Premier League: Best 11 Players of the Weekend: Matchday 5

Everton are still top after they drew 2-2 against rivals Liverpool in a fiery derby match that saw Everton reduced to 10 men and a good goal ruled out for Liverpool. Aston Villa continue their 100% start to the season and West Ham stunned Tottenham by coming back from 3 goals down to draw 3-3 in a very exciting weekend for the Premier League once again.

Did any of your players make the best 11 of the weekend? Let’s see below.

Goalkeeper: Damian Martinez – Aston Villa 7pts

As has been the case this season defending hasn’t been the strongest element in the league so far and that means more goals. However Damien Martinez pulled off a clean sheet and it was an impressive one with Aston Villa going to Leicester and winning 1-0.

Defender: Tyrone Mings- Aston Villa 5pts

Tyrone Mings makes the final 11 cut for the second time in a row. Mings was rock solid in defence as Leicester could not score at the King Power Stadium for the 2nd game in a row. Mings is racking up the points now and if he isn’t in your team may be worth looking into getting.

Defender: Matt Targett- Aston Villa 5pts

Matt Targett was assured and collected 5pts at the weekend and he now has a total of 12. Villa have started the season in stunning fashion and Targett can be brought into your team for an absolute bargain of only 3m.

Defender: Kyle Walker- Manchester City 5pts

Manchester City really needed a win and a clean sheet after a bumpy start to the season and they did well to beat Arsenal 1-0. Kyle Walker put in an assured display and made some very good interceptions and earned 5pts at the weekend.

Defender:  Ruben Dias- Manchester City 4pts

Ruben Dias was just as good as Walker in the defence of Manchester City, though he did lose a point because he was booked in a game that got more tense as it went on. The result, a win over Arsenal will have been a huge lift to Manchester City though.

Midfielder: Raheem Sterling- Manchester City 6pts

Raheem Sterling scored the all important goal that was enough for his side to beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Etihad. Sterling now has scored 2 goals so far this season and has 12 points to his name.

Midfielder: Ross Barkley- Aston Villa 6pts

Ross Barkley looks like a new player since moving from Chelsea to Aston Villa. He followed up his goal against Liverpool, by scoring the last minute winning goal for Villa as they beat a very tough Leicester side away from home.

Midfielder: William Zaha- Crystal Palace 4pts

Where would Crystal Palace be without the quality of Wilfried Zaha? He keeps scoring the goals and has started well for the Eagles. He earned 4pts as Palace drew 1-1 with Brighton. His goal at the weekend was his 4th of the season so far.

Midfielder: Bruno Fernandes- Manchester United 4pts

Bruno Fernandes had another eventful game for Manchester United as they overcame Newcastle 4-1. Fernandes had a goal ruled out by VAR, he then missed a penalty, then scored a goal and then set up United’s 4th goal. At least he is the centre of the party and it is very clear that the club need the Portuguese player to remain fit this season.

Striker: Harry Kane- Tottenham 10pts

Every week Harry Kane seems to make the best 11 cut and yet again he was on fire at the weekend. Kane scored another 2 goals and now has 5 for the season and he has already assisted in a further 7, in a stunning start. The only disappointment for him will be that Tottenham let a 3 goal lead slip with just 8 minutes of the game left as their opponents West Ham came back to draw 3-3.

Striker: Timo Werner- Chelsea 10pts

Timo Werner was under a lot of pressure to perform for Chelsea as he still hadn’t scored yet but the German international rectified that at the weekend when he scored a brace as Chelsea drew 3-3 with Southampton. Like Kane Werner will be annoyed with the final result but personally this was a great weekend for the 24 year old.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

EPL Predictions Gameweek 2

A full fixture list this weekend as Manchester City and Manchester United start their season in gameweek 2 of the 2020-21 English Premier League.

Arsenal will be looking to build on their impressive win last weekend when they host West Ham United this Saturday, whilst all three promoted teams will be looking for their first points of the campaign.

Here’s a look at each of the weekend’s games:

Everton vs West Bromwich Albion
Everton are one of many people’s dead certs to win this weekend following their impressive 1-0 win away to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend whilst West Bromwich Albion looked like relegation candidates in their 0-3 hammering at home by Leicester City. Another clean sheet could be on the cards, so Jordan Pickford and Lucas Digne should be sensible picks. Going forward, James Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may be the best options for your fantasy team.

Continue reading

Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 2 Picks

All 20 Premier League teams will be in action this weekend for the first time in 2020-21, with four games on Saturday, four on Sunday and the final two of the gameweek taking place on Monday night.

Manchester City and Manchester United were given last weekend off due to their involvement in European competition abroad last month. The Citizens start their campaign away to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night, whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side host Crystal Palace on Saturday evening.

Here are our fantasy football suggestions for the weekend:

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Everton started the season with a 1-0 win away to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend as Carlo Ancelotti handed debuts to three of his summer signings. Allan did an excellent job in protecting the back four whilst James Rodriguez created a number of chances in the opening half.

The Toffees welcome West Bromwich Albion to Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime with the newly-promoted side having been beaten 0-3 at home by Leicester City without really causing any problems for the opposition. Slaven Bilic’s side may not see much better luck this weekend against an organised defence so Jordan Pickford should be a good pick between the sticks.

Continue reading

3 players who can ensure Man City beat Lyon

Manchester City head into Saturday’s single-legged Champions League quarter-final tie against Lyon as the clear favourites to progress.

Pep Guardiola’s side were 2-1 winners over Real Madrid last Friday to reach the final eight with a 4-2 aggregate score.

Lyon came through their Round of 16 tie on away goals against Juventus and will need to record another upset if they’re to reach the semi-finals, which would setup a tie versus either Bayern Munich or Barcelona.

In order for Manchester City not to slip up, here are three of their key players who can win them the tie versus the French Ligue 1 outfit:

Raheem Sterling

Lyon haven’t been the best at defending against wide players this season so this could be a perfect matchup for Raheem Sterling down the left. The Manchester City forward scored the opener versus Real Madrid last week to take his tally up to six in the Champions League this season.

Sterling’s pace could be a problem for Leo Dubois, whilst also dragging Jason Denayer out from his position of right centre-back in a back three. The England international has shown some good finishes when cutting inside on his stronger foot this season so don’t be surprised if he gets among the goals again.

Fernandinho

Manchester City have been weak at the back this season, but did end their Premier League campaign conceding just one goal in their final five matches. Memphis Depay has been Lyon’s star in the Champions League so far this campaign. The former-Manchester United man will likely play in a front two and drift out of to the left so Fernandinho could be provided support from Kyle Walker.

Moussa Dembele was the French side’s top scorer in the league this season but hasn’t broken his duck in the Champions League. He’ll be the other striker for the City defence to be wary of, but likely be marked by Aymeric Laporte rather than Fernandinho.

Kevin De Bruyne

Although an obvious choice to put on this list, if Manchester City don’t get it right defensively they are going to need to score a few at the other end. Guardiola is likely to include Kevin De Bruyne as one of his central midfield trio. The Belgian may want to drift out to the right where he can whip a number of dangerous crosses into the box for the likes of Gabriel Jesus to attack.

Lyon played with a midfield five in Turin last time out so space could be sparse for Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, but we all know that both remain capable of winning any game regardless.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.

A preview of round 3 of the Premier League

It’s already round 3 of Premier League action in the 2019/20 season.

Liverpool and Arsenal are the only two sides with a 100% record after just two matches! These two giants meet at Anfield in the Saturday evening game.

Elsewhere, both Manchester clubs should win comfortably while Spurs will most likely beat Newcastle but Chelsea could struggle at Norwich City.

Aston Villa v Everton

Key men: Grealish (Aston Villa); Richarlison (Everton)

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 – 2 Everton

It could be another tough day at Villa Park for the newly-promoted home side. Continue reading

A week to forget for Manchester City

Let’s face it, it’s not been the best week for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Their Premier League Asia Trophy final loss to Wolves topped off a dismal time in China as part of their pre-season tour which looked destined for failure from the get-go, with the performances of Kevin de Bruyne and new signing Rodri the only things to shout about. Continue reading

How will England adapt to Life without Kane in the Nations League?

Harry Kane has been assured by Gareth Southgate that he will be included in the squad for the concluding matches of the Nations League, despite the Spurs striker being almost certain to be well short of full fitness.

Despite his mooted inclusion in the squad, Southgate may feel unable to risk Kane in the semi-final against the Netherlands on June 6. This could open a door for Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling to stake their claim as the Three Lions’ lead man.

Kane will feel that the injury came at the worst possible time, with the small matter of Spurs’ Champions League final. However, the striker should take comfort that a Kane-less Spurs just about managed to cling on to a spot in the top four. Despite their utterly remarkable triumphs over Manchester City and Ajax in the Champions League, Spurs have unsurprisingly looked worse without Kane for the most part. Southgate will hope that the same isn’t true for England.

There’s also another unconventional aspect we’re missing here. Harry Kane’s absence has not only been keenly felt by Mauricio Pochettino, but by a plethora of fantasy sports managers across the world. While they can’t quite match the Champions League in terms of finances or prestige, there are often vast prizes and pride at stake for fantasy football bosses.

Kane’s relentless prolificacy in front of goal (apart from in August, of course) made him the cornerstone of many fantasy football teams. We'll just have to wait and see how that will pan out. Kane’s absence at the business end this season forced managers to rethink their reliance on the Spurs striker. Unfortunately for Southgate, few of the potential replacements in fantasy football sides were English. Most turned to Sergio Aguero or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Southgate has no such luxury. While there are few all-around strikers of Kane’s calibre, Southgate does have some different forwards options at his disposal.

Given Jamie Vardy’s retirement from internationals, the natural replacement appears to be Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. His England record of six goals in 31 appearances isn’t impressive at face value, but Rashford’s youth and wider position should be factored in. Four goals in 16 appearances for England in 2018 shows that his scoring record is improving as he matures. Three of those goals took England into the lead, revealing that Rashford has Kane’s knack of scoring crucial goals.

However, Rashford’s season has stagnated with Manchester United’s, and he hardly heads to Portugal in a rich vein of form. Someone whose form hasn’t dropped all season is Raheem Sterling, who Southgate could turn to as a more unconventional lead striker. Vardy ended the season as the leading English scorer in the Premier League, but it was Kane and Sterling who were just one behind on 17.

Sterling has shown beyond doubt that he is one of the world’s finest attackers, one that has the intelligence to operate anywhere in the final third. Given that the Netherlands are likely to line up with Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt in central defence, a forward of Sterling’s style could pose the most problems. The Dutch duo are among the world’s best, but they have both shown a mild vulnerability to nimble forwards in recent Champions League matches.

Van Dijk struggled with Luis Suarez’s movement, while de Ligt was unable to contain Lucas Moura. Sterling could play a similar role to Moura in Kane’s absence. While you want your best players in their best positions, Sterling has the ability and the confidence to provide a viable Plan B for when Kane is unfit or misfiring. If it works in the Nations League, it may give Southgate food for thought when competitive internationals swing back round.

Money wasn’t key to Manchester City’s title win over Liverpool- Pep Guardiola was

pep(1)

Congratulations to Manchester City for winning back to back titles for the first time in the history of the club. They were tested until the very final moments of the season over 9 long months and this title win will be extra special given just how strong Liverpool were.

City needed to win their last 14 games in a row which is a staggering achievement to fend off Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team and finished with 98 points, the records and plaudits will keep on coming for a very special side.

Of course money has changed the club from a side who just a decade ago were struggling in the lower leagues, being the reliable other half of Manchester who would gain promotion only to fight relegation season after season. An odd victory over a top 4 side was deemed as the best it could get once upon a time for City. So since the cash injection earlier this decade, the trophies have followed.

However this season and the way that City won it was down to Pep Guardiola’s guidance. Yes it is easy to criticise him, he seems to only go to the biggest clubs with the largest wallets. But to win this season and take the title from the hands of Liverpool (remember at the turn of the year Liverpool,had a 7 point advantage) to do that was down to skilful man management. This is where Guardiola earned his money this season.

It is obvious that Guardiola sits one on one with his players and has turned many of them from very good players to world class ones. Look at how Raheem Sterling has come on in the past 18 months, the change has been massive. And not only does Guardiola make players better, he shares what Arsene Wenger did when he first came to Arsenal in that he impacts players personal lives too, from dieting to their psychological positive input. It means that when City were under pressure to win games, they just kept on rolling out the wins, whatever Liverpool can do we can do just that little better, that was the message here.

For Liverpool you wonder what will happen next, 29 years for a title now and when you finish on 97 points and have lost just 1 game the whole season which was against City, you wonder what else you have to do to get that title. Most seasons that points haul would have easily have been enough to win the title. Next season how do Liverpool approach it, more of the same, but they have such a great rival to contend with.

The good news for the Reds is that they have the Champions League final against Tottenham as a consolation. Surely it would be unthinkable to have Liverpool end the season with nothing again after their heroics over the past year, but you never know.

King Kompany leads City to glory

Vincent Kompany

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Now deep into his 11th year at Manchester City and with over 33 years spent on this earth, Vincent Kompany is still able to defy the odds when they are stacked against him.

With 70 minutes on the clock and Leicester City proving to be well-organised and almost a match for the defending league champions, the home team needed some magic.

They needed an inspirational captain to step up and take charge. Kompany didn’t disappoint. City’s number 4 released an unstoppable drive from all of 30 yards. It flew past Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched arms and into the top corner. Continue reading