FPL Gameweek 36 – Projections

The fantastic title race is bringing the very best out of Man City and Liverpool, as both sides refuse to blink first in this season’s thrilling climax. Pep Guardiola’s men picked up maximum points from the tricky Gameweek 35 double of Tottenham and Man Utd, boasting two clean sheets. Liverpool, meanwhile, eventually found a way past relegation-fighting Cardiff and emerged with a dogged 2-0 win.

Just as stunning were the collapses of Man Utd and Arsenal. With Ole at the wheel, crashes continue to occur at Old Trafford and the derby defeat is their seventh from nine games. Sunday saw them remarkably lose 4-0 at Everton, with goals from Richarlison (£6.4m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m), Theo Walcott (£5.9m) and Lucas Digne (£5.3m). In fact, to contrast the top two’s title fight, it seems that nobody wants to claim fourth place and Champions League football. Chelsea drew 2-2 at home to Burnley and Arsenal lost to both Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Elsewhere, Gerard Deulofeu (£5.7m) rewarded owners with a brace against Huddersfield but blanked on Tuesday when Shane Long (£4.6m) scored the fastest goal in Premier League history.

OPTIMUM SQUAD

Double Gameweek 35 dominated last week’s optimum squad, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m) and David Luiz (£5.9m) selected for their team’s single appearances. Considering the increased number of games, 78 is a disappointing return. Deulofeu brought in 17 points, with 11 from Alexander-Arnold. Raul Jimenez (£6.9m) was the wrong Wolves player to captain, as Diogo Jota (£6.2m) outscored him 11-2. Neither Lucas Moura (£6.8m) nor Son Heung-min (£8.9m) returned, as Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) only registered an assist from two games.

There are three gameweeks left until the summer and the algorithm is heavily-backing Liverpool to ruthlessly dispose of basement-dwellers Huddersfield. Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (£6.8m) both made the PFA Team of the Year, with the former grabbing his eighth assist of the season at Cardiff. The two full-backs, alongside PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk (£6.7m), are the three highest scoring defenders of the FPL season and expect to add a 20th clean sheet against the league’s lowest scorers. Liverpool have to win their final three games and hope for a Man City slip up. If it comes to goal difference, they’re currently eight behind City and will need a heavy win on Friday night.

Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) and Kieran Trippier (£6.0m) missed Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, whilst Danny Rose (£5.8m) was restricted to a late appearance, but all three returned for the midweek clean sheet against Brighton. They are likely to beat a West Ham side who seem like they’re coasting their way to the summer.

Despite being seen in America this week as one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) is expected to play on Friday. When asked, manager Jurgen Klopp said: “He’s back. Of course, he can miss one session, that's what he did. Today he will be in training, everything will be fine again” before dismissing the idea of rotation: “No chance for that. We had enough time to recover from the last game, we have enough time to recover for the next game. Barcelona has nothing to do with the game on Friday.”

With the double gameweeks of 32 and 35 commonly occupied by Free Hit and Bench Boost chips, only the Everton v Man City (GW25) and Brighton v Cardiff (GW34) games offered a further two-game Triple Captain option. Because of this, many managers will use their chip this week on Salah or Sadio Mane (£10.1m). However, with two Champions League semi-final games on the horizon, Klopp may use a comfortable lead as a chance to substitute his star men.

A trip to in-form Burnley is arguably the biggest obstacle remaining for Man City. In the 16 matches since Gameweek 20, the Clarets rank fifth in the league with only Liverpool and Sunday’s opponents losing less often. The draw at Stamford Bridge followed three big wins that eased all relegation fears for Sean Dyche, So it doesn’t present an opportunity for Guardiola to rotate, with the outstanding Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) likely to get his seventh consecutive start. On 17 goals, he notched his 14th assist of the league campaign when setting up Leroy Sane (£9.3m) for the second at Old Trafford.

Whereas Sterling has his manager’s complete trust, the German has had a tougher time of late. In all competitions, Sane has only started seven of their last 19 matches. He’s been involved in just 669 of the last 1,740 minutes (38.45%), whilst not starting the Manchester derby, the Carabao Cup final or any of the Spurs trilogy. Yet when he plays, he delivers. Sane was a bright spark in Wednesday’s cameo, with his goal sealing three huge points. This momentum may see him entrusted against Burnley as, let’s not forget, he’s one of only nine players to have over ten goals and assists this season.

Southampton lost to Newcastle and drew at Watford, with James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) blanking in both. His late February-early March run of three goals in three games led some to risk a Wildcard slot on the set-piece expert. It hasn’t yet worked out but a home match with Bournemouth will surely see the Saints take the initiative and push for a win.

It also provides an opportunity for Callum Wilson (£6.7m), who is part of an unusual algorithm strike force with Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.3m). Ahead of big names such as Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m), Wilson is fancied to replicate his goal and two assists from the 5-0 win at Brighton rather than the disappointing blank at home to Fulham.

It continued the Cottagers’ strange post-relegation bounce, where they’ve beaten Bournemouth and Everton without a single goal conceded by their leaky defence. Last week was only the fifth match with a Mitrovic goal since Gameweek 4 but he ends the season facing Cardiff, Wolves and former club Newcastle.

THE REST – GOALKEEPERS/DEFENDERS

Only Spurs and Liverpool have clean sheets predicted, hence the appearance of Alisson (£5.9m), Joel Matip (£4.9m), Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m), Toby Alderweireld (£6.0m) and Van Dijk in the reserves list. Matip’s starting place may go to the now-fit Joe Gomez (£4.8m) but the rest should be assured of starts. Matt Doherty (£5.3m) scored his fourth league goal of the season against Arsenal and will want to get revenge on Watford for their FA Cup semi-final victory by pipping them to seventh place. They meet on Saturday. The other goalkeepers are mostly there for potential save points but Neil Etheridge (£4.6m) will be confident of keeping out Fulham for a tenth clean sheet.

THE REST – MIDFIELDERS/FORWARDS

Mane and Roberto Firmino (£9.4m) miss out on the starting XI because of the three-per-team limit but are very good captaincy choices for FPL managers. It was a surprise to see Paul Pogba (£8.6m) make the PFA Team of the Year but, despite the huge loss in form over recent weeks, he’s still been a good Fantasy pick this season. Like this weekend’s opponent Eden Hazard (£10.9m), his penalty duty means there’s always a decent chance of a goal, no matter the opponent. Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) has only ever scored once against West Ham, while there’s the continued uncertainty over Arsenal’s strikers. Alexander Lacazette (£9.4m) played all 180 minutes of Gameweek 35, thanks to Aubameyang’s sinus procedure, but missed the previous game at Watford. They played together for Sunday’s Crystal Palace defeat.