EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Bale and Greenwood enjoying late-season flourishes

By Sports Desk May 07, 2021

As we head into the decisive matchdays in the Premier League season, match-winners will become worth their weight in gold to all 20 sides in the division.

With that in mind, our latest suggestions for fantasy football enthusiasts include a good number of forwards who will be expected to chip in with goals.

There are also two of the league's most in-form defenders and a goalkeeper who might just have won himself the number one spot.

Our tips for this week – powered by Opta, as always – are below...
 

DEAN HENDERSON

Since taking over Premier League duties while David de Gea was in Spain for the birth of his daughter, Dean Henderson has made it clear he does not intend to relinquish the Manchester United starting spot.

The former Sheffield United loanee has the best save percentage (82.4) in the competition this season, while he has conceded just 0.6 goals per game on average – the best rate of any keeper to play at least 200 minutes.

Henderson will likely keep his spot for the trip to Aston Villa, a team who have beaten United just once in their previous 44 Premier League meetings.

BEN CHILWELL

Fresh from celebrating reaching the Champions League final, Ben Chilwell will be looking to keep up his strong league form for Chelsea.

The left-back has been directly involved in seven goals this season (two scored, five assisted) – no defender in the competition has been involved in more.

Expect him to provide his customary threat on the break when Chelsea take on Manchester City.

AARON WAN-BISSAKA

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer challenged Aaron Wan-Bissaka to improve his attacking output, and the tough-tackling right-back appears to have heeded the call.

Three of his four goal involvements (75 per cent) and 21 of his 26 chances created (81 per cent) have come since the turn of the year.

The United man also boasts 13 Premier League clean sheets this season; among defenders, he is behind only Ruben Dias and Matt Targett (14).

MOHAMED SALAH

Liverpool might have struggled for consistency this season, but Mohamed Salah's goal output has remained impressively high; he has 20 in the league, behind only Harry Kane (21).

On Saturday, he will meet some of his favourite opposition in Southampton, a team against whom he has scored seven goals in seven league appearances, including five in three at Anfield.

Saints have also lost their past three league games away to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 10-0.

GARETH BALE

With a hat-trick against relegated Sheffield United, Gareth Bale proved he could still be a vital asset in Tottenham's European chase.

Bale has scored nine goals in 727 minutes in the division this season, averaging a goal every 81 minutes, which is the best record in the competition in 2020-21.

Should he take his tally to 10 against Leeds United, Bale will set a new record for the longest gap between 10-goal seasons in Premier League history (eight), overtaking Paul Scholes and Nwankwo Kanu (seven).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has recaptured some of his better form in recent weeks to help United... well, if not catch Manchester City, at least consolidate second place.

The forward has four goals and one assist in his most recent four league games, which is more direct goal involvements than he managed in his previous 28 appearances.

Solskjaer will likely have to rotate given the hectic week ahead, but expect Greenwood to be involved at Villa Park, even if it's as a substitute.

KELECHI IHEANACHO

Speaking of rediscovering form, nobody in the league has done so quite as spectacularly in recent weeks as Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Leicester City striker has scored nine goals and assisted two in his most recent eight league appearances – that's one more direct goal involvement than he managed in his previous 57 league games.

The Foxes are also on a run of eight wins in 10 league games against Friday's opponents Newcastle United.

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  • Bale one of Europe's greats, says Madrid chief Perez Bale one of Europe's greats, says Madrid chief Perez

    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

    Devin Booker refused to blame his broken nose for an ugly showing in the Phoenix Suns' Game 3 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

    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."

    Despite the defeat, Booker is confident the Suns will put things right in the next game.

    "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."

    Suns veteran Chris Paul returned from the league's health and safety protocol to post 15 points and 12 assists.

    Paul became the 13th player in NBA history with 1,000 playoff assists.

  • Rashford to consider shoulder surgery after Euro 2020 Rashford to consider shoulder surgery after Euro 2020

    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.

    "I think I had 36 goal involvements so I can't look back at the year and say 'mmm, I should have taken time off to do this and do that'.

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

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