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

Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

Liverpool fans enjoyed their return to Anfield for Saturday's 2-0 win over Burnley, and Jurgen Klopp's subsequent comments ensured the focus remained on the Reds.

Discussing Burnley's approach, Klopp said: "Watch wrestling if you like that kind of thing."

Indeed, the Clarets' physicality is "too dangerous", according to the Liverpool manager.

Some of the most intriguing Opta facts from the Premier League weekend emerged from that feisty encounter, while there were predictable developments as Manchester United visited Southampton...

No reds against Reds despite 'wrestling' claims

The clash at Anfield was not quite WWE, but there was also limited football on display. The ball was in play for just 49 minutes and 47 seconds.

That was the second-shortest such length of time for a Liverpool league game under Klopp, longer only than the 48 minutes and 46 seconds against Watford in 2015.

The Hornets won that game 3-0, so it can be an effective stifling tactic, but it did not work on this occasion as Liverpool scored in either half through Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane.

Klopp's men have now won seven consecutive Premier League games while scoring in both halves in each of them. Liverpool's own run of 11 victories with goals before and after half-time in 2014 was the last longer streak.

Burnley are on their own impressive run, though – one at odds with Klopp's frustrations.

Sean Dyche's side are now 95 Premier League matches without a red card since Robbie Brady's late dismissal against Huddersfield Town in January 2019, surpassing the previous competition record that saw Ipswich Town go 94 games without having a player sent off prior to December 1994.

Home comforts at last for City star Laporte

In Manchester City's 5-0 demolition of Norwich City, Aymeric Laporte scored his ninth goal for the club but first at the Etihad Stadium.

Laporte had turned out at City's home stadium 44 times previously without hitting the net, with each of his eight prior strikes coming at different grounds.

The Spain centre-back had goals at the AMEX, Emirates Stadium, Goodison Park, Groupama Stadium, Metalist Stadium, Molineux, Wembley and Vicarage Road before finally celebrating in front of the Etihad supporters.

Another Villa pen makes for Premier League first

Danny Ings' outrageous overhead kick lit up a tight affair between Aston Villa and Newcastle United, but it was a controversial second from the penalty spot that put the game beyond the Magpies.

Ings had scored from 12 yards on his debut against Watford – his volley against Newcastle making him the fourth Villa player to net in each of their first two Premier League games for the club – and so was expected to step up again when Jamaal Lascelles was adjudged to have handled.

Instead, Anwar El Ghazi grabbed Villa's second, maintaining his perfect penalty record in the competition with six from six.

Ings was overlooked despite missing just one of his nine attempts, meaning Villa became the first side in Premier League history to have two different players score spot-kicks in the first two games of a season.

There had been previous examples of two team-mates converting penalties in the same game – Fulham's Louis Saha and Steve Marlet on the opening day in 2002-03, and Southampton pair Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin on matchday two in 2017-18 – but never in different matches at the start of a campaign.

Dom spot on at Leeds as Gray makes amends

There was a personal penalty first at Elland Road, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin kickstarted Everton's 2-2 draw with Leeds United. It was the England striker's 55th Toffees goal but his first from the spot.

Demarai Gray had Everton in front for a second time in the second half with his maiden strike for the club. Having netted in a 2-0 Leicester City win in 2017, he became the 34th player to score for and against Everton in the Premier League.

That puts Everton fourth in that regard, behind West Ham (46), Aston Villa (42) and Liverpool (39). Villa's Ings and Liverpool's Mane are both included.

Saints brush off Fred the Red's helping hand

It is a fixture best known for a famous grey-clad Manchester United loss, but Southampton's slip-up against a Red Devils side unmistakably dressed in blue and yellow went entirely to script.

Saints led through a Fred own goal, the fourth time United have netted for Southampton in the competition. Only against Newcastle (five) have United scored more own goals.

But Mason Greenwood's equaliser ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are now unbeaten in a record-equalling 27 away league fixtures.

For Southampton, this was nowhere near as bad as last season's clash when they collapsed from 2-0 up to lose 3-2 – or, of course, the 9-0 Old Trafford humiliation – but it was still painfully familiar. They have now dropped 42 points from winning positions against United in the Premier League, fewer only than Tottenham's 45 against Arsenal.

Since the start of last season, Saints top the charts for squandering leads, giving up 28 points – three ahead of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

Everton have completed the signing of former Leicester City winger Demarai Gray from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen.

In a deal reportedly worth around £1.7million, the Premier League winner has signed a three-year deal at Goodison Park.

Gray will therefore be contracted to the club until the end of the 2023-24 season, with Everton having an option to extend that by a further year.

The 25-year-old joins Andros Townsend and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic as the first arrivals ahead of the 2021-22 season under new manager Rafael Benitez. 

"I'm delighted to be back in the Premier League at such a big club and I'm excited to play with the team and get to work," Gray said to Everton TV.

"Speaking to the manager and [Director of Football] Marcel Brands, I had a really good feel for the Club and I feel this is a place where I can continue to develop.

"The manager, with his ambition and what he has won in the past, is important and we’ll look to push forward and compete with the top clubs. I think a club of this magnitude has all the potential to be right up there.

"Everton are a very big club and the main objective is to be pushing and competing back up there in the table. 

"I want to work hard on the training pitch and work my hardest for the club on the pitch."

Gray, who will wear the number 11 shirt for Everton, only spent six months in Germany and made 12 appearances for Leverkusen, scoring once.

He has linked up with Benitez's squad in Florida ahead of Everton’s participation in the Florida Cup.

Everton were due to face either Arsenal or Inter after playing against Colombian side Millonarios, but the Gunners and the Serie A champions have pulled out of the competition due to coronavirus concerns.

Bayer Leverkusen have confirmed the signing of winger Demarai Gray from Premier League side Leicester City.

Gray joined Leicester from Birmingham City midway through 2015-16 and went on to help the Foxes to a sensational title triumph that season.

He went on to feature 133 times in the top flight, scoring 10 goals and providing nine assists, but never really established himself as a first-team regular under Brendan Rodgers.

With his contract at Leicester having been set to expire at the end of 2020-21, Gray – who was linked with a number of Premier League clubs – has made the move to Germany.

The 24-year-old made just one league appearance this term, totalling 18 minutes, and joins a Leverkusen side who sit fourth in the Bundesliga.

Leverkusen had looked ready to mount a title challenge this season, but a run of just one win in seven games has seen them drop off the pace.

Gray has only committed to Leverkusen until June 2022 but is confident he will flourish in the Bundesliga – a league in which English talents have fared well in recent years.

Jadon Sancho has become a star at Borussia Dortmund, where Jude Bellingham, another former Birmingham youngster, is also impressing, while Reiss Nelson and Ademola Lookman have shone in loan spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig respectively. Lookman struggled after a permanent move, however.

"I saw Bayer playing attacking football, going forward aggressively and dictating the game with possession," Gray said.

"I'll fit in well. I can and would like to develop myself further here and be successful with this attractive team."

WHERE WILL HE FIT IN?

While Gray has had little chance to show his quality this season, he will bring an extra option to a vibrant, youthful Leverkusen attack and could be vying for a place with Leon Bailey.

After struggling for consistency last season, Bailey has enjoyed something of a resurgence this term, scoring four goals and creating five more in 18 Bundesliga games.

Bailey's 26 chances created rank fourth in Leverkusen's squad, with 17-year-old sensation Florian Wirtz (31), Moussa Diaby and Nadiem Amiri (both 27) ahead of him.

Gray may also find himself going up against former Paris Saint-Germain forward Diaby for a starting berth.

The 21-year-old has created a team-high seven big chances for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, however, with his rapid pace a major outlet for Peter Bosz's side.

Gray is Leverkusen's third signing of the January window, following defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jeremie Frimpong, signed from Manchester United and Celtic respectively.

Chelsea are reportedly interested in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. 

Haaland and Alaba have been linked with moves, with the latter almost certain to leave Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Chelsea spent big last year – but they are apparently eyeing the pair.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA INTERESTED IN HAALAND AND ALABA

Chelsea are interested in signing Dortmund star Haaland and Bayern defender Alaba ahead of 2021-22, according to Sky Sports.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with the duo, while Alaba is said to be a target for several other European giants.

Thomas Tuchel has replaced Frank Lampard at the helm for Chelsea, who are eighth in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard could join West Ham. Sky Sports reports they have offered a £1.5million loan fee and to pay Lingard's wages for the rest of the season to land him on loan from Manchester United.

- Amid reports Lucas Torreira could leave Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Arsenal, to join Monaco, it seems that may not be the case. Fabrizio Romano reports Monaco are not negotiating for Torreira.

- Bayer Leverkusen are confident of completing a deal for Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray, according to Sky Sports.

- Struggling for game time at Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make a move. The Athletic reports West Brom are looking at the 23-year-old for a potential loan deal.

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