Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool
- Goals: Curtis Jones (£4.4m), Kean Bryan (£3.9m) own goal
- Assists: Roberto Firmino (£9.2m)
- Bonus: Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m) x3 Adrian (£4.2m) x2 Andy Robertson (£7.2m) x1
Liverpool dodged a fifth straight league loss with a victory over Sheffield United that produced little more than scraps for the owners of the team’s front three.
It was a sign of how far the Reds’ star has fallen recently that nearly all of their players suffered sales going into Double Gameweek 26, even though it started with this match against the league’s bottom side.
Chief among them was Mohamed Salah (£12.6m), who was moved on by a net 144,540 FPL managers.
Three Become None
The Egyptian blanked for the second match running, although he did miss a big chance late on from an Andy Robertson (£7.2m) cross.
This was his sixth successive match without an attacking return against a side currently in the bottom half – although the fact that he has spurned seven big chances in those half-dozen games suggests it’s just a matter of time before the drought ends.
Sadio Mane (£11.8m), meanwhile, didn’t have a single attempt all night, and to add insult to apathy, his (dwindling) 5.2% ownership were also denied an assist for Roberto Firmino‘s (£9.2m) strike after 65 minutes when it was subsequently downgraded to a Kean Bryan (£3.9m) own-goal.
Even second-string keeper Adrian (£4.2m), in for Alisson (£5.9m) on compassionate grounds, experienced sales, with 32 especially disloyal managers missing out on a nine-pointer for their treachery.
One of the very few Liverpool players who did enjoy purchases for the double fixtures was bargain-basement midfielder Curtis Jones (£4.4m), and a prescient 3,257 managers reaped the rewards from his first goal of the season.
(Full) Back In The Points
These have been tough times for owners of Liverpool full-backs Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m).
The former had blanked for seven straight starts, while the latter’s 14-point haul at Spurs had been his only major return since the first match of Double Gameweek 19 against Manchester United.
But a first clean sheet since that United clash, plus bonus points for both of them, meant the defenders served their still significantly large ownerships well.
Alexander-Arnold bagged the maximum bonus available with a well-rounded performance which had him leading the way for chances created (four) and recoveries (14) and second for attempts (three).
The pair also provided a big chance each.
All of this good stuff needs to come with the rider that it was ‘only Sheffield United’, however.
A far bigger test will come on Thursday at home to Chelsea, and manager Jurgen Klopp revealed that fixture might involve the return of some key players:
Alisson and Fabinho, I’m pretty sure (will be available). Diogo (Jota) was with us in the hotel, but overnight he got sick. He was in the squad today. I would think he is ready for Thursday, but I don’t know. Fabinho trained twice with the team, should be at least close for the squad, I’m pretty sure.
As for the Blades, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (£4.6m) made some outstanding saves (and seven in all), while Ollie McBurnie‘s (£5.6m) miss from a free header at 0-0 looked all the more glaring as the game went on.
Manager Chris Wilder summed up the night neatly when he said:
We had a right go but lacked quality and strength in depth.
Unless something amazing happens, their relegation looks inevitable and their Fantasy appeal remains negligible.
Sheffield Utd XI (3-5-2): Ramsdale; Ampadu, Jagielka (Osborn 56), Bryan; Baldock, Norwood, Lundstram, Fleck (Sharp 80), Stevens; McBurnie, McGoldrick (Burke 56).
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson; Jones (Keita 80), Wijnaldum, Thiago (Milner 76); Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Crystal Palace 0-0 Fulham
Bonus: Vicente Guaita (£4.8m) x3, Gary Cahill (£4.5m) x2, Tosin Adarabioyo (£4.5m) x2
Fulham made it four clean sheets from their last five games as they shut down a Crystal Palace side that even drying paint would have struggled to find entertaining.
Of the three shots Roy Hodgson’s team had, none were on target, but while the Cottagers were considerably more progressive, a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping ensured a stalemate.
Neither team has sparked a Fantasy frenzy this season.
The most popular player, Tyrick Mitchell (£3.9m and 14.7%), has a cut-price value to thank for his bulky ownership, although he was an unused substitute here.
As for Fulham, the entire squad’s ownership adds up to 21.6%, or exactly half a Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as it’s known in FPL circles.
Just under 100,000 managers did take a punt on left-back Ola Aina (£4.5m), however, which made him the only player from either side to figure in the top 30 transfers-in for Gameweek 26.
There was plenty of logic behind the move, with Aina having scored 28 points from his previous three starts.
But the reward for that logic was a return of one whole point as Fulham boss Scott Parker replaced their man with Antonee Robinson (£4.4m) at the interval.
Parker explained the move post-match:
I just thought we needed a little bit more down that right side and I thought it worked. It was nothing to do with Ola, but Antonee just gave us that little bit more going forward.
That should provide Aina’s new owners with a small crumb of comfort – the fact he might well return for the Gameweek’s second fixture, at home to Spurs, on Thursday.
Fulham had chances after the break, but Palace keeper Vicente Guaita (£4.8m) was in no mood to be beaten, making four saves and earning maximum bonus for his third 10-pointer of a season in which he’s kept just five clean sheets.
Hodgson blamed his side’s lack of threat firmly on… Fulham:
Our ambition was to attack and create lots of goals chances, but unfortunately, there were two teams on the field, weren’t there? I’ve got to say, they were very, very good at closing us down, restricting our time and space, making certain the attacking moves and options we were hoping to launch weren’t available.
That doesn’t bode well for the second game of their double – a visit from a Manchester United that’s shown a taste for good away performances this campaign.
As for Fulham, their defensive improvement has been there for all to see.
But an immediate schedule involving Liverpool and Manchester City doesn’t look like the right time for Fantasy managers to tap into it.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; Van Aanholt, Cahill, Kouyaté, Ward; Eze (McCarthy 79), Riedewald, Milivojevic, Townsend; Ayew, Benteke.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina (Robinson 45), Andersen, Adarabioyo, Tete; Reed, Anguissa (Mitrovic 73); Lookman, Loftus-Cheek, De Cordova-Reid (Cavaleiro 66); Maja.
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