Newcastle midfielder Joelinton will miss most of the rest of the season after undergoing thigh surgery, the club have confirmed.

The Brazilian was forced off during the Magpies’ FA Cup victory over rivals Sunderland on January 6.

Manager Eddie Howe had previously suggested the 27-year-old could be out for around six weeks but the decision to operate now means the player will be sidelined until at least May.

A statement from the club read: “Newcastle United can confirm that Joelinton has successfully undergone surgery on a thigh injury sustained earlier this month.

“The midfielder will now commence a period of rehabilitation overseen by the club’s medical team and is expected to return to action in May 2024.”

The news is a further blow for Howe, who currently has a lengthy injury list to contend with.

Jacob Murphy, Callum Wilson, Harvey Barnes, Joe Willock, Matt Targett and Nick Pope are among the players currently out of action.

Eddie Howe has backed Martin Dubravka to plug the sizeable gap left by Nick Pope as Newcastle’s first-choice goalkeeper faces up to four months on the sidelines.

Magpies head coach Howe’s worst fears over the shoulder injury which Pope suffered during Saturday night’s 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester United have been confirmed, with the 31-year-old due to undergo surgery which will sideline him for four months and leave him in a race against time to make England’s Euro 2024 squad.

However, the £10million man’s misfortune – he dislocated his left shoulder as he dived in an attempt to save a Sergio Reguilon shot – will open the door for his deputies Dubravka, Loris Karius and Mark Gillespie with the Slovakia international, who came off the bench at the weekend, the man first in line to replace him starting at Everton on Thursday evening.

Howe said: “We really believe in Martin and I’ve always had that high opinion of him.

“Yes, we brought in Nick – we wanted to build competition for places, we wanted to build a squad that we felt could really carry us to great success – but Martin is a high-class goalkeeper.

“He’s a brilliant shot-stopper himself, he’s very good with his feet and his distribution, so no hesitation about bringing Martin into the team and I hope he does really well.”

Newcastle have been linked with a move for former Manchester United keeper David de Gea in recent days, but Howe insisted no approaches have been made.

 

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He said: “We have not made any inquiries or any decisions about our recruitment leading into January.

 

“This is a chance for the goalkeepers we have at the football club to consolidate their positions, and that will be the same for every other position at the club.”

Howe had earlier confirmed that Pope is awaiting a final decision on the way forward, but that surgery was inevitable.

He said: “We anticipate he’ll be operated on – there’s no doubt he needs an operation – so he will be out for a period of time.

“The operation hasn’t happened yet, but we’re thinking roughly around four months, so it’s a big blow to us, but one that we expected after the game.

“He’s naturally down because at this stage of the season where we have so many games, huge games coming up – he’s got, obviously, the Euros ahead of him as well, which he was determined to try to be involved in, and there’s still chance of that for him.

“But I think his main determination is to come back for us, and you never know what situation we’ll be in at that stage of the season, so it could be a lot worse for him.”

What the papers say

Former Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, 33, is keen on joining Newcastle United after first choice Nick Pope suffered a shoulder injury which will keep him out for four months, reports the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Mirror says Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale, 25, could be another option in January.

Manchester United are eyeing a move for AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, 28, according to The Sun via Foot Mercato. Andre Onana, who replaced de Gea in the summer, has yet to convince as United’s first-choice stopper.

One player who could be staying at Manchester United is Raphael Varane. The Manchester Evening News says the 30-year-old France defender is keen to stay at Old Trafford beyond the January transfer window.

Juventus could make a bid to sign England midfielder Kalvin Phillips on loan from Manchester City in January, reports the Metro. The 28-year-old has also been linked with Newcastle

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Jake O’Brien: Everton are looking at Lyon’s Irish defender, 22, according to French outlet Footmercato.

Mathys Tel: Several Premier League teams are keen on Bayern Munich’s 18-year-old striker, reports Bild in Germany.

Anthony Gordon’s sixth goal of the season handed Newcastle a sixth-successive Premier League victory at St James’ Park as Manchester United became their latest victims.

The Magpies, who returned from Paris St Germain in midweek bitterly disappointed with a 1-1 Champions League draw, dominated for all but the final few minutes and perhaps should have secured the points in more emphatic fashion with Kieran Trippier seeing a first-half free-kick come back off the crossbar.

However, Gordon’s 55th-minute finish – the fourth-successive home league game in which he has scored – proved sufficient to clinch a 1-0 win and send Eddie Howe’s side above the Red Devils in the table, although his joy was tempered by a potentially-serious injury to goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Manchester United, who had thrown away a 3-1 lead at Galatasaray to draw 3-3 on Wednesday evening, created little of note – they saw a late goal ruled out after Antony’s shot had clipped Harry Maguire in an offside position – as their run of five wins in six league games came to an end in front of a crowd of 52,214.

Under-fire goalkeeper Andre Onana and Diogo Dalot got themselves in a tangle as they attempted to deal with a Gordon cross, although opposite number Pope had to repel Alejandro Garnacho’s 11th-minute attempt with a well-placed foot after Bruno Fernandes’ superb pass had played him in behind Trippier.

Garnacho became an increasing threat down the Magpies’ right as Manchester United started to impose themselves, but Luke Shaw had to block Alexander Isak’s 15th-minute effort after Trippier had fizzed the ball into his feet inside the penalty area.

Onana saved from Miguel Almiron following a neat one-two between Joelinton and Trippier, while Guimaraes smashed an 18th-minute shot over from distance after Tino Livramento had surged forward down the left and cut the ball back.

The visitors were creaking and Maguire had to be in the right place at the right time to deflect Isak’s goal-bound effort wide before Jamaal Lascelles headed over from the resulting corner.

Playmaker Fernandes did his best to drag Erik ten Hag’s men into the game, but too often the men ahead of him were not equal to the task and they continued to look less than certain at the back with Isak firing wide 12 minutes before the break after Aaron Wan-Bissaka had headed Fabian Schar’s long ball straight to him.

Almiron curled an attempt over the angle of post and crossbar after cutting inside Dalot from Trippier’s through-ball, but Onana enjoyed the kind of fortune which has eluded him in recent weeks when Trippier rattled the crossbar with a 39th-minute free-kick after Maguire had felled Schar 25 yards out.

Livramento, whose scything run led to Isak’s goal at Paris St Germain, almost repeated the dose two minutes after the restart when he set up Almiron, but saw the Paraguay international’s shot half-blocked to allow Onana to save comfortably.

The keeper was finally beaten seconds later when Guimaraes rolled the ball into Trippier’s path and he crossed low to the far post for Gordon to score.

Schar whistled a shot from distance a foot over Onana’s crossbar as the home side looked to kill the game off, and Ten Hag responded by replacing Marcus Rashford and Martial with Antony and Rasmus Hojlund.

Antony added vigour to a side in desperate need of inspiration, but to little real effect and Wan-Bissaka survived penalty appeals for handball after blocking Lewis Miley’s shot with 12 minutes remaining.

Schar had to throw his body into the path of Sergio Reguilon’s well-struck 82nd-minute volley, although Pope’s evening ended in agony as he was led from the pitch having suffered an injury as he dived in anticipation behind the defender.

Replacement Martin Dubravka was beaten with two minutes of normal time left on the clock, but an offside flag came to the tiring Magpies’ rescue and they safely negotiated nine minutes of stoppage-time to claim victory.

Nick Pope is to undergo an operation on his left hand and looks set to miss Newcastle’s final game of the season against Chelsea.

Pope, an ever-present in the Premier League in his first season at St James’ Park following his £10million move from Burnley, has been instrumental in the Magpies guaranteeing a top-four finish.

The 31-year-old goalkeeper made a fine save on Monday to deny Leicester’s Timothy Castagne and ensure Eddie Howe’s side got the point they needed to guarantee Champions League football next term for the first time in 20 years.

A goalless draw against the Foxes was Pope’s 14th clean sheet in the top flight this season but it seems likely to be his final match of the season, with his left arm bandaged when he attended an event in Northumberland on Wednesday afternoon.

And Newcastle confirmed Pope has withdrawn from the England squad for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia next month as he is set to have surgery on his hand.

“Nick Pope – who withdrew from the last Three Lions squad due to injury – is not involved as he is set to undergo an operation on his hand,” a statement on Newcastle’s website read.

Marcus Rashford and Nick Pope have withdrawn from England's squad for their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine after sustaining injuries.

As confirmed by Chelsea head coach Graham Potter last week, Mason Mount has also pulled out through injury.

Pope reported an injury following Newcastle United's 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest on Friday, while Rashford suffered a knock during Manchester United's 3-1 FA Cup quarter-final victory against Fulham on Sunday.

Tottenham's Fraser Forster has been called up to replace Pope, though England boss Gareth Southgate has decided not to bring in cover for Rashford or Mount.

Veteran goalkeeper Forster has been getting game-time for Tottenham since Hugo Lloris' injury in February.

The 35-year-old has played 13 times for Spurs this season, keeping five clean sheets with a save percentage of 68.8.

Losing Rashford will be a particular blow for Southgate, with the United forward in the form of his life having scored 27 goals in 44 appearances for his club this season.

England play Italy at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on March 23 before hosting Ukraine at Wembley Stadium three days later.

Julen Lopetegui claimed Wolves were denied a "very, very clear penalty" by referee Andy Madley in Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United.

Wolves were furious in January when they had a late goal disallowed for offside against Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield, and they remain convinced that was an injustice.

Madley was also the man in the middle that time, with Wolves denied what would almost certainly have been a winning goal as the game finished 2-2, with Liverpool going on to edge the replay 1-0 at Molineux.

That incident has not been forgotten by Lopetegui, and he was aghast at Wolves being denied a spot-kick early on against Newcastle at St James' Park.

Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope took a poor touch and gave away the ball to Wolves striker Raul Jimenez, before seeming to bundle the Mexican to the floor.

Wolves wanted a penalty and a red card but got neither, and Lopetegui said afterwards: "It's true that, for me, it was a very, very clear penalty for us. We are very unlucky with the referee. This is a pity for us.

"It doesn't matter what I think. The more important thing is that this is true that we have suffered a big mistake a lot of matches ago at Liverpool, and for me [Sunday's incident] was a penalty, but the VAR can't help in this case the referee. We were very unlucky with the decision. We didn't have a penalty since I arrived here."

Alexander Isak headed Newcastle ahead in the first half, but Hwang Hee-chan brought Wolves level in the 70th minute.

The visitors sat deep and were punished by a fine finish from Miguel Almiron nine minutes later.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe told Sky Sports he felt there would have been no justification in awarding Wolves a penalty for the clash between Pope and Jimenez, which came when the game was goalless.

Howe said: "I didn't think it was a penalty at the time. You might say I was biassed, but I didn't. I thought it was Jimenez going down before the contact was made, that was my initial assessment."

Substitute Almiron delighted Howe with his contribution off the bench, having been a regular starter up to now.

"Not that he necessarily needed to give a response, it was a case of us just trying to freshen him up," Howe said. "It's an outstanding season that he's had, he's contributed in lots of different ways, and you see the work rate he gives every week. He made a massive impact, and I'm delighted for him."

Howe was glad to halt a five-game winless run, with the Magpies jumping above Liverpool into fifth place.

"I just think it reignites us," he said. "Hopefully it re-sparks us into action and restores confidence levels to where they should be."

Eddie Howe has no doubt Loris Karius is in confident mood ahead of an unexpected Newcastle United debut in the EFL Cup final.

An improbable series of events have led to Karius being in line to make his Newcastle bow against Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday.

First-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope was sent off against Liverpool last weekend, while Martin Dubravka is cup-tied having spent the first half of the season on loan at Man United. He will only get a winners' medal if his Newcastle team-mates lose.

Karl Darlow, who started Newcastle's cup campaign in goal, was also allowed to leave on loan, meaning Karius and Mark Gillespie – the fourth and fifth-choice options – will be thrust into the spotlight.

It is Newcastle's first major cup final since the 1999 FA Cup final, a loss to Man United, but Karius has rather more recent and similarly painful memories of such an occasion.

He was at fault for two goals as Liverpool lost the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid, albeit having suffered a concussion. He never played for Liverpool again.

But Newcastle head coach Howe said of that match: "I've never really discussed that at any length with him [Karius].

"We've all got stuff that's happened in our careers and our histories that you learn from, and I think he's no different in that respect.

"Since day one since he's come here – he started where he hadn't had a lot of work before joining us – he's trained with our goalkeeper coaches in a really, really good way.

"His general performances in training have improved as he's spent more time with us, and I think he's in a good place and he's ready to play."

Asked how talks had gone with Karius since his sudden promotion, Howe added: "Those conversations are the type of conversations I have with him on a regular basis.

"How is he? How does he feel his training's going? Are we giving him everything he needs to be the best that he can be?

"He's a very likeable, laidback character. I've got no doubts on his confidence levels. He seems very relaxed and excited – as Mark is – about what lies ahead."

Pope has kept the most clean sheets in both the Premier League (12) and EFL Cup (four) this season, but Howe himself is also still confident.

"I think we have to be very positive about our situation, about the game," he said. "Yes, it's a blow to lose Nick, but we still believe in the team and the group that we have."

Loris Karius is set for an improbable Newcastle United debut in the EFL Cup final, but he has the backing of former manager Jurgen Klopp, who says this opportunity "is what he was working for".

Karius appears likely to start for Newcastle against Manchester United at Wembley next week in the club's first major final in 24 years.

The former Liverpool goalkeeper is yet to appear for the Magpies and has only made the bench eight times in all competitions since signing back in September.

But Nick Pope was sent off against Liverpool on Saturday and deputy Martin Dubravka is cup-tied after spending the first half of the season out on loan – at opponents Man United.

Karl Darlow was loaned out in January, leaving only Karius and Mark Gillespie.

Karius was released by Liverpool at the end of last season, having failed to make Klopp's first-team squad. His final appearance for the Reds was in the 2018 Champions League final when he sustained a concussion before making two costly errors.

But Karius has Klopp's backing now as the Liverpool boss said: "You can rely on him, no doubt about that.

"He's a great goalie. That's why Newcastle signed him. Of course, it's unlucky for Nick Pope in that moment, really unlucky."

Asked if this was a chance for Karius to move on from the final loss to Real Madrid, Klopp replied: "Absolutely. That is what he was working for, definitely, all the time."

Newcastle coach Eddie Howe did not commit to Karius playing, saying his team would "see what our options are", but he also outlined the German's "experience of the big games", having kept six clean sheets in Liverpool's run to that final.

"That was the reason for taking his profile really," Howe said. "He has the experience of the big games. I've got no doubt or issue over his ability to do that. He's continued to improve and impress in training."

Newcastle are fourth in the Premier League but have not won since reaching the EFL Cup final, and their coach is relieved there will be no more distractions now.

"We're pleased the final's here. I didn't want the wait to be any longer," Howe said. "I want to get the game, prepare well for the game and try to win the game.

"As much as you don't want to talk about it, it's been the talk of everybody. I wouldn't criticise the players in terms of focusing on the final ahead of the Premier League, but the talk of it has been there.

"I'm pleased to get the game and play and prepare this week. I think we're ready for it."

Liverpool breathed life into their top-four hopes with a 2-0 win at fourth-placed Newcastle United, who had Nick Pope sent off to rule him out of the EFL Cup final.

Newcastle had only lost once – to the Reds last April – at St James' Park in the league over the past 12 months, but they came unstuck on Saturday thanks to the visitors' clinical finishing.

Darwin Nunez's first Premier League goal since November edged Liverpool ahead before Cody Gakpo netted for the second game running, but it was not until Nick Pope's dismissal in the 22nd minute that Newcastle looked doomed.

Even then, Eddie Howe's men coped well with the disadvantage and had chances to reduce the arrears, but the crossbar and Alisson kept them at bay as Liverpool moved to within six points of the top four.

Newcastle began brightly but were trailing in the 10th minute, Nunez beating Pope after exquisitely bringing down Trent Alexander-Arnold's pass.

It was 2-0 soon after.

Another divine pass, this time from Mohamed Salah, sliced open Newcastle's defence to find Gakpo, who stabbed home under Pope.

Things quickly got even worse for Newcastle as Pope rushed out of his box and fell on the ball hands first, earning him a straight red.

Newcastle responded well, almost pulling one back twice as Allan Saint-Maximin and Dan Burn both hit the bar.

But Liverpool reached the break unscathed, and they gave little away in the second half.

Callum Wilson should have halved the deficit late on, however, failing to beat Alisson when one-on-one as the Brazilian preserved his clean sheet.

Many onlookers might have anticipated Newcastle United would soon be contending for honours with the backing of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, but few could have imagined the rapid rate of their improvement.

Just months removed from a Premier League relegation battle, Newcastle are through to the EFL Cup final and in position for Champions League qualification.

Yet this Newcastle team have not enjoyed their relative success to this point by playing in the same manner as Kevin Keegan's open, entertaining and erratic side of the 1990s.

Eddie Howe this week described Newcastle's class of 2022-23 as working "within the Kevin framework", but their best attributes go back further to their roots.

"Fortiter defendit triumphans" – triumphing by brave defence – reads Newcastle upon Tyne's motto. So effective was Newcastle's title-winning defence in the early 1900s, marshalled by captain Bill McCracken, the team's offside trap brought about a change in the rules.

When Sean Longstaff's double took the Magpies to a first final since 1999 against Southampton, it was not the only long wait ended in Tuesday's semi-final; Che Adams' riposte was the first goal Nick Pope had conceded since November 6 – also against Southampton.

Pope's sequence of 10 consecutive clean sheets in all competitions – the longest by a Premier League goalkeeper since Edwin van der Sar's run of 12 in 2008-09 – did not stretch to an 11th match, but his 16 for the season are the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Even including three goals conceded this season by Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka, Newcastle have shipped just 15 in 27 matches, the fewest across the continent.

The best defence in Europe has been vital to Newcastle's progress.

Balanced back line

The Magpies' defensive record is even more impressive when considering only minutes in which Howe has used what is clearly now his strongest back four.

Sven Botman started the season on the bench, while both he and Fabian Schar were rested for Newcastle's sole league loss at Liverpool.

Botman is yet to taste defeat in 18 Premier League appearances, although he did play in an FA Cup reverse at Sheffield Wednesday when Schar was absent.

Of players in the top five leagues, nobody has played more minutes in all competitions this season without losing than Schar (2,055).

When Schar and Botman have been on the pitch alongside Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn, Newcastle have conceded only seven goals in 1,878 minutes – or one every three games.

Adams' stunner was the first first-half goal Newcastle had conceded since August 28, with that staggering stingy sequence still ongoing in the Premier League. At 16 matches, it is tied for the third-longest such run in the competition's history.

That statistic explains why Newcastle have trailed for just four per cent of the time the ball has been in play in their Premier League matches this season – the lowest rate in the competition.

There is a great balance to this back four. Schar, with his 1.4 interceptions per 90, is an aggressive, front-foot defender, while Botman tidies up behind. On the left, Burn is happy to tuck in as a third centre-back, allowing Trippier to get forward on the opposite flank and average 10.5 crosses per 90.

All four are dominant in the air – even the diminutive Trippier – and a big, powerful Newcastle side have won 55.6 per cent of their aerial duels this season, trailing only Manchester City (57.0 per cent) and Real Madrid (56.4 per cent) in that regard.

'The best in the world'

If there is one area in which the Newcastle defence is lacking, it is pace – but that is where Pope comes in.

His 27 keeper sweepings – measured when a goalkeeper anticipates danger and rushes off his line to either cut out a pass or close down an opponent – are the most in Europe.

And Pope's ability to read the game is especially impressive given how little he sees of the action.

Playing behind that mean defence and rarely involved in Newcastle's build-up play, Pope averages 30.6 touches per 90 – roughly half as many as Yann Sommer's Europe-leading 60.8. He faces only 3.0 shots on target per 90.

But when those chances do come, Pope intervenes unlike any other goalkeeper across the top five leagues. His 83.8 per cent save rate is the best of all keepers to make 10 or more starts in all competitions.

In the same group, only Kepa Arrizabalaga is preventing goals at a greater rate, according to expected goals on target data. Pope's saves have prevented 6.1 goals.

Despite a costly gaffe in his most recent England outing against Germany in September, Pope is one of only five keepers across Europe to start 25 club games this term without committing an error leading to a goal.

Bruno Guimaraes' recent description of his team-mate as "the best goalkeeper right now in the world" was perhaps hyperbolic, but the data does not disagree.

Defending from the front

Pope has already earned more clean sheets this season than he ever did in a single campaign at former club Burnley, but he and his defenders have been helped hugely by the way Newcastle set up, easing the pressure that was a constant presence at Turf Moor.

Some neutrals have not been quite so enthused by Newcastle's style of play, which has yielded six goalless draws in the Premier League – twice as many as any other team.

A high-profile 0-0 at Arsenal, in which Newcastle defended doggedly, established a narrative that this team are adverse to front-foot football.

However, Mikel Arteta recognised after that stalemate: "It is not the way they play. They have not set up like this against anyone else."

Newcastle's expected goals total of 33.7 is the fourth-highest in the Premier League this season, and their attacking intent usually forces opposition teams back, crucially keeping the ball away from their own goal.

The Magpies' attacks start 42.7 metres upfield on average, deeper only than three teams, and that high line – aided by Pope's sweeping style – contributes to Newcastle allowing the fifth-fewest opposition touches in their area, 21.2 per game.

Pope is a standout performer, but this incredible defensive effort has been achieved as a team.

If it can continue, so can a club-record 15-game unbeaten top-flight run and dreams of silverware and Champions League qualification between now and the end of the season.

Nick Pope was described as the world's best goalkeeper by Bruno Guimaraes after his 10th consecutive clean sheet helped Newcastle United put one foot in the EFL Cup final.

Pope recorded yet another shutout as Newcastle earned a 1-0 win in the first leg of their semi-final tie against Southampton on Tuesday, with Joelinton scoring a second-half winner before Saints had Duje Caleta-Car sent off.

While Newcastle dominated for long periods, Pope made two crucial saves to deny Che Adams when the game was goalless, the first an excellent one-on-one stop with his legs.

Pope has now kept 10 successive clean sheets across all competitions – a feat not managed by any other Premier League goalkeeper in records dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season.

Guimaraes reserved lofty praise for his team-mate after the win, telling Sky Sports: "I would like to say thanks for Nick Pope – he's been brilliant for us. 

"I think he's the best goalkeeper, right now, in the world.

"We controlled the game but missed some opportunities which we cannot miss. But we are happy, it is just the first game. I'm proud of the team today."

Newcastle also had a late VAR review to thank for their clean sheet as former Magpies striker Adam Armstrong was ruled to have bundled the ball home with his arm, leaving Pope relieved.

"A lot of work goes into it. I've let one in and VAR has helped us out," the England international said.

"We're really happy with that aspect of our game at the moment. We look really solid at the back and the boys work hard to make that happen."

Newcastle have now kept 16 clean sheets in all competitions this season – more than any other team across Europe's top five leagues, and boss Eddie Howe was delighted with Pope's display.

"I can't be critical of the team in any way," Howe said. "I thought we defended well again, I thought Nick made a couple of really good saves near the end again.

"The two saves he's made are big saves in the game. Adams' one-on-one was at a huge time in the game when Southampton were beginning to get on top.

"Nick stood up for us and made a great save, and then he made one shortly afterwards as well. He's been outstanding for us this year. Whenever he's needed, he's produced the goods for us."

Howe was also asked about Newcastle's pursuit of Everton's Anthony Gordon, amid reports suggesting the Magpies are working on a deal worth £40million for the winger.

However, Howe insisted he was purely focused on guiding Newcastle to their first EFL Cup final since 1976, responding: "I can tell you absolutely nothing. I've been focused on preparing for this game for the last two days."

It's the most wonderful time of the year... the Premier League is back after the World Cup break, and with the top flight's return comes the chance to made inroads in your fantasy league.

The congested festive fixture list always makes December tough to navigate, but things are a little different this year, with many players' availability in question following their trips to Qatar.

With the start of the campaign a distant memory and many of the league's best players likely to be sidelined, how will fantasy managers make the correct selections? 

That's where Stats Perform hopes to help, delving into the Opta numbers to identify four players who could make a flying start when the Premier League resumes.

Nick Pope (Leicester City v Newcastle United)

An unused member of Gareth Southgate's England squad in Qatar, Pope appears certain to start between the sticks at Leicester City on Monday, having already appeared in the EFL Cup this week, and has enjoyed a fine campaign to date.

As well as keeping seven Premier League clean sheets this term – a tally only matched by Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale – Pope has conceded just 11 goals from shots worth 13.9 expected goals on target since the start of the season.

The Newcastle United goalkeeper has thus prevented 2.9 goals, a figure only bettered by Alisson (7.8) and Jordan Pickford (4.2), and he will be protected by a rock-solid defence when the Champions League-chasing Magpies visit the King Power Stadium.

Ben White (Arsenal v West Ham)

Premier League leaders Arsenal are the only team to match Newcastle's record of just 11 goals conceded this season, and White has played a key role for Mikel Arteta's side.

Since the start of last season, Arsenal have conceded just 1.0 goals per game with White in the team. Without him, the Gunners have shipped 2.2 goals on average.

Fantasy managers love a defender with the ability to also contribute in attack, and having moved to right-back this season, White is one of just seven Premier League defenders to create 10 chances from open play while contributing to four or more clean sheets.

Having left England's World Cup camp early, White looks well-placed to contribute against West Ham – who have only scored 12 goals in 15 league games this term.

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace v Fulham)

Ivory Coast international Zaha was absent from the World Cup, and his tally of eight goal contributions in the Premier League this season suggests he may make an impact against Fulham.

Zaha's return of six goals and two assists means he has been involved in 53 per cent of Crystal Palace's goals in the competition this campaign (eight of 15). Only Everton's Alex Iwobi (55 per cent, six of 11) has contributed to a larger share of his team's goals.

Meanwhile, Zaha is averaging a goal involvement every 144 minutes this season, a better rate than in any of his previous Premier League campaigns.

Erling Haaland (Leeds United v Manchester City)

When it comes to players who missed the World Cup, the Premier League's leading goalscorer Haaland is understandably the name on everyone's lips.

Having played just 13 Premier League games, Haaland is two goals away from his 20th goal in the competition. Should he hit the net twice against his hometown club Leeds United, the Manchester City talisman will reach that figure in record time. Kevin Phillips needed 21 career games to reach 20, while Luis Suarez owns an impressive single-season record inside 15 games in 2013-14.

Haaland's 18 Premier League goals have come from chances worth 11.1 expected goals, while he has averaged a goal every 2.9 attempts.

With Haaland converting 34.6 per cent of his shots this season, fantasy managers will be hard pushed to ignore the Norway international after a lengthy break.

Eddie Howe has no interest in succeeding Gareth Southgate as England manager, with a move into the international game not appealing "at this moment in my life".

Three Lions boss Southgate has been hugely successful since his appointment in 2016, leading his team to the World Cup semi-finals, Nations League Finals and Euro 2020 final, but he heads into Qatar 2022 under pressure.

England are winless in six – their worst such sequence since 1993 and worst ever heading into a major tournament – and there have been calls for Southgate to move on.

As one of the leading English coaches in the Premier League, Newcastle United's Howe would appear an obvious candidate to replace him.

However, while praising Southgate, Howe said the England role was not one he would be interested in "in the short term", with his focus on Newcastle.

"I think Gareth's done an incredible job, I really do," Howe said on Friday. "I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

"I've been lucky enough to go in and see him work, I've spent time with him. I've got a lot of time for him and for Steve Holland and his team there.

"I think they've been amazing for England. I think you have to remember where England [were] when he took over and what he's done for the country.

"I never say never, I never say, 'no, it's not something I'd be interested in'. But certainly not in the short term. It's not on my radar at all. It's all Newcastle and investing and trying to make this team the best I can."

Explaining why that might be, Howe added: "I've always said I love the day-to-day coaching. I love being with my players on the training ground.

"In international football, you get that taken away for long periods. At this moment in my life, that's not something I want to do."

Howe still had an interest in England's Nations League matches against Italy and Germany, with Nick Pope starting in goal and Newcastle team-mate Kieran Trippier on Southgate's bench.

Pope, deputising for Jordan Pickford, made an awful error in the Germany game that gifted the visitors an equaliser at Wembley after England had recovered from two goals down to lead 3-2.

"[Pope] is in a good place," Howe said ahead of Saturday's game at Fulham. "He's aware how special those games are for him in his career.

"From where he's come from, to experience those moments is brilliant. But he's earned the right to get to the position in his career that he's at."

Howe described himself as "very proud" of Pope and backed his goalkeeper to recover.

"You need to be able to deal with mistakes. It's part of the job when you're in that position," the Newcastle coach added.

"Nick is a very calm, level-headed guy. He's incredibly focused. I've got no problem with him returning; I know he'll carry on where he left off for us."

After last weekend's postponements, round seven of the Premier League is finally upon us, but continental fixtures midweek could throw a spanner into team selection.

Now over a month into the season, things are beginning to take shape as managers make it clear who is in and out of favour, while struggling teams may feel the need for drastic changes in an effort to get back on course.

Whether they start every game, or they have worked their way into consideration, this is the time of the year when players can stake their claim as key contributors for the long season ahead.

This week's Opta data points out a couple of playmakers who have shined coming off the bench, as well as some safe prospects in the back half who are at the centre of their teams' plans, and could make the difference in your Fantasy Football plans.

 

Nick Pope (Newcastle United v Bournemouth)

Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope is in fine form, boasting the most saves in the league this season with 28, while also owning the best save percentage (82.35 per cent) and being tied for the lead in clean sheets (three).

It is not just a small sample size, either. Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, only Ederson (58) and Allison (45), widely considered the league's best two shot-stoppers, have kept more clean sheets than Pope's 38.

Also working in Pope's favour is the fact Bournemouth are one of six teams this season to average less than one goal per game, and have been held scoreless by Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves.

Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest v Fulham)

Full-backs have always been a bit of a cheat code in fantasy football due to their ability to bank both clean sheets and a healthy dose of assists compared to centre-backs, and Nottingham Forest's Neco Williams is emerging as a quality creator of chances.

No Forest player has created more chances than the 21-year-old's nine – among defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (13), Kieran Trippier (11) and Diogo Dalot (10) have crafted more. 

Williams has also played every minute of his side's six games so far. 

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City v Wolves)

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva is enjoying a rich run of form, with four goal involvements (two goals and two assists) from his past four matches.

City are the highest-scoring team in the Premier League this season with 20 in six games, and after coming off the bench in the first two fixtures of the season, Silva has now made four consecutive starts.

Silva's goal contributions have come from 1.33 expected goal involvements, with only team-mate Erling Haaland, Brentford's Ivan Toney and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino have outperformed their expected figure by more.

Richarlison (Tottenham v Leicester City)

After spending £60million this past transfer window to secure the 25-year-old from Everton, Tottenham awarded Richarlison with his first start in their last top-flight game against Fulham, and he came through with an assist and a disallowed goal.

It was his second assist from his past three games, after coming off the bench against Forest and teeing up Harry Kane.

Leicester City have been a team the Brazil forward, who scored his first two Spurs goals in a Champions League win over Marseille earlier in September, has feasted against during his time in the Premier League, with his five goals against the Foxes matching his best total against any team (also five against Southampton and Wolves).

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