FPL: The Five GW31 fixtures assessed

The Premier League shares the spotlight with the FA Cup this weekend. Whilst that means a glut of live matches to watch, it plays havoc with fantasy football. A reduced fixture list of just five matches means some careful planning is needed.

If you’ve been planning for this for a number of weeks, you are probably sitting quite comfortably reading this. With only 10 teams in action, there will be plenty of FPL teams with less than 11 players this week. There is an argument for playing the Free Hit chip this week. That will allow you to make unlimited changes for one week only and your team will revert for week 32. This is a get out of jail card if you’re sitting with only a handful of players set to play. The only question is whether that chip could be used in another way. For example there will be weeks (expected to be 32 and 35) where many teams play twice, so you could get a points bonanza by picking a team full of players playing twice.

With just the five matches to look at, we are able to analyse each game to pick out the potential value. With Tottenham, Arsenal and both Manchester Clubs not in league action, this looks like being one of the trickiest weeks yet.

1) Bournemouth vs Newcastle (Saturday, 3pm)

With just one place and three points separating these two teams, a tight mid-table clash is expected. For all the Magpies are tough to break down away from home, they don’t often win on the road which makes Bournemouth favourites here. The Cherries looked a different side with Callum Wilson (£6.4m) back to lead the line with chief protagonist Ryan Fraser (£6.2m) returning to points scoring form. On the negative side, Eddie Howe has some defensive injuries to deal with at the moment with Steve Cook, Adam Smith and Simon Francis out of this one. That should mean Nathan Ake (£5.1m) is partnered by Chris Mepham (£4.5m) whilst Artur Boruc (£4.1m) has been preferred in goal recently.

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Salomon Rondon (£5.9m) scored a brace when the two sides met on Tyneside and the Magpies top scorer will be the biggest threat here. Ayoze Perez (£6.1m) scored twice last week so he is at least in form, though none of his goals have come away from home. Newcastle have managed 9 clean sheets this season including away at the likes of Southampton, Huddersfield and Crystal Palace which suggests there might be more value in the defence. Fabian Schar is suspended and Jamaal Lascelles a doubt so the safest picks if you’re looking for clean sheet possibilities would be Florian Lejeune (£4.4m) or Martin Dubravka (£5m).

2) Burnley vs Leicester (Saturday, 3pm)

Sean Dyche’s men looked to be heading for safety but three defeats in a row have checked their progress. Ashley Barnes (£5.7m) has scored 5 goals in his last 7 games and he looks a good budget striking option here. With just six clean sheets all season you would be brave to back them for a shutout here but James Tarkowski (£4.7m) generally offers a threat in both boxes if you wanted to go down that road.

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Brendan Rodgers seems to be getting the best out of Jamie Vardy (£9m). That will make him a popular selection this week but his success might depend on the supply line. James Maddison (£6.7m) has shown signs of returning to his early season form whilst Youri Tielemans (£6m) is bedding in well. Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) is showing a lot of promise but Ricardo Pereira (£5.4m) is a real FPL favourite. He’s a defender in game but has spent some of the season playing on the wing and Rodgers favoured a wing back system in the previous away match. That could also prove useful for Ben Chilwell (£5m). With us still being early in the Rodgers era though there’s a lot of experimenting to come.

3) West Ham vs Huddersfield (Saturday, 3pm)

There’ll be many managers going for triple West Ham this week and it’s not hard to see why. With Huddersfield marooned to the bottom of the table, this one has “home banker” written all over it. Firstly, Huddersfield have managed only 15 goals all season, so a West Ham defender or two seem like must haves. England’s newest recruit Declan Rice is £4.7m and classified as a defender on the game, whilst centre halves Issa Diop (4.4m) and Angelo Ogbonna (£4.2m) look incredible value. Going forwards Felipe Anderson (£7.2m) has lost a little bit of form but is an obvious talent. Javier Hernandez has been leading the line and at just £6.1m that looks useful, but Marko Arnautovic’s return might result in a change. Robert Snodgrass (£5m) has been quietly accumulating points all season and represents a fine budget option.

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4) Fulham vs Liverpool (Sunday, 2.15pm)

Liverpool are another team who manages may well triple-up on. Fulham’s defence has been breached 68 times this season – comfortably the worst in the league – and with many teams already containing Liverpool players, it should be a case of holding what you have. Sadio Mane £9.9m) looks like the must have as his recent good goal scoring form continued with two in Munich, whilst Mo Salah (£13.4m) will always be a threat. Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) also scored twice last weekend and may come onto the radar after a relatively quiet season. Liverpool also have the leanest defence with Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m) the most value for money option.

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Fulham, like Huddersfield, are fast approaching relegation. They will carry a threat through Mitrovic (£6.4m) but they are massive underdogs here and I think the value will be in Liverpool players.

5) Everton vs Chelsea (Sunday, 4.30pm)

Two of the league’s most complicated teams go head to head in the final game of the weekend. Everton have managed only 6 home wins all season whilst Chelsea’s form has been patchy at best. Both managers are under a lot of pressure, so where on earth do the FPL points come from?

Eden Hazard (£10.9m) is an obvious answer though he hasn’t scored an away goal in 2019. Gonzalo Higuain (£9.6m) is carrying an illness which puts a question mark over his involvement and former FPL favourite Marcos Alonso (£6.4m) has been rotated with Emerson (£5.2m) recently. Mr Reliable Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m) might be a bland but safe selection.

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It’s not much better for Everton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.3m) is an extremely cheap, starting striker who has been in the goals recently. Richarlison (£6.5m) has followed a similar trajectory to Alonso. A must have at the beginning, his form has dipped although he did find the net in last weekend’s defeat.

All in all it’s a difficult game to call and very few standouts for FPL points. It might be better banking the points from West Ham if you are just looking to get through a weekend relatively unscathed.

In the OffsideRulePod league, Gary held onto his lead but it was cut to three points. Gary had Jamie Vardy and Ryan Fraser to thank who both gave double digit returns. Time is running out!

ORP GW31

It’s an International break next week but I’ll be back the week after that to preview what should be a double game week 32. Good luck with your teams!

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