Mohamed Salah has made a flying start to his pre-season campaign in his attempts to justify a £13.0m price-tag and 50 percent ownership in Fantasy Premier League.
The Egyptian only has 30 mintues under his belt but hugely impressed in Liverpool’s win over Manchester City.
Meanwhile, the defending champions continue to get through their summer programme using mostly young players, and we were given a little more information to help us differentiate between Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sané – but not much.
In another Scout Notes article we talk about how some more pre-season goals, assists and line-ups could affect our plans for Gameweek 1.
MANCHESTER CITY 1-2 LIVERPOOL
- Goals: Leroy Sané (£9.5m) | Mohamed Salah (£13.0m), Sadio Mané (£9.5m)
- Assists: Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) | Rafael Camacho, Dominic Solanke (£5.0m)
Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) returned to Liverpool action with a bang as the Reds beat Manchester City in New York. Coming on as a second-half substitute the Egyptian had scored within a minute, hit the bar and could have had a hat-trick in just 30 minutes of football. While it’s still early days, such enthusiasm upon his return to the side will go some way to justifying the 50 percent ownership for Salah in spite of his new price of £13.0m. Once he has started a pre-season match for Liverpool we should learn even more about how ready he is to follow up his record-breaking FPL performance of last season.
Sadio Mané (£9.5m), also a second-half substitute, got started on improving on his 12 percent ownership by scoring Liverpool’s late winner. He netted from the penalty spot after Dominic Solanke (£5.0m) had been brought down but had plenty of chances to score earlier in the match, twice the Senegalese was put through but missed golden opportunities. If he continues to make the same attacking runs, though, he should rack up a healthy collection of goals before Gameweek 1 and will have a strong case for investment given Liverpool’s fixtures.
In the ongoing discussion about who could replace an injured Joel Matip (£5.0m) and an absent Dejan Lovren (£5.0m) in central defence, Joe Gomez (£5.0m) got the nod alongside Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m) for this one, although he played the same number of minutes as Ragnar Klavan (£4.5m) who replaced him at half-time. Also of note was that van Dijk took a direct free-kick for Liverpool in the first-half, although his effort was deflected wide by the wall.
Manchester City deployed the 3-5-2 formation that Pep Guardiola used before Benjamin Mendy’s (£6.0m) injury last season, although there was just one change to the side that lost to Borussia Dortmund, Cameron Humphreys replacing Douglas Luiz.
For those struggling to choose between Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m) and Leroy Sané (£9.5m) at the start of the season, this encounter proved even more of a puzzle than before. Once again Sané was named on the bench instead of in the starting line-up, while Mahrez was deployed up front. However, it was still the German who impressed slightly more, getting City’s only goal of the match in the second-half. He was sent clear by Bernardo Silva (£7.5m), a great potential alternative investment for the early weeks, and his pace allowed him to collect past van Dijk and score. To confuse things further, Pep Guardiola said of Sané after the match: “He needs more minutes and he needs to regain his principles in terms of playing without the ball. He has the talent to do that and we are happy that he scored. Still, he is far away from his best.”
MANCHESTER CITY XI (3-5-2): Bravo (Hart 45’); Humphreys, Denayer (Gomes 45’), Garcia; Zinchenko, Harrison, Foden, Diaz (B Silva 45’), Bolton; Mahrez (Dele-Bashiru 45’), Nmecha (Sané 45’)
LIVERPOOL XI (4-3-3): Karius (Kelleher 45’); Robertson (Moreno 62’), van Dijk (Phillips 62’), Gomez (Klavan 45’), Clyne (Camacho 60’); Fabinho (Chirivella 62’), Milner (Grujic 62’), Wijnaldum (Solanke 45’); Jones (Salah 60’), Sturridge (Mané 45’), Lallana (Woodburn 45’).
ROTHERHAM UNITED 2-1 CARDIFF CITY
- Goals: Josh Murphy (£5.0m)
- Assists: Greg Cunningham (£4.5m)
Winger Josh Murphy (£5.0m) is beginning to emerge as Cardiff’s key attacking asset ahead of 2018/19, although the Bluebirds remain to be fully tested in pre-season. The former Norwich City man added his fourth goal in as many summer matches against Rotherham, but Neil Warnock’s men still tasted defeat against Championship opposition.
The Bluebirds did create some chances in the first-half with Bobby Reid (£5.5m), stationed on the opposite flank of the front three to Murphy, looking his usual lively self. His early cross was a good one but striker Kenneth Zohore (£5.0m) couldn’t get on the end of it.
Murphy’s fellow new signing Greg Cunningham (£4.5m) provided the assist for his goal in the 13th minute, crossing in for him to finish. That was the third goal set up by the former Preston left-back this summer, although he’s not a guaranteed starter by any means yet, Joe Bennett (£4.5m) playing 38 times for Cardiff in 2017/18 and starting three of a possible four pre-season matches.
Frustratingly for Fantasy managers it’s hard to get an accurate fix on the level of quality within this Cardiff squad. Their pre-season exploits so far have seen them take on two tenth tier non-league sides from the South West Peninsula League, relatively local to Warnock’s Cornwall home, and now Rotherham, a former club of his. In their most recent outing, they were largely poor.
Warnock experimented with a 3-4-3 formation in this match, although the suggestion from local media is not to read too much into that in terms of Warnock’s tactical preference. Instead, the theory is that he deployed that system, and used youngster James Waite in the middle of the pitch, to send a message to those upstairs that he needs a new midfield signing. As ever, the former Sheffield United boss was very forthright on his transfer plans after the match, with him keen on bringing Liverpool defensive midfielder Marko Grujic back to south Wales on loan.
“If not Marko, (we want) somebody like that. We’re still optimistic and we should know within the next few days on that one. I’m constantly in touch with him (Grujic), still optimistic but we’ve also found a back-up as well, which we’re trying to hold onto for another few days, just in case. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get Marko but it won’t be the end of the world. We could do with them both really. I’ll be having a chat with Mehmet (Dalman) and Ken (Choo) and Vincent (Tan) in the next few days. I’m looking at a permanent deal and I’m also looking at the loan market. But I want Marko first.”
Matt Palmer’s header made it 1-1 before half-time and Michael Smith scored one of Rotherham’s many second-half chances to win the game.
Aaron Gunnarsson (£4.5m) came on at the interval for his first match action of the summer, since returning late as a result of Iceland’s involvement in the World Cup.
CARDIFF CITY XI (3-4-3): Etheridge (Smithies 45’); Morrison (Connolly 67’), Manga, Cunningham; Bennett (Bamba 45’), Waite (Gunnarsson 45’), Ralls (Paterson 61’), Richards (Hoilett 45’); J. Murphy (Mendez-Laing 61’), Zohore (Madine 61’), Reid (K.Harris 70’).
HUDDERSFIELD 3-1 LYON
- Goals: Terence Kongolo (£4.5m), Laurent Depotire x2 (£5.5m)
- Assists: Philip Billing x2 (£4.5m)
In a 3-1 pre-season win over Lyon, Terence Kongolo (£4.5m) went some way to furthering his case for inclusion in Huddersfield’s starting line-up when they host Chelsea in Gameweek 1. The centre-back has now played more minutes in that position over the summer (300) than any of his colleagues with Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen (£4.5m) still not involved in match action despite a return to training this week. Furthermore, Kongolo added a goal in the second-half stabbing home from a Philip Billing (£4.5m) knock-down.
Christoper Schindler (£4.5m) has only 255 minutes to his name so far this off-season but the club captain missed some time due to a slight injury, which he has recovered from now. He is almost certain to start 2018/19 at centre-back with either one of Michael Hefele (285 minutes) or Jon Stanković (240 minutes) the main competitors for Kongolo if Zanka looks to be unavailable for a short time. However, it’s worth noting that Huddersfield are still with just one clean sheet in seven pre-season matches.
Further up the pitch, there was a first start for Ramadan Sobhi (£5.0m) on the left flank of attacking midfield and Aaron Mooy (£5.5m) featured in the first XI from the beginning for the first time since returning from World Cup leave.
Laurent Depoitre (£5.5m) put on a good performance in his challenge to wrestle the starting centre-forward role back from Steve Mounié (£6.0m) as he scored a second-half brace. Alex Pritchard (£5.0m)’s chipped ball into the box resulted in a close-range effort from the Belgian to be saved and converted on the rebound. Billing’s excellent dribbling allowed him the space to put Depoitre through again in the 88th minute, he took a touch away from the defender and guided his shot into the net for 3-1.
The Terriers have been short on goals in the summer so far, the three scored at the John Smith’s Stadium only the third time they’ve found the net in seven matches. Depoitre himself has become the club’s top-scorer of pre-season in just one performance so Fantasy managers should keep an eye on whether he can start to pull starts away from Mounié.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN XI (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Löwe (Malone 45’), Schindler (Kongolo 45’), Stanković (Hefele 45’), Hadergjonaj (Smith 45’); Sabiri (Billing 45’), Mooy (Hogg 45’); Sobhi (van La Parra 45’), Kachunga (Pritchard 45’), Diakhaby (Quaner 54’); Mounié (Depoitre 45’).
AKHISARSPOR 0-0 LEICESTER CITY
- Goals: None.
- Assists: None.
Demarai Gray (£5.5m) led the line for Leicester as they eked out a largely uneventful 0-0 draw with Akhisarspor in Austria, but the FPL midfielder is not expected to hold down that position come the start of the season. This looks to be the last pre-season match in which Gray will be used in a central role now that attacking reinforcements are slowly filtering back from World Cup leave. As we discovered in our recent statistical analysis of Leicester, the 22-year-old has some work to do before he can be considered for Fantasy investment in 2018/19 – although he was easily the biggest goal threat on Wednesday night.
There was another start at centre-back for Wes Morgan (£4.5m) and Jonny Evans (£5.0m) furthering the belief that they will be the route into Leicester defence early on this season with Harry Maguire (£5.5m) still not back from World Cup duty. Nevertheless, the England man still has 22.4 percent ownership compared to Morgan’s 1.0 and Evans’ 1.4.
New signing Danny Ward (£4.5m) was the star of the show for the Foxes. He made a string of impressive saves in the first-half to earn the praise of local press watching on, the Leicester Mercury claiming he may well provide decent competition for Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m), who was watching from the stands amid transfer speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea.
He was one of six World Cup players to have rejoined the Leicester squad now, including Adrien Silva (£5.0m), Wilfried Ndidi (£5.0m), Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho (£6.0m), Yohan Benalouane (£4.0m), although none of them have been involved in matches yet. But Claude Puel revealed they will probably feature against Udinese on Saturday. The only ones still absent from the squad are Maguire, Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) and Shinji Okazaki (£5.0m).
“We will see all the players against Udinese because we need to give game-time and improve with other players. We will see if we can give them (the World Cup player) some game time in the second game. We need to manage all this with a good balance.”
LEICESTER CITY XI (4-3-3): Ward (Jakupovic 45’); Chilwell (Fuchs 62’), Morgan (Johnson 62’), Evans (Knight 62’), Amartey (Ndukwu 62’); Elder, Mendy (Choudhury 62’), Iborra (King 62’); Diabaté (Kapustka 62’), Gray (Slimani 62’), Maddison (Ulloa 62’).
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