Sheffield United 1-0 Norwich City
- Goal: Billy Sharp (£5.6m)
- Assist: John Lundstram (£4.8m)
- Bonus: Lundstram, Sharp x3, Chris Basham (£4.5m) x1
John Lundstram (£4.8m) – remember the name – returned to the Fantasy fold with a bang as Sheffield United laboured to a 1-0 victory over Norwich City.
The ‘out of position’ defender, playing once again as a right-sided central midfielder, was handed a first start since Gameweek 23 and he took the chance to impress with both hands.
Replacing record signing Sander Berge (£4.9m) in the Blades’ central three, Lundstram was a man possessed at Bramall Lane, jointly leading the way for both attempts and chances created and superbly setting up the winning goal for Billy Sharp (£5.6m).
All of that earned him the maximum bonus award and a bumper 12-point haul – the fifth time he’s had a double-digit return this season.
Unfortunately for many managers, it was a case of too much, too late. Lundstram’s ownership has dropped by around three-quarters of a million since Berge arrived on the scene, and over 25% of his owners chose to bench their man for Gameweek 29 (although ‘ghost teams’ and Bench Boosts will skew that figure, of course).
The ‘defender’ is still owned by 38.5% of FPL bosses and such is Sheffield United’s ability to produce results regardless of the opposition, most managers will surely hold onto him for the rest of the season if his place in the starting XI looks assured again – but that’s a big if.
He was certainly in eye-catching form on Saturday, teeing up Sharp’s headed winner with a pinpoint cross and going close to a goal himself on more than one occasion.
Chris Wilder said of Lundstram after the game:
He needed to come out of the team, if you analyse his performances, and we have to always. Then we had an opportunity of signing Sander and he has come in and played a part in three out of four wins.
Players shouldn’t be scared or shy of competition and challenges and John hasn’t. I am not surprised, it just epitomises the group and the culture what we are trying to create.
The skipper’s [Sharp] has had it just as much as anybody. The way he has been in the changing room with the players when he hasn’t played has been exemplary and then he comes back in and plays like he has. I think that’s a fantastic example of how you should be as a professional footballer.
Interest in other United assets remains fairly healthy ahead of a trip to a Newcastle side not renowned for their goalscoring exploits, although a Blank Gameweek 31 does loom thereafter.
Some 11.2% own defender George Baldock (£5.1m), while 16.1% have keeper Dean Henderson (£5.2m) in their squads.
Enda Stevens (£5.1m) has also picked up owners over the time that Lundstram’s stock has fallen and the wing-back just about banked clean sheet points on Saturday, being withdrawn on the hour-mark after suffering another calf injury.
Wilder said of Stevens after full-time:
Just tight, just a precaution again. We didn’t risk Tuesday, he’s been out on the grass since Monday, he just felt it tightening up. So we’ll see how see is and assess it over the next 48 hours.
Henderson was in excellent form to deny a spirited Norwich side who out-shot their hosts 12-10, with four attempts on target to the Blades’ three.
Teemu Pukki (£6.5m) should have done better when hitting the outside of the post from close range in the first half, but the Canaries’ inability to score was otherwise down to Henderson’s excellence.
The keeper produced two particularly fine saves during a second-half goalmouth scramble, denying Mario Vrancic (£6.2m) and then Josip Drmic (£5.3m) while still on the ground from an initial stop to keep out Ben Godfrey‘s (£4.4m) header.
He then reacted well to palm away a well-struck Jamal Lewis (£4.4m) shot to keep a tenth clean sheet of the campaign and earn the post-match praise of manager Chris Wilder:
He wants to be England’s number one and, if he keeps playing the way he is, it gives him a great opportunity. I should imagine he’ll be in the next England squad. He made some really important saves for us and we’re delighted to have him.
Norwich were unlucky not to get at least a point from a match they grew into once coach Daniel Farke had replaced midfielder Todd Cantwell (£4.8m) with striker Drmic for a more direct approach after the break.
Just under 20% of FPL managers still own Cantwell, but he’s blanked for eight straight Gameweeks and, if his starting place is now under threat as well, his ownership is not likely to stick around much longer.
The Canaries have a blank in Gameweek 31 and a mixed bag of fixtures from now until the end of the season to further compromise Cantwell’s cause.
Farke hasn’t given up hope of beating the drop just yet:
We showed great character in the second half and I still can’t explain how the ball didn’t go in during that situation. It’s dramatic and tragic for the lads, because they tried everything. It’s a big setback in the fight to stay in this league but it’s also important not to lose nerve and to stay calm.
But Fantasy interest in Cantwell, and the rest of his players, is not likely to increase however calm they remain.
The same can probably be said for many of Wilder’s men, with Blank Gameweek 31 followed by a tricky run of games.
Defensive returns remain highly possible regardless of the fixture, however, and should Lundstram be back from exile for the remainder of the campaign, some bumper hauls could still be on the table in his fairytale season.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham; Stevens (Osborn 61′), Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram, Baldock; McBurnie (Berge 90′), Sharp (McGoldrick 71′).
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Krul; Lewis, Godfrey, Hanley, Aarons; McLean, Tettey (Vrancic 66′); Cantwell (Drmic 45′ ), Duda (Idah 87′), Buendia; Pukki.
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Chris Wood (£6.1m) | Dele Alli (£8.3m)
- Assists: Jay Rodriguez (£5.7m) | Erik Lamela (£5.7m)
- Bonus: Wood x3, Dwight McNeil (£6.0m), Hugo Lloris (£5.3m) x2
Chris Wood (£6.1m) returned to the starting XI, and the scoring charts, for Burnley, but Spurs fought back to secure a point at Turf Moor.
The New Zealand international replaced Matej Vydra (£5.3m) as Jay Rodriguez‘s (£5.7m) strike partner and the pair combined to fire the Clarets into an early lead on Saturday evening.
Rodriguez hit a shot from the edge of the area which Hugo Lloris (£5.3m), back in the Spurs goal after a one-match league absence, could only parry for Wood to poke home the rebound.
The French keeper went on to make a further five saves and earn a couple of bonus points as Burnley peppered the Tottenham goal – they had 21 attempts, seven of which were on target – without ever carving out enough clear-cut chances to seal the victory.
And a Spurs team rejuvenated by a couple of half-time changes punished their hosts with an equaliser five minutes into the second half.
Erik Lamela (£5.7m) was brought down in the area and Dele Alli (£8.3m) – on penalties in the absence of Harry Kane (£10.8m) and Son Heung-min (£9.8m) – dispatched the spot-kick, sending Nick Pope (£4.8m) the wrong way.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho’s changes at the interval were key. He replaced the ineffective midfield duo of Tanguy Ndombele (£5.8m) and Oliver Skipp (£4.3m) with Giovani Lo Celso (£7.3m) and Lucas Moura (£7.1m), reserving a withering judgement on Ndombele for his post-match comments:
I have to say he has had enough time to come to a different level. I know the Premier League is difficult, and some players take a long time to adapt to a different league. But a player with his potential has to give us more than he is giving us. I was expecting more in the first half from him.
The coach has plenty of previous for singling out players for consistent public criticism and, while the personnel switch worked well at Burnley, the longer-term omens for Spurs are not necessarily good. Rarely has Mourinho’s naming and shaming tactic led to a closer, more committed dressing room.
All of that won’t help Fantasy managers work out whether it’s worth capitalising on Tottenham’s key players as they are one of the few groups with a fixture in Gameweek 31.
It’s an attractive one at that – a home match with West Ham – and Spurs’ schedule for the rest of the season is generally okay as well. But who to pick from a team winless in three and with a manager up to his old, divisive tricks is less obvious.
Alli, with attacking returns from consecutive starts, is probably the pick of the bunch, especially as he’s been employed in an advanced role in the continued absence of key attackers.
Lamela, back from injury once again, is also in decent form, with a couple of assists from his last two matches, while Moura and Lo Celso were both busy at Burnley once they came on.
Another potential candidate for a one-off punt in Gameweek 31, Steven Bergwijn (£7.5m), limped off the field at the end of the game, although Mourinho was hopeful that the Dutchman’s problem wasn’t too serious:
Steven had to play for 90 minutes, so on top of that, he’s injured. Let’s see if it’s something minor and if he can make the effort [in the Champions League on Tuesday].
Things are much less promising at the back. Spurs have kept just four clean sheets all season – the league’s joint-worst record – although two of those have come over the last seven Gameweeks.
Burnley’s backline has been considerably more dependable of late, with four shut-outs from their last six matches, although the 18.3% of FPL managers with Pope in their squads had to make do with only two points on Saturday.
But interest in him, and many others in Sean Dyche’s side, might well pick up from now until the end of the season.
A trip to Manchester City is up next, but the Clarets are another with a Gameweek 31 fixture – at home to Watford – and their schedule after that is very strong, with a visit to Liverpool the toughest test by far.
The lively Wood was unlucky not to add to his points tally against Spurs when bundled over by Davinson Sanchez (£5.3m) in the penalty area.
Dyche was in no doubt that the incident should have led to a penalty.
Chris tries to bring the ball down on his chest and turn into the box and their lad clearly comes through the back of him. It’s inside the box and how it’s not a penalty, I don’t know. Anywhere else on the pitch, that is given.
Despite that set-back, Wood might well gain some new managers, especially among Free Hitters for Gameweek 31.
And the budget charms of defenders such as Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) and Phil Bardsley (£4.3m) look tempting with the likes of Crystal Palace, Norwich and Brighton to come as the season draws to a close.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Hendrick (Lennon 89′), Westwood, Cork, McNeil; Wood, Rodriguez (Vydra 67′).
Tottenham Hotspur XI (3-4-3): Lloris; Sanchez, Dier, Alderweireld; Tanganga, Skipp (Lo Celso 45′), Ndombele (Moura 45′), Vertonghen; Lamela (Aurier 77′), Alli, Bergwijn.
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