In this midweek edition of Scout Notes, we round up the goals, assists, injury news, Fantasy talking points and manager quotes from the two UEFA Champions League matches involving Premier League clubs last night.
If the tie against Red Star was an audition for our Liverpool assets ahead of the visit of Fulham in Gameweek 12, then the Reds didn’t give us much cause for optimism as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat in Belgrade.
Tottenham Hotspur were also on the verge of a disheartening defeat, but two late Harry Kane goals rescued victory from the jaws of defeat and kept alive the Lilywhites’ hopes of qualification to the knockout stages.
Red Star Belgrade 2-0 Liverpool
As was the case against Arsenal on Saturday evening, Liverpool’s more widely owned Fantasy Premier League players emerged from Tuesday night’s Champions League encounter with Red Star with nothing to show for their efforts.
For those FPL managers who pay attention to the underlying attacking statistics, there were at least encouraging signs for the 35.2% of us who own Mohamed Salah (£13.0m).
The Egyptian registered over twice as many attempts on goal (eight) as any player from either side in Belgrade and was the Reds’ biggest goal threat, striking the woodwork with one volleyed effort after a corner-kick had been cleared out to him on the edge of the box.
Salah was particularly trigger-happy in the second half, forcing home goalkeeper Milan Borjan into saves with a deflected effort from range and then from an acute angle inside the six-yard box.
The premium midfielder’s best chance came in stoppage time when he could only lash the ball straight at Borjan from 15 yards out.
The shot count masked an otherwise underwhelming display from Salah, who took up a central role as the game went on but, not for the first time this season, struggled to escape the clutches of an opposing defence who largely negated his threat by doubling up on him.
Whether the Premier League’s worst defence, Fulham, can manage to emulate Red Star’s nullifying tactics on Sunday is another matter and that Salah still managed to register five bona fide attempts on goal (his other three shots were blocked) despite a substandard display is some consolation.
The Egyptian midfielder playing the full 90 minutes is a slight worry for his owners with rotation possibly looming in Gameweek 12, though the Reds have five days to recover before the Cottagers visit Anfield and the international break beckons thereafter.
Another popular FPL asset to last the whole match was Sadio Mane (£9.8m).
While the match stats will show that the Senegalese midfielder wasn’t anywhere near the goal threat Salah was – registering only one shot – Mane was slightly more of a creative presence: no player on show in Belgrade recorded more key passes.
Mane’s surging run and cross down the left led to Liverpool’s best opportunity of the match on 17 minutes, which the recalled Daniel Sturridge (£5.8m) ballooned over from close range.
Mane’s already modest influence on the game faded after half-time, when he was curiously shifted out to the right flank to allow Salah to play centrally and substitute Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) to take up the left-wing berth.
Firmino had been dropped to the bench for this match to allow Sturridge a start up top, but the performance of the England striker in the opening 45 minutes was particularly awful and he did little to suggest he would threaten a start against Fulham this weekend before being hooked at the break.
Firmino, like Mane and Salah, was again far from his best but his deployment on the left flank was an odd decision and the Brazilian seems particularly ineffectual in that role – even if it affords Salah the opportunity to feature centrally.
One player who has a strong case to be involved against Fulham on Saturday is Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.0m), who was left at home for personal/political reasons and whose case for a start was helped no end by his team-mates’ limp showing in Belgrade.
Adam Lallana (£6.9m) did little of note in central midfield alongside a tired-looking James Milner (£5.6m) and Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m), while Joel Matip‘s (£4.9m) status as fourth-choice centre-back looks set to remain unchanged after an unconvincing showing alongside Virgil van Dijk (£5.9m).
Dejan Lovren (£4.9m) had reportedly been in line for a start at centre-half but fell ill on Tuesday afternoon and missed out altogether.
If Lovren recovers from his ailment he could be set to line up alongside van Dijk against Slavisa Jokanovic’s struggling side on Sunday, as Joe Gomez‘s (£5.1m) services might be required at right-back.
Not for the first time this season (or even this week), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.0m) endured a torrid evening at full-back and was replaced by Gomez at half-time as part of Jurgen Klopp’s double substitution.
Andrew Robertson (£6.4m) was another Liverpool player to be far from his scintillating best but the Scottish full-back has an uncanny knack of getting himself into dangerous positions even when off the boil and could easily have emerged with an attacking return here – he provided the final touch before Sturridge’s skied effort in the first half and then almost found the net himself when his deflected cross struck the frame of Borjan’s goal.
Naby Keita (£7.2m) recovered from a thigh injury but remained an unused substitute, while Jordan Henderson (£5.3m) looks set to return to contention this weekend after returning to training.
Klopp gave his verdict on the performance after full-time:
For us, it was not clicking, it was not easy. We never really came back into the situations. We had the moments. We played good balls in, in the right moment. But, similar to the first half, in different situations, we had the ball in the box and we could not really finish or they got a leg in between.
I saw, unfortunately, a few games like this already and it’s really difficult to find your mojo back, that you can do the right thing in the right moment very naturally.
We tried to change for the second half. We had moments in the box, we had scruffy situations twice with the ball on the line and they cleared the situation. If you score in a situation like that, everything can change. But we didn’t score. In the second half, we were very dominant and didn’t give a lot of counter-attacks away. We had moments, we had kind of nearly-chances; the biggest chances were in the last two or three minutes, before that not enough.
We gave them too many set-pieces before they scored, so they could kind of train it in a proper match, and then they scored with a header after a corner.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Becker; Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 46′), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Lallana (Origi 79′); Salah, Sturridge (Firmino 46′), Mane.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 PSV Eindhoven
- Goals: Harry Kane (£12.4m) x2
- Assists: Fernando Llorente (£5.7m), Ben Davies (£5.6m)
For the first 75 minutes of the match at Wembley last night, Harry Kane‘s (£12.4m) performance had an all-too-familiar feel.
The England striker continued his irksome trend of retreating to deep positions in order to instigate Spurs’ attacks, with his goal threat reduced to four blocked efforts and one attempt from 25 yards that drew visiting goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet into a comfortable save.
The introduction of Fernando Llorente (£5.7m) with a quarter of an hour remaining, however, seemed to have a positive impact. Kane forced Zoet into a sharp stop from a narrow angle immediately after Llorente took to the field and the Spanish striker then beautifully teed up Kane for Spurs’ equaliser a minute later.
Kane’s winning goal for Spurs was more than a tad fortuitous, his header from a Ben Davies (£5.6m) cross taking two deflections off PSV players before apologetically bobbling over the line.
While three goals in four days is encouraging news for FPL managers who are perhaps looking at Kane from Gameweek 15 onwards, the same reservations about his withdrawn role up top remain unchanged after last night’s display.
The theory that Lucas Moura‘s (£7.2m) inclusion in the Spurs starting XI is somehow a hindrance to Kane’s penalty box prominence continues to be perpetuated but Moura mostly played as a winger – rather than a strike partner for Kane – on Tuesday evening and it would be difficult to argue that the Brazilian was occupying the same spaces that the England striker ought to have been last night.
Moura was perhaps Spurs’ main threat with his mazy runs and floating role across the attacking midfield positions and his withdrawal on the hour mark sparked boos from the Tottenham faithful.
Speaking of that crowd reaction, Mauricio Pochettino said:
I understand. I like it because after nearly five years I think it’s the first time that they’ve been critical of me and didn’t agree with me, but in the end: 2-1. Look, it’s always difficult to take decisions, of course the fans are disappointed. They want to play with nine or ten strikers when you are losing the game.
But we tried to find solutions and the solution was to put Fernando Llorente on and how arrived the goal was Llorente was there for Harry Kane or to help in the one or other side with the full-backs pushing higher with Trippier. It’s to find a different way to play. Sometimes people say ‘Oh, Pochettino doesn’t have a Plan B or Plan C’, but the most important thing was to have a plan, and then, like today it was good to have a different way to approach and to score goals.
Pochettino alluded to Kieran Trippier‘s (£6.3m) impact in that quote, with the Spurs full-back being thrown on alongside Llorente after 75 minutes to aid in his side’s attacks from the flank and help improve the quality of ball being delivered.
The positive news for Trippier’s owners in FPL ahead of Gameweek 12 was that understudy Serge Aurier (£5.8m) not only started this game but also delivered a below-par performance at right-back, with his substitution for Trippier an acknowledgement that the French defender’s final delivery simply wasn’t good enough all evening.
Trippier’s prominence at set plays was also missed, with Spurs failing to capitalise on a string of dead-ball situations.
Davies was similarly ineffective until his cross for Kane’s goal, though would seem set to keep his place at left-back for the trip to Crystal Palace with Danny Rose (£5.9m) unlikely to be available until after the international break.
Dele Alli (£8.9m) and Christian Eriksen (£9.2m) both continued their comebacks from injury with decent, if not particularly eye-catching, displays. Both players had the opportunity to score in the same Spurs attack, with Zoet making sprawling reaction saves to deny the premium midfield pair.
Alli also had an effort cleared off the line with an inventive backheeled flick.
Son Heung-min (£8.3m) was perhaps Spurs’ least-effective midfielder, with his only real sight of goal being a fiercely struck effort on 68 minutes that was deflected wide by Daniel Schwaab.
Son looks likely to be replaced by Erik Lamela (£6.4m) on Saturday, with the Argentinean midfielder only used as a substitute in this match.
Harry Winks (£5.5m) furthered his case for a start against Palace with another fine performance, and although FPL managers will be rightly put off by his deep-lying role and rotation risk status, the youngster did create more chances than any other player on show at Wembley last night.
Llorente headed straight at Zoet from the pick of Winks’ deliveries on 84 minutes.
Winks’ manager paid tribute to the young midfielder after the match:
I think was very good, I’m so happy with him. He is playing a lot, played the last three games 90 minutes.
The only way to grow is playing games, making mistakes and live the experience. I am so happy with him, today was to play alone like a holding midfielder with Christian and Dele Alli next to him.
I think it was a massive challenge and I think his performance was very, very good. It was excellent.
Spurs once again looked ropey when defending set-piece situations, with Luuk de Jong’s 2nd-minute goal stemming from a corner-kick and Gaston Pereiro forcing Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.5m) into a fine stop with a header from another corner after the break.
Pochettino admitted that his side needs improvement in that department:
It’s so important to accept that we need to improve in that area and cannot concede such a cheap goal or action that is so poor like to concede that corner today. Then the corner is coming and always it’s a challenge and you can concede.
Spurs XI (4-1-4-1): Gazzaniga; Aurier (Trippier 75′), Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Winks; Moura (Lamela 62′), Eriksen, Alli, Son (Llorente 75′); Kane.
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