Liverpool 0-1 Fulham
- Goals: Mario Lemina (£4.5m)
- Assists: None
- Bonus Points: Tosin Adarabioyo (£4.5m) x3 Lemina x2 Alphonse Areola (£4.5m) x1 Joachim Andersen (£4.5m)
Seven changes, yet another pairing in central defence and a first start for Diogo Jota (£6.6m) since Gameweek 10 earned Liverpool a sixth straight home defeat, this time to Fulham.
It’s a measure of how far the Reds’ stock has fallen, both in real and Fantasy terms, that this article will now turn, for the time being at least, to Scott Parker’s side.
Mario-ed At First Sight
The game’s only goal came from the unlikely source that is Mario Lemina (£4.5m), a midfielder who averages one of those a season in English football.
He pounced on some edge-of-the-area dithering by Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) before firing across Alisson (£5.9m) and into the far corner.
The goal came on the stroke of half-time and Fulham spent most of the second half defending, some (but by no means all) of that in backs to the wall mode.
The win made it five clean sheets from seven for the Cottagers, and yet transfer interest in their defenders remains the wrong side of muted – not one of them is currently in the top 30 for Gameweek 28 purchases.
A visit from Manchester City would explain that, but Parker’s men are one of the few to have a fixture in the following Gameweek, at home to Leeds, so it might be a case of deferral rather than denial.
Despite all that recent solidity at the back, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola (£4.5m) is their most popular defensive player in FPL, with just 4.8% ownership, while the impressive skipper Joachim Andersen (£4.5m) is found in only 0.3% of squads.
Mo Salah, Mo’ Problems
Salah’s relatively early substitution in the midweek loss to Chelsea raised a few eyebrows and his blood pressure, but he played the full 90 minutes against Fulham, blanked for the fourth straight match and managed just the one attempt on target.
That validated the decision of a net 178,728 managers to sell him going into the weekend and he comfortably leads the way for Gameweek 28 transfers-out at present.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did hand the Egyptian a more central role against Fulham, with Jota in support and Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.4m) deployed more as a fourth midfielder.
But the Reds rarely got round the back of the deep-lying visitors and they failed to create a single big chance on the day.
No Case For The Defence
Aside from Salah (37.2%), the only other Liverpool players with double-digit ownership are full-backs Andy Robertson (£7.2m and 14.8%) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m and 13.7%).
Klopp used the game’s programme notes to praise the latter’s ‘top level’ form, but then promptly dropped him to the bench, although his comments on all those changes were of the more general variety:
We are in an intense period and we have the opportunity now to change some players. So that’s the plan behind it – getting fresh legs back and try to give Fulham a proper fight.
That didn’t work out and Liverpool have now kept just one clean sheet in ten matches.
With a top four finish starting to look beyond them, Liverpool’s best route back into next season’s Champions League is by winning this season’s competition.
Should that prompt further rotation, a lack of guaranteed starts, allied to such major price tags, make the likes of Alexander-Arnold Fantasy liabilities.
After all, over their last seven starts, you could have fielded the right-back for 18 points or Andersen for 41, with a bumper £2.9m you’d have saved on the latter to be invested elsewhere.
Liverpool XI (4-3-2-1): Alisson; Robertson, R Williams, N Phillips, N Williams (Alexander-Arnold 76); Keita, Wijnaldum (Mane 62), Milner (Fabinho 76); Jota, Shaqiri; Salah.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Tete; Reed, Lemina; Lookman (Robinson 83), De Cordova-Reid, Cavaleiro (Mitrovic 85); Maja (Loftus-Cheek 67).
Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United
- Goals: Bruno Fernandes (£11.5m), Luke Shaw (£5.1m)
- Assists: Anthony Martial (£8.7m), Marcus Rashford (£9.6m)
- Bonus Points: Shaw x3 Fernandes x2 Dean Henderson (£5.2m)
Manchester City’s 21-match winning run came to an abrupt end at the hands of their cross-city rivals.
The game was a tough watch for the 331,000 or so FPL managers who sold Bruno Fernandes (£11.5m) on the back of the midfielder’s two blanks in double Gameweek 26.
The Portugal international scored very early against City following a clumsy penalty area challenge by Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m) on Anthony Martial (£8.7m) before half a minute of the derby had been played.
But while some squirmed, the 875,000+ managers who had made Fernandes the second-most captained player of the Gameweek were left to bask in their magnificence as he burst through FPL’s 200-point ceiling for the season.
It’s A Shaw Thing
Owners of Luke Shaw (£5.1m) deserved even greater levels of smuggery.
The left-back produced his first double-digit haul of an increasingly impressive campaign, courtesy of a third straight clean sheet, only his second ever league goal and maximum bonus.
Shaw’s recent form is remarkable, with only two blanks in eight appearances that have involved four shut-outs, four assists and Sunday’s goal.
Owned by 10.8%, a net 3,904 actually got rid prior to the Manchester derby.
Even less faith was shown in his fellow full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.6m), with 37,923 selling him.
Over that same eight-match period, the right-back has five clean sheets, two assists and a goal to his name and he’s now the third most productive defender in FPL.
United’s run-in is a mixed bag, but one issue which will need to be factored in by prospective investors is that of their final ten fixtures, six will be at Old Trafford – not the best of news for a side on a 22-match unbeaten run away from home.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (And Ilkay)
Much of the recent Fantasy chat about City has revolved around the (possibly malign) influence of Kevin De Bruyne‘s (£11.8m) return on the form of Ilkay Gundogan (£6.2m), who went into the match as the Gameweek’s most-captained player.
Since the Belgian’s re-appearance from injury in the second fixture of Double Gameweek 24, the German has produced just one assist and no goals, having scored 11 times in his previous 12 starts.
Against United, however, both were poor, although neither could be accused of a lack of application.
City’s latest title win is all-but assured, while their route to victory in three other competition wins is still open as well.
As a result, rotation in the league is highly likely. Then again, this is a Pep Guardiola side, so that was a given anyway.
The bottom line is it will never be simply a choice between De Bruyne or Gundogan, especially as, since that Gameweek 24 marker, it has been Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) who’s found some form from midfield, with two goals and three assists to his name.
Man City XI (4-1-2-3): Ederson; Cancelo (Walker 65), Dias, Stones, Zinchenko; Rodrigo; Gundogan, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus (Foden 70).
Man Utd XI (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Fernandes (Williams 90+3), Rashford (Greenwood 73); Martial (Matic 88).
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