EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Chelsea keep their sheets clean as Kane targets Newcastle

By Sports Desk April 02, 2021

Premier League stars have returned to their clubs after international duty and now we enter perhaps the most intense stretch of the season.

Will your fantasy league players last the distance or are some showing signs of flagging already? Perhaps the World Cup qualifiers gave you an idea of which stars could deliver for their clubs in the race for those top-four places.

Can Timo Werner rally after his awful miss in Germany's defeat to North Macedonia, or should you look elsewhere for Chelsea players after the Blues' stunning start under Thomas Tuchel.

Our Opta-powered fantasy picks should provide some food for thought ahead of the 30th round of games this weekend.

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea, who play West Brom, have shipped just two goals in 10 Premier League games since former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel arrived, with the German boss making the London side come good on the potential they showed fleetingly during Frank Lampard's reign.

Goalkeeper Mendy had already looked a shrewd addition and he owns the best save percentage (77.4 per cent) among Premier League goalkeepers in 2021. Only Manchester City's Ederson has conceded fewer goals per game this year among keepers with a minimum of 300 minutes of action. Mendy has conceded seven in 12 games at an average of 0.58, while Ederson has been beaten eight times in 15 matches for a 0.53 average since the turn of the year.

LUKE SHAW

Impressed by Luke Shaw's return to England favour? Wait until you hear what he's been achieving at club level. Shaw's Manchester United form has been a sensational second coming for the player who first caught the eye as a teenager with club and country, and he will look to impress against Brighton on Sunday.

The former Southampton left-back has been directly involved in more goals (one goal, four assists) in 2021 than any other Premier League defender, with his 36 chances created making Shaw a clear leader in that field too. Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (24 chances created) sits a distant second on the list.

CESAR AZPILICUETA

Already emerging as a favourite of Tuchel, Azpilicueta has played his part in nine clean sheets with Chelsea in 12 Premier League appearances since the start of the year. That is more than any other defender has managed in the competition across that period of time.

The 31-year-old club captain is leading by example and West Brom's attackers will have their work cut out against the former Marseille defender this weekend. Team-mate Antonio Rudiger, who has played 11 league games in 2021, is one of four players in the top flight to have played a part in eight clean sheets this year.

RIYAD MAHREZ

Leicester City know all about Mahrez and his wily ways on the wing, but whether they can stop the Manchester City star on Saturday is perhaps another matter.

The Algerian, who was a Premier League winner with the Foxes, has been involved in 11 goals in his last 13 Premier League starts (eight goals, three assists). Across his last three league games against Leicester, he has managed two goals and two assists.

SADIO MANE

Could the international break prove to be just the interruption that last year's flagging champions Liverpool needed? Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co will hope to resume on a positive note when Jurgen Klopp's men tackle Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Five of Mane's seven Premier League goals for Liverpool this season have come away from home, with four of those coming in London – this is his only Premier League campaign so far where he has scored more goals away than at home. The Senegalese has also scored seven Premier League goals against Arsenal, only netting more against Crystal Palace (10). Two of those have come away at Arsenal, including one in a 2-1 defeat last July.

HARRY KANE

In need of a fix of guaranteed points? Tough, they don't exist. But Kane would be close to the top of any all-time list of the Premier League's most reliable scorers, and he already has 17 goals and 13 assists for Tottenham in the competition this season.

Across all competitions, Kane has been involved in 43 goals in 40 games this term (27 goals, 16 assists), and in terms of involvements that haul is just two short of his best ever season in his senior career (41 goals and four assists in 2017-18). Tottenham go to Newcastle on Sunday, with Kane looking to add to the three league goals he has previously bagged at St James' Park.

Related items

  • Argentina's Chile reception irks De Paul Argentina's Chile reception irks De Paul

    Rodrigo De Paul claims Argentina were subjected to some rough off-field treatment from hosts Chile before their World Cup qualifier.

    The midfielder said the Albiceleste were prevented from using the bathroom on arrival, had no air conditioning or water and were made to suffer the sound of sirens during their stay in Calama. 

    It did not appear to derail the visitors, already safely through to Qatar 2022, as they secured a 2-1 win despite the COVID-enforced absences of Lionel Messi and coach Lionel Scaloni.

    "They didn't even let us go to the bathroom when we got off the plane," De Paul told reporters. "They cut off our air conditioners, we had no water and they made sirens sound throughout the stay.

    "I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but, as an Argentine, every team that comes to my country, we have to make them feel as comfortable as possible and we have to win on the playing field where it belongs."

    Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted first-half goals around Ben Brereton-Diaz's looping header as Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 27 games.

    The victory improves second-placed Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign to 32 points from 14 games, while Chile are battling to reach Qatar 2022.

    After a solid if unspectacular showing, assistant coach Walter Samuel was pleased to see how well the team coped despite being without talisman Messi.

    "Sure there are things to improve, but the team showed character in a difficult environment," he said.

    "Messi is the leader of this team, but we were able to do very well without him. We lacked other guys because of Covid that we wanted to be there, but the team made a great effort and I want to thank them for that.

    "The character of the boys is moving. All the players start from scratch and want to earn a place in the World Cup. There is healthy competition here."

  • Vlahovic arrives for medical as Juve move draws closer Vlahovic arrives for medical as Juve move draws closer

    Dusan Vlahovic is primed to complete his move to Juventus after arriving for his medical on Friday.

    The 21-year-old striker is set to seal a reported €75million switch from Fiorentina, which looks likely to be confirmed before the weekend.

    Juve posted a tweet showing the Serbian arriving to undertake the formalities of his move.

    Vlahovic is the joint-top scorer in Serie A this season with 17 goals from 21 appearances – a tally only matched by Lazio's Ciro Immobile.

    He has been linked with a host of top clubs across Europe after his impressive form over the past two seasons.

    Vlahovic will join a Juve team who have often struggled to turn possession into goals this season, with Massimiliano Allegri's men having scored just 34 times across 23 Serie A games.

    That means their attack is the 11th-best in the league, way behind leading scorers Inter (53), while Fiorentina have scored 41 times so far with Vlahovic on board.

    Serbia international Vlahovic, who joined La Viola from Partizan in 2018, has converted 28 big chances since the start of last season, more than any other player in Serie A.

    His tally of 21 goals during 2020-21 was the highest recorded by a Fiorentina player in a single campaign since Alberto Gilardino in 2008-09 (25).

    Vlahovic also netted 33 league goals in 2021; matching Cristiano Ronaldo's record for the most scored in the Italian top-flight during a calendar year. 

    Last week, Fiorentina chief executive Joe Barone confirmed the club were open to selling Vlahovic, who subsequently missed Sunday's draw with Cagliari due to a positive COVID-19 test.

    Vlahovic's imminent signing may pave the way for Alvaro Morata to leave Juve, with Barcelona reportedly keen on signing the Spain international, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

  • Australian Open: Nadal goes from career doubts to brink of record in Melbourne Australian Open: Nadal goes from career doubts to brink of record in Melbourne

    Just months ago, there were doubts over Rafael Nadal's future. Now, he is a win away from a record-breaking major triumph.

    Nadal overcame Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the Australian Open semi-finals on Friday, reaching his 29th grand slam decider.

    The Spaniard is a win away from a 21st grand slam title, which would break his tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most won by a man.

    Such events looked incredibly unlikely just months ago.

    Nadal ended his 2021 season in August after playing just seven events, a persistent foot injury not only derailing his season but threatening his career.

    "Everybody around me, me included, of course, but everybody around me had a lot of doubts. Not about the Australian Open, no, but about coming back on the Tour because the foot was bothering me a lot of days," Nadal said after his third-round win over Karen Khachanov.

    "Of course, still today there are doubts because the foot, as I said the other day, is an injury we cannot fix … so we need to find a way that the pain is under control to play, to keep playing. That's the goal.

    "Honestly, I was not able to practice very often. But when I was practising, the feeling on the ball was quite good. There have been a lot of months without competing. The movements, all this stuff, you need to recover day by day. There is no way to recover those things without competing. That's what I need, keep playing. Already three and three, so six matches on my back, and positive ones. Every day a little bit better, so I'm happy for that."

    After a four-month absence, Nadal made his return at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi in December. Days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.

    Still, he made the trip to Australia, winning his 89th ATP Tour title at the Melbourne Summer Set, his first hard-court crown since February 2020.

    That success was incredible, given Nadal played just 14 tournaments in total in 2020 and 2021.

    "Of course, when you are getting a little bit older, all the comebacks are tougher," Nadal said after beating Marcos Giron in the opening round. "This has been especially, well, difficult because it's not only a comeback from an injury, it's a comeback trying to be back on the Tour after almost two years playing not many events with the virus.

    "If you remember in 2020 I only played here and Acapulco, then I just played in Rome, Roland Garros, Paris and London. Six events.

    "In 2021 I played just here and then [it] was clay, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros. Washington, yeah. Another six events – 12 events in two years are not many. If we add that I was not able to practice very often, too, it's a really tough one, no?

    "But here I am. I am super happy about all the work that we have done to try to be back. We are here enjoying the tennis, and that's it. We're going to keep trying hard."

    Nadal is back. Not just back playing, but back fighting his way into grand slam finals, and back in position to make more history.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.