Premier League strikers looking for more net gains

LONDON (AFP) – Everton top the Premier League standings by virtue of better goal difference than city rivals and champions Liverpool heading into this weekend’s matches.

Attack being the best form of defence has certainly seemed the mantra so far this season with a torrent of goals.

Here, AFP Sport picks out three games featuring the Premier League’s in-form hotshots:

MAN OF THE MOMENT RASHFORD TARGETS GUNNERS

Marcus Rashford turns 23 today but he is showing a maturity beyond that both on and off the pitch.

This week a petition supporting his campaign to persuade the United Kingdom (UK) Government to provide free meals for Britain’s poorest children during school holidays has attracted over a million signatures.

On the pitch he has been just as effective with a quickfire hat-trick after coming on as a substitute in the 5-0 Champions League demolition of RB Leipzig on Wednesday.

He will hope this sparks a similar sharpness in front of goal in the Premier League – he has just two to his name this term – starting with 15th-placed United’s hosting of Arsenal, who are four places above them but having played a game more tomorrow night.

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. PHOTO: AP

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no doubt Rashford can handle the pressures on and off the pitch.

“Marcus has showed he can keep focussing on what’s important on and off the pitch at the moment,” said Solskjaer.

BAMFORD TAKING HIS CHANCES, OLD FOX VARDY LIES IN WAIT

Patrick Bamford’s decision to decline a scholarship to Harvard University is finally paying dividends at the top level.

The 27-year-old Leeds United striker has proved the doubters wrong, scoring six goals in their opening six games.

French great Eric Cantona is the only other Leeds player to have hit six goals after the club’s first six games in the top flight.

With just one goal in 27 previous appearances in the Premier League, it was easy to see why Bamford did have an army of sceptics arguing for Bielsa to bring in a proven striker at this level.

“The last time (I was in the Premier League), maybe people said I wasn’t ready – but I didn’t have a proper go at it,” said Bamford after he scored a hat-trick to inflict Aston Villa’s first defeat of the season last Friday.

“This time I have a manager who believes in me and, as long as I keep working hard, he will keep trusting me,” said Bamford.

Leeds could leapfrog Monday’s visitors fourth-placed Leicester – who are two points better off than Marcelo Bielsa’s side – if they beat them but their own defence must hold off Jamie Vardy. The 33-year-old former England international, like Bamford, came good at this level in his late 20s, primarily in the Foxes fairytale title-winning season in 2016.

Vardy comes into the game after also scoring his sixth goal of the campaign in the 1-0 win over Arsenal last Sunday.

“He is always a huge threat and brings great confidence to the team,” said Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers.

“He is a world-class striker and an incredible talent.”

SON SHINING THANKS TO KANE

Jose Mourinho has dismissed talk of Tottenham Hotspur ending their league title drought dating back to 1961.

However, if Korean Son Heung-min and England captain Harry Kane keep fit then the wily Portuguese will be hard-pressed to keep on brushing off such suggestions.

Spurs – who are just two points off table-toppers Everton – host fifth from bottom Brighton tomorrow night as top scorers in the division, with 16 goals thanks in the main to Son’s eight and Kane’s five.

Their partnership has become even more potent thanks to Mourinho adapting Kane’s style of play. This has been so effective that Kane has already equalled his best-ever season in assists with eight.