EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Man City pair look bankers, Bowen could stun Old Trafford

By Sports Desk January 21, 2022

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

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  • Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons

    Inter Miami are sitting comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference table but face a challenge on Thursday when Columbus Crew visit for an MLS clash at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons are two points clear at the summit of the East standings after snatching a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union last time out.

    Yet Wilfried Nancy's Crew have triumphed in their last four road games in the league, battling to a 3-2 victory over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

    "It's a massive run and just shows how good we are mentally" Mohamed Farsi said of the streak.

    "I think we have more away wins right now than last year all season. I think so or the same, so I'm happy for that."

    Farsi has become a central figure for Columbus and scored the go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute against the Pigeons, much to the delight of head coach Nancy.

    "The idea for Mo is to be more consistent because he brings a lot of energy to the team," Nancy said.

    "He wants also to show himself that he's a better player than last year when we had the same deal here. Good for him.

    "Now, he knows that he has to work on certain things, but I'm happy for him. He's doing a good job."

    Despite missing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Matis Rojas – all of whom are on Copa America duty – the nine-man Herons overcame the Union thanks to Leo Afonso's last-gasp strike.

    "It is clear that in 10 times, nine of these games we would end up losing," Miami head coach Gerardo Martino said.

    "Absolutely all the credit belongs to them. That has to do with the effort, with the character, with the guts that the boys had."

    Afonso echoed his coach's sentiment ahead of another crunch match-up.

    "It's difficult when you're missing the best players in history in their positions," he said. "But we got to keep working, and we got to try our best."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Inter Miami – Jordi Alba

    With stars Messi and Suarez on international duty, Jordi Alba will be expected to step up once more for the Herons.

    The former Barcelona full-back has two goals this year in MLS, as well as five assists – that creative tally is only bettered by Messi (13) and Julian Gressel (six) among Miami team-mates.

    Columbus Crew – Diego Rossi

    Diego Rossi remains an integral figure in attack for the Crew, whose Javier Hernandez (five goals) has only scored more than the forward's four in 10 MLS games this year.

    With other Uruguayan colleagues at the Copa, Rossi will hope to extend his fine scoring form here.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    Miami may be leading the way in the East but a draw appears the most likely outcome at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons have never lost a home match against the Crew (W2 D1), though Columbus did earn their first away point against David Beckham's Miami-based side on the last visit to Fort Lauderdale, a 2-2 draw in July 2023.

    Martino will hope to continue a strong run of form with another victory, however.

    Miami have won eight of their last 11 regular-season matches (D2 L1) following a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday. Since that run began in mid-April, Martino's side have managed 26 points and scored 28 goals – both league-leading figures.

    Yet Columbus should not be ruled out for a win either.

    The Crew have won four straight regular-season away matches for the second time in club history after a four-match run in August-September 2015.

    Columbus have lost only one of their last 11 regular-season road matches, dating back to last September (W5 D5), and that streak could continue here.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Inter Miami win – 37.4%

    Columbus Crew win – 36.3%

    Draw – 26.4%

  • Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph

    Kylian Mbappe suffering a late head injury marred France's Euro 2024 victory over Austria as Didier Deschamps was left concerned about the Les Bleus star.

    The Real Madrid-bound attacker sustained a blow to his nose after an aerial challenge with Austria's Kevin Danso before Mbappe was withdrawn on Monday.

    France held on for a 1-0 victory in Dusseldorf to move level with fellow Group D leaders Netherlands, but Deschamps will have to sweat over Mbappe's fitness before facing Ronald Koeman's men on Friday.

    "[His] nose is not good at all," the France head coach, who hit 100 wins in charge of his country with the victory over Ralf Rangnick's side, told reporters.

    "Even if it's just the nose, it's the big negative point for us tonight."

    Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the second half as his wait for a European Championship goal continued.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain man remains without a goal from a total of 18 shots in the tournament, while he has registered 12 strikes from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

    Mbappe played the cross in for Max Wober's decisive first-half own-goal, however, as the centre-back's inadvertent error proved the difference in the pair's tournament opener.

    France are the first European side at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros) to benefit from 10 own-goals, four more than any other side – Germany are the next best on six.

    Deschamps was still satisfied with Les Bleus' work, though acknowledged their failure in front of goal.

    "Happy with what the players did even if we missed opportunities to double the tally," he added. "It was not perfect but we were solid.

    "We could have been more efficient offensively but it's good to start with a win.

    "There's quality and talent but being solid and working together is also important. We're not going to be over-confident, but it's a good start."

    N'Golo Kante was named as the Player of the Match after his efficient display in midfield, having only returned to the international setup for this tournament after a two-year absence.

    No France player made more successful tackles than Kante's two (level with Jules Kounde), while the midfielder's pair of interceptions marked the most for Les Bleus.

    "Everything was not perfect but we have the result we wanted, this is a good start," Kante said. "There are solid foundations, we have to be more efficient.

    "It makes me happy to be back. Things have changed, makes it feels good to get back into this jersey."

    The defeat ended a run of seven games without a loss for Austria in all competitions (W6 D1), while it was only their second reverse in their last 17 matches (W12 D3).

    Yet former Manchester United boss Rangnick refused to point the blame at any of Austria's players.

    "We are all very disappointed... we allowed France to go ahead, they didn't shoot their goal, it was an unlucky own goal by us," Rangnick said.

    "I think no one can accuse the team of not being engaged enough, not running enough. They gave their everything.

    "They didn't always make the right decisions with the ball. But it isn't easy, the French were aggressive, and played compactly and that wasn't a surprise."

  • Austria 0-1 France: Les Bleus triumph in Euro 2024 opener after Wober own-goal Austria 0-1 France: Les Bleus triumph in Euro 2024 opener after Wober own-goal

    France started their quest for Euro 2024 glory with a narrow 1-0 victory over Austria after Max Wober's first-half own-goal proved decisive in Dusseldorf.

    The two-time European Championship winners had to wait until the 38th minute for their breakthrough, with Wober turning Kylian Mbappe's cross into his own net on Monday.

    Les Bleus held on in the second half to earn Didier Deschamps his 100th win in charge of France, though there was concern as Mbappe received lengthy treatment for a head injury late on before being withdrawn.

    Deschamps will hope Mbappe is passed fit after that issue as France prepare for Friday's clash with fellow Group D leaders Netherlands, who share top spot in the pool after overcoming Poland 2-1 on Sunday.

    Deschamps' men settled into their seamless groove early on, with Mbappe racing clear of the Austria defence before seeing his effort repelled by the strong palm of Patrick Pentz.

    Yet for all of France's dominance in possession, Austria remained resolute in defence and almost struck first against the run of play 10 minutes before the interval.

    Christoph Baumgartner found himself unmarked inside the France box after Marcel Sabitzer's deft knockdown, but was unable to find a way beyond the onrushing Mike Maignan when rushing a glorious chance.

    Just two minutes later, Deschamps' deadly attack showed their ruthless nature as Mbappe chopped inside before delivering towards the near post, where Wober inadvertently headed past the helpless Pentz.

    Mbappe should have doubled France's lead after the interval but somehow fired wide when one-on-one with Pentz, leaving the Real Madrid-bound forward still waiting for a first European Championship goal.

    Les Bleus remained the most likely to find a decisive second goal but Theo Hernandez's teasing delivery just evaded Antoine Greizmann before Marcus Thuram also went close.

    Yet the battling victory was marred by the injury to Mbappe, who was forced off in the final minute of normal time after suffering a concerning blow to his nose when challenging for an aerial duel with Kevin Danso.

    Mbappe's wait for maiden Euro goal goes on

    Mbappe produced an influential display but was far from his clinical best for Les Bleus as his first goal at this tournament continues to elude him. 

    The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker has now failed to convert any of his last 17 shots at the competition, in stark contrast to the 12 goals he has managed from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

    His one-on-one opportunity in the second half had an expected goals tally (xG) of 0.6, second only behind Griezmann's opportunity (0.75 xG) in the area 11 minutes later. 

    Aside from Mbappe, France were wasteful in the final third as a collective, registering just three shots on target in the contest from 14 attempts – underperforming their xG by 1.03. 

    Austria down, but certainly not out

    Ralf Rangnick's team can be proud of their defensive display against France's star-studded attacking line, with their fighting efforts seeing them make the most tackles (27) of any side at the tournament so far. 

    However, their struggles against Les Bleus continued as Austria have now won just one of their last 11 meetings against France in all competitions, with that sole victory coming in 2008. 

    Austria will still hope to replicate their last-16 run at Euro 2020, their best-ever finish in the competition, and face Poland in Berlin on Friday before concluding their group campaign against the Netherlands.

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