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We couldn’t wait for the international break to conclude so we could get on with Gameweek 30 of Fantasy Premier League.
And now, with just a day’s gap, Gameweek 31 springs up on us! Not that we’re complaining though (bring it on!).
Fortunately, you don’t have to panic because in this column, we look at three things you should consider for this round and why Philippe Coutinho is the man to captain.
But first, here’s a look at the tactical geniuses who make up the top five in our fans league this week.
WHO TO PICK AS CAPTAIN
Gylfi Sigurdsson [7.8m] was our captain pick in Gameweek 30 but a drab 0-0 draw saw him secure just three points.
This week, we’re backing Philippe Coutinho [8.3m] for the armband. The Brazilian came to life with a sumptuous goal in the Merseyside derby.
It could prove to be the moment he needed to regain his confidence and resurrect his scintillating form from before his injury this season.
The fact that Adam Lallana and more importantly, Sadio Mane, are both out injured means he’ll need to step up and deliver.
THREE THINGS TO CONSIDER
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back. Thought that’s worth mentioning considering Manchester United’s bluntness in attack.
Also, just a few more things to keep in mind when you set your team up for this round..
WHICH GOALKEEPER TO BACK
Apart from games against Everton and Manchester United, Burnley have a good run in and Tom Heaton [5.1m] is therefore back in contention to be the most popular option.
For those who still have Ben Foster [4.7m] on their roster, remember that while he’s done reasonably well, West Brom have a bit of patchy run and more importantly, don’t feature in Gameweek 34.
Hull City’s Eldin Jakupovic [4.1m] meanwhile has struggled for points of late but with only Manchester City and Spurs left to play from the top eight sides this season, that could well change. On the other hand, while Joel Robles [4.7m] of Everton didn’t cover himself in glory against Liverpool, the stats still say that he’s one of the in-form keepers and may be worth considering.
3 - Keepers with the most saves in Europe's top five leagues in 2016/17:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 2, 2017
GUILLERMO OCHOA 123
Gianluigi Donnarumma 116
Tom Heaton 115
LEICESTER PLAYERS ON THE RISE
With four wins in the league on the trot, the champions have finally woken from their stupor. Jamie Vardy [10.0m] is back among the goals, scoring 36 points in his last four outings. Riyad Mahrez [9.0m] has improved as well, bagging 23 points over the same period.
However, Leicester don’t have great fixtures coming up and their two top talents come at a high price. Instead, it’s worth looking down the list at the likes of Danny Simpson [4.8m] or Christian Fuchs [5.2m] in defence. Even Wilfred Ndidi [4.9m] is an option if you want a midfielder. Apart from his belter on Saturday, he also provided an assist in each of his previous two games.
Stoke City's Goalkeeper: Ndidi, what is the meaning of "Keeper no dey catch goal"?— Soccer Nation (@SoccerNationNg) April 3, 2017
Wilfred Ndidi: pic.twitter.com/Tg2cfvAVRG
They’re all the craze at the moment. Dele Alli [9.0m] is the most selected midfielder in the game. You can’t argue with that either. In fact, if you don’t have a Spurs midfielder in your team, you’re missing out.
They have a great run in to look forward to apart from fixtures against Arsenal and United but given that even those encounters will take place at White Hart Lane, you’d have to back them to come out on top.
They also have a double Gameweek to come and Alli has delivered a massive 33 points in his last four games. Christian Eriksen [8.7m] is no slouch either, scoring 25 over the same period but it’s Heung-Min Son [7.0m] who could be your ticket into their midfield if you’re strapped for cash.
Despite Victor Janssen starting up front on Saturday, it’s the South Korean who is more likely to deputise for Harry Kane in attack and he reiterated that with a goal off the bench at Burnley.
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Just last month Gael Clichy said his Manchester City team-mate Leroy Sane reminded him of Gareth Bale.
High praise indeed for a 21-year-old who looked largely uncomfortable and unsettled in the character-defining confines of the Premier League until December. It took a first goal against Arsenal to confirm all the pre-season hype about the German as the best of his country’s next generation of footballers may not be just false hope.
Not just another example of a young player built up and then bulldozed when he failed to fulfil potential and justify a substantial transfer fee a la Anthony Martial.
Costing an initial £37 million (Dh170m) from Schalke last summer, Sane was immediately under scrutiny. It was grossly unfair to expect so much from a then 20-year-old so soon, but his rise has been rapid, a testament to his temperament and willingness to learn, adapt and improve.
That first strike on December 18 gave him the belief he needed and to show Pep Guardiola he could be a first-team starter, an integral member of this City side.
Another impressive, intelligent display in yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal showed how he could not only be the attacking future of the Etihad outfit, but also the world game.
With balance and bewitching ball control, he is in the mould of the magical modern-day wing wonders, those fleet-footed frontmen feared by every full-back.
It was clever how he came inside of Hector Bellerin to race onto Kevin De Bruyne’s wonderful instinctive pass and then showed composure as he rounded David Ospina to put City in front at the Emirates.
Leroy Sané's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2017
100% aerial duels won
4 take-ons completed
Constant threat. pic.twitter.com/kaypx4IhSf
Given Bellerin’s reputation as one of the best right-backs around, it was the kind of ability that marks out world beaters, that makes them such a threat every time they are on the ball and thrills supporters.
Yes, he’s a reminder of Bale, of Ryan Giggs, of Arjen Robben and, if he gets stronger physically, then Cristiano Ronaldo as well. But what about a look of Lionel Messi in him too? With great technique and shooting accuracy, just as the Argentine elevated to a higher level at Barcelona working with Guardiola, so too could Sane under his City boss.
He now has eight goals in the last 15 games, but they have come from just 13 shots on target and against teams such as the Gunners, Spurs and Monaco. The bigger the stage, the bigger the impact it seems.
Like John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, Guardiola should make Sane a development project and also look to get him more involved in his fluid system too.
He has no fear and all the attributes of being a mesmerising matchwinner, not just from the flanks either, and the German international should take note of an opposition rival in how not to see similar talent go to waste.
In scoring Arsenal’s first leveller, Theo Walcott claimed his 18th goal of the season – his best tally since 2013 – but he has always been considered a ‘nearly man’. Since being called up for England’s 2006 World Cup squad at the age of 17, he has never been influential or trusted enough for Arsenal and ignored by his country for recent games.
At 28, he has become a bit-part player when he could have been the main man.
Having proved he belongs at this level, Sane now has to go on and make sure he does not follow Walcott – and be a revelation without regrets.
Manchester United are currently in fifth position in the Premier League table and Saturday’s draw against West Bromvich Albion was another setback for Jose Mourinho’s side.
While Mourinho’s off-the-pitch remarks might not be doing the job for his team, the stats are also not on his team’s side.
One of those, from WhoScored.com (below), tells us that only Bundesliga side Hoffenheim and French outfit Rennes (both 12) have drawn more games than Manchester United (11) in Europe’s top five leagues this term.
And what adds injury to insult is the fact that United’s record at home this season has been really bothering.
Well, it looks like Mourinho might now have to really scratch his head to somehow get United into the top four.
Manchester United: Only Hoffenheim & Rennes (both 12) have drawn more games than Manchester United (11) in Europe's top 5 leagues this term pic.twitter.com/N7Fr2dla3Z— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 2, 2017