Fantasy Premier League managers who were brave enough to place their captain armband on a player from Manchester City’s win over Leicester were moderately rewarded on Saturday evening.
Jamie Vardy (£10.1m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.4m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.8m) all got an attacking return each in the Etihad Stadium’s all-important clash.
We’ve got the Fantasy talking points from that match as well as information on wins for Wolves and Newcastle.
Man City 3-1 Leicester City
Goals: Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m), Ilkay Gündogan (£5.2m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.6m) | Jamie Vardy (£10.1m)
Assists: Benjamin Mendy (£5.5m), Raheem Sterling (£11.8m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.4m)
Bonus Points: Vardy x3, Gündogan x2, Mahrez x1
Vardy may have been on the losing side of Saturday evening’s televised match but there were few complaints from his Fantasy owners at his 17th goal of the season.
As predicted by many in the FPL world over the last few days, Manchester City were indeed vulnerable to the Leicester counter-attack, despite controlling the match throughout.
Vardy had a number of opportunities to get behind the reigning champions’ questionable defence, showing why in Pep Guardiola’s time as Manchester City manager, no player has scored more against them (Six for Vardy, Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min all on four).
We had our first glimpse of the damage he could do in the 18th minute when Vardy found some space on the right.
He did well to get past Nicolas Otamendi (£5.0m) and square to Harvey Barnes (£5.9m) who could not add a decisive touch.
Those two Leicester players combined again in the 22nd minute when Vardy found the net.
Barnes played an excellent outside-of-the-boot through pass to put Vardy behind the City defence and the centre-forward won his one-on-one with Ederson (£6.0m) by dinking it over him.
Five minutes later, Vardy was in again, finding yards of space to get beyond Otamendi and Fernandinho (£5.2m). Unfortunately for his owners, he drifted a little too far to the left and shot over the bar from a tight angle.
Leicester were a little more subdued in the second half but it didn’t stop Vardy trying to get behind the hosts’ defence.
On the hour mark, he found the space on the right again and played an incredible pin-point cross to the on-rushing Barnes. He made contact just outside the six-yard-box, but could not get enough purchase on it before Ederson completely wiped him out.
It was certainly a performance from Vardy that suggested he can be trusted to get attacking returns against Liverpool on Boxing Day.
De Bruyne and Sterling also showed plenty of encouragement for the Christmas period.
Together with Mahrez, the Belgian, in particular, gave Ben Chilwell (£5.8m) an evening to forget, doubling-up on him on their right-flank.
De Bruyne was officially listed in the central midfield again, having been named in the front-three against Arsenal, but he did push forward into dangerous positions on Saturday night.
During the first half, he was advancing into the number 10 area while the majority of his touches came on the right across the course of the fixture.
He got his well-deserved attacking return in the 69th minute when he powered through the Leicester defence and squared to Gabriel Jesus (£9.6m) at the back post.
It could have been much than that for De Bruyne as he set Sterling up in the eighth minute, who could not quite get his shot off under pressure while the Belgian also struck the post in the 14th minute.
There were concerns over De Bruyne when he went down and limped off in the closing stages but the player himself confirmed he suffered nothing more than cramps.
“Yeah (I’m okay). Just a little bit of cramps. It was a hard game, very open, the teams went all the way. In the end, my body said just take a rest. The grass was nice and soft.” – Kevin De Bruyne
Jesus also asked questions before finding his goal, forcing decent saves out of Kasper Schmeichel (£5.4m) in the first half.
However, it is possible that the Brazilian’s run in the team could be coming to an end as Sergio Aguero (£11.7m) returned as a second-half substitute against Leicester.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Mendy, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker; B Silva, Gündogan (Rodri 79′), De Bruyne (Aguero 90+1′); Sterling (Foden 89′), Jesus, Mahrez.
Leicester City XI (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Chilwell, Söyüncü, Evans, R Pereira; Ndidi; H Barnes (Albrighton 64′), Maddison, Tielemans (Praet 77′), Pérez (D Gray 68′); Vardy.
Norwich 1-2 Wolves
Goals: Todd Cantwell (£4.7m) | Romain Saïss (£4.4m), Raúl Jiménez (£7.5m)
Assists: Joao Moutinho (£5.4m), Matt Doherty (£6.1m)
Bonus Points: Cantwell x3, Emi Buendía (£6.0m), Jiménez x1
Raúl Jiménez (£7.5m) continues to punish the host of Fantasy managers who moved away from him several weeks ago.
He scored the winning goal for Wolves in their 2-1 win at Norwich on Saturday afternoon, his seventh one in the Premier League this season.
Crucially, it means the Mexican forward has now had an attacking return in seven of his last eight matches.
His bonus point from the match sees him increase his season score by seven, ensuring he remains inside the top six for value among forwards in 2019/20.
Whether Jiménez can keep up his recent form does remain to be seen though as it’s Manchester City (home) and Liverpool (away) up next for Wolves.
In truth, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men were poor for large spells of their trip to Norwich, especially in the first half.
The hosts were by far the better team to begin with and Wolves only got back into the game when Romain Saïss (£4.4m) nodded home a Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) cross.
At the time, the 60th minute, the goal was very much against the run of play, although ultimately, Norwich lost the game because of their defensive frailties.
With Wolves not asking too many questions especially early on, it was a damning indictment on Norwich’s defence that they gave up the lead in the second half.
With Ben Godfrey (£4.4m) recently ruled out until February, Grant Hanley (£4.0m) was forced back into the team probably earlier than Daniel Farke would have liked.
However, the former Newcastle United man was praised for his performance by the local press. Furthermore, it is worth noting that due to long-term absences elsewhere in defence, Hanley, priced at £4.0m, could be set for a run in the team now.
“We were unlucky but we can’t use that as an excuse. If we took our chances and defended properly, we would have won the game.” – Grant Hanley
Ultimately, what truly cost Norwich was their poor finishing. As already mentioned, they were by far the better side across the course of the match, creating much better chances, but failing to put them away.
Teemu Pukki (£6.6m) made some excellent runs to cause the Wolves defence problems but was twice denied by an impressive Rui Patrício (£5.2m), who made a total of six saves at Carrow Road.
Alex Tettey (£4.5m) also hit the post in the first half after a powerful drive from range.
The only Norwich asset to find the back of the net in Gameweek 18 was Todd Cantwell (£4.7m) as he punished those who benched him once again.
He capitalised on a loose ball in the box following a Kenny McLean (£4.9m) to rifle home his fifth goal of the season, although he was still on 571,000 FPL benches.
However, Cantwell may find himself started by considerably more of his owners on Boxing Day when Norwich travel to face an Aston Villa defence that has conceded seven goals across their last two home matches.
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Krul; Byram, Hanley, Zimmermann, Aarons; Trybull (Vrančić 86′), Tettey (O Hernández 87′); Cantwell (Srbeny 86′), McLean, Buendía; Pukki.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-4-3): Patrício; Saïss, Coady, Dendoncker; Jonny, Moutinho, Neves, Doherty; D Jota (Neto 77′), Jiménez (Cutrone 90+4′), Traoré.
Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace
Goals: Miguel Almirón (£5.8m)
Bonus Points: Almirón x3, Paul Dummett x2 (£4.4m), Martin Dúbravka x1 (£5.0m)
A belated first-ever Newcastle goal for Miguel Almirón (£5.8m) was arguably the only story to come out of a dreary affair at St. James’ Park on Saturday afternoon.
Crystal Palace dominated possession but could not offer too much in the way of any real threat as they continue to demonstrate they might not be able to deliver on their appealing set of fixtures.
Wilfried Zaha‘s (£6.8m) counter-attacking runs could not produce anything to truly test Martin Dubravka (£5.0m), Christian Benteke (£5.7m) was also denied by the goalkeeper and Cheikhou Kouyaté (£4.9m) headed over from a corner.
Newcastle were boosted in their attack by the return of Jonjo Shelvey (£5.1m) and Almirón to their midfield and Steve Bruce opted for a more direct 3-5-2 formation, featuring those players in central midfield with Joelinton (£5.6m) and Andy Carroll (£5.4m) up-front.
It was the former West Ham forward’s presence in the air that lead to Almirón’s goal while the Paraguayan asked questions of the Palace defence with his pace for much of the afternoon.
Shelvey also tested Vicente Guaita (£5.1m) with a shot from the centre-circle when the Crystal Palace goalkeeper was off his line.
It’s West Ham up next for the Palace defence which, through Guaita and Martin Kelly (£4.4m) has earned plenty of interest in recent weeks.
Despite failing to keep a clean sheet in either of the last two, after a spell of three in a row, there were some positive news for the Eagles’ backline.
While Scott Dann (£4.3m) was unable to overcome his yellow-flag, forcing Kouyaté to play centre-back, there was a welcome return for Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) at left-back.
Furthermore, Jairo Riedewald (£4.5m), who started at left-back against Brighton before going off with an injury was named on the bench while Mamadou Sakho (£5.0m) is now free from suspension.
Newcastle United XI (3-5-2): Dúbravka; Lejeune, Fernández, Schär; Dummett (Yedlin 90+3′), Almirón, Shelvey, Hayden (S Longstaff 64′), Manquillo; Joelinton (Gayle 77′), Carroll.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; van Aanholt, Kouyaté, Tomkins, M Kelly; McArthur (Meyer 86′), Milivojevic, McCarthy; Zaha, Benteke, Ayew.
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