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Fantasy Football Top Picks – Gameweek Two

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Last week was hard, really hard. Many a manager struggled around the 30 mark, and I got a mere 27. But fear not, few big name players scored well but it’s a long season and fantasy managers who have them in their teams will be rewarded in the long haul. If this gameweek had come in the middle of the season you’d take it in your stride, no one likes a slow start, but don’t let it worry you if you are down outside the top two million. If you had a good week, congratulations. Keep it up. And I hate you.

 

Gameweek One Review

Wayne Rooney was denied a goal against Spurs by the clinical finisher Kyle Walker but if he can get into those positions more often and with Villa up next, he continues to be a must have at this early stage. Bournemouth looked good going forward and will continue to make chances but the prowess of Gestede for Villa was eye opening. If he can gain a regular spot he could well be the new Benteke. Everton and Watford played out an entertaining draw where neither defense covered itself in glory. Ighalo and Barkley certainly would have made their ways onto some peoples watch-lists.

It was all about Leicester this weekend. Albrighton and Mahrez both scoring 15 points each. They were far more attacking than had been anticipated under Ranieri and they do have very attractive fixtures still but they won’t get to play against Sunderland and Younes Kaboul every week. Norwich were unfortunate against Crystal Palace but they don’t look like keeping many clean sheets and Cabaye has already got on the scoresheet but beware of their fixtures.

The late kick off was where it started to get interesting. Courtois’s red card hurt a lot of fantasy teams and there was nothing from Hazard or Costa but, for Swansea, Ayew was really impressive, epitomized but his little drag back before his goal. Gomis was also constantly causing trouble and is apparently on penalty duties so his appeal is growing.

On Sunday the shock of the weekend was at the Emirates as Diego Payet and West Ham won 2-0 against Arsenal. Cech was flapping all over the place and the Arsenal midfield was kept quiet by a £4.0m 16 year old defender playing in midfield – Reece Oxford. Payet though was the main man and looks like he could well keep up his highly impressive assist record.

Newcastle and Southampton drew 2-2 and Wijnaldum was very impressive for the home side whilst Southampton made numerous chances with Mane, Tadic and Pelle all causing trouble. That trio look like good investment with their strong fixtures ahead.

Liverpool stuttered past Stoke, a lackluster display saved by a Coutinho screamer – he looks like a good way into the Liverpool team – although Benteke was a good target man he just lacked the runners around him.

On Monday night we got the first dominating display by a big side came from Man City. Toure who has dropped price dramatically to £8.5m, scored two goals but Silva ran the show and will surely be worth his £10m price tag. Also, Aguero came off the bench to confuse things more.

 

Gameweek Two Preview

For the first time ever there is a game on the Friday night so remember that means the deadline is now Friday night at 6.45pm.

The first fixture is Man United v Aston Villa. Villa conceded a fair few chances against Bournemouth so I expect United to punish them and they could well keep a clean sheet as well. Wayne Rooney £10.5m is still the top pick.

The early kick off on Saturday is Southampton and Everton. Everton conceded twice against Watford, while Southampton were very good going forward against Newcastle. I expect Southampton to score at least two against the Merseyside Blues. The points could come from anywhere though. Pelle, Mane and Tadic are the top picks, but with Pelle £8.0m, in good form he is the main man.

Tottenham face Stoke and they started well against United before the goal so if they can play at a high tempo with some width which they have been missing then they could come out winners but Stoke are no push overs. They put up a good fight against Liverpool and now have star man Xherdan Shaqiri £7.0m, if he plays he could be a fantastic differential.

Sunderland play Norwich and I wouldn’t recommend having anyone from these teams. That said, if Sunderland are going to get clean sheets this season, this is the sort of game that they will. If you are looking to replace Courtois you could do worse than Costel Pantillimon £5.0m.

Swansea and Newcastle should be a very good game, both having exciting attacking options, Wijnaldum and Gomis being obvious ones. However, Andre Ayew £7.0m looks a class above and can score as well as supply Gomis.

Watford have had a good start to the season and their first home game is against West Brom. Don’t be fooled by their 3-0 defeat to City, when West Brom get it wrong they get it badly wrong but manager Tony Pulis threw his hands up, and they won’t make the same mistake again. Pulis teams are good value for clean sheets and this could be another of them. Ighalo and Deeney still look like good cheap options, but for a bit of a left field pick for this gameweek, it could be Joleon Lescott £5.0m.

16 year old Reece Oxford burst onto the scene at the Emirates last weekend

Next up, it’s the clash of the titans in West Ham v Leicester. Both enjoyed fantastic first games and Reece Oxford is now a good option to save a bit of money in defence. Up front, Dimitri Payet will clearly be the Hammers main man this year. For the Foxes Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy look the main options for more consistent points. Both teams have really good fixtures coming up but my main pick has to be Payet at £7.5m.

Early on the Sunday, Arsenal go to Crystal Palace and will want to sort themselves out after the disappointment against West Ham. With Walcott not starting he isn’t really an option, especially with Alexis Sanchez £11.0m coming off the bench last weekend and having a big impact. Even in a team of stars, Sanchez is another level.

The big one for this weekend is Man City v Chelsea. Chelsea will be without Courtois – and of course their usual pitchside doctor – but the main picks for the game have to be City players. Toure has notched a couple of goals, Sterling’s pace could expose Terry and Cahill, Aguero could be back, but David Silva £10.0m was phenomenal against West Brom. Silva ran the game and if Matic can’t get hold of him he could well do the same this weekend.

Monday night football is the Cherries going up to Anfield. It is unlikely that Eddie Howe will allow his team to be overawed by the stadium and situation and they will cause Liverpool problems. Despite this, Liverpool should control the game even if they don’t dominate on the score sheet, I expect a clean sheet as well and youngster Joe Gomez £4.6m is my pick for the game.

 

Captain Choices

There are a few options again. Like I have mentioned there is Wayne Rooney on the Friday night against Villa. Christian Benteke is at home to Bournemouth and Graziano Pelle is at home to Everton. For me, I have spent big on Rooney and if I am not to captain him against Villa who would I captain him against? Benteke was clearly the focal point for Liverpool, but it is yet to be seen if that will be a bad thing or not for his points returns. Pelle is the form choice for an attacking team against a defensively unstable team.

Summary

The main issues are of course if you are a Courtois owner with a non playing goalkeeper back up and Theo Walcott. I would say keep Theo for the weekend, see what Sanchez is like and more importantly keep yourself two transfers for the following gameweek giving you far greater flexibility. If you are a Courtois owner though and have no playing goalkeeper for the next three gameweeks you could do a lot worse than get Adrian £5.0m in. Importantly though, keep calm, trust in your selections and save your transfer; it’s just the beginning.

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FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Liverpool

Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke

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On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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