EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Alexander-Arnold to torment Albion, Aguero can make amends

By Sports Desk May 14, 2021

Time is running out to secure precious fantasy football points as the Premier League season nears an end.

Manchester City have the title in the bag, but it may still be all to play for in fantasy leagues heading into the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

With some teams still having three games to play in a hectic schedule, it will be vital to make the right picks and ensure points could potentially mean prizes.

Here are a few tips to help you out, powered by Opta, as always...

 

EDERSON

City travel to Newcastle United on Friday for their first match since being crowned champions.

They have won 11 consecutive Premier League away matches and a 12th victory at St. James' Park would see them break the all-time record in the top four tiers of English football.

City have kept 16 clean sheets on their travels in all competitions this season and are one away from equalling the record by a top-flight team in a season.

Newcastle have managed just 41 shots in seven Premier League games against Pep Guardiola's side, so another clean sheet could be on the cards for Ederson, who has more than any other goalkeeper in the division this season (18).

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was outstanding in the 4-2 victory at Manchester United on Thursday.

With England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold caught the eye with an influential display as Jurgen Klopp's side claimed three precious points in the battle for a Champions League spot.

The Reds travel to relegated West Brom on Sunday knowing a win would leave them just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two games to play.

Since he was omitted from the last England squad in March, Alexander-Arnold has created more chances than any other top-flight player with 21, making him a necessity for your XI.

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton full-back Lucas Digne has enjoyed another impressive season for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

The Toffees entertain bottom club Sheffield United at Goodison Park on Sunday as they hunt a place in Europe next season.

France international Digne can make an impact at both ends of the pitch, with his seven assists the joint-highest by a defender in the Premier League this season, along with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham.

Everton have kept four clean sheets in their previous six matches with Digne in the side too, so will be aiming to blunt the Blades on Merseyside.

 

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Brazilian forward Matheus Pereira has been a shining light in a poor season for West Brom.

The Baggies were unable to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, a defeat to Arsenal last weekend consigning Sam Allardyce to a first relegation from the Premier League.

Albion will be desperate to keep hold of Pereira, who has scored five goals in six matches ahead of the encounter with Liverpool.

He has been directly involved in 15 goals this season, with only Peter Odemwingie (22 in 2010-11) and Romelu Lukaku (21 in 2012-13) managing more involvements for the Baggies in a Premier League campaign.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN

Tottenham face Wolves at home on Sunday smarting from a 3-1 defeat at Leeds United last time out.

Son Heung-min scored Spurs' only goal at Elland Road, where the London club's slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot were all-but ended.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in four goals in three games under caretaker boss Ryan Mason, scoring three and setting one up.

Son has found the back of the net in three consecutive Premier League games and will be a major threat to Wolves. He had managed just one goal in his previous seven outings in the competition during the final stages of Jose Mourinho's reign.

 

SERGIO AGUERO

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero issued an apology after his embarrassing Panenka penalty gave Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the simplest of saves last weekend.

Aguero will be determined to make amends as he nears the end of his time with City and could take his frustration out on Newcastle.

The Argentina striker has scored 15 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Magpies, averaging one every 61 minutes, and it would be no surprise to see him add to that tally.

 

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham head south to face Brighton and Hove Albion on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton that left their chances of qualifying for the Champions League hanging by a thread.

They will need to respond on the south coast against a Brighton side who are safe now.

Antonio has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 away Premier League starts, netting 11 times and providing three assists.

He can trouble the Seagulls and improve those numbers. Indeed, the forward has scored 24 times for the Hammers on the road in the competition, five more than any other player for the club.

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    Sequels rarely live up to the standard of the original. While Cam Newton's return to the Carolina Panthers stands as one of the most sentimentally fulfilling stories of the 2021 NFL season, the odds of him living up to his achievements during his spectacular first spell with the team are slim.

    Yet through two appearances and one start, Newton's second act in Charlotte appears to be one worthy of the price of admission, if not one that will yield the honours that came during their initial nine-season association.

    The Panthers lost in Week 11 with Newton starting at quarterback, a 27-21 defeat to the Washington Football Team and former Carolina coach Ron Rivera dealing a significant blow to hopes of securing a Wild Card berth in the NFC.

    But the Panthers are a long way from being dead in the water and, while Newton is not the player he was when he won the MVP in 2015, his performance against Washington at least suggested his encouraging play in preseason for the New England Patriots was not a mirage.

    At 5-6, Carolina can ill-afford too many more slip-ups if the Panthers are to return to the playoffs, raising the question: can Cam Newton save their season?

    An upgrade over Darnold

    It's a very small sample size, but the early evidence indicates Newton, the man head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers let go after the 2019 season, represents an upgrade of his most recent batch of successors.

    In the defeat to Washington, Newton delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.5 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, and did not throw a single interceptable pass.

    Newton was brought back to replace the injured Sam Darnold, whom the Panthers traded for in the offseason. Darnold's well-thrown percentage of 80 for the season is still above the league average of 78.5, but his pickable pass rate of 4.21 per cent is inferior to the league-wide average of 3.62, Carolina's hopes of turning around his career after a dismal start with the New York Jets quickly fading.

    The threat posed by Newton's athletic upside was also apparent last week. He averaged 5.86 yards per carry on designed runs, including a 24-yard rushing touchdown on a perfectly executed zone-read.

    Prior to that score, Newton threw the Panthers' first touchdown of the game by faking a quarterback draw up the middle to draw up the two safeties and a middle linebacker guarding the endzone, giving him a much simpler throw to D.J. Moore on the slant route.

    Darnold can himself make an impact with his legs, however, the combination of Newton's accuracy throwing the ball and his more pronounced threat on the ground led to an exciting albeit losing effort that gives optimism the Panthers' offense can be more potent as he digests Joe Brady's playbook.

    Yet one element of his supporting cast may limit the ceiling of a Newton-led attack.

    Protection issues a pressing concern

    Newton is not short of elite talent around him. Christian McCaffrey delivered a reminder of his status as one of the game's top all-round running backs last Sunday. He demonstrated his burst by averaging 3.7 yards before contact per attempt and his ability to evade defenders in the backfield with an average of 5.5 yards per carry on rush attempts where there was a rush disruption.

    Additionally, McCaffrey hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Newton, one on which the quarterback showcased exquisite touch and placement to loft the ball over the outstretched arm of a linebacker and into the running back's grasp.

    Top receiver Moore is producing a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, 68 per cent of the time, with his burn yards per route average of 3.3 putting him tied for 11th among wideouts with at least 10 targets.

    Newton and McCaffrey being on the field at the same time can put defenses in a significant bind when faced with the zone-read, as Newton's rushing score against Washington proved, with both substantial threats to gain major yardage on the ground.

    Moore's continued ascension gives Newton a bonafide number one receiver, yet the impact of having two top-tier skill-position weapons will be mitigated if the Panthers cannot improve on the offensive line.

    Indeed, the Panthers entered Week 12 ranked 30th in pass protection win percentage while only the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have allowed more quarterback pressures than Carolina's 204.

    Even in his 11th season, Newton boasts a skill set ideally suited to the modern game and has the weapons to succeed, yet his ability to do so will be restricted if he is under duress as much as Panthers signal-callers have been in 2021.

    Home stretch filled with obstacles

    The hope for Carolina this month comes in the form of that Dolphins offensive line, which a Panthers defense allowing the second-fewest yards per play (4.91) in the NFL faces in Week 12.

    Yet beyond this week and games with the Atlanta Falcons and a seemingly crumbling New Orleans Saints team, the schedule offers little for the Panthers to get excited about.

    They face defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, unlikely to be daunted by the Carolina defense, twice before the end of the regular season, while a Buffalo Bills team whose defense is well-positioned to take advantage of poor pass protection and whose offense is tied for the league lead with 37 touchdowns host the Panthers in Week 15.

    Carolina's remaining schedule is the eighth toughest in the NFL by winning percentage and, in a race for the Wild Card spots with three surging teams in the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, the chances of the Panthers overcoming such a hurdle look small, particularly given the potentially fatal flaw they have up front.

    Still, the combination of Newton, McCaffrey, Moore and one of the most efficient defenses in the league at least offers reason for hope. Can Newton save Carolina's season? Probably not, but he gives them a better shot than any other quarterback they have started this season.

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    The first Test between India and New Zealand swung back in the hosts' favour on Saturday thanks to the brilliance of Axar Patel.

    The left-arm spinner accounted for Tom Latham, who was just five runs short of a century, before making light work of the lower order to finish with figures of 5-62.

    It was the fifth five-four Axar has recorded in his previous seven innings in Test cricket and it seemed to inspire the rest of India's attack as they left New Zealand all out on 296.

    Latham and Will Young had put New Zealand in a commanding position of 129-0 at the close of day two, and their partnership of 151 steered the Black Caps to 213-2 despite the best efforts of Axar and Ravichandran Ashwin (3-82).

    However, the match changed course in the afternoon session. Umesh Yadav trapped Kane Williamson lbw after the captain managed just 18 off 64 deliveries, and Axar took the wickets of Ross Taylor (11) and Henry Nicholls (2) while only giving up 14 runs in an 11-over spell.

    Tom Blundell and Tim Southee were then skittled by Axar, who capped his performance by catching Kyle Jamieson just as he was building up steam on 23.

    There was time for India to put some runs on the board before the light faded, although the excitable crowd in Kanpur was stunned into eerie silence when Jamieson bowled Shubman Gill for his 50th Test wicket with the first ball of the second over.

    India will resume on day four on 14-1 with a lead of 63 runs.

    Axar hogging the limelight

    New Zealand looked to have the match under their control at 196-1 until Axar intervened. It was his fifth five-wicket haul of 2021; the last player to record as many in the year of his Test debut was Australia's Rodney Hogg back in 1978.

    "Taking five wickets in seven innings is something the other team-mates have been teasing me about. It's like a dream within a dream start," he said.

    Jamieson keeps up New Zealand spirits

    After failing to make the most of Latham and Young's impressive opening stand, New Zealand heads were down as India began their second innings.

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    Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani spent the international break in Uruguay stepping up his recovery, but he remains a doubt to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

    A tendon problem has prevented Cavani from featuring for United since a substitute appearance in the Red Devils' 2-2 draw with Atalanta on November 2, missing the losses to Manchester City and Watford that spelled the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign, as well as the most recent victory over Villarreal.

    The 34-year-old also missed out on the chance to represent his country, with Uruguay slipping to defeat against Argentina and Bolivia, putting their World Cup qualification hopes in jeopardy and leading to the sacking of Oscar Tabarez as head coach after 15 years in the role. 

    The veteran striker is now eager to get back out on the pitch after spending the international break in his homeland to focus on his rehabilitation.

    Cavani also revealed that the trip gave him an opportunity to spend valuable time with his family.

    "During this period of the international break, I've had the chance to stop and focus on this niggling injury that I'm feeling in the tendon in my leg, so I can speed up my recovery and come back quickly and be available for my club and national team," Cavani told the club's official website.

    "So, during this time, I was able to spend a few days in Uruguay, do some fitness and recovery work and stuff and, in turn, I managed to see my family at the same time, which is always important, to see your family and be close to them."

    Eighth-placed United face Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday in caretaker manager Michael Carrick's second game in charge and will be hoping for another positive result after the 2-0 Champions League win over Villarreal on Tuesday.

    It remains unclear if Cavani will be able to boost his side's chances with his availability, or if his comeback will have to wait until the Red Devils' subsequent game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on December 2.

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