Fantasy Focus: Race for Premier League top four tightens up
The fight for the top four is heating up, with a few of the bigger names getting important wins. Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Watford built pressure on third-placed Leicester City, who dished out an important 3-0 win themselves over Crystal Palace in a fight for the third spot. Meanwhile, Arsenal have found their winning form after a disastrous start to Project Restart. Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette scored important goals to beat sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers away from home, moving them into seventh; a spot closer to potential European football.
However, the pick of the bunch from the last gameweek has to be Manchester United, who fought back from 1-0 to beat a lowly Bournemouth side 5-2. Mason Greenwood notched two goals but it was Bruno Fernandes who commanded the show. The same is expected from a buoyant United side, as we look at the five players who might influence your Nostragamus fantasy managers:
Player: Bruno Fernandes
Team: Manchester United
Match: Aston Villa vs Manchester United
As mentioned above, Bruno Fernandes was the key cog in United’s attacking threat in their win over Bournemouth. In fact, his addition has been a worthy one, with United’s front three recording 55 goals in all competitions this season, four more than champions Liverpool’s attacking trio.
Fernandes has six goals in nine appearances for the Red Devils while getting five assists as well. This includes two assists against Bournemouth and a beautifully struck freekick. Expect the Portuguese midfielder to be involved in a few more attacks against relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
Player: Raheem Sterling
Team: Manchester City
Match: Manchester City vs Newcastle United
Sterling has not been at his prolific best this season, having scored 13 goals in 27 appearances, while getting just one assist. However, the wide-man was at his usual best against champions Liverpool, scoring his side’s second goal as the champions went on to beat them 4-0.
Against a buoyant Newcastle United under Steve Bruce, who will be looking to spoil the mood of City, Sterling will need to be sharp as a razor. He was subpar against an in-form Southampton, who went on to score a solitary goal to beat the former champions of England.
Player: Mohamed Salah
Match: Brighton and Hove Albion vs Liverpool
Mohamed Salah might not have hit the peak of his form but it was enough to lead Liverpool to their first league title in 30 years. He is Liverpool’s leading goalscorer this season (17) while assisting another eight.
Although Salah might not have scored in the 4-0 loss to Manchester City, or the 2-0 win over Aston Villa, the Egyptian has an impeccable record against Brighton, with four goals in five appearances against them, while Liverpool have beaten them on all five occasions, with Salah scoring the winning goal on two occasions.
Player: Jamie Vardy
Team: Leicester City
Match: Arsenal vs Leicester City
Jamie Vardy has been at his best this season and finds himself on top of the Golden Boot standings after scoring two goals in Leicester City’s 3-0 win over City. While the 33-year-old striker faces stiff competition from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Vardy’s strong form beats the Gabonese striker to the spot.
Vardy has scored six goals and one assist in five previous appearances against the Gunners. Leicester will be looking to do the double over Arsenal and secure third spot but the job at hand will be tough with Arteta’s new-look Arsenal finding important form at the tail end of the Premier League.
Player: Danny Ings
Match: Everton vs Southampton
Danny Ings has been the surprise package among the Premier League strikers this season. He is third on the Golden Boot standings, with 18 goals in 33 appearances for the Saints. The 27-year-old striker has scored important goals for the Saints, leading the team like a one-man army.
Southampton find themselves in 13th after a surprise 1-0 win over Manchester City. Ings will need to be at his firing best, scoring three goals in three appearances since Project Restart. Ings has a formidable record against Everton, scoring a goal on his full debut for Southampton, which was against Everton. He also scored the last time the two sides met in November.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Adam Davy