Leicester City 2-0 Sheffield United
- Goals: Ayoze Perez (£6.0m), Demarai Gray (£5.0m)
- Assists: Luke Thomas (£4.0m), Jamie Vardy (£9.8m)
- Bonus: Thomas x3, Wes Morgan (£4.1m) x2, Ryan Bennett (£4.8m) x1
Leicester City saw off a strangely limp Sheffield United to set up a final-day showdown that even Sky Sports will struggle to over-hype.
What turned out to be a regulation 2-0 win came with goals from Ayoze Perez (£6.0m) and Demarai Gray (£5.0m) as the Blades’ recent recovery came to an abrupt end.
And it means that the Foxes will now entertain Manchester United in Gameweek 38+ with a Champions League spot going to the winner, unless Chelsea – just a point above both sides in the table, but with an inferior goal difference – slip up.
From a Fantasy perspective, that means three teams’ worth of exceptionally-motivated talent to tap into, and some of that was on display at the King Power Stadium yesterday evening.
The star of the show, however, didn’t even have a value in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) until hours after the match was over.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers handed a debut to 19-year-old Luke Thomas (£4.0m) at left-back, citing injuries to both Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) and Christian Fuchs (£4.2m).
The youngster promptly played a blinder, setting up Perez’s opener, keeping a clean sheet and earning himself the maximum bonus award as he brought in 12 points for his zero owners.
That figure has now risen to well over 5,000 as FPL managers move for a cheap defender with proven ability to deliver returns at both ends of the pitch. Okay, so the sample size doesn’t get much smaller than one match, but it was a dream debut for Thomas which earned him plenty of praise from Rodgers:
It was probably the hardest game he could have for his debut. I could see he could play for me quickly. He’s got a great temperament. He isn’t fazed. He understands football and you saw his pass for the goal. I thought he was outstanding in his play.
Outstanding he was, although going for Foxes defenders when their final two games involve a trip to Spurs and then that United mega-clash looks risky at best.
Perez had already been handed one chance by Thomas when the midfielder headed over the teenager’s excellent cross. He made no mistake with the second opportunity, collecting Thomas’s low ball and scoring emphatically from just inside the area.
United keeper Dean Henderson (£5.2m) could do nothing about the goal, but he more than earned his keep over the course of the match, denying a number of City players in one-on-ones.
Such was the home side’s early dominance that they’d already had nine attempts before 22 minutes had been played, with Henderson using his legs to keep out a Jamie Vardy (£9.8m) effort and repeating the trick twice more when the veteran striker released Harvey Barnes (£5.9m).
Another excellent chance fell to the influential Youri Tielemans (£6.1m), whose close-range shot was blocked after he was set up by Vardy again, before the forward burst through but watched his left-foot shot graze the outside of the post.
The only worry for Leicester fans still getting over Sunday’s capitulation against Bournemouth was that missing so many decent chances might come back to haunt them.
That scenario certainly came close to playing out when a John Egan (£4.7m) header from a corner deflected off Wes Morgan (£4.1m), forcing Kasper Schmeichel (£5.5m) into a smart save.
United boss Chris Wilder threw the kitchen sink at the game as it drifted away from his side.
He made three changes at half-time, including the bittersweet Fantasy move of replacing Sander Berge (£4.7m) with the fit-again John Lundstram (£4.6m), and even switched to a back four later on.
But his players never really got going and the Foxes were not in the mood to repeat their south coast meltdown.
They finally secured the win when Vardy broke free yet again and, just for a change, someone decided to grace the striker’s persistent creativity with a goal.
That someone was substitute Demarai Gray (£5.0m), who finished from the angle with a sweet shot back across Henderson.
It was absolutely what the Foxes deserved from a dominant display in which they had seven shots on target to Unted’s one, prompting a pleased post mortem from Rodgers:
It was our first 90-minute performance since we came back. We’ve played well in other spells in games, but we had to play well over the course of 90 minutes.
The match was also the first in which Barnes started since Gameweek 30+. Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) has performed well in his stead, but Leicester look a quicker and more threatening attacking unit when Barnes is providing support for Vardy.
Not that too many managers will be tempted by Foxes assets with the schedule that they have, while Rodgers provided a post-match update on others who will definitely need selling right now:
As mentioned, that elevates the appeal of Thomas, and even the evergreen Morgan, as cut-price defensive options. But the chances of keeping clean sheets against either Spurs or Man United look slim.
As for the Blades, will the real Sheffield United please stand up?
After some impressive recent performances, they were decidedly average against Leicester and Wilder wasn’t about to spare his players’ blushes with his assessment:
We were way off of it. We have taken some enormous steps forward this season, but the goalkeeper kept us in the game, we never deserved anything form the game – off it from the first minute to the 90th, no excuse from us. Technically very poor, physically out-fought.
Matches against Everton and Southampton will round out a phenomenal first season back in the top-flight for Wilder and his men; fixtures that should be productive for those Fantasy managers invested in a backline with 13 clean sheets to their name – only three teams have managed more.
Inconsistency is the worry, though. This is a side that can beat Spurs, Wolves and Chelsea at home, while struggling on the road against the likes of Man United, Newcastle and even Aston Villa.
Based on that recent evidence, Monday’s visit from Everton looks promising, next Sunday’s trip to Southampton troubling.
Leicester City (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel; Bennett, Morgan, Evans; Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas; Pérez (Choudhury 71), Barnes (Gray 76); Vardy.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham (Sharp 59); Stevens, Osborn (Fleck 45), Norwood, Berge (Lundstram 45), Baldock; McBurnie, McGoldrick (Mousset 45).
Above: Players involved in Leicester City v Sheffield United sorted by chances created
The bonus point allocation from last night’s match produced an interesting sub-plot.
The (small) contingent of managers with Leicester defender James Justin (£4.7m) in their teams looked like they were sitting on two, and maybe even three, extra points as the match wound down.
By the time the bonus awards were added, their man had none.
The reason for that was star debutant Thomas wasn’t even in the FPL system until well after his 12-point match had finished.
Only Vardy created more chances than the youngster, and his assist and clean sheet certainly merited the maximum bonus award.
But it was still hard on Justin’s owners.
Above: Players involved in Leicester City v Sheffield United sorted by big chances
Then again, Vardy’s 29.4% fan club arguably had even more reason to feel aggrieved at the designation of the extra points.
As well as leading the way with five chances created, he was also involved in all six big chances the Foxes had against Sheffield United.
One of them led to Gray’s goal, three others were fluffed by his teammates and Vardy himself had the other two.
It was that profligacy which ruined Vardy’s bonus point chances – scant reward for a truly influential performance that, on another day, could have resulted in a huge haul.
Above: Leicester City’s chances created map in Gameweek 36+ (assists in green)
While nominally playing as the central striker, Vardy did most of his best work on the left flank – as did the team as a whole.
A look at the areas in which they created their chances shows just how threatening they were down United’s right side, with seven of the side’s 12 chances coming from that area – including both of the assists.
Creativity was clearly not an issue on the day – just a lack of a clinical edge in front of goal.
The six big chances the Foxes forged was way above their season average of 2.4 per game, although the total of 88 they’ve managed this campaign is bettered by just three teams, who all happen to be above them in the league table.
FPL Lessons Learned From Gameweek 36+
- Chelsea 1-0 Norwich City
- Burnley 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Manchester City 2-1 Bournemouth
- Newcastle United 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
- Everton 1-1 Aston Villa
- Leicester City 2-0 Sheffield United
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester United
- Southampton 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- West Ham United 3-1 Watford
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