EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Kane can punish porous Leeds, new Burnley star is worth a punt

By Sports Desk February 24, 2022

Sure, relying on Mohamed Salah every week is a decent fantasy football strategy, it's certainly good enough for most, but what happens when the Egyptian magician isn't in Premier League action?

With Liverpool in EFL Cup final duty against Chelsea, the Reds' fearsome front-line and creative full-backs are suddenly off limits to fantasy football managers across the land, while Arsenal and Chelsea are also out of league action.

However, courtesy of Opta-powered data, Stats Perform has managed to pick out some of gameweek 27's potential stars, featuring the England captain, an in-form Burnley new boy, and one of the Premier League's most lethal defenders.

HARRY KANE (Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur)

Despite Antonio Conte's team lurching to a fourth loss in five Premier League games at Turf Moor in midweek, the England captain remains the perfect pick for managers who need a big-hitter in Salah's absence.

Kane has been involved in seven goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances, registering six goals and an assist in that time. Meanwhile, five of those contributions, including four goals, have come on the road.

If that isn't enough to make managers' minds up, Kane will be facing a Leeds team which has already shipped 56 league goals this term, and has scored 10 goals in his eight Premier League appearances in Yorkshire. 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Watford)

For those looking for an adequate replacement for the likes of Allison or Edouard Mendy between the sticks, Red Devils stopper De Gea looks to be the perfect choice, ahead of a kind home fixture with Watford.

When looking at Opta's Expected Goals on Target data, no Premier League goalkeeper has prevented more goals than the Spaniard this season, with De Gea conceding 32 Premier League goals from 39.09 xG on target faced.

Although De Gea did ship four times when Watford ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils reign earlier this season, United have never lost a home league game against Watford, recording 11 wins and two draws against the Hornets at Old Trafford. They have not faced any other side in more home games during their league history without losing (also 13 unbeaten vs Hull City).

CRAIG DAWSON (West Ham United v Wolves)

The best fantasy football managers are those that find themselves looking for marginal gains, and what better way to do that than to pick one of the division's most lethal defenders?

Since the 2014-15 season, no Premier League defender can match Dawson's tally of 14 headed goals, and the big centre-back has now netted in successive games, against Leicester City and Newcastle United.

West Ham's next Premier League clash sees them take on Wolves at the London Stadium. For all their good form, the visitors are averaging under a goal per game this season, so Dawson could also be in with a chance of a clean sheet.

WOUT WEGHORST (Crystal Palace v Burnley, Burnley v Leicester City)

Finally, Burnley's towering Dutch striker Wout Weghorst stands out as an appealing under-the-radar selection, ahead of the Clarets facing two games in four days.

Since Weghorst made his move from Wolfsburg to Turf Moor, he has weighed in with a goal and two assists, meaning only Salah (three goals and one assist) has registered more goal involvements amongst Premier League players since his arrival.

Although Burnley's weekend opponents Crystal Palace have been buoyed by a 4-1 win over Watford, they then host a Leicester team which has conceded 40.61 expected goals this season, a tally worse than all but three Premier League teams, so another Weghorst contribution could be on the cards.

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    Ralf Rangnick says self-belief will be vital as his Austria side hunt a major scalp in their Euro 2024 opener against France on Monday.

    France are viewed among the favourites to win the tournament, having won the 2018 World Cup and finished as runners-up at Euro 2016 and the 2022 World Cup under Didier Deschamps.

    However, Les Bleus have been tasked with a tough draw, with Austria tipped as potential dark horses and the Netherlands beating Poland 2-1 in Group D's first match on Sunday.

    Austria finished just one point behind Belgium in their first qualification campaign under former Manchester United boss Rangnick, who has needed little time to implement his preferred high-pressing style.

    Austria allowed their opponents fewer passes per defensive action (8.3 PPDA) than any other team during qualifying, also attacking with the fastest direct speed, moving the ball upfield at a speed of 2.03 metres per second.

    Rangnick plans to take the game to France in Dusseldorf, telling his players there can be no inferiority complex if they are to earn a result. 

    "That is crucial, that we will be courageous, that we are convinced of our own strength," Rangnick said at his pre-match press conference.

    "What's really vital is the way that we perform, not the way that France plays, or whether they are a little bit better or a little bit worse, it's only about us.

    "We prepared for over two years for this day. It's finally starting for us. We're really excited. There's joy above everything else."

    One of Austria's most pressing tasks will be to shut out Kylian Mbappe, who has scored 12 goals in his last three international tournaments (four at the 2018 World Cup, none at Euro 2020, eight at the 2022 World Cup).

    Harry Kane is the only European player to match that figure, and the England man was also the only player from Europe's top five leagues to equal Mbappe's 44 goals in 2023-24. 

    However, Rangnick says Austria cannot afford to focus entirely on any one player, such is the strength of the France squad.

    "With our style of playing we have to counter him and the whole French team, we have to make sure that he doesn't receive as many balls as he likes," he said.

    "We know from our own strengths that we can win this match."

  • Rashford did not deserve England spot for Euro 2024, says Ten Hag Rashford did not deserve England spot for Euro 2024, says Ten Hag

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    Along with Manchester City's Jack Grealish, Rashford was a surprise omission from Gareth Southgate's party for the tournament in Germany.

    Anthony Gordon, Eberechi Eze and Jarrod Bowen were among the wide players preferred to Rashford, who had been a mainstay in the Three Lions' squad since making his first tournament appearance at Euro 2016.

    Rashford scored just seven goals in 33 Premier League appearances in 2023-24 as the Red Devils limped to an eighth-place finish – their lowest in the competition's history.

    Only in 2015-16, 2016-17 (both five) and 2021-22 (four) has Rashford scored fewer goals in a top-flight campaign. 

    Speaking in his role as a pundit for NOS on Sunday, Rashford's club manager said the forward had not done enough to be considered for his country.

    "Grealish and Rashford were both lacking this season. And when you are lacking, you risk not getting picked for your country," Ten Hag said.

    Ten Hag's job was thought to be under threat as United enter their first full season under the Jim Ratcliffe regime, but it was confirmed last week he will stay at the helm.

    He was asked on Sunday whether he had any desire to manage the Netherlands in the future, but he maintains he is content at Old Trafford.

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  • Kane's England contribution about more than goals, says Trippier Kane's England contribution about more than goals, says Trippier

    Harry Kane offers more to England than simply goals, says Kieran Trippier, who is not concerned about the striker's lack of touches in Sunday's 1-0 win over Serbia.

    Jude Bellingham's goal was the difference as England recorded a hard-fought victory to open their Group C campaign, meaning they have started all four of their major tournaments under Gareth Southgate with a win. 

    However, their performance attracted criticism from some quarters as England managed just five shots to Serbia's six, accumulating a total of 0.52 expected goals (xG).

    Kane was a victim of the cagey nature of the contest, recording fewer touches (24) and successful passes (nine) than any other England starter. 

    Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford at least doubled both of those tallies, having 48 touches and completing 25 passes.

    Kane did go close to giving England a two-goal cushion in the second half as he saw a header tipped onto the crossbar by Predrag Rajkovic, but Trippier says he should not be judged purely on goals.

    "Obviously it was difficult because they played five at the back, but what people don't realise is what Harry does off the ball," Trippier told reporters in the mixed zone.

    "Of course, he scores goals but what he did for the team today was incredible, holding the ball up and bringing other players into play. 

    "People just focus on goals with Harry but internally, as team-mates, we appreciate what he does off the ball."

    England have, however, kept five successive clean sheets in group-stage matches at the Euros, the longest such run in the competition's history.

    "I would say it's about managing the game," Trippier continued. "There will always be moments in games where the opposition will have a spell of 10 or 15 minutes of possession. 

    "It's about being nice and compact and not conceding. We have got experienced players in the group like [Kyle] Walker, Harry, myself, players that can help the younger players manage the games. I thought we did that tonight."

    Fans were hoping to see a free-flowing England display after watching Germany and Spain kick off with resounding wins, but their figure of 0.52 xG is the fourth-lowest of any team to have played at Euro 2024 thus far, after Scotland (0.02), Serbia (0.18) and Albania (0.51).

    However, Jarrod Bowen – who teed up Kane's big second-half chance – is not worried about the performances of other nations.

    "We are so focused on ourselves and what we can do, other teams are irrelevant. They are their countries and we are England," he said.

    "We focus on ourselves and our focus was to win the game not because other teams won, but because it was a statement for us to win the first game going into Thursday.

    "That was our mindset coming into this game and that will be it, full focus on us."

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