This weekend is the final round of Premier League action before the international break – who wouldn’t want to go into the pause top of their fantasy football league?
Well, hopefully that’s where Stats Perform’s Opta-powered Fantasy Picks can come in handy and give you the edge over your mates.
You’ve all presumably already got Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah, so don’t expect any more oh-so-obvious tips.
Without any further ado, here are the picks that could hand you the advantage ahead of matchday three of the 2021-22 season…
EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Brentford)
Argentina goalkeeper Martinez was one of the buys of the season in 2020-21 and has established himself as one of the Premier League’s best in that time.
Since the start of last term, his tally of 16 clean sheets has been bettered by only Ederson and Edouard Mendy. Those equate to 40 per cent of his Premier League appearances for Villa, a club record among goalkeepers to make at least 10 starts for them.
While Saturday’s opponents Brentford enjoyed a strong start against Arsenal, it is fair to say Villa will be more confident of keeping promoted opposition at bay than certain other opponents.
MATT RITCHIE (Newcastle United v Southampton)
Admittedly, picking a Newcastle defender any weekend could be something of a risk given only Leeds United (seven) and Norwich City (eight) have conceded more goals than the Magpies (six)
But Ritchie has enjoyed a bright start to the season as a creative source for Steve Bruce’s men, creating nine goalscoring opportunities – only Trent Alexander-Arnold can better that.
While Ritchie may have been a midfielder in past years, he’s classed as a defender this time around, and his early-season craftiness could lead to some assist points, which are always something of a bonus among backline options.
JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Leeds United)
Maximising points from your defenders can be key in fantasy football, particularly considering they’re among the least likely to score, but one way to potentially give yourself the edge in that respect is, of course, by picking centre-backs who carry a threat at the other end.
Tarkowski has had more touches in the opposition’s box (73) than any other centre-back since the start of last season, while his 4.2 expected goals is the highest xG over the same period among all defenders.
Granted, the fact he’s only scored twice from those chances suggests a degree of wastefulness, but who’s to say he won’t improve in that regard this season? He got one against Brighton and Hove Albion, after all.
SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Watford)
Spurs have enjoyed an encouraging start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo in spite of Harry Kane’s situation. Now he is seemingly staying put, a return to the starting XI may be on the cards, and that could play into Son’s hands.
The two are known for their strong relationship on the pitch, and Son boasts a fine record against Sunday’s visitors Watford, having scored five times against them – that makes the Hornets his second favourite Premier League opposition after Southampton (nine goals).
Son has looked sharp without being spectacular so far this term. Perhaps this weekend is when he really finds his groove…
RAPHINHA (Burnley v Leeds United )
Raphinha has been a revelation at Leeds since joining from Rennes last year, with his form over the past 12 months recently seeing him called up to the Brazil squad for the first time.
He poses something of a double threat in terms of goals and assists, though it is the latter where his strengths lie. Only Bruno Fernandes (7.7) and Alexander-Arnold (7.6) have a better expected assists record than Raphinha (6.9) since he made his first start in November 2020.
However, no one can better his nine assists, which is level with Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne, and he’ll fancy his chances of doing some damage at Burnley this weekend.
MICHAIL ANTONIO (West Ham v Crystal Palace)
After being used as something of a utility man for years, Antonio has seemingly nailed down a spot in West Ham’s attack and it’s paying dividends.
In his past nine Premier League outings, he’s been involved in 10 goals (six scored, four assisted) and the forward has started 2021-22 in irresistible form.
He has already got three goals and two assists this term, with his brace against Leicester City last time out seeing him surpass Paolo Di Canio (47) as West Ham’s record goalscorer in the Premier League and leaving him one away from 50.
Given his form, Antonio could be a good bet for the captain selection this weekend.
RICHARLISON (Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton )
He may frustrate on occasion, but few would try to downplay the impact Richarlison has had on Everton since joining from Watford in 2018 and he looks set for a big 2021-22.
No one has as many goal involvements as him (42 – 34 goals, eight assists) during his time at the club and he was a real livewire last time out against Leeds, with his five shots and three key passes the most among Everton players.
Brighton have impressed early on this season, but Richarlison has the ability and confidence to be a real problem.
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