Newcastle United 0-0 Liverpool
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus: Andrew Robertson (£7.3m), Federico Fernandez (£4.7m) x3, Karl Darlow (£5.0m) x1
The final fixture of an eight-match Gameweek that refused to stick to the script ended in suitably underwhelming fashion at St James Park on Wednesday.
Liverpool failed to score for the first time in the Premier League this season as poor finishing and a dogged defensive effort from Newcastle United left the Reds, and those Fantasy managers who backed their attacking assets, frustrated.
EGYPT ME OUT OF POINTS
A second successive blank for Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) capped off a below-par week for many Fantasy Premier League bosses, with the Egyptian backed with the armband by huge swathes of the FPL community for the clash with Newcastle.
Both he and Sadio Mane (£11.9m) never really got going on Tyneside but even taking into account their listless displays, this was one of those games when the margins between double-digit haul and a three-pointer were slim.
But for the merest brush on the fingertips of Karl Darlow‘s (£5.0m) gloves, Salah would have opened the scoring and potentially the floodgates in the 33rd minute.
His second wasted big chance arrived midway through the second half, the Egyptian failing to even hit the target with this effort, but Salah has historically had a profligate side to his game and occasional frustrating afternoons come with the territory.
Mane was also denied a tap-in by a goalmouth clearance from Fabian Schar (£4.9m), while Firmino spurned three very presentable headed opportunities and ought to have continued his good festive form.
In terms of positive news, Liverpool appeared to emerge from their Gameweek 16 clash on Tyneside relatively unscathed.
An early injury to Andrew Robertson (£7.3m), in which the left-back needed treatment, seemingly amounted to nothing, with the Scot going on to last the full 90 minutes – the 16th time in a row he has done that in the Premier League in 2020/21.
Jurgen Klopp said after the game:
As far as I know, in the moment, nobody got injured tonight, which is a very important thing. So that means we probably can go with the same squad to Southampton.
The return of Thiago Alcantara (£5.7m) as a second-half substitute was a boost to the Reds but from a Fantasy perspective, the most pertinent injury news of the evening concerned Joel Matip (£5.5m).
Any notion that the Cameroon international could offer FPL managers a reliable, cut-price route into the Liverpool backline over the coming weeks and months were dashed yet again when the injury-prone stopper succumbed to yet another fitness issue in Gameweek 15.
Klopp said after full-time on Wednesday:
The normal stuff with these kind of injuries, around about three weeks.
That would put Matip on a collision course with Double Gameweek 19, so any punt on Nathaniel Phillips (£4.0m) and Rhys Williams (£4.0m) for the home fixtures against Manchester United and Burnley is a risky one at this stage.
Even if Matip was ruled out for that double-header, the fact that the two bargain-bin defenders continue to share game-time is off-putting; it was Williams who got the nod to deputise for Matip in Gameweeks 13 and 15, and Phillips at St James Park.
On the subject of Liverpool’s backline, Robertson produced another fine performance from left-back en route to a tidy haul.
With much focus on Ben Chilwell (£6.1m) et al this season, the Scotland international has quietly gone about his business and this latest nine-point return moved him into first place in the FPL defenders’ points standings.
But for Roberto Firmino‘s (£9.3m) poor miss from Robertson’s 67th-minute corner, the in-form full-back would have been looking at another double-digit score.
One slight concern on the clean sheet front might be the absence of Matip, with neither Williams nor Phillips looking particularly solid.
This was the first match that Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in this season when either one of those budget assets has played and it took a last-ditch block from Fabinho (£5.4m) to stop Callum Wilson (£6.5m) from extending that drought, with the Newcastle striker having brushed off Phillips all too easily to carve out an early opening.
DARLOW V DUBRAVKA
Included in the Newcastle United squad for the first time this season was goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (£4.8m), who had been sidelined for four months with a heel problem.
The Slovak will have to be content with a place among the substitutes for now, however, with Darlow producing a well-timed masterclass between the posts and earning his manager’s backing after full-time:
Karl has waited patiently for his chance because of the form of Dubravka but he’s number one at the moment because of the performances that he’s putting in.
FIVE GO DEFENDING
A solid defensive showing from Newcastle at the Etihad on Boxing Day was followed up by an even better display against Liverpool, with centre-backs Schar and Federico Fernandez (£4.7m) particularly impressing.
Fernandez proved to be a bonus point magnet whenever the Magpies kept clean sheets last season and it so proved again on Wednesday, with the stopper collecting maximum bonus along with Robertson.
The problem with targeting Newcastle’s defence in FPL is Bruce’s determination to roll out a more attacking formation in the so-called ‘easier’ games – good news for the talismanic Wilson, who continues to thrive despite the limited service and who went close to scoring against Liverpool, but less so elsewhere.
The Magpies resemble a solid outfit in a backs-to-the-wall 5-4-1 but look less so in a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, conceding goals against the likes of Burnley, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Brighton and Hove Albion – all at home – this season when playing without a third centre-half.
Jamaal Lascelles (£4.2m), incidentally, looks likely to miss Gameweek 17 on his long road back from a positive COVID-19 test, but he’s one for the watchlist at that ever-dwindling price.
Newcastle United XI: Darlow, Murphy (Almiron 67), Yedlin, Ritchie (Lewis 86), Clark, Fernandez, Schar, Hayden, M.Longstaff, Wilson, Joelinton.
Liverpool XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson, Jones (Wijnaldum 68), Henderson, Milner (Thiago 73), Salah (Shaqiri 90), Firmino, Mane.
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