In their 2-0 win over Chelsea, Liverpool options furthered their case for Fantasy inclusion ahead of two very favourable fixtures.
It was a big game for the Reds in their quest for a first-ever Premier League title, but they came through it with a clean sheet and attacking returns for two key attackers.
We take a look at how they got on to pinpoint which players look the most likely to capitalise on upcoming matches against Cardiff and Huddersfield.
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
Goals: Sadio Mané (£10.1m), Mohamed Salah (£13.2m)
Assists: Jordan Henderson (£5.3m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m)
Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) is slowly putting himself back in the conversation for the triple captaincy in Gameweek 36. The Egyptian’s incredible strike against Chelsea saw him register goals in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since Gameweek 23. Back then Salah was in fantastic form and demanded considerable Fantasy attention, and judging by his energetic display in Double Gameweek 34, he could be set to return to the spotlight.
No player had more goal attempts, more shots in the box or more efforts on target at Anfield on Sunday afternoon than Salah, while only one of his colleagues registered more touches in the box than him. All of that bodes well for his chances of attacking returns against Cardiff and Huddersfield over the next two Gameweeks.
However, we should point out that the Egyptian has been able to boast a high number of shots in the right places for some time, even during his barren spell. What put those statistics into context was disappointing expected goals (xG) data. In the four matches prior to the win over Chelsea, Salah had inferior expected goal involvement (xGI) scores than both Sadio Mané (£10.1m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.3m), which was also the case on Sunday.
That’s because the xG score on Salah’s wondergoal was just 0.0395, considering how difficult a chance it was to actually convert. There are two ways of looking at that statistic; either it proves the goal was a fluke and non-owners can worry less about his chances of doing the same again, or it demonstrates his exceptional quality as a finisher ahead of two very appealing fixtures.
“It blew me away. I was really happy. I saw it really well; maybe I saw it first the ball would go in. It was a really, really outstanding finish.” – Jurgen Klopp
While Salah has put re-established himself in the Fantasy conversation, non-owners can take solace in the fact that the much cheaper Mané is still delivering. He finished Sunday’s match with a higher xGI than any other player, indicating his ability to sustain his attacking returns, and now has 10 league goals in his last 10 at Anfield.
That does not necessarily make a shoo-in for Fantasy points at Cardiff in Double Gameweek 35. By contrast to his exceptional home form, he has found the net just twice in his last 10 on the road. That may count him out of the Double Gameweek 34 captaincy debate, but Mané will almost certainly present himself as an option for the Triple Captain chip in Gameweek 36 when Huddersfield come to Anfield.
“(The first goal) immediately reminded me of the 4-3 against Borussia Dortmund, only Hendo instead of Millie and Sadio instead of Dejan, but a similar situation with this wonderful cross in that area and really good team play. The performance was really good but to really make it happen you need the goals and we got them, all good.” – Jurgen Klopp
In the last two matches, Liverpool have been aided by Jordan Henderson‘s (£5.3m) exploits in a more advanced role. While he is still being officially stationed as a central midfielder, the England international has been making runs into dangerous attacking areas in his last two outings. This appears to have boosted Henderson’s own Fantasy potential given that he has a goal and two assists in his new capacity.
“I’ve spoke about it over the last few weeks. I’ve moved further forward and I’ve really enjoyed it.” – Jordan Henderson
“Hendo I said it from the first days and I’ve never changed my opinion that he is a fantastic skipper for this team and this football club. He has played many games for this club in positions that I forced him to. The last three games he is obviously on fire.” – Jurgen Klopp
Those considering Henderson as a budget route into Liverpool’s attack will have to be aware of a few caveats though. Klopp has rotated the central midfield positions more than any other this season, with the England international registering just three starts in the last six Gameweeks and two substitute appearances. Furthermore, he also picked up a knock to the ankle against Chelsea and now needs to be assessed ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match against Porto.
“He got a knock on his ankle, that’s pretty much all. He was fine after the game. A bit of pain, no problem, [he] didn’t twist [it]. It’s only painful, not a problem.” – Jurgen Klopp
One of the reasons why Henderson has struggled to command a regular place in the Liverpool midfield in a deeper role has been the form of Fabinho (£5.5m). The Brazilian has been receiving considerable praise for his recent performances and has now started all but one of the last 10 Premier League matches.
“You have these days when you see from the first second that it’s clicking. Football-wise, we were really in a good moment today, all three midfielders. It was the plan that Hendo is slightly higher and we have this in between the lines, it then gives Fabinho and Naby a bit of different space. It’s not always exactly the same idea, today it was a little bit the idea. From the first moment he was there, football-playing.” – Jurgen Klopp
There was good news for those invested in the Liverpool defence this weekend, as they kept a first clean sheet since Gameweek 29 and a first at Anfield since Gameweek 28. Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m) was the chief beneficiary as he attached an assist and maximum bonus to his defensive returns for a 12-point haul. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.5m) continues to offer value as he managed two bonus points in this one. His place in the side still seems locked in for now, as Joe Gomez (£4.8m) is yet to impact the defensive selection at Liverpool.
However, it is worth just pointing out that the Reds were certainly fortunate to get their clean sheet against Chelsea. They controlled the game for large portions but after they went 2-0 up, the visitors enjoyed a promising 10-minute spell. Maurizio Sarri changed the shape slightly, moved Eden Hazard (£11.0m) into a wider role from false-nine and brought on Gonzalo Higuaín (£9.2m). That led to the Belgian being played through on goal for what looked like it would be a trademark cool finish, but he could only the post. Alisson (£5.9m) was then forced into two very important saves before Liverpool re-established control by bringing Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m) on for Naby Keita (£7.1m) to calm things down.
“But in these 10 minutes, if they were 10 minutes, they could have changed the game completely – [hitting the] post and two saves from Ali. That was a bit dangerous, of course, but then we controlled the game again.” – Jurgen Klopp
Apart from that 10-minute period in the second half, Chelsea offered very little attacking threat on the afternoon. It appeared to benefit Liverpool’s defence that Hazard was initially deployed in a false-nine role officially, as he spent a lot of time dropping deep to move the ball around, but that left van Dijk and Joel Matip (£4.9m) with little in the way of marking duties.
Those looking for cheaper differential options in the Chelsea side would have been encouraged to see Sarri show some consistency in using his younger players. Both Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.2m) earned their third consecutive league starts at Anfield, in central and wide attacking midfield respectively.
Chelsea came away from Merseyside with an injury to key centre-back Antonio Rüdiger (£5.9m). He took some damage to his knee in the opening 25 minutes and attempted to play on but was forced from the field in the 40th minute. Rüdiger was replaced by Andreas Christensen (£5.0m), who will likely earn some more starts in the coming weeks if he is ruled out for some time.
“I hope nothing serious but at the moment I am unable to say anything. We need to get back to Cobham and have another visit with the doctor. Probably we need something else to be sure it is not serious but at the moment I am not sure.” – Maurizio Sarri
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Robertson, van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold; Keita (Wijnaldum 66′), Fabinho, Henderson (Milner 77′); Mané, Firmino, Salah (Shaqiri 90′).
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, D Luiz, Rüdiger (Christensen 40′), Azpilicueta; Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 75′), Jorginho, Kanté; Willian, Hazard, Hudson-Odoi (Higuaín 56′).