EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Greenwood's teenage kicks and Lingard out to give Chelsea the Blues

By Sports Desk April 23, 2021

You could be forgiven for thinking the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred into one this week with the seemingly doomed experiment of the European Super League.

But fans of actual fantasy football can rest assured we have still scoured the best prospects to help you in your quest to top your private leagues and earn bragging rights among your pals.

With Premier League leaders Manchester City not in action due to playing the EFL Cup final against Tottenham this weekend, there are sure to be a few transfers needed in several teams.

That being said, take a look at our hand-selected picks, powered as always by Opta data…

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Brighton and Hove Albion have a poor record against teams in the Premier League's bottom three, winning only four of 24 such games – the 17 per cent win rate representing the lowest return of any team in the competition to have played a minimum of 10 such games.

However, Sheffield United are the lowest scorers in the division this season (17) and have failed to score in 18 different games, a league worst.

Moreover, Brighton's Robert Sanchez has eight Premier League clean sheets to his name in 2021. Only Ederson (10) has managed more.

VLADIMIR COUFAL

West Ham have won three of their last five home league encounters against Chelsea and another victory would significantly boost their chances of a top-four finish.

Hammers full-back Vladimir Coufal could well be a valuable source of fantasy points this weekend.

Coufal has four home assists in the Premier League this season, which represents the best in the division among defenders.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate for the latest round of international fixtures, Trent Alexander-Arnold has responded in impressive fashion.

The dangerous full-back has been involved in three goals in Liverpool's last three fixtures (two assists, one goal) – as many as he managed in his previous 24 games in the competition.

With Liverpool unbeaten in 24 home matches against Newcastle United, Alexander-Arnold is sure to feature heavily in many fantasy sides this weekend.

JESSE LINGARD

Another player for Chelsea to be extremely wary of this weekend, Jesse Lingard has been in the form of his life since moving to West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January.

The attacking midfielder has been involved in 12 West Ham goals so far in the Premier League (nine goals, three assists) to become a key component in their battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Only Mick Quinn (Coventry City), Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United) and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) have had more goal involvements in their first 10 appearances for a club in the competition (all 13).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has found form at an ideal time as he aims to be a part of Southgate's England squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

And fantasy football fans perhaps should be looking to make room for a player who has scored four goals across his most recent three top-flight appearances for Manchester United.

Not since Francis Jeffers in the year 2000 has a teenager managed to score in four consecutive Premier League games. Can Leeds United stop the Red Devils' own fox in the box?

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace have beaten Leicester City eight times in the Premier League, earning more wins than they have achieved against any other side, while their four away victories against the Foxes is also a joint-high for them in the competition (also four at Everton).

Leicester are also a side who Eagles dangerman Wilfried Zaha has traditionally flourished against, so a trip to the King Power Stadium could be up his street on Monday.

The tricky forward has been involved in six goals in his last six appearances against Leicester (five goals, one assist). Palace won three of those games with Zaha scoring in each.

JAMIE VARDY

On the flip side, Leicester have their own reasons to be optimistic against Roy Hodgson's men.

Jamie Vardy's record against Palace is very favourable, with the experienced striker involved in six goals in his previous nine versus the Eagles (five goals, one assist).

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    Gareth Bale is "one of the great players in Europe" according to Florentino Perez, but the Real Madrid president did not offer any assurances on the Wales international's future.

    Bale fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane at Madrid and spent last season on loan in the Premier League with former club Tottenham.

    Zidane's second departure as head coach paved the way for a return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Carlo Ancelotti, who was in charge during Bale's maiden season in the Spanish capital in 2013-14 that culminated in Madrid's 10th Champions League crown.

    In an interview with El Transistor on Onda Cero, Perez referenced Bale scoring a key goal during extra time of that final triumph over Atletico Madrid, along with his similarly decisive contributions in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool.

    Although he was not always first choice for ex-Spurs boss Jose Mourinho last season, Bale scored 16 times in 19 starts and 34 appearances overall.

    Of Premier League players to score 15 goals or more in all competitions during 2020-21, none did so at a better rate than Bale's one every 104.4 minutes. Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho was the next most efficient in that regard, with 19 goals at one every 118.8 minutes.

    Overall, Bale has 105 goals in 251 appearances for Madrid.

    "He's a great player. The way I see him, he is one of the great players in Europe," Perez said of Bale, who has impressed on Wales' run to the last 16 of Euro 2020 and has a contract at Madrid running until June 2022.

    "Each one is as he is and has his personality. The last thing I remember from him is in Kiev [against Liverpool]. He throws a scissors [overhead kick] and scores a goal. And then he scores another.

    "And the header in Lisbon [against Atletico Madrid]. That race against Barcelona in Valencia in the Copa del Rey.

    "Would I would like him to stay? I love all [the Madrid players]."

     

    The most notable outgoing at Madrid this close season, arguably more so than Zidane, is long-serving captain Sergio Ramos.

    The veteran defender bade a tearful farewell to the club last week and has claimed he did not want to leave Madrid, only to be told a contract offer that was on the table for him had expired.

    "I have adoration for Sergio and I am not going to talk about it. He has been a Real Madrid legend," Perez said.

    "We offered him a contract, we told him that he had a deadline and he did not admit it. He thought otherwise."

    Perez added that there would be a role for Ramos at Madrid when the 35-year-old's playing days conclude, if he so desires.

    "I love Sergio as a son. I bought him in 2005. Of course, I'm sorry," Perez said.

    "He will return, this is his house. It has happened to me with other players. I love him as if he were my son and I wish him the best.

    "I am not going to talk here about who is right and who is not. There are no nuances."

  • NBA playoffs 2021: Booker knows nose is no excuse for disjointed Suns showing NBA playoffs 2021: Booker knows nose is no excuse for disjointed Suns showing

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    The second-seeded Suns had stormed into a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals but saw that advantage cut in half with a 106-92 loss in LA on Thursday.

    It was a tough outing for Booker, who was just five-for-21 shooting as he finished with 15 points in a team-high 40 minutes.

    That disjointed display came in the wake of Booker having been subjected to some painful treatment to put his nose back in place, but he did not want to use that as an excuse.

    "The nose feels fine," Booker, who wore a face mask during the game, said in quotes reported by ESPN. "We just lost the game."

    Booker had to undergo a quick fix before the Suns flew in to LA from Phoenix and it was not a pleasurable experience for the shooting guard.

    "That was probably the worst part," he said.

    "It's a procedure that they usually say they put you under [anaesthesia] for, but we had a flight out a couple hours later, so they just numbed it up all over the place, it felt like.

    "Like eight shots to numb it up and then they go in there and put it back, they break it again. They break it back in place."

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    "The spirit is high," Booker said. "We move on to the next one. That's what type of team we are. We've been like that the whole season, so we'll stick with that.

    "We'll come in tomorrow, go over film, regroup and get ready for Game 4."

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    Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford may undergo shoulder surgery after Euro 2020.

    Rashford has been playing through the pain barrier since suffering a muscle tear of his left shoulder against Arsenal last November.

    The 23-year-old, who scored 21 goals and provided 15 assists in all competitions for the Red Devils last season, could go under the knife ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

    Rashford said: "It's either an operation or I don't get an operation. 

    "I'm not 100 per cent sure if I need it yet, so I'll just take it as it comes. I'll finish strong here [in the European Championship] and I've got a few weeks off to just relax and decide what I'm going to do."

    He added: "The doctors have not said yet. The reason I don't know is that when the season was going, and before I came here, I knew there was no chance I was going to be getting the operation, so I did not know how long the operation would put me out for.

    "I am fully concentrated on here. When the tournament is finished, then I will ask the question."

    Rashford has been limited to three substitute appearances in Euro 2020 so far and knows he has much more to offer ahead of a last-16 showdown with Germany at Wembley next Tuesday.

    "Obviously I am not performing at my best and what I know I can perform to," Rashford said.

    "Whatever that is down to, it doesn't really matter because it has been going on since early on in the season. I managed to get through the season with United.

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    "That's just not the way I look at things. I just want to be available for every game."

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