EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Look to Ward-Prowse for a midfield boost

By Sports Desk April 29, 2022

We are approaching the home straight in the Premier League, which means the tension builds, the sweat pours, and the heart-rate increases...and that's just in our fantasy leagues.

Some matches mean more than others right now, but to fantasy managers, every game has the potential to get you those much-needed points to make a late run in your league.

If you want a bit of a helping hand with your decision-making this week, Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered suggestions below.

Here are our suggestions for a new goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker for your consideration...

EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Norwich City)

The Argentine goalkeeper has been impressive since making the move from Arsenal in 2020, establishing himself as number one for both Villa and his national team, winning the Copa America last year.

Martinez registered his 25th clean sheet for Villa last time out against Leicester City, and since the start of last season, only Ederson (37), Edouard Mendy and Alisson (both 29) have kept more than him.

With a home clash against bottom of the table and lowest scorers Norwich coming up on Saturday, it seems as likely a time as any for another game without picking the ball out of his net for Martinez.

MARC CUCURELLA (Wolves v Brighton and Hove Albion)

It is hard not to be impressed by Brighton, with Graham Potter getting a team with limited resources to play some of the best football on show in the Premier League, it's just a question of finding consistency.

With a trip to a stumbling Wolves side that has lost three of its last four games, Potter will look to produce the same magic that saw his team secure impressive recent away wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, with particular focus on one of his more potent performers at full-back.

Only Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold (47) and Andrew Robertson (36) have created more chances from open play among defenders this season than Cucurella, who has been one of the many success stories at the Amex Stadium since arriving from Getafe last year.

JAMES WARD-PROWSE (Southampton v Crystal Palace)

It would not be surprising in the slightest to see a suggestion at the next Premier League managers' meeting to extend VAR protocol to include free-kick decisions anywhere near the penalty area, but only for games involving Southampton.

When Ward-Prowse lines up a free-kick, it feels like watching Mohamed Salah taking a penalty, you just wonder which corner of the goal the ball will inevitably end up in.

After two strikes last time out against Brighton, one of course a free-kick, Ward-Prowse has now been involved in 13 goals (nine goals, four assists) in the Premier League this season, only ever managing more in 2020-21 (15 - eight goals, seven assists), with this his best season for goals. 

WOUT WEGHORST (Watford v Burnley)

Those of us who watch the Bundesliga and like to bring our hipster opinions to conversations were saying the same thing when Burnley signed Weghorst in January, that he was probably an improvement on the outgoing Chris Wood.

So of course, the big Dutchman managed just three goal involvements in his first 12 appearances for the Clarets (one goal, two assists) after arriving from Wolfsburg.

However, just as Burnley have turned their form around as they look to avoid relegation, Weghorst has stepped his game up too, having managed a goal and an assist in his last three games, and is about to come up against a very leaky Watford backline.

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    Jude Bellingham "has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or", Serbia skipper Dusan Tadic insisted after his side fell victim to England's star midfielder.

    Bellingham was the hero with his first-half header ensuring Gareth Southgate's side got off to a winning start at Euro 2024, as they edged out the Eagles 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

    The Real Madrid midfielder built on the momentum from his memorable debut season with Los Blancos, for whom he scored 23 goals and helped win LaLiga and the Champions League.

    The second player after Michael Owen to score at the World Cup and European Championship before turning 21, he is also the first to do so for the Three Lions while playing his club football outside of England.

    And Tadic, who appeared as a second-half substitute in Serbia's first match at the European Championship as a unified nation, paid tribute to the 20-year-old.

    When asked whether he thought Bellingham was the difference in the Group C contest, the Eagles skipper told reporters: "Yes, definitely. I think he is a great player and a great personality. I think he has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or.

    "I think everything that he did was great today, he showed personality, he took England to the next level. He was always asking for the ball and I think he had a great game.

    "What I think is most important for such a young player is that he always takes responsibility. That is amazing to see, and you can see he is very hungry."

  • Tadic tips 'hungry' Bellingham to 'win next Ballon d'Or' Tadic tips 'hungry' Bellingham to 'win next Ballon d'Or'

    Jude Bellingham "has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or", Serbia skipper Dusan Tadic insisted after his side fell victim to England's star midfielder.

    Bellingham was the hero with his first-half header ensuring Gareth Southgate's side got off to a winning start at Euro 2024, as they edged out the Eagles 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

    The Real Madrid midfielder built on the momentum from his memorable debut season with Los Blancos, for whom he scored 23 goals and helped win LaLiga and the Champions League.

    The second player after Michael Owen to score at the World Cup and European Championship before turning 21, he is also the first to do so for the Three Lions while playing his club football outside of England.

    And Tadic, who appeared as a second-half substitute in Serbia's first match at the European Championship as a unified nation, paid tribute to the 20-year-old.

    When asked whether he thought Bellingham was the difference in the Group C contest, the Eagles skipper told reporters: "Yes, definitely. I think he is a great player and a great personality. I think he has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or.

    "I think everything that he did was great today, he showed personality, he took England to the next level. He was always asking for the ball and I think he had a great game.

    "What I think is most important for such a young player is that he always takes responsibility. That is amazing to see, and you can see he is very hungry."

  • Scriptwriter Bellingham thrills England boss Southgate Scriptwriter Bellingham thrills England boss Southgate

    Gareth Southgate said Jude Bellingham "writes his own scripts" after the England star sealed a 1-0 win for the Three Lions over Serbia.

    The Real Madrid midfielder was on target in Gelsenkirchen to take his international tally to four goals, becoming just the second player to score at both the World Cup and Euros before the age of 21 in the process.

    Bellingham timed his run into the penalty area to perfection to head Bukayo Saka's cross beyond Predrag Rajkovic, and put on yet another mature display way beyond his years.

    "I mean he writes his own scripts doesn't he," Southgate told BBC Sport.

    "The timing of his runs, it was a super bit of play in the build-up to the goal as well, and I thought at different moments all of our forward players looked dangerous."

    Southgate maintained his record of winning the opening in all four of the major tournaments that he has been in the England dugout, with only Alf Ramsey having a better win rate at international competitions. 

    England dominated the first half, but were forced to grind out the victory against a revitalised Serbia side following the interval.

    Southgate feels the way in which the game played out was good for his team heading into the encounter with Denmark on Thursday, though.

    "That's the reality of tournaments," said Southgate when asked if the victory was tougher than he was expecting. 

    "They are a strong team, and we had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us to come through and defend out box the way we did was important for the group. 

    "We obviously had good chances to extend our lead and to kill the game which we didn't manage to take, so I was really pleased with a lot of the play, especially the first half."

    England were limited to just five shots throughout the contest, with Harry Kane coming closest in the second half as he saw his header brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Rajkovic. 

    Southgate referenced the difficulty of playing against Serbia's compact defensive rearguard, but was confident his forward line will be firing on all cylinders in the fixtures that follow.

    "Today was just the finishing and a good save from the goalkeeper with the header towards the end. But that will come," he added.

    "I am confident that we will score goals. We were playing against a back five which is not easy to create chances but we did and in the end, one was enough. 

    "I liked the fact that we had to suffer a bit without the ball because I think that is an area we have worked on a lot this week, and we were obviously so much better than we were last week in doing that."

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