Leicester City 0-2 Manchester City
- Goals: Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m)
- Assists: Raheem Sterling (£11.4m)
- Bonus Points: Mendy x3 Jesus x2 Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) x1
Another day, another win and another brutal round of rotation – it was Pep Guardiola business as usual for Manchester City at Leicester.
Sergio Aguero’s (£10.3m) return to the starting line-up dominated the pre-match headlines, but who Guardiola rested was of more interest to Fantasy managers.
The More Things Change…
Three of the five most-owned City assets in FPL were consigned to, and stayed on, the bench – Ilkay Gundogan (£6.1m and 35%), John Stones (£5.3m and £22.5%) and the 20.1%-owned Joao Cancelo (£6.1m).
Of the other two, the 24.1%-owned Ruben Dias (£6.1m) was exceptional at the back on his way to a second successive clean sheet, while Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m and 19.5%) led the way for chances created (three) but lacked a goalscoring threat.
The goals instead came from FPL bit-part players Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m) and, most surprisingly, Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m), who now has two to his name this season having managed none from his previous three campaigns.
That earned the left-back maximum bonus and a whopping 15-point haul. He’s started just eight league matches this season, but still managed two goals and four clean sheets.
If – and it’s a big one – he can stay fit, City’s four-pronged silverware assault should ensure that Mendy gets plenty of pitch-time. Then again, just like the rest of the squad, that time will surely be shared between league, cup(s) and European duties.
Four more wins will guarantee City the league title, although that relies on the unlikely premise of Manchester United winning the rest of their fixtures, so even more Guardiola rotation looks inevitable.
Indeed, even the man himself said he would freshen things up “more than ever” in Gameweek 31:
Ilkay, Bernardo, Joao, of course, they could play… but they need rest. No player can sustain, not just physically but mentally, to be ready every day to compete.
Next game, we are going to play fresh legs. And against Leeds, more than ever, fresh legs.
Second-guessing the coach is unwise, but Dias has missed only one match since his debut in Gameweek 4 and De Bruyne has started six of the last seven matches since returning from injury.
More From Leicester
The Foxes were second-best against City, with manager Brendan Rodgers setting his team up to counter-attack, but allowing too many of his men to sit too deep for that tactic to look remotely threatening.
They did improve after the break and the second-half return of James Maddison (£7.1m) after a three-Gameweek absence was welcome news for the club’s Champions League ambitions – and maybe even FPL managers.
Leicester’s top-four fate is very much in their own hands and even with the distraction of an FA Cup semi-final, Rodgers is highly likely to field his strongest possible side across the run-in.
That should boost the appeal of Maddison, who would probably have scored against City had he been in sharper shape, rather than just back from injury.
His availability needn’t spell bad news for the in-form Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.8m), either, with Ayoze Perez (£6.0m) arguably the most at risk – although it was the Nigerian who made way in the second half on Saturday.
Four Champions League rivals in West Ham, Man United, Chelsea and Spurs await in the run-in but Gameweeks 32-35 look ripe for investment.
It has to be said that the defensive form is not brilliant – they’ve kept just one clean sheet in seven matches, and that was against Sheffield United – while Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) has not scored for six matches, although he has offset that with four assists.
Caglar Soyuncu (£5.3m) missed out on Saturday after a positive COVID-19 test, with Rodgers reporting that it was “highly unlikely” that he’ll be back for Gameweek 31.
Leicester City XI (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Fofana, Evans, Amartey; Castagne, Ndidi (Mendy 83), Tielemans, Albrighton (Pereira 71); Perez; Iheanacho (Maddison 72), Vardy.
Man City XI (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, Fernandinho; Mahrez (Torres 79), De Bruyne (Foden 88), Jesus; Aguero (Sterling 63).
Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
- Goals: Diogo Jota (£6.7m) x2, Mohamed Salah (£12.4m)
- Assists: Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m), Sadio Mane (£11.8m), Fabinho (£5.4m)
- Bonus Points: Alexander-Arnold x3 Jota x2 Andy Robertson (£7.1m) x1
Diogo Jota (£6.7m) came off the bench to score twice and delight his sizeable army of new owners.
The Liverpool midfielder was the fifth-most popular Gameweek 30 signing, only for some 205,000 FPL managers to buy into a player who was replaced by Roberto Firmino (£9.0m) in the starting line-up at The Emirates.
But his introduction after 60 minutes transformed a previously stale encounter and highlighted the lure of Liverpool players for what is an excellent run-in.
Red Or Dead Redemption
It wasn’t just Jota turning heads against Arsenal, although his 29-minute cameo earned him a season-high 12 points.
Mohamed Salah (£12.4m) scored for the first time in six league matches – a barren period during which he’d lost a million owners – to make it 2-0.
And Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) reminded the world and Gareth Southgate of his class with a superb cross to set up Jota’s opener.
That helped the right-back to a second straight maximum bonus point award, further suggesting he might well finish the season with the sort of points barrage that we took for granted over the previous two campaigns.
Fellow full-back Andy Robertson (£7.1m) also earned a bonus point, and it was a mark of how tedious the match had become that the most exciting incident involved the fatigued Scotland international leaving the pitch slowly enough to be subbed off after the 60-minute mark and therefore earn clean sheet points for his 13.3% ownership.
His replacement was Jota and the rest, as they say, was interesting.
Future Not So Tense
Liverpool’s fixture list is sure to tempt FPL investment.
Aston Villa and Leeds are up next – two games with a distinctly ‘could go either way’ vibe – but after that, a massive match at Manchester United is the toughest test among their last six fixtures.
The return of Fabinho (£5.4m) to his rightful midfield slot has stabilised the side and with Jota fit again and the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Salah finding some form, there are plenty of Fantasy options available, including the cut-price Nat Phillips (£4.0m).
The Reds have also kept two league clean sheets in a row.
But with a Champions League campaign still ongoing, rotation cannot be discounted, as boss Jurgen Klopp discussed post-match:
I could have lined up tonight five, six other players who are all in a good shape. So that’s the situation we have now and now we have to use that for the tough period coming up.
And his comments on Jota might strike a note of caution for those looking to buy into the Portugal international:
Look, Diogo played a little bit too much for Portugal for my taste – not criticism of Portugal, just he was long injured, we played him immediately because Bobby (Firmino) was injured and he played too much for us already. Then he went to Portugal and the last two games were really intense, so he felt it a little bit.
The final caveat is that Arsenal were woeful against Liverpool, mustering just three attempts from 36% possession and prompting manager Mikel Arteta to apologise for the ‘unacceptable’ performance.
The Gunners were without Emile Smith Rowe (£4.2m) and Bukayo Saka (£5.2m), in mitigation, two players who have injected some dynamism into their attack of late.
It remains to be seen if they’re fit enough for Arsenal’s appealing run of fixtures starting from Gameweek 31, as they’re two Fantasy assets who offer budget-freeing potential – albeit while carrying a rotation risk around the Gunners’ Europa League ties.
Another semi-popular FPL option, the 5.9%-owned Kieran Tierney (£5.3m), limped off just before the break on Saturday. His manager said of the left-back:
He felt something in his knee. He was in pain so it looks like he will be injured, but we don’t know how long for.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tierney (Soares 45+1), Gabriel, Holding, Chambers; Partey, Ceballos (Elneny 58); Aubameyang (Martinelli 77), Ødegaard, Pépé; Lacazette.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson (Jota 61), Kabak (R Williams 84), N Phillips, Alexander-Arnold; Fabinho, Thiago, Milner; Mané, Firmino (Wijnaldum 78), Salah.
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