Iniesta: Coutinho would be important signing for Barcelona

Andres Iniesta has urged Barcelona to sign Philippe Coutinho as he would be an “important reinforcement” as they look to strengthen their team in January.

Barca pushed heavily to sign the Liverpool star in the summer but saw their advances rejected by Premier League club, despite the Brazilian’s desire to make the move.

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The Catalan club are expected to return for Coutinho, however, and could make another bid in the January window. 

They are also linked with signing a centre-back, as Javier Mascherano looks set to leave, and 23-year-old Colombia international Yerry Mina is reportedly on his way.

And Barca midfielder Iniesta believes Coutinho, 25, and Mina would be smart purchases from his side.

“I think they would be two important reinforcements to the squad,” he told reporters. “If the club wants to strengthen those positions, it should be with players that can be prepared to withstand the pressure of a club like this, and they would be two big signings.

“But nothing has happened, so it’s difficult.”

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This week, Barcelona were paired with Liverpool’s domestic rivals Chelsea in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

The draw reminded Iniesta of the meeting between the two sides in 2009, when his last minute goal sent Barca through to secure their place in the final, going on to beat Manchester United.

“The first thing I thought was that it was a hard and complicated match against a very powerful team in every way,” he said. “Some very nice memories, the best I’ve ever lived, came to mind.”


Liverpool more open to selling Barcelona target Coutinho in January

Philippe Coutinho skilfully Garrinchas away from the subject; one that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is neither “sure nor unsure” about, which also had the club’s CEO Peter Moore citing the unavailability of “a crystal ball” to forecast what will happen next.

But as December grows older and the January transfer window creeps closer, the queries over the Brazil international’s future will only fatten as Barcelona continue to feed their objective of unveiling him at Camp Nou.

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Philippe Coutinho Liverpool

The Reds boss is disinclined to have this topic dwarf all other talking points, as was the case in the summer, but there are valid questions to be asked and possibly uncomfortable answers to digest.

Why, having been so resolute in their not-for-sale stance in the off-season, would Liverpool be more open to Coutinho’s departure to Barca midway through the campaign?

And why would the 25-year-old, posting elite numbers and elevating his status further, cede Champions League football with a last-16 tie against Porto to contest and undertake the risk of moving in the winter preceding the World Cup?

The answer to the first largely circles around time. Liverpool were blindsided by Barca’s approach and the playmaker’s desire to leave in July, after his fresh five-year commitment at the turn of the year sans a release clause, and while the pre-season conditioning was in proper swing.

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The Merseysiders were neither prepared for, nor willing to lose a player so core to their planning. “The only thing I can say about this is that in life everything is about timing – whichever club asks early enough,” Klopp explained in the summer.

“It’s like how we do it. If we ask early enough, we try to do it. If you ask early enough, you can either switch the plan or whatever.

“But you cannot come up, close to the start of the season and things like this. It’s like I said: the club is bigger than anybody. That is the most important thing. It’s about doing it in the right moment. It’s how we do it when we want to bring players in.

“It is about timing. That is how I understand it. And that is all I have to say. Maybe everybody has a price – in the right moment. In the wrong moment? No price.”

HD Salah Coutinho Liverpool celebrate

Ahead of the start of the season, while experiencing difficulties in landing two priority targets in Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita — the latter who will join on July 1 — as well as needing Mohamed Salah and the other new acquisitions to settle, letting Coutinho leave would’ve been negligent.

Why would Liverpool bow to Barca and help them rally after Neymar’s world-record switch to Paris Saint-Germain? Why would they sacrifice their own stratagem for the season and put themselves in the same situation as the Catalan side — wading through a ballooning market to replace an adroit Brazilian with loadsa money and loadsa clubs alert to the chance of profitting from this position of powerlessness?

It was, in all aspects, not the right moment. Fast forward, however, and there will have been 166 days between the first of three bids from La Liga’s leaders for Coutinho and the opening of the winter window.

Liverpool know what Barca want, what the player desires, and this wisdom will have permeated their recruitment designs for five months. They have had the valuable element of time.

Coutinho free-kick

Of course, this does not make replacing someone of his quality and capabilities easy, but it renders the process easier. It offers solid, constant thinking as opposed to buying out of pressure and panic, the opportunity to lay groundwork, as well as the ability to assess a potential sale as part of a full picture rather than an isolated decision.

Ideally and undoubtedly, Liverpool want to keep their premier players. They also exist in reality, and if Barca’s New Year’s resolution is to give up ridiculous add-ons to markedly improve their base offers — the highest of which was £82 million — with Coutinho again emphatically stating his desire to exit, there will be more to discuss than there was prior to 2017-18.

The Catalans will certainly not be encouraged, and there will be the hope that the Rio-born virtuoso wants to continue being on the supply chain for Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino until the end of the campaign.

To answer why he would be open to not being involved again in the Champions League this season in order to move to Barca is to understand the sacrifices he has already made to date.

Coutinho, Liverpool

Coutinho left Brazil at 18 to move to Inter, with his parents and wife Aine giving up everything to join him on an unpredictable journey. “They moved with me to help make the settling easier,” he told this writer in an exclusive for CNN Sport. “But it was hard for them. As they were old, it was difficult for them to learn the language or adapt to a new culture and ways of doing things like I could.

“Aine had to change her entire routine, my dad had to quit his job which was painful because he loves to be busy. My parents eventually moved back to Brazil, so since then it has been me and my wife, although they are always involved.”

By the age of 20, Coutinho had kitted up in four different countries across two continents, in order to advance in his career. He may feel that everything he has had to surrender or overcome since his teens to now is much more significant than continued participation in the showpiece to take another step forward.

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January will mark five years at Anfield for Liverpool’s two-time Player of the Season, in which he has developed and delivered.

As per Klopp, Coutinho, and Moore, no-one definitively knows what the window holds yet, but a depreciation of the club’s hardline stance if the moment and price is right would not be a huge surprise.

Time has made it so.


Coutinho enjoying new role at Liverpool, but will it be enough to make him stay?

Philippe Coutinho is enjoying life in a deep playmaking post at Liverpool, a role he has been linked with filling at Barcelona.

Throughout his time at Anfield, the Brazilian has often been deployed in a more advanced role – as part of a front three.

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This season, however, Jurgen Klopp has often utilised the 25-year-old behind a fearsome attacking unit of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Coutinho has revelled in a midfield creator berth, netting nine times so far, and admits that he already feels at home in a position which allows him to have a greater influence on proceedings.

He told Liverpool’s official matchday programme: “I think playing there is a position where you get to play the ball a great deal. You become more involved in the game. It’s a position that I feel that I’ve adapted to and I like it.

“Of course, I’m always trying to improve and be able to score goals and set off moves because my position demands that.

“Last season there were a number of goals and it was the highest that I’ve ever managed. But with each year I try and develop and I hope to improve that. I’d always like to score more goals.”

HD Phil Coutinho Jurgen Klopp

Coutinho credits Klopp with bringing the best out of him wherever he is asked to play, with his contribution in terms of goals having improved year on year throughout his time on Merseyside.

“He’s helped me a lot,” the Samba star said of his German coach.

“I think the way he’s helped me to play when we don’t have the ball when the team is under pressure is really different.

“We’ve changed how we play. We’ve tried to switch to a different style and I think that bit by bit I’m getting better with that and hopefully that can continue.”

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While Liverpool will be pleased to hear that Coutinho is enjoying working under Klopp, they are fully aware that some eye-catching performances continue to draw admiring glances from La Liga.

Talk of a possible move to Barcelona refuses to go away, with the Catalan giants having failed to put a deal in place over the summer.

They are looking for another creative influence to slot into their midfield, and Coutinho could be the man to provide ammunition for the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and Camp Nou – be that in January or during the summer window in 2018.


Messi. Ronaldinho. Coutinho? Brazilian’s wizardry perfect for Barcelona magic school

The Amex Stadium December 2, 2017 and Philippe Coutinho wheels away in celebration after finding the target for Liverpool in a Premier League meeting with Brighton.

Those in a rather bemused defensive wall crash down to earth with a bump, with the ball in the back of the net and the away support rising to savour another stroke of impudent brilliance from their Brazilian playmaker.

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Standing over a free-kick moments earlier, Coutinho’s footballing brain had been working faster than anyone else on the pitch.

Quickly sizing up the sporting conundrum in front of him, the 25-year-old concluded: Why go over the wall when you can go under it?

He is, of course, by no means the first to adopt such an approach, with his effort on the south coast coming almost 11 years to the day that Ronaldinho famously made mugs of Werder Bremen in a Champions League outing for Barcelona.

Since then, the great and good of the global game have tried their luck at outwitting the opposition by doing the exact opposite of what is expected of them – see Lionel Messi for Argentina against Uruguay in 2012 and a couple of strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo versus Newcastle and Bayern Munich.

Coutinho, though, is the latest to pull off the trick in front of a global audience, and at a time in which he finds himself firmly in the shop window – despite the best efforts of Liverpool to lock the door and roll down the shutters.

Ronaldinho Philippe Coutinho perfect Barcelona

Barcelona made no secret of their admiration over the summer, with several bids from Camp Nou testing the resolve of those at Anfield to retain the services of a prized asset tied to a long-term contract.

The La Liga giants are, however, used to getting what they want and the transfer rumblings have refused to go away as another window of opportunity prepares to swing open in January.

Maybe Barca will test the water once again, maybe they won’t.

Whatever happens in the new year, though, it is expected, almost guaranteed, that at some stage Liverpool will be getting another knock at the door and a sizeable offer for Coutinho thrust under their collective noses.

He is, after all, seemingly tailor-made for the ranks in Catalunya.

Having shown that he is capable of emulating the aforementioned Ronaldinho and Messi, while also seeing Barca lose one dose of Samba swagger when Neymar packed his bags for Paris, it is easy to see why Coutinho has become such a sought-after commodity.

Ronaldinho himself told Sky Sports in November: “I would be very happy to see such a talented player wear the shirt I wore for so many years. I believe the way he plays will perfectly suit Barcelona and would be delighted to see a player of such quality wear the shirt. I like the way Coutinho plays and the type of football he brings.”

Coutinho boasts that sprinkling of magic dust which separates the great from the good, with his cheeky free-kick against Brighton – and a stunning Champions League hat-trick against Spartak Moscow four days later – helping to further highlight the almost priceless qualities that would add to Ernesto Valverde’s squad.

Since joining from Inter in January 2013, no player in the Premier League has netted more goals from outside the box than the Liverpool man – with his tally now standing at 18 and counting.

Philippe Coutinho goals outside outside box

Over the same period, only Messi and Ronaldo can claim to have bettered that return in Europe’s top five divisions – and they have 10 Ballon d’Ors between them.

Coutinho is not part of such illustrious conversations at present, having finished joint-29th in 2017, but he could well be in the future.

Put him under Messi’s wing at Camp Nou – like Neymar before him – and there is no reason to believe that his game will not be taken to even greater heights, while offering welcome assistance to those around him.

Barca often look to an Argentine talisman for moments of inspiration, but having another potential match-winner on the books who is capable of conjuring up something out of nothing would serve to ease that workload and pose a different kind of threat to opponents.

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Having already invested €105 million in Ousmane Dembele, and with Luis Suarez currently filling the No. 9 berth and the promise of a high-profile successor to come if the Uruguayan is moved on, Coutinho can slot into a deep-lying post where he can be utilised best.

In such a role, he will also be able to pick the brains of one Andres Iniesta, allowing his influence from outside the penalty area to stretch beyond merely finding the net and into the art of picking stubborn locks with precision passing.

Coutinho showed against Brighton that he possesses the mentality of a Barcelona player and it may now be only a matter of time before that quality – along with his penchant for a spectacular strike – is gracing La Liga rather than Liverpool.


Klopp: ‘Fab Four’ nickname disrespectful to other Liverpool stars

Jurgen Klopp says it is “disrespectful” to Liverpool’s other players to describe Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah as the ‘Fab Four’.

The attacking quartet was in devastating form against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, with Coutinho netting a hat-trick and the other three also on target in an emphatic 7-0 win at Anfield.

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The performance led to some sections of the media dubbing them the ‘Fab Four’, a reference to the nickname given to the iconic Liverpudlian band The Beatles.

Klopp, however, feels it is unfair to single out those four and ignore the contributions of the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

“I have no problem with nicknames like ‘Fab Four’ but that’s disrespectful to other players,” he told a news conference. 

“We played a fantastic game with West Ham and Ox was involved. Adam Lallana has not been fit but he would fit in well with any boy band on the planet. Sturridge, [Dominic] Solanke… it’s not fair on them.”

Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool host Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday looking to make it six wins from seven Premier League games since their 4-1 defeat to Tottenham.

That match at Wembley came following a 7-0 Champions League thrashing of Maribor and Klopp is eager not to see a repeat in the wake of their Spartak victory, especially with Everton showing signs of form under new boss Sam Allardyce.

“All Allardyce teams are difficult to play but, on the other hand, we are in a good moment and we have to learn from our mistakes,” said Klopp. “After our last clear win in the Champions League against Maribor, we were not spot on in the next game.

“There is no doubt about the quality of Everton. No results, no confidence, they thought they needed a change and needed time to get it.

“The challenge is we don’t expect to play like we did against Moscow: it was confident, flying. We have to start from the ground again. We have to be perfectly organised and protect what we do in a perfect way.

“I played him [Allardyce] at three different clubs and I’m only two years here. At each club, he did the job. He’s very successful; we know what we’ll get but that doesn’t make it easier.”

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Klopp added that Alberto Moreno will miss the derby due to an ankle problem picked up in midweek.

“We’re not sure what it is yet,” he said. “It’s around the tendon. We have to make a further assessment. It could be one week or it could be a couple of weeks.

“It’s a very rare thing. So far, the specialists aren’t sure. Not Everton, but if it’s in a week or so or a little bit longer we have to wait for that. There’s a little damage around the tendon.”


‘Nobody said Coutinho will leave in January’ – Klopp dismisses Barca transfer speculation

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he has been given no indication Philippe Coutinho will be sold to Barcelona in January.

The Brazil international was reportedly a key transfer target for the Catalans in the previous window but Liverpool stood firm in their desire to keep him at Anfield.

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Speculation has emerged suggesting Barca have already struck a deal to sign the 25-year-old next month and Reds chief executive Peter Moore told Sky Sports he has “no crystal ball” when it comes to the player’s future.

However, Klopp appears adamant Coutinho will not leave and is eager to avoid another saga during the coming transfer window.

“I have no reason to think about it. Just because you ask, it doesn’t change my situation,” he told a news conference on Friday.

“We never spoke about transfers in this moment. Whatever I could say would obviously not stop your questions. So I just thought: ‘Don’t answer it.’

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“There’s really nothing to say at this moment. Nobody came to me and said: ‘Phil will be away in January.’ I’m completely fine with the situation how it is.

“We had this big story in the summer and I have no desire to have it again before the end of January. We have about 20 games in this period. 

“After January 31, we can shake hands and say: ‘What a wonderful time we had together.’ The journalists and me, not Phil and me!”


I have no crystal ball – Liverpool CEO unsure of Coutinho future

Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore is unsure if Philippe Coutinho will still be at the club after the January transfer window, saying he has “no crystal ball”.

The Brazil international was the subject of interest from Barcelona during the close-season and reportedly tried to force a move through.

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Liverpool stood firm on that occasion and managed to keep hold of the talented attacking midfielder, though there are no assurances that Barca will not come back in for him.

And the club’s CEO cannot guarantee that Coutinho – who scored a hat-trick in Wednesday’s 7-0 thrashing of Spartak Moscow – will remain.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Moore said: “[On Wednesday] I saw a player delighted to score a hat-trick in front of 54,000 fans. It’s all about Philippe on the pitch right now.

“As far as I’m concerned the squad in January is what we have. I have no crystal ball.”

But Moore highlighted that Liverpool’s recruitment team are doing a good job, pointing to the purchases of Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“From the perspective of competing, we do things the Liverpool way,” Moore said.

“The chemistry that we build on the field – it’s not about buying the most expensive player.

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool

“We haven’t been shy [in terms of spending]. Obviously, the Mohamed Salah purchase for many people has been the top acquisition of the season.

“We already have Naby Keita coming and I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is doing a tremendous job.

“The investments are being made. It’s hard to knock what you are seeing on the field right now.”

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In the long run, though, Moore has certain expectations in mind for Liverpool, demanding them to become consistent challengers for European honours.

“We need to be a contender for the Champions League year in, year out,” he added.

“We need to be in the top four every year. But this club exists to win trophies. It’s what our fans deserve.”


Fantasy Football: Liverpool dominate Goal Champions League Team of the Week after Spartak thrashing

The last round of Champions League group stage play is now in the books, and it was a matchday that saw Philippe Coutinho pick up his first ever hat trick for Liverpool in their 7-0 drubbing of Spartak Moscow. That performance obviously earned him a spot in our Team of the Week, where he is joined by four of his Liverpool teammates, but who else is in the team?


GK: Loris Karius – Liverpool – 1 Game, 5 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 9 Points

DF: James Milner – Liverpool – 1 Substitute Appearance, 3 Assists, 1 Clean Sheet = 15 Points

Milner has done very little when given a chance in the Premier League this season, but put him under the European lights and he shines. He ends the group stages with the most assists of any defender (five), and three of them coming on Wednesday. It’s also worth noting that Liverpool have a much higher clean sheet rate in the Champions League (50%) than domestically (31%).

James Milner Liverpool

DF: Alex Sandro – Juventus – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DF: Serge Aurier – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Assist – 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

The wingback rotation under Mauricio Pochettino has become a thorn in the side of many Fantasy Premier League owner, but it may be more consistent in the Champions League than you think. Aurier started all but one of Tottenham’s European matches and did fairly well in a hellish group, managing a pair of clean sheets and assists. Who they draw in the next round will obviously dictate his value and usability, but the Frenchman definitely did his part in helping Spurs dominate the Group of Death.

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 20 Points

Coutinho had a hat trick of assists at the weekend and followed it up with an actual hat trick against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday. He ends the group stages with the second most Fantasy points among midfielders and sixth overall in the Goal game. His influence on this Liverpool team should have diminished with the arrival of Mohamed Salah, but it seems to have given him the freedom and space to flourish into an even better player.

Coutinho UCL POW graphic

MF: Sadio Mane – Liverpool – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

MF: Corentin Tolisso – Bayern Munich – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

MF: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

MF: Yacine Brahimi – Porto – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

FWD: Vincent Aboubakar – Porto – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 15 Points

Vincent Aboubakar FC Porto AS Monaco UEFA Champions League 06122017

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Porto came into Wednesday’s match just three points clear of Leipzig, but Aboubakar’s performance ensured safe passage to the Round of 16 for the Portuguese club. He has also been a solid Fantasy asset for his owners thus far, considering he currently sits in the top 10 among forwards and is cheaper than everyone with more points. He could face a tough road in the Champions League, though, with the Portuguese side set to face a group winner come February, but he will likely be solid value regardless.

FWD: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points



Memorable night of firsts for Coutinho in Liverpool rout

Philippe Coutinho’s night against Spartak Moscow could hardly have gone better — it started with an Anfield record and resulted in a memorable first for the attacker.

With Liverpool needing a result to secure qualification into the knock-out stages, Coutinho picked up his first-ever Liverpool hat-trick in a 7-0 win in the Champions League Group E finale.

It started just four minutes in as Mohamed Salah was brought down in the area for a penalty. Coutinho stepped up and converted the spot-kick — the fastest goal ever scored at Anfield in a Champions League match.

Coutinho notched Liverpool’s second not long after, completing a nice team move by sliding a pass from Robert Firmino past the keeper and inside the far post.

The Brazilian’s night got even better early in the second half when he scored once more off a deflection to complete his hat-trick, his first in a Liverpool shirt, and the Reds’ fifth on the evening.

Coutinho wasn’t the only Brazilian to have himself a night. Roberto Firmino also enjoyed his evening, assisting on Coutinho’s second and then getting a goal himself for Liverpool’s third.

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Firmino’s goal was the sixth of this year’s group stage. That mark is the most a Liverpool player has scored in the group stage.

The victory means Liverpool win the group and will head to the Champions League knock-out stages for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.


Fantasy Football: Coutinho stars in Goal’s Fantasy Team of the Week

The winter period of the Premier League often creates a good dividing line between the top teams and everyone else. Whilst we’ve only just entered December, this trend seems to already be en route if not already here, as eight members of our fantasy Team of the Week come from the traditional top six clubs. Fantasy players would be served well by filling their team with such players, especially once European commitments subside at the end of this week for three months. Until then, here are the 11 best Fantasy performers from the weekend that was.


GK: Julian Speroni – Crystal Palace – 1 Game, 7 Saves, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

DF: Nicolas Otamendi – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Goal Conceded = 8 Points

Manchester City have, all of a sudden, forgotten what a clean sheet is, but Otamendi has been able to offset those struggles somewhat by putting the ball in the net. Considering his price, though, the Argentine defender probably isn’t worth owning for now, especially with matches against Manchester United and Tottenham both lurking on the horizon.

Nicolas Otamendi Manchester City Southampton

DF: Christian Kabasele – Watford – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Goal Conceded = 8 Points

DF: Antonio Valencia – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Goal Conceded = 8 Points

MF: Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 3 Assists = 17 Points

What a ridiculous day Phillippe Coutinho had. In fact, only Sergio Aguero has scored more points in a single match (20) than Coutinho’s 17 this week. While both Liverpool and the Brazilian can both be inconsistent, they have a very nice run ahead of them, facing just two top ten defences before the calendar turns.

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MF: Eden Hazard – Chelsea – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

MF: Jesse Lingard – Manchester United – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

After spending the majority of the season as a bench option, Lingard was finally given minutes and immediately turned them into points. He now has made two consecutive starts and collected three goals and an assist over that stretch, therefore the Englishman looks a fantastic differential and budget option in the Goal game at the moment.

MF: David Silva – Manchester City – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

David Silva Premier League Team of the Week

MF: Son Heung-Min – Tottenham – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FWD: Roberto Firmino – Liverpool – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

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FWD: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Everton – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 10 Points

His inclusion in our Team of the Week is another example of what seems to be a resurgence from Everton. Like Lingard, Calvert-Lewin has recently received a boost to his minutes and has responded with a goal and two assists in the last three matches. It’s also worth noting that his 52% shot accuracy, while not prolific, is higher than fellow English strikers Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, so the young forward is definitely worth a speculative add for the braver owners out there.