Domestic football returns this week after the international break, and with it being the first set of matches since the transfer deadline passed, there are some new faces to consider.
Though one of them will be very familiar to everyone – Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United and an interesting option for fantasy teams.
Newcastle United are the visitors at Old Trafford in what many may be predicting to be a one-sided encounter, though Ronaldo’s by no means the only threat to Steve Bruce’s men.
Stats Perform has picked out seven players potentially in action over the weekend who could be worth signing up to give your fantasy team a boost.
HUGO LLORIS (Crystal Palace v Tottenham )
Spurs have enjoyed a solid start to their new era under Nuno Espirito Santo, winning all three league games to make themselves early leaders.
They’ve also not conceded a single goal, with Hugo Lloris the only goalkeeper in the division to already have three clean sheets.
Up next is a trip to Crystal Palace, and while you can never guarantee anything in football, Patrick Vieira’s men have struggled during the early weeks of 2021-22. Lloris is surely a strong shout for a clean sheet.
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Leeds United v Liverpool )
The international break saw Alexander-Arnold become a hot topic of conversation again as his England career continues to stall – this time his performance in midfield attracting criticism.
Nevertheless, at club level there’s little question that he’ll return to his usual right-back berth, where he has excelled so far this term.
Leeds should offer the Reds stern opposition, but their style of play means Liverpool could be afforded a lot of space – if anyone can exploit that, it’s Alexander-Arnold, given he has created five more chances (15) than any other player in the league and his six successful open-play crosses is a joint-high.
REECE JAMES ( Chelsea v Aston Villa)
If you’re the type of fantasy football manager who loads their team with full-backs in the hope of the goal involvement/clean sheet double-threat, then you’ve probably already got James in your team.
But if you haven’t, you may want to consider it.
The Chelsea wing-back is already on three goal involvements (one goal, two assists), the most among defenders and anyone in Thomas Tuchel’s squad, and is part of a team that wouldn’t expect to concede regularly.
ILKAY GUNDOGAN (Leicester City v Manchester City )
Leicester City have often been seen as a bit of a bogey team for Manchester City, so perhaps this is a bit of a wildcard choice.
However, Gundogan’s enjoyed a stellar 2021 to date. His 12 Premier League goals is second only to Harry Kane (14) and has become an influential player in City’s attacks over the past year.
He’s probably not in the conversation to be anyone’s captain, but his goals haul makes him a strong contender to at least get in your XI.
BRUNO FERNANDES ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)
Man Utd have averaged 2.9 goals per game over their previous 14 Premier League home matches, and with Newcastle taking just 10 points from the past 15 away games, the omens look good for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
With that in mind, the man usually behind many of United’s goals is Fernandes, who is just two goal involvements from reaching 50 – only three players will have hit that mark quicker than him if he gets a couple against Newcastle.
Similarly, since the start of 2020-21, Fernandes’ 10.3 expected assists (xA) is the highest in the Premier League and his 12 actual assists haul is level with Kevin De Bruyne as the most among midfielders.
IVAN TONEY ( Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion)
He was the man who propelled Brentford into the Premier League with his goals, so when Toney got off the mark in the Premier League last out time out against Aston Villa, many will curiously wait to see if the floodgates now open.
That took him to 56 league goals (excluding play-offs) since the start of 2019-20, more than anyone else in the top four tiers of English football.
Granted, those came in lower divisions, but others before him have adapted to the Premier League – why can’t Toney be the next Jamie Vardy?
CRISTIANO RONALDO ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)
Solskjaer’s already said Ronaldo hasn’t return to United to sit on the bench, so there’s every chance the Portugal captain could make his second debut as a starter against Newcastle.
If he does, he will complete a formidable frontline for the Red Devils, regardless of who he’s joined by, and given the mauling they handed out to Leeds United on matchday one, they certainly have big wins in their locker.
It’s also worth noting that Ronaldo scored his very first club hat-trick against Newcastle back in 2008 – he couldn’t do it again, could he? Either way, Ronaldo as captain this weekend looks a smart choice.
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