EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Why to go all in on Liverpool players this weekend

By Sports Desk September 17, 2021

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

And fantasy leagues are no different, with the best players quickly racking up early-season points to pull clear.

Want to avoid being left behind? Why not take a look at our Opta-powered picks for matchday five...

 

ALISSON (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

Liverpool have started the season in fine form and Alisson has been central to their defensive solidarity, which has seen them keep three clean sheets in four games.

Since the start of last season, only Hugo Lloris (7.7) has prevented more goals than the Brazil goalkeeper (6.2) according to expected goals on target data, while only two can boast a better save percentage than his 74.2.

Crystal Palace may have cruised past Tottenham last time out but beating Alisson will provide a different challenge and the Liverpool man could be a guarantee for much-needed clean sheet points.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Arsenal)

Burnley are winless this term, but James Tarkowski remains a wonderful bargain option for your shaky backline.

While the Clarets may concede against Arsenal, Tarkowski offers returns at the other end of the pitch and boasts the highest xG (4.3) among Premier League defenders since the start of last term.

Only the more expensive Andrew Robertson, Joao Cancelo and Trent-Alexander Arnold have had more touches in the opposition box in that time period, too, meaning the centre-back could prove an alternate option on matchday five.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

From one end of the budget to the other, Virgil van Dijk may set you back but he has been the Premier League's most dangerous defender so far.

The centre-back has produced nine shots, with only Cancelo (13) and Alexander-Arnold (11) managing more opposition-box touches among defenders than Van Dijk's 11.

Given Liverpool look likely a good bet for a clean sheet as well – conceding only five goals in eight straight wins against Palace – Van Dijk could provide a perfect double threat despite the off-putting outlay for the Netherlands captain.

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (Aston Villa v  Everton)

Abdoulaye Doucoure may not be your typical fantasy midfielder in the ilk of Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba.

However, the Everton midfielder is in fine form and provides a wonderful budget option, having been involved in four goals in his past four games in the competition for the Toffees.

Aston Villa have managed just two shutouts in their past 16, too, so Doucoure's box-to-box prowess could cause carnage once more at Villa Park.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Burnley v  Arsenal)

Some fantasy players may have given up hope with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he repaid the faith of those loyal to him with a goal against Norwich City last Saturday.

The Gabon forward, who many discounted after a poor last campaign, will be central to Mikel Arteta's revival and he has netted eight times in seven top-flight matches against Burnley.

Given Burnley have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven and Arsenal attempted 30 shots last time out, Aubameyang could provide more returns at Turf Moor.

SADIO MANE (Liverpool  v Crystal Palace)

Salah appears the obvious option as always for the visit of Crystal Palace; however, Sadio Mane offers an alternate differential at Anfield.

Liverpool have fired in 100 shots already this term – just the second side to register a century in their opening four Premier League games since 2003-04 – and Mane has accounted for 22 of those.

The Senegal star has also scored in each of his past eight against Palace, making him one of the best picks for matchday five.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Everton)

Danny Ings has been a fantasy favourite from the start of the season but has not delivered as of yet with Aston Villa.

That could change against Everton, however, as the Toffees are his favourite opponent having scored five top-flight goals against them.

The omens are in Ings' favour, too, given he has managed to score against Everton with all three of his previous Premier League clubs – could he make it a fourth with Villa?

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    As Conte emerges as a possible candidate to become the next United manager, should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continue to struggle, his credentials as a coach who helps players to achieve their potential have been underlined by remarks from Lukaku's representative Federico Pastorello.

    When Lukaku joined Inter from United in August 2019, it was on the back of a disappointing second year at Old Trafford in which he scored 15 goals in 45 games – 32 were starts – at a rate of one every 201 minutes.

    That was the fewest goals he had managed in a full season since establishing himself in the Premier League during a loan spell at West Brom in 2012-13. Lukaku was owned by Chelsea during his time with the Baggies. He saw little action for the Blues first time around, but his Premier League career has come full circle this year after he returned to Stamford Bridge following two prolific years with Inter in Italy.

    Four strong seasons at Everton were followed by a 27-goal first campaign with United, before the team's fortunes nosedived in the final months of Jose Mourinho's tenure, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking over midway through the 2018-19 campaign.

    His goals under Mourinho in that season came at one every 273 minutes, improving to one every 151 minutes once Solskjaer took the reins for the Red Devils.

    But Pastorello said Lukaku still needed the assurance he was central to a manager's plans, and he found that at San Siro under Conte, a former Chelsea boss who wanted to sign the striker during his stint in west London.

    "Two years of work with Mr Conte helped him. He can score left, right, head. He has completed himself as a striker working with Mr Conte. He also had the opportunity to improve himself personally," Pastorello told Sky Sports News.

    "He felt wanted. This is what he was not able to feel at Man United. That happens."

     

    Across two years in Italy, Lukaku hit 64 goals in 95 games, at one every 121 minutes. He bettered his expected goals tally of 57.73 and created 133 chances, having carved out just 82 in 96 games for United.

    According to Pastorello, Thomas Tuchel showed a compelling desire to make Lukaku a prize asset at Chelsea, making "a fantastic speech" that convinced the Belgian striker a second spell at Stamford Bridge was the right switch.

    "He gave him the feeling that he really wanted him, that he was the perfect last piece in the puzzle," Pastorello said, recalling Tuchel's words to Lukaku before the reported £97.5million transfer. "It's very crucial for a player to decide to go in a team with a coach that really wants him."

    After making a fast start at Chelsea, with four goals in his first four games across all competitions, Lukaku finds himself on a seven-goal barren run, with Tuchel saying the striker is mentally fatigued. He is also currently injured, with no clear indication yet of when he might return.

    Despite the brouhaha surrounding his early impressive performances, Lukaku's goals in this spell for Chelsea have now come at an average of one every 208 minutes, albeit these are just the early stages of the campaign. The fact Chelsea sit top of the Premier League has eased the pressure on Lukaku to hit another scoring streak.

    "Rom's brain and his mind is very focused with Chelsea," Pastorello said. "He will rest a little bit, but he'll be back with more will to win trophies."

    Lukaku has missed Chelsea's last two games due to a minor injury sustained in last week's Champions League win over Malmo.

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    "I wish you the best both personally and professionally."

     

    Sergio Busquets was the most used played during Koeman's tenure, featuring 63 times in total – one more than Frenkie de Jong – with 56 of those being starts.

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    Barca announced on Thursday that Sergi Barjuan will take interim charge while a permanent successor for Koeman – expected to be club great Xavi – is found.

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    Wales captain Jones matched legendary former All Blacks captain McCaw's astonishing number of Test appearances when he faced Scotland last year.

    The British and Irish Lions skipper will set a new record for games played for a country at Principality Stadium this weekend.

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    Taine Basham made his first start at international level in the back row and Gareth Anscombe makes his return at fly-half against his country of birth over two years after his last Test appearance.

    Anscombe has impressed after spending such a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

    Ken Owens was initially selected at hooker, but has since been replaced by Ryan Elias due to a back injury, with Kirby Myhill named on the bench.

    Hooker Elliot Dee has been released from the Six Nations champions' squad due to a neck injury.

    Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "To win a World Cup you have to play against teams like New Zealand at some stage in the tournament and you have to win those games.

    "It’s going to be a great experience for those guys who haven't played a lot of test rugby and they'll certainly know they’ve been in a match afterwards."

    Wales have won only three of 35 Tests against the All Blacks ahead of the showdown in Cardiff.

     

    Wales: Johnny McNicholl, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

    Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Ben Thomas.

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