Three Premier League teams were in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening, with two of them producing one of the most memorable matches of recent times.
Manchester City defeated Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 on the night but exited the competition on away goals, dashing any hopes of a quadruple for Pep Guardiola’s side.
The two sides have to do it all again at the Etihad on Saturday lunchtime in Double Gameweek 35.
Liverpool cruised through to the semi-finals with a 6-1 aggregate win over Porto, meanwhile, with several of their most-popular Fantasy Premier League assets among the goals – we’ll discuss their latest victory in our second set of Scout Notes later.
Both Liverpool and Spurs will now be in Champions League semi-final action either side of Gameweek 37.
We try to make sense of a pulsating night of European football and examine the fallout from a Fantasy perspective.
Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) x2, Bernardo Silva (£7.6m), Sergio Aguero (£11.7m) | Son Heung-min (£8.8m) x2, Fernando Llorente (£5.1m)
- Assists: Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) x3, Sergio Aguero | Christian Eriksen (£9.3m), Kieran Trippier (£6.0m)
Where to start with a game as enthralling and as frenzied as this?
From a Fantasy manager’s point of view, Wednesday’s seven-goal thriller at the Etihad would have been simultaneously encouraging from a form perspective while also dispiriting knowing that there may be repercussions in the Premier League on Saturday.
Several well-owned FPL assets were given full 90-minute run-outs less than 72 hours before the ‘rematch’ in Manchester and the mental and physical toll the tie may have taken on some of these players will only be known once they take to the field at the Etihad again this weekend.
Rotation may also be a concern but with a title defence on the line for City, it seems unlikely there will be wholesale changes from Guardiola.
The reigning league champions’ head coach said after full-time:
We have to stand up, we have to react. Of course, it’s close time, the same [opposing] team. But don’t think too much right now, try to sleep as much as possible, tomorrow recovery and then the day before the game we are going to prepare.
We fought a lot, nine, ten months for the Premier League. Still we are there, it’s in our hands. It’s tough, of course, but we have to do it.
Whether Mauricio Pochettino views Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off in quite the same esteem remains to be seen, although Spurs still have much to do to seal a Champions League qualification place in 2019/20 (winning the tournament this season, of course, will do just that).
There were stand-out performances from FPL midfielders on both sides.
Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) has been increasingly influential in recent weeks and last night’s display was more fuel to the argument that he is very nearly – if not already – back to his best.
The Belgian’s characteristic driving runs from deep propelled City forward and he was rewarded for a game-high total of four key passes with a hat-trick of assists.
De Bruyne’s surge through the Spurs midfield led to Raheem Sterling (£11.5m)’s superb, curled opener, before the Belgium international teed up Sterling for City’s third goal with an excellent low cross across the six-yard box.
The former Chelsea and Wolfsburg midfielder then completed his treble with another run and lay-off to Sergio Aguero (£11.7m), whose finish evoked memories of his title-winning goal against QPR in 2011/12.
De Bruyne also had three shots of his own, the best of which was a trademark angled drive that Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) did well to punch away.
There is not a great deal left to say about Sterling, who followed up his brace at Palace with another on Wednesday and he would have registered a hat-trick had his stoppage-time goal not been ruled out for offside after VAR intervention.
The England winger lined up on the left flank in this encounter and gave Kieran Trippier (£6.0m) a torrid evening – something that both managers will no doubt pay attention to ahead of the rematch on Saturday.
While Bernardo Silva (£7.6m) caused problems for Danny Rose (£5.8m) on the other wing and indeed scored City’s heavily deflected second goal, there is no doubt that Trippier is Spurs’ weakest link from a defensive perspective and whoever gets the nod on the left flank for City this weekend could prosper. Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.2m) may, of course, come into the side as he did in Gameweek 34 but the rookie full-back is untested at the very highest level and his inclusion in itself would encourage owners of Sterling or perhaps Leroy Sane (£9.3m).
Sterling has now completed 90 minutes in each of City’s previous four matches dating back to the FA Cup semi-final win over Brighton just under two weeks ago and is the only attacking asset in Guardiola’s squad to do so.
Whether the City boss would even consider a rest for his in-form wide-man at this point of the season remains open to debate.
Aguero was perhaps not quite as central to proceedings as De Bruyne and Sterling but was far from peripheral and his FPL owners would gratefully receive a similar goal-and-assist haul this weekend.
The Argentinean striker would have banked the assist for Sterling’s disallowed goal in injury time, too, had it stood.
While De Bruyne is rediscovering his best form, David Silva (£8.5m) is seemingly well below his and last night’s display was another average one from the veteran Spaniard.
Aymeric Laporte (£6.1m) turned in an uncharacteristically error-prone performance, meanwhile, gifting Spurs their first two goals with some sloppy touches.
Son Heung-min (£8.8m) capitalised on both occasions, first turning the ball underneath Ederson (£5.6m) after it ran kindly into his path and then curling a fine second past the Brazilian after being teed up by Christian Eriksen (£9.3m).
No player had more attempts on goal in this match than Son, who also whistled an effort narrowly wide of Ederson’s left-hand post just before half-time.
Pochettino said of the impressive Korean:
Fantastic performance, scoring twice here and in the Champions League to show his quality. I am so happy with him. He was unbelievable.
Son had initially lined up for this match alongside Lucas Moura (£6.8m) in a 4-4-2 diamond, with Eriksen playing behind the strike pair.
A 41st-minute injury to Moussa Sissoko (£4.9m) led to a change of shape, however, with Fernando Llorente (£5.1m) brought on up top, Moura playing just off the Spanish striker, and Son and Eriksen redeployed out wide.
Pochettino was asked about Sissoko’s condition after the game and replied:
I don’t know, we need to check tomorrow. Maybe his groin but we will see.
Sissoko’s injury also led to the fit-again Dele Alli (£8.8m) dropping back alongside Victor Wanyama (£4.9m) in a 4-2-3-1, further highlighting Alli’s reduction in Fantasy appeal as his evolution into a more deep-lying midfielder continues.
The former MK Dons prospect didn’t register a single shot and made only one key pass.
Eriksen’s underlying numbers were better, although again his shots (of which there were four) mostly came from distance.
The Danish international is a bit like Silva in that his form has dipped in 2018/19 but he is consistently delivering returns of late and he banked another assist for Son’s second goal.
While the Korean’s participation at the Etihad on Saturday (along with many other FPL assets) must be in some doubt due to fatigue, there is better news for his owners in the medium-term – Son’s booking for a foul on De Bruyne means he will miss the semi-final first leg against Ajax through suspension, surely increasing his chances of a start in Gameweek 36 and perhaps 37.
Given that he only featured as a substitute on Wednesday, Llorente may get a look-in on Saturday and beyond.
The former Swansea striker bundled in Trippier’s corner for Spurs’ decisive third goal and is another who may benefit from Premier League starts around the Champions League semi-finals in Gameweeks 36 to 38.
On top of Sissoko’s injury, Erik Lamela (£5.9m) didn’t feature in the match-day squad despite travelling with his teammates.
Reports suggest the Argentinean midfielder may have suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury in the warm-up, although this has not yet been confirmed the club.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy (Sane 83′); De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva (Fernandinho 63′), Sterling, Aguero, Bernardo Silva.
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-4-2 diamond): Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose (Sanchez 90′); Sissoko (Llorente 41′), Wanyama, Alli, Eriksen; Lucas Moura (Davies 82′), Son.