactly how it feels.

    “For some reason, that seemed to rub certain people the wrong way. It seems like they’ve been waiting for me to have a human moment so they can point the finger and say, ‘See? See who he really is?’.”

  • Ryan Sessegnon backed to bounce back from hamstring injury nightmare Ryan Sessegnon backed to bounce back from hamstring injury nightmare

    Tottenham defender Ryan Sessegnon has been backed to bounce back from his latest hamstring surgery by a medical expert.

    Sessegnon had an operation on his right hamstring on Monday after the 23-year-old suffered a muscle injury in action for Spurs’ Under-21s on February 17.

    It was the second time Sessegnon has been operated on during the past 12 months, but significantly the previous surgery in July was on his left hamstring.

    The ex-Fulham player has struggled with muscle injuries over recent seasons, although Sessegnon did state in an Instagram post that his left hamstring now feels “strong” and his hope that this operation on his right hamstring would end previous reoccurring issues.

    Sports scientist Dr Rajpal Brar told the PA news agency: “He still has plenty of time right? It is just one of those things with injury cycles or muscular injuries where it can be really tough to get out of, even for more developed players.

    “There has certainly been cases where other players have got into it (injury cycles) and got out of it. It is not by any means a death knell for his career or anything.

    “He has plenty of time and the key will be some methodical rehab, then some good fortune so you have to hope for the best.

    “He has more time to build back and there is also not as much pressure to get back than say a 29- or 30-year-old who is angling to get back to play and get a new contract or whatever it is, whereas it is different for a younger player.”

    Sessegnon has not started for Tottenham since last January after he missed the second half of the 2022-23 campaign with a hamstring injury.

    It was eventually decided to operate on Sessegnon’s left hamstring in July, which sidelined the one-time England Under-21 international for a number of months.

    A cameo against Burnley in the FA Cup last month represented Sessegnon’s first appearance under boss Ange Postecoglou before he was dealt another injury blow when he broke down in a Premier League 2 fixture with West Ham.

    Surgery on Sessegnon’s right hamstring was deemed the best course of action and the full-back has been tipped to return for pre-season by Los Angeles-based Dr Brar, who runs the 3cb Performance rehab centre.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Ryan Sessegnon (@ryansess)

     

    Dr Brar added: “You look at elite footballers, the most common injured muscle is the hamstring and (surgery) is just one of those things where you try to reduce the risk.

    “Surgery is never a guarantee of no re-injury but it is one of those things where you think it might give them a better chance of reducing the re-injury risk.

    “Once you have surgery, you are looking at a 10 to 12-plus weeks timeline depending on all the specifics.

    “The hope is that he can come back for pre-season, get some matches to rebuild that match fitness and match rhythm, then go from there to try to have him ready for the start of next season.”

  • Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post

    Erik ten Hag has called on Fulham to apologise for appearing to mock Bruno Fernandes.

    Manchester United boss Ten Hag hit out at criticism implying his captain feigned injury after Wednesday’s FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.

    Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, Ten Hag was asked about a TikTok post from Fulham showing Fernandes going down during last Saturday’s Premier League contest and accompanied by the caption: “So glad he’s ok…”

    The Dutchman reacted angrily, saying: “I didn’t know this, but if they did it I would say it is not right. It is absolutely not right that a club makes such a statement, because it is totally out of order and they were wrong so they should apologise for this.”

    Ten Hag believes Forest were targeting Fernandes and he added: “He is a very passionate football player and he’s a very creative one, he has created the most chances in the Premier League.

    “You see opponents are targeting him and especially after Saturday when he had the knock and they see it, and then I feel the referee should protect him there. They had to change at the start of the game because it was so obvious they were looking for him.”

    Ten Hag expects Fernandes and Raphael Varane, who was also a doubt for Wednesday, to be fit for the derby, but the likes of Harry Maguire and Rasmus Hojlund are likely to stay on United’s lengthy injury list.

    United go into the clash 15 points behind their neighbours and are currently eight adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot.

    City have not lost since early December, winning 16 of their last 18 games, while Ten Hag has been beaten in three of his four games against Pep Guardiola’s men.

    Last season’s trip to the Etihad ended in a 6-3 defeat for United, but Ten Hag believes his team can take confidence from their form, saying: “We are also in a good run and the spirit is very good, we are united, we have the togetherness to make a good game plan.

    “We have done it before against City, lately also against Liverpool. The players are ready for it, the players are looking forward to it, I can smell it when I am around here, when I speak with the players. We’re excited.

    “They have a good team but there are more good teams. They have won in the last season everything so we know that that’s the challenge, but also Liverpool have a very good team and there are more. We like such challenges.”

    New investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe stated his aim last week for United to knock City and Liverpool off their perch within three years.

    “You always want to play against the best so most of the times we feel and you can also see it that the opposition get their best outputs against Manchester United, and maybe this game is the other way around,” said Ten Hag.

    “We know we have to give everything and show really a team performance if you want to get a result. If you do it, it is possible.

    “From all the games we look back, we had the opportunity to win and we won one time but you need a great day. That is also what we know so the players have to give the best performances.”

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