Fantasy Focus: Messi and Ramos back in contention after pandemic layoff
The global pandemic deprived football fans of the beautiful game for almost two months, but with the threat of the disease gradually starting to ease off, fans are once again getting to revel in watching their favourite stars jostle on the field again. With the German Bundesliga entering their seventh gameweek since the resumption of the sport, and the English Premier League returning with a banger of a game (Manchester City vs Arsenal), fans can expect goals galore across Europe.
Meanwhile, the likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haland will look to seal the second spot in the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich a win away from sealing yet another successful campaign. On the note, let’s look at five players to keep a tab on Nostragamus fantasy for the upcoming gameweek:
Team: Borussia Dortmund
Match: Borussia Dortmund vs FSV Mainz 05
While Bayern Munich inched closer to sealing another Bundesliga trophy, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund rallied on to seal another victory courtesy of their 19-year-old January signing Erling Haland. The young striker came off the bench to score the injury-time winner and will be looking to grab more goals against a struggling Mainz side, who have just one win since the resumption of the league in mid-May.
Haaland will look to add to his 11 goals in 12 appearances to help his side consolidate their second position on the league table at the expense of the relegation-threatened Mainz on Thursday.
Match: Manchester City vs Arsenal
The much-awaited return of the English Premier League will see two powerhouses in the form of Manchester City and Arsenal lock horns. Making the affair spicier is the return of Mikel Arteta to the Etihad, where he spent more than three seasons as assistant coach to Pep Guardiola.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a woeful record against the citizens, after failing to score against them even once over four appearances. However, the joint-Golden Boot winner for the 2018-19 season has been in fine form this season as well, scoring 17 goals in 26 appearances, just two behind Jamie Vardy. The African striker will be looking to add more goals to his tally in this titled clash.
Team: Real Madrid
Match: Real Madrid vs Valencia
After beating Eibar in their previous fixture, Real Madrid will fight it out with Valencia in a battle of supremacy in the La Liga. With Barcelona hot on their heels, Real Madrid will be looking to go on top of the table while praying that their arch-rivals Barcelona lose against Leganes.
Sergio Ramos will be key against Valencia and will hope to help the in-form Thibaut Courtois keep another clean sheet against Valencia. Los Blancos needed the talismanic Karim Benzema to equalise against the same opponents away from home back in December of last year, and Ramos will look to quell the strike force of Goncalo Guedes and Moreno Rodrigo.
Match: Liverpool vs Everton
Liverpool fans will be most excited about the resumption of the Premier League, with the side standing a chance to win their first Premier League title with just three wins. Fans of the club will hope that the Reds will be able to continue their red-hot form against rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby.
Everton themselves have seen an upsurge of form under their new manager Carlo Ancelotti, but Liverpool will look to increase the gap between themselves and the other Premier League teams, a difference which currently lies at 25 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City. Moreover, the likes of Mohamad Salah, Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be looking to shut their critics with a solid performance at the Anfield.
Match: Barcelona vs Leganes
Barcelona began their campaign after the return of the league with a thumping win over 18th-placed Mallorca. Sitting four points above rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona are currently on top of the La Liga table, with manager Quique Setien having enough time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his team during the forced break.
This was mirrored during their 4-0 drubbing of Mallorca, with Arturo Vidal, Martin Braithwaite and Jordi Alba scoring goals, and the talismanic Lionel Messi adding the fourth one during injury time. Barcelona will be looking to consolidate their position on top of the La Liga table, and Lionel Messi’s performances will be key to their form in the final fixture of the La Liga. Moreover, the Blaugrana will be looking for a favourable outcome when Real Madrid take on Valencia in order to stake their claim for a consecutive La Liga title.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oscar Del Pozo