With eye-catching fixtures for Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham this weekend, players from these three clubs consequently dominate the GW36 projections.
And it was all going so well. With 75 minutes on the clock at Anfield on Tuesday evening and Liverpool 5-0 up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final tie against Roma, Mohamed Salah (£10.6m) was withdrawn by Jurgen Klopp to a standing ovation from the red half of Merseyside and fist-pumps from his 3.5 million+ Fantasy Premier League owners.
Falling in between their UCL double-header, Saturday’s visit of Stoke had seemed a likely fixture for Klopp to rest several of his first XI, as he had done in previous games against West Brom and Everton. With the Reds cantering to victory against a limp Roma side though, suddenly rotation didn’t seem quite the lurking danger – particularly with Salah afforded a rare rest for the final quarter-hour of the game.
Late goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perrotti however put a dampener on a breathtaking performance from Liverpool and gave Roma a modicum of hope for the second leg next Wednesday; they have, of course, overcome a three-goal deficit in the Champions League already this season.
And so, squad rotation may well scupper our GW36 preparations after all - fingers crossed that the godsend of a mole in the Anfield dressing room isn’t unexpectedly embargoed ahead of the 11.30am deadline this Saturday.
Should Salah start, we’re tipping him to top-score again this gameweek. It’s nine home league matches since the Egyptian failed to register less than eight points in a game, with Salah averaging exactly 13 points per fixture at Anfield since the 0-0 draw with West Brom in December. Even a substitute appearance may not prove disastrous – in Liverpool’s last league meeting with the Potters in November, the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year scored twice in a 23-minute cameo from the bench. With one win on the road in 17 attempts, Stoke’s away record is the worst in the Premier League, while Paul Lambert’s side also happen to possess the division’s leakiest defence.
Owners of Roberto Firmino (£9.6m), Sadio Mane (£9.5m), Andrew Robertson (£5.1m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£4.4m) and Virgil van Dijk (£5.7m) will no doubt also be eagerly awaiting any leaked team news ahead of the GW36 curtain-raiser.
Rotation is a very real threat to Manchester City assets too this weekend, albeit for different reasons. With the league already sewn up, Pep Guardiola has hinted that peripheral figures such as Phil Foden (£4.7m) and Brahim Diaz (£4.7m) may be afforded extended game time between now and the end of the season.
With several league records still begging to be smashed though, mass rotation seems unlikely. Raheem Sterling (£9.0m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.3m), Leroy Sane (£8.6m), David Silva (£8.2m) and Gabriel Jesus (£10.3m) are all forecast to perform well at the London Stadium this week, even if their minutes are managed. Sterling is City’s form player with three goals and four assists in his last five appearances, while Jesus averages 7.25 points per game in his last four league starts. No City player has accumulated more FPL points away from home than Silva, meanwhile. The Spanish playmaker has racked up 98 points on his travels this season, which represents 59% of his total score.
The visit of an injury-hit Watford side to Wembley on Monday evening provides the ideal opportunity for Harry Kane (£12.9m) to kick-start the spluttering defence of his Golden Boot crown. Watford’s defence is the league’s third worst, with the Hornets having conceded 11 goals in their last four away fixtures. Christian Eriksen (£9.5m), Dele Alli (£9.0m) and Son Heung-min (£8.3m) are the other obvious potential beneficiaries of that porous Watford backline.
Part of a backline that has the league’s meanest home defensive record (eight goals conceded in 17 games) and playing against a side without a point on their travels in 2018, David de Gea (£5.9m) is the pick of the shotstoppers once again this week, with Chris Smalling (£5.6m), Phil Jones (£5.5m) and Antonio Valencia (£6.9m) in front of him also expected to profit from the visit of an under-strength Arsenal to Old Trafford.
Only Burnley have scored fewer goals at home than Swansea this season, hence the lofty projections for Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger (£5.8m), Victor Moses (£6.5m) and the indefatigable Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.9m) this week.
Denied an obvious assist/penalty combo against Watford last weekend, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) and Luka Milivojevic (£5.2m) are the leading contenders to take advantage of a listless Leicester City side on Saturday. Milivojevic has ten goals to his name this season and 41 points in his last five appearances, while Zaha has already matched his career-best tally of seven league goals this campaign, despite having missed nine games through injury.
Newcastle could condemn West Brom to the drop on Saturday afternoon. With two goals and two assists in his five starts for the Magpies at St James Park, Kenedy (£4.8m) provides huge points potential for his bench fodder price tag.
With three goals in his last four, Kenedy’s teammate Ayoze Perez (£5.4m) is exceeding expectations considering his ‘enabler status’ cost.
Though neither striker has scored more than once in a league match since Gameweek 1, Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m) and Jamie Vardy (£8.9m) have plundered 33 goals between them this season at a reliably consistent rate – neither one has gone more than four league games without finding the back of the net.
The Stats Zone’s GW36 coverage continues tomorrow with the regular predicted line-ups feature.