It’s going to be a huge letdown, isn’t it? All the anticipation, discussion and painstaking preparation for this the first blank gameweek of the season (a Spurs and West Ham-less GW21 aside) is destined to be rewarded with a quartet of low-scoring fixtures, crowned by Watford frustrating a toothless Liverpool at Anfield in the Saturday evening game.
The Stats Zone’s highly sophisticated projections for the coming gameweek are of course neither pessimistic nor tainted by a decade of anticlimactic experiences and frustration, so can at the very least indicate which assets will give FPL managers the best possible chance of a respectable GW31 score.
Given Liverpool’s straightforward-looking home fixture against Watford, it is unquestionable that Mohamed Salah (£10.6m), Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) and Sadio Mane (£9.4m) are expected be the main source of points in Gameweek 31. The free-scoring front three – who all netted in the Reds’ opening-day draw with the Hornets at Vicarage Road – have 45 goals, 24 assists and 506 fantasy points between them in the league this season, and are projected to add a cumulative 20+ points to that tally on Saturday night.
Indeed, Liverpool players make up almost half of the above table of predicted GW31 top scorers, with budget buys Emre Can (£4.9m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£4.3m), Andrew Robertson (£4.9m) and Loris Karius (£4.8m) all forecast to return at least five points.
Elsewhere, Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.3m) and Jack Butland (£5.0m) are split by renascent Everton targetman Cenk Tosun (£6.7m), who has two goals in his last two starts for the Toffees. Shaqiri is the second most-transferred in midfielder of the week, bewilderingly behind Tottenham’s Son Heung-min – who is in FA Cup action with Spurs this weekend.
Facing a side who have scored only 10 goals in their 15 away games, and having himself shipped only six goals in his last seven games, Jack Butland is statistically likely to return more points than the other seven starting goalkeepers this weekend. England’s probable number one this summer has also saved more shots (107) than any other Premier League ‘keeper this season.
Despite Bournemouth having a great-looking home fixture against a wretched West Brom, Asmir Begovic (£4.5m) is conversely perhaps one to avoid. The Cherries have the second worst home defensive record in 2017-18 and have kept just two clean sheets at the Vitality Stadium all season – their last coming back in November.
Despite having played only nine full games this season, Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho (£4.6m) has managed to rack up ten bonus points in 2017-18 – more than the rest of the Palace backline combined. Having returned to training in the last week and taken his place on the bench at Stamford Bridge last weekend, the French international may well feature from the start at Huddersfield on Saturday. The Terriers’ own centre-half pairing of Zanka (£4.5m) and Christopher Schindler (£4.7m) are more nailed-on picks, while Bournemouth’s Adam Smith (£4.8m) is an intriguing choice – the defender having been deployed on the right of midfield in recent weeks and returning a goal and an assist in his last three fixtures.
Like Smith, Bournemouth’s Junior Stanislas (£5.9m) could profit from the visit of the struggling Baggies this weekend. The former West Ham man has three goals and two assists in the last seven gameweeks.
The lure of set piece and spot-kick duties is reason enough to factor Aaron Mooy (£5.3m) and Luka Milivojevic (£4.9m) into GW31 plans; no Premier League player has scored more penalties this season than Palace’s unpronounceable Serbian midfielder.
Roberto Firmino and who else? The second and third strikers’ spots are up for grabs in many FPL managers’ teams this week, especially given that the majority will have cash to burn from the sale of crocked big-hitters Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane.
Steve Mounie (£5.8m) has two goals and two assists in his last four games for Huddersfield, having also bagged a brace in his side’s 3-0 win at this weekend’s opponents Crystal Palace back in August.
Callum Wilson’s (£5.9m) goals have dried up at exactly the wrong time; the Bournemouth striker has now gone five games without finding the back of the net. He is undoubtedly a favourite of Eddie Howe though, having started every one of the Cherries’ last 12 league games.
Troy Deeney (£6.3m) is perhaps the form player among this crop of mid-priced forwards, having registered three goals in his last five league games for Watford; only a Petr Cech save from Deeney’s penalty last weekend preventing him from adding to that tally.
The Stats Zone’s Gameweek 31 coverage continues with the regular team news feature on Friday.