EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Rashford, Kane and Vardy backed to shine

By Sports Desk February 26, 2021

Manchester City will be looking to stretch their record winning run to 20 matches when they welcome fellow in-form side West Ham to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this weekend.

Pep Guardiola's men are 10 points clear at the summit and two of their players feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks, along with a couple of Everton men on the back of last week's long-awaited derby win at Liverpool.

Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester City players are also selected ahead of games against Chelsea, Burnley and Arsenal respectively.

 

EDERSON

There are many factors behind the leaders' winning run - not least an incredible defensive record, with goalkeeper Ederson more than playing his part.

The Brazil international has kept 15 clean sheets from 24 Premier League games this term, averaging one every 1.6 matches.

Only two keepers to have played at least 10 times have averaged fewer games per clean sheet across an entire season - Chelsea's Petr Cech (24 in 35 apps in 2004-05) and former Manchester United stopper Edwin van der Sar (21 in 33 apps in 2008-09).

JOAO CANCELO

Simply keeping out the opposition is not enough in the life of a modern day full-back, best epitomised by Cancelo at Man City.

On top of helping City to that formidable defensive record, he has also created the most chances (34) from open play among fellow Premier League defenders this season.

Cancelo may only have set up two goals in the top flight this season, but he has the highest number of expected assists (4.28) among defenders, just ahead of Manchester United's Luke Shaw (4.04).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with the news Digne had signed a new long-term deal with Everton this week and little wonder given the full-back's impact on the side.

No Premier League defender has more assists than the 27-year-old's six this season - level with West Ham's Aaron Cresswell and one more than Andy Robertson and Shaw.

Since Digne's debut for Everton in August 2018, only Liverpool pair Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) have assisted more goals than the Frenchman (17).

GYLFI SIGURDSSON

There was a point when Sigurdsson's time at Everton appeared to be up not so long ago, but the creative midfielder has more than proved his worth to the side of late.

He was been involved in six Premier League goals in 23 appearances this term - four goals and two assists - which is one more than he managed in 35 games last season.

That is a tally he will be confident of building on this gameweek, as the Iceland international has only scored more Premier League goals against Chelsea (six) than he has versus opponents Southampton (five).

 

MARCUS RASHFORD

In the week he celebrates the five-year anniversary since scoring twice on his United debut, Rashford takes on his favourite opponents in Chelsea.

The United academy product has scored five times against the Blues in all competitions and registered a couple of assists.

Only against Leicester City has he found the net as many times, while only against Newcastle United and West Ham (both seven) has he been directly involved in more goals.

HARRY KANE

If Rashford enjoys playing against Chelsea, the same is true of Kane against Tottenham's next opponents Burnley.

The England skipper has been directly involved in 10 goals in nine Premier League appearances against the Clarets, finding the net seven times and laying on three assists.

Burnley's defenders will not look forward to coming up against Kane, with Riyad Mahrez the only player to score against them more often (eight times) in their Premier League history.

 

JAMIE VARDY

Vardy's scoring record against the division's traditional top four is well known by now, particularly when it comes to facing Arsenal.

The Leicester striker has scored 11 goals in 12 previous Premier League appearances against the Gunners, including a late winner in the reverse fixture.

Those 11 strikes place Vardy behind only Wayne Rooney for goals scored against Arsenal in the competition, the United legend netting 12 times against the London club in his career.

Related items

  • White left Arsenal EFL Cup win with illness, not injury - Arteta White left Arsenal EFL Cup win with illness, not injury - Arteta

    Ben White limped off the field shortly after half-time of Arsenal's 2-0 EFL Cup victory over Leeds United, but it was illness rather than injury that forced his early departure. 

    Mikel Arteta said the only reason the centre-back started Tuesday was because a bug circulating through the Arsenal dressing room left Pablo Mari unable to go. 

    The same issue compelled the manager to remove White in the 55th minute, but Arteta said White should be fit for Saturday's Premier League fixture against Leicester City. 

    "[Mari] was going to start and he couldn’t – he had a bug, something happened around here," Arteta told Sky Sports. "White wasn’t feeling great in the second half so we decided to take him off

    Arteta added that White had been dealing with the same illness the previous few days but did what he could. 

    White's departure proved fortuitous for Arsenal, as Calum Chambers came on to replace him and headed home the first goal of the game within seconds. 

    Asked if he had ever had a substitute pay off that quickly, Arteta said "I don't think so." 

    "I’m so happy in particular for Calum," he added. "He totally deserved it. It was a great moment because it helped us to win the game. He’s someone who deserves the best for who he is as a person and how he behaves as a professional."

     

  • Tuchel hails Saul's performance against Southampton as a 'huge step in the right direction' Tuchel hails Saul's performance against Southampton as a 'huge step in the right direction'

    Thomas Tuchel was delighted with the all-round display of Saul Niguez as the Chelsea midfielder impressed in Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with Southampton.

    Chelsea required a penalty shoot-out for the second round running in the competition, as Reece James' cool spot-kick ultimately sealed the Blues' progression to the last eight.

    James' penalty sealed a 4-3 shoot-out win after Theo Walcott and Will Smallbone failed to convert their efforts following a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

    The five-time champions have now won all three of their matches against Southampton in the competition. The last such meeting was back in 1997-98, with Chelsea going on to lift the trophy that season.

    Saul had played only once – against Malmo in the Champions League last week – since featuring against Aston Villa in the previous round, yet the Atletico Madrid loanee, who was taken off at half-time in his sole Premier League appearance, completed the full game.

    He went close to opening the scoring with an excellent header six minutes in, forcing Fraser Forster into a top-class save.

    Having seen another header saved just before the hour, Saul then had two attempts from the edge of the area in quick succession, with a crisp strike flashing just wide before Forster again denied the Spain international, diving to his right to keep out a shot that was dipping in.

    Saul finished on four efforts in total, with a joint game-high three on target, and along with midfield partner Mateo Kovacic, the 26-year-old went in for a game-leading six tackles, completing three, though he did concede four fouls.

    It was a performance that left Tuchel highly impressed.

    "[He had] a good match, a huge step in the right direction for him," Tuchel told reporters.

    "I am happy. We thought maybe he would be struggling with the intensity at the 70th minute but he got better and better, had chances and shots.

    "We thought let's keep him and give him the minutes. It was a good step for him."

    Tuchel explained that Chelsea's options were limited after three players who could have started – Cesar Azpilicueta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen – were unable to train ahead of the match.

    "Azpi injured his shoulder, let's see," Tuchel said. "We hope he will be fit, he is a tough guy. Maybe he will be fit Saturday [for the game against Newcastle United]. Ruben has a pain in his hip, in his joint. Andreas had tooth surgery and should be fine to train on Thursday."

    Chelsea had 23 shots in total, with 14 on target – Forster pulling off 13 saves in total and only beaten by Kai Havertz's header. Southampton, who equalised through Che Adams, had plenty of chances themselves, however, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making six stops.

    "It was an intense match of football, nice to watch for the spectators," Tuchel added. "It was an open fight, an intense match. We did a good shootout, a lot of quality. I liked the energy today, it was a good game."

  • Arsenal's Nketiah working hard for Premier League chance Arsenal's Nketiah working hard for Premier League chance

    Eddie Nketiah said he will continue to knuckle down at Arsenal to force his way into Mikel Arteta's Premier League plans.

    The 22-year-old striker scored Arsenal's second in a 2-0 win over Leeds United in the EFL Cup fourth round on Tuesday, which took his tally to seven goals in eight appearances in the competition.

    Nketiah, who had three shots with two on target in the match, has yet to feature in the league this season for the Gunners and is eager to press his claims with head coach Arteta.

    "It is always nice to play, it’s obviously been a while," he told Sky Sports.

    "I’ve been working hard, waiting for this opportunity. I was confident and ready and it’s always nice to score and help your team.

    "We’re on a good run at the moment and it’s about continuing to work hard. We push each other every day in training and the results come in the match.

    "I'm happy for the boys and it’s nice to get involved and contribute."

    Nketiah said all of Arsenal's fringe players have to take their chance whenever they get them, especially given their recent upturn in form, which has seen them go eight games unbeaten in all competitions.

    "That’s what we’re trying to do," Nketiah added.

    "The manager picks the starting line-up but we have to work our hardest in training, and when we get the opportunities, we perform like we did today. I think everyone should be proud of themselves."

    Arsenal's opening goal was scored by Calum Chambers who headed home just 24 seconds after he had come on as a substitute following an injury to Ben White.

    The defender sprinted to celebrate with the Arsenal bench and one person in Arteta's backroom staff in particular after the ball was deemed to have crossed the line by goal-line technology.

    "Our set piece coach Nico told me, 'you’re going to score from your first touch', so that’s why I went running over to him. It was a nice moment," Chambers said.

    "I was pretty confident it went over, I saw the ball over the line so I was just waiting for the referee to give it. Luckily he did.

    "It's always going to be tough against Leeds. They're a very unique team in the way that they play so you have to be on it, you have to be at it and we knew that going into the game. 

    "We stood up to the test and came out with a win."

    Chambers claimed Arsenal's players are determined to go as far as they can in the EFL Cup, which they last won in 1993, even though it is down the list of priorities for other clubs.

    "Every competition is very important for Arsenal," he said, with the draw for the quarter-finals on Saturday.

    "We want to be competing for silverware, so as I said it's good for players like us who want to prove a point and get back in the team and when we do, we need to take it. Every competition is important to us."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.