Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
- Goals: Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m), Mohamed Salah (£12.4m)
- Assists: Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), Alisson (£6.1m)
- Bonus: Alisson, van Dijk x3, Alexander-Arnold x1
Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) faces at least six weeks on the sidelines after Ole Gunnar Solksjaer confirmed that the England striker had suffered a stress fracture of his back.
Rashford wasn’t involved at Anfield on Sunday, which Solskjaer did warn us of in Friday’s pre-match press conference – although the Norwegian’s reputation as something of a wolf-crier led many of us to cast doubt on the suggestion he would miss out.
Ahead of kick-off on Merseyside, Solskjaer provided the following update on Rashford:
He got a couple of knocks and jolts when he came on against Wolves and has aggravated his back. I wouldn’t expect him to be back in the next few weeks. We’ve got a mid-season break coming up; I’m not sure we’re going to see him before then.
However, speculation swelled throughout the afternoon that Solskjaer was perhaps not providing us with the full details of Rashford’s injury, with journalist Henry Winter suggesting the in-form FPL forward has a double stress fracture and will be sidelined for two to three months.
Asked again about Rashford’s injury in his post-match press conference, Solskjaer gave a slightly different answer:
He suffered a stress fracture against Wolverhampton [in the FA Cup last Wednesday]. Normally six weeks before you can get going slightly, probably, and then he’ll need time to get match-fit again.
That prognosis would put Rashford out until at least Gameweek 28, raising the possibility of increased game-time for budget FPL forward Mason Greenwood (£4.4m) – although, as we saw when Anthony Martial (£7.9m) was sidelined throughout the autumn, Solskjaer may still choose to handle his teenage striker carefully in this his breakthrough campaign.
Indeed, Solskjaer hinted at looking for “short-term deals” for strikers after Sunday’s game.
Greenwood was understandably overlooked for this daunting fixture, with Solskjaer opting to instead introduce Luke Shaw (£5.4m) as a third centre-half and revisit the wing-back system that helped achieve a 1-1 draw against the runaway league leaders back in Gameweek 9.
While still being battered for long periods of the game, a Rashford-less United perhaps performed better than many anticipated, giving Liverpool a scare or two.
Andreas Pereira (£4.9m) was inches away from converting an Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) pass shortly before the break, while Martial had a glorious chance to level the scores at 1-1 when blazing over the bar on 58 minutes.
Fred (£5.3m) also had an impressive game in the middle of the park, although a midfielder with no attacking returns to his name in 2019/20 will be persona non grata to Fantasy managers.
Speaking of his side’s performance, Solskjaer said:
In the last half hour, I thought we were excellent. We pegged them back, pressed them, had the majority of the possession in the second half, pushed them back and created chances, big chances. And we created the pressure, I thought they looked nervy and then, of course, we send everyone up to get the equaliser and they get that [second] goal.
While Liverpool were given the odd fright by their visitors en route to their seventh straight Premier League clean sheet, chances came and went far more frequently at the other end.
Until Mohamed Salah (£12.4m) raced onto a long punt out from Alisson (£6.1m) in second-half stoppage-time to put the game to bed, it had looked like Liverpool’s front three would all blank in the same match for the first time since Gameweek 14.
It wasn’t that Liverpool’s premium attacking options were short of opportunities, though – quite the contrary.
Salah should have been on the scoresheet 45 minutes before he was, somehow fluffing a chance from six yards and ruining an Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) assist in the process.
Sadio Mane (£12.4m) ought to have avoided a second successive blank, too, firing at David de Gea‘s (£5.4m) boot just before the interval and twice missing the target in the second half from the corner of the six-yard box.
The Senegal international also couldn’t bring the ball under control when set free midway through the first half and saw an assist chalked off after the VAR spotted a Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m) foul on de Gea.
It was Roberto Firmino (£9.4m) who put the ball in the visitors’ net for that disallowed goal and the Brazilian can’t catch a break at Anfield, with his goalless streak on home soil stretching back to Gameweek 32 of last season.
Firmino came within inches of an assist, too, teeing up Jordan Henderson (£5.4m) for a shot that crashed back off de Gea’s left-hand post.
While the FPL returns were thin on the ground, the volume of chances arriving at the feet of Liverpool’s front three was encouraging going into Double Gameweek 24.
The problem, of course, is that we FPL managers only have three slots for Liverpool players, and the Reds’ defence is making a damn good case of their own.
On top of their seventh consecutive clean sheet, three of Liverpool’s backline were involved in the hosts’ two goals: van Dijk heading in a Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) corner to break the deadlock before Alisson set Salah free in the dying stages to seal the win.
With Liverpool’s defenders matching and in some cases outpacing their more expensive attacking teammates for FPL returns over the last seven Gameweeks, there is certainly a case to made for a double-up at the back based on current form.
Speaking after the match, Jurgen Klopp said:
Very dominant in most periods of the game. I didn’t like too much in the first half the last five or seven minutes but nothing happened really, just we were not as dominant as before.
We played outstandingly well, we dominated the opponent, we played exactly in the space we had to.
And then the start of the second half was absolutely brutal – wow. We jumped in and had, I don’t know, three, four chances at least and didn’t score. How it always is and how it often enough was now in that season, the opponent has the chance to come back. That’s what happened.
We had to defend them. The organisation was OK but it’s just about timing then, ‘When do you have the challenges, where do you have the challenges?’. We were a bit late in these moments and that’s why they came through, that’s why they could at least finish their situations off. But we defend then with a lot of passion and big heart and stuff like this.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lallana 66′), Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Origi 83′), Mane (Fabinho 83′)
Manchester United XI (3-4-2-1): De Gea; Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw (Dalot 87′); Wan Bissaka, Fred, Matic, Williams (Greenwood 74′); Andreas Pereira (Mata 74′); James, Martial.
Burnley 2-1 Leicester City
- Goals: Chris Wood (£6.2m), Ashley Westwood (£5.4m) | Harvey Barnes (£5.9m)
- Assists: Ben Mee (£5.0m) | Dennis Praet (£5.3m)
- Bonus: Nick Pope (£4.6m) x3, Westwood x2, Wood x1
To no-one’s great surprise, Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) would remain on penalty-taking duties after his latest miss from 12 yards on Sunday.
Vardy hadn’t technically failed with a spot-kick this season before Nick Pope (£4.6m) saved his effort at Turf Moor but the most-owned Fantasy Premier League forward had originally been thwarted by Mat Ryan (£4.9m) in Gameweek 13, only for VAR intervention to allow him a second bite at the cherry due to penalty box encroachment.
This time, though, there was no reprieve, with Pope’s save resulting in Vardy’s third duck-egg in four Gameweeks – although the other two blanks were due to his absence through injury/paternity leave.
Speaking after full-time, Rodgers said of Vardy:
There’s no blame attached because he’s been absolutely brilliant for us and we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in without him. Just one of them days, the goalkeeper saved everything that was there.
He’s normally clinical in that situation. If we have another penalty again, he’ll be the one who’ll step up and take it.
Vardy was anonymous for large chunks of this match but, then again, he often has been this season and still delivered the goods.
The premium FPL forward had only 24 touches of the ball in Lancashire – the same number as 74th-minute substitute Youri Tielemans (£6.3m) – but, to give an example, that’s still one more than he managed in Gameweek 16 when delivering a double-digit haul against Aston Villa.
Vardy has always made the most of limited service or possession, with a lot of his good work done off the ball; as Rodgers said above, this was simply just one of those days.
Pope later stood up well to deny Vardy when the Leicester striker was presented with his second ‘big chance’ of the match on 77 minutes and the impressive Burnley goalkeeper had earlier advanced off his line to force Vardy wide when he was clean through on goal, with the opportunity fizzling out into nothing.
With this being Vardy’s first (playing) blank of 2019/20 against a team currently in the bottom half of the table, many of us will be willing to cut him some slack, particularly as a fairly appealing home fixture against West Ham United is upon us.
Around 90,000 FPL managers have already seen enough, however, shipping Vardy out ahead of Double Gameweek 24.
Therein lies one of the reasons why Vardy is deemed dispensable by some, as funds may have to be generated to lump on Liverpool’s premium assets ahead of their forthcoming double-header.
While Vardy’s slow start to 2020 can be perhaps mitigated, there is growing concern about the players behind him and Leicester as a collective.
The Foxes have won only two of their last seven fixtures and have now lost back-to-back matches against teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League, with only one clean sheet arriving from Gameweek 16 onwards.
We discussed Leicester’s defence in great detail last week, highlighting their spiralling underlying stats but also the fact that a shot-shy Burnley would perhaps provide them with an ideal opportunity to bounce back to form.
The Foxes had seemed comfortable at the back in the first half, restricting their hosts to just one effort in the box, but were undone by the Clarets’ speciality: a set play.
It was Chris Wood (£6.2m) who prodded home to level the game on 55 minutes, pouncing in the six-yard box after Ben Mee‘s (£5.0m) header was repelled by Kasper Schmeichel (£5.4m).
That rarest of beasts, a poor Jonny Evans (£5.3m) clearance, then played a part in Burnley’s winner, with Ashley Westwood (£5.4m) slamming home the loose ball shortly after Pope had denied Vardy for the second time.
The absence of Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) was perhaps keenly felt again at both ends, with Nampalys Mendy (£4.3m) the latest pretender to fall some way short of the Nigerian’s levels.
There is some good news on the Ndidi front, however, with Rodgers saying after the match:
We’ll see how he is for Wednesday, I think it’ll be too quick for him to be back by then, but certainly by the weekend, and I would say for Aston Villa, hopefully, he’ll be available.
One member of the Foxes’ regular back four missed out on Sunday, perhaps paying the price for some below-par recent performances.
Ben Chilwell (£5.7m), along with Hamza Choudhury (£4.3m), failed to even make the matchday squad, with Rodgers diplomatically saying after full-time:
They missed a very important session for us in the week, which was the build-up leading into this game, so we couldn’t bring them into the game today.
Both will be in contention for Wednesday.
Ben has played a lot of games, so we looked at that, and this was probably the game he could miss out on.
They were just unavailable for the training. We were doing a lot of preparation for this game, they were unable to be there, so we now move on.
Further forward, there wasn’t a great deal of inspiration behind Vardy.
James Maddison (£7.7m) blanked for the sixth time in seven Gameweeks and spent a lot of the afternoon on the floor, although did provide his usual teasing deliveries from dead-ball situations and probed outside the Burnley box.
The hit-and-miss Harvey Barnes (£5.8m) was perhaps the pick of Leicester’s attackers, registering the visitors’ first attempt of the day and later opening the scoring when running onto a Dennis Praet (£5.3m) tackle to fire underneath Pope.
It was Barnes who teed Praet up for a shot that Pope did brilliantly to tip away just after the interval, with the young winger later winning the penalty that Vardy missed when outpacing, and then being brought down by, Mee in the 66th minute.
The Clarets next face Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, so this win will likely do little to renew much interest in their Fantasy assets in the short term.
Let’s not forget that Pope had averaged only 2.56 points per match in the nine Gameweeks preceding this one, either.
Only one home team (Newcastle United) had fewer shots than Burnley in Gameweek 22, meanwhile.
Still, Burnley will head to Old Trafford on Wednesday with a goalkeeper brimming with confidence – not so good news, perhaps, for the Fantasy managers who own the likes of Anthony Martial (£7.9m).
The Clarets’ menace at dead-ball situations may also come into play, considering that United have conceded eight goals from corners already this season.
Speaking of Pope after the match, Sean Dyche said:
I thought Popey was very good again, not because he had ridiculous amounts to do, but when he did, he made big saves.
That’s the important quality a big keeper has, a top keeper has, so not just the penalty, there were a couple of other moments where he made big saves just by standing up and being what he is, fast reactions from a big frame.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Wood (Lennon 90′), Rodriguez.
Leicester City XI (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs; Mendy; Perez (Iheanacho 73′), Praet (Tielemans 73′), Maddison, Barnes; Vardy.
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