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Fantasy Football Top Picks – Gameweek Three

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Well I have had another stinker but then I would have, as I haven’t been listening to my own advice. I only got a mere 28 points with only Russell Martin getting me more than 3 points. That was way below the average of 44 points, so I have reshaped my squad completely and activated my wildcard.

I’ve done that for a couple of reasons: firstly, because too many of my players are out of form, I have Walcott who didn’t even come off the bench in the last game. Secondly, I wanted Aguero and to get in on some of the price rises. But this is about you and your teams, so let’s look at last week and the one coming up.

 

Gameweek Two Review

In the Friday night game, United managed to scrape another 1-0 victory, in a game they controlled without being exciting. Rooney didn’t do anything bad but mostly because he didn’t really do anything at all; he could be out of many teams. Another clean sheet though means the United defence and goalie are certainly becoming strong options. Villa options are still unclear and are probably best avoided at the moment.

The early kick off on Saturday was a shock as Everton won away to Southampton 3-0. This firstly raises question marks on the home sides defence now Schneiderlin isn’t shielding them, but it also makes Lukaku and Barkley genuine strong additions to teams. However, I wouldn’t worry about Southampton’s attackers as they created plenty of chances and will most likely return to scoring ways next week.

At half time Tottenham were looking great and Nacer Chadli had bagged his first goal of the season, but come full time they had conceded two and finished it 2-2. Anything can happen with Spurs and that was summed up in this game. Stoke options are still unclear, as the goals can come from anywhere but it is yet to be seen how Shaqiri fits into the Premier League.

Sunderland conceded three goals at home to Norwich and are a complete mess, just stay away from them. Although Jeremain Lens is clearly a class above. Norwich though are looking promising but like Stoke their returns are pretty spread out still.

Swansea continued their strong start with a 2-0 win over Newcastle who aren’t in great shape themselves. Ayew and Gomis are strong options especially as they have Sunderland next, but Newcastle are still best left alone. Swansea’s defence is an option as they can continue their solidarity from last season.

Another strong defence from last season that kept a clean sheet at the weekend was West Brom as they drew 0-0 away to Watford, who themselves are still hard to work out. The West Brom defence is a solid investment despite being fairly expensive.

In a clash of the first week heroes, Leicester City’s trip to West Ham ended in another win for the Tinkerman. Mahrez and Payet were both on the score-sheet and both must be considered in your team. Payet especially, as he is clearly their best player and everything will go through him. Adrian got sent off ridiculously and their appeal has been rejected so he needs to be shipped out of teams.

On the Sunday, Arsenal beat Palace 2-1. Sanchez was back in the line up and Walcott didn’t even make it off the bench. Palace showed plenty of attacking potential but they do seem to lack that top quality striker still. It may be worth staying away from Arsenal defenders though with their recent showings and having Liverpool in their next fixture.

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The big game of the weekend was of course Man City v Chelsea where a perhaps unexpected rout ensued. Aguero & Co ran out comfortable winners against a Chelsea side that looks a shadow of the team it was last year. Silva and Toure got among the points as did the resurgent Vincent Kompany as he bagged another goal. It really may be time to abandon the Chelsea defense and time to get on City as they have Watford coming up after Everton.

Monday night football gave us another average Liverpool performance in which they scraped a lucky 1-0 win via a controversial goal. Benteke’s strike, however, will give hope and optimism to his owners that he will score plenty more and they are probably right. Bournemouth though have failed to score again and this must be a worry but they have West Ham next and must put this right.

Gameweek Three Preview

Manchester United are again the first team to play at the weekend and against Newcastle a clean sheet could well be on the cards. The cheapest way into their defense is Sergio Romero at £5.1m. Memphis is also an option after his brace midweek against Club Brugge especially as Rooney has continued to disappoint. Worth staying away from Newcastle again for this week.

Crystal Palace face Aston Villa and it is a hard one to call but I expect goals. Safer to go with the home side and Wilfried Zaha £5.5m could be a great differential this weekend as he looked lively against Arsenal and netted in their opener against Norwich.

Anything can happen in this game, it really can, but Leicester v Tottenham is almost guaranteed goals. Where they come from though is anyone’s guess, and for that reason it’s best to go cheap and your best bet for this weekend is Riyad Mahrez £5.7m. He is likely to cause all sorts of trouble for the Spurs full backs and could pop up with an assist.

Norwich take on Stoke who struggle defensively without Ryan Shawcross. I therefore expect Norwich to score a couple with Nathan Redmond likely to be involved, but Wes Hoolahan £5.0m is £0.5m cheaper and has already got three assists in the first two games so could be the way to go.

Sunderland are at home to Swansea and the difference in form is staggering. Sunderland are a bit of a mess with Kaboul at the back and I fully expect Swansea to score at least a couple. There are a few options but the main man up front has to be Bafetimbi Gomis £7.1m. If you still have Pantilimon in goal, you need another plan.

West Ham take on Bournemouth which should be a exciting match, one in which I expect both teams to score. I tipped Payet last week and while it’s difficult to look past him, I reckon this could be the week we see returns from Matt Ritchie £5.9m who looked very lively and even hit the post against Liverpool.

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Pulis’s tough West Brom defence take on Chelsea and really anything could happen, depending on which Chelsea turn up. With it being such a tough one to call there is no harm in risking a real differential but at an expensive price, Salomon Rondon £7.0m. The new signing could really make himself a hero for his new club by scoring against the defending champions.

Two teams who have scored 11 goals between them already go head to head on Sunday as Manchester City go to Goodison. There are many options but only one main man, Sergio Aguero £13.1m, for me the only player that is a true FPL must have. There are of course many options from both clubs like I mentioned earlier but if you have one player he is that one.

Watford take on Southampton and I fully expect the Saints to go back to scoring ways. Saido Mane £8.0m is the subject of a Manchester United bid has yet to get on the scoresheet and I fully expect that to change this Sunday. Watford I would imagine will score as well, so Deeney wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Monday night is the big one. Arsenal host Liverpool. A massive game for both teams, and while neither side has been overly convincing, they are both scraping wins. The safe bet here is to say there will be goals and the best player on the pitch will be Alexis Sanchez. Alexis is the obvious choice but here I fancy a slightly left field choice in Mesut Ozil £8.5m. He is obviously a class player and could make the difference in an tight game.

Captain Choices

There are quite a few this weekend. Sergio Aguero is of course an option as he will be every week. Bafatimbi Gomis could well be a great differential against Sunderland. If you have a United attacking player there probably isn’t a much better time to captain them. Memphis also could be a great differential and if you want to give Rooney one more go, then why not go all the way.

Summary

I think it is time to get Sergio Aguero in. If you have saved your transfer then there is quite the possibility that it should be easy enough. If he is out of your budget then for now there is Swansea players such as Gomis and Ayew who face Sunderland. If you were unfortunate enough to have Adrain in goal, especially after having Courtois, then Romero now may be the way to go. Don’t be afraid to wildcard, but if you are in an OK position then use a double transfer if you have it to sort out your weaknesses, such as Walcott and other big money non-performing players. Get in those cheaper ones who are set to rise in price.

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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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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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