FPL Gameweek 38 – Captain Picks

With the Premier League champions to be crowned at the conclusion of Gameweek 38, we have gone all in on Manchester City and Liverpool assets in our captaincy analysis – with the usual differential pick thrown in for good measure.

TITLE-CHASING OPTIONS

Sergio Aguero (£11.9m) vs Brighton (a)

The Argentine striker edges out Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) as our armband pick from the Manchester City attack in GW38, though neither player is inspiring captaincy confidence right now. In the last four gameweeks, Aguero has scored once and created one goal while Sterling has just an assist. These returns are indicative of the Citizens’ struggles going forward in recent games as teams sit deep in an attempt to frustrate Pep Guardiola’s outfit.

Leicester did exactly that in GW37 and the Guardiola knows it could be a similar situation at Brighton on Sunday. He told BBC Sport: “One game left – it will be so tough like today, we are away and we saw Brighton had a good game at Arsenal. But it is in our hands. We’ll see if Brighton defend deep or will be more offensive. It will be tough, but hopefully we will have the performance to be champions.” Vincent Kompany (£5.2m), who belted in a 25-yard screamer to win the game for City on Monday, added: “We were putting pressure on, upping the tempo but found the last pass difficult. They defended really well and it was going to take something special.”

Aguero saw a header from a corner hit Leicester’s crossbar on Monday night, while Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) made a great stop to deny a close-range effort from the striker later on. The City forward is two goals behind Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) in the golden boot race going into the final round of fixtures. Aguero was brought off after 86 minutes in GW37 as Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m) earned a late cameo, with Sterling completing the entire game.

Brighton have conceded 10 goals in their past six fixtures, with Bournemouth scoring five of those at the Amex stadium in DGW34. Over that period Chris Hughton’s men have allowed their opponents 105 shots – an average of 17.5 goal attempts conceded per game. The Seagulls did block 35 of those efforts, while 60 were taken from inside the box. Brighton gave up 10 big chances in that run of matches. Hughton’s team have also conceded more penalties (10) than any other club this season.

As Guardiola stated, it is difficult to know how Brighton will approach GW38 with their Premier League status confirmed. That security certainly led to more freedom in attack for the Seagulls in their 1-1 draw at Arsenal in GW37. However, City are a much more dominating force than the Gunners and if recent games are anything to go by, Brighton could revert to the type of backs-to-the-wall performance that FPL bosses are accustomed to. The amount of efforts the Seagulls tend to allow should bode well for Aguero and team-mate Sterling, though the significance of the fixture is muddying the waters in what would usually be a simple captain choice.

Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) vs Brighton (a)

With all of that in mind, City centre-back Laporte could claim many armbands from his attacking colleagues. Guardiola’s side have now kept six clean sheets in their last seven outings, with a Luka Milivojevic (£6.4m) free-kick the only goal they have conceded since Gameweek 30.

Laporte has amassed a huge 12 bonus points since GW32, claiming maximum BPS in each of City’s last three outings. The defender also has two assists in that period, with a simple square pass to Kompany for the Belgian’s goal on Monday a nice extra for owners.

Brighton have managed just two goals over eight fixtures since GW30. Pascal Gross (£6.7m) scored from open play against Newcastle in GW36, while Glenn Murray (£6.1m) converted a penalty at the Emirates last weekend. On the Seagulls’ performance in GW37, Murray said: “Everyone has been calling us out and giving us a hard time because of recent results — but I feel as though we’ve pulled together and gone back to basics, and back to what Brighton are good at. It’s about keeping the opposition at bay and working off the back of that to try and create chances, which I felt we did well against Arsenal. [Man City are] going for the Premier League, and we’ll be trying to keep the integrity of the league and give a good account of ourselves.”

Brighton’s lack of goal threat and City’s recent control of games from a defensive point-of-view promote Laporte’s captaincy credentials for Gameweek 38. The Frenchman’s status as a bonus-points magnet furthers his armband claim this weekend, though it is a strange notion for the majority of FPL players to captain a defender – particularly one that counts Aguero and Sterling among his team-mates.

Sadio Mane (£10.2m) vs Wolves (H)

With Salah undergoing concussion protocol after sustaining a head injury in GW37, Mane is our armband pick in the Liverpool ranks. Jurgen Klopp does expect the Egyptian to play against Wolves, though how much training he will do this week remains to be seen. The Liverpool boss said before Tuesday’s incredible 4-0 win against Barcelona: “It’s a concussion [for Salah], so that means he would not even be allowed to play. That’s it, that’s all. He feels OK, but it is not good enough from a medical point of view, that’s all. He is desperate and everything, but we cannot do it. That’s it. Will he be okay for the weekend? Yes.”

Mane’s home form is another point in his favour – the midfielder has scored 11 times in his last nine league starts at Anfield. That run includes three double-figure hauls for the Senegal star. Mane’s only effort on goal against Newcastle was a missed big chance, as Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) saved from the attacker after Salah had slipped him through.

Wolves have let in six goals in their last six league outings, with Southampton accounting for three of those. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men conceded 62 shots over those fixtures, with half of those efforts (31) allowed inside the penalty area. His team also gave up 13 big chances over that period, with the Saints racking up six of those in a 3-1 home win against Wolves in GW34.

Mane completed the Champions League semi-final against Barca as the Reds somehow managed to make the final. The attacker had a quiet outing stats-wise, failing to get a shot off while creating one big chance, but was a constant thorn in Barcelona's side. After coming through the clash unscathed, Mane is set to be among the top captain choices for Gameweek 38.

Trent-Alexander Arnold (£5.7m) vs Wolves (H)

Two defenders in the captain picks? It must be Gameweek 38! TAA has provided five assists in Liverpool’s past five league games, while also notching clean sheet points on three occasions. The defender’s points-per-match figure over that period is 8.6, while he has recorded back-to-back-to-back double-figure scores (11, 10, 10).

The right-back was lucky to avoid a red card in GW37 as he handled the ball on the line, only for Christian Atsu (£4.9m) to fire in the rebound – an action which ensured Alexander-Arnold remained on the pitch. Virgil van Dijk (£6.7m) had already converted the full-back’s corner at that point, while after the incident TAA whipped in a great ball for Salah to poke home.

Alexander-Arnold notched another two assists on Tuesday night in an excellent performance, setting up Gini Wijnaldum (£5.5m) for his first goal before arrowing in a quick-thinking corner for the Divock Origi (£5.0m) strike that sent Liverpool to the UCL final.

Wolves’ 3-5-2 formation could potentially play to the strengths of Liverpool’s full-backs if the Reds can launch enough counter-attacks at Anfield. However, it is usually Nuno’s team doing the counter-attacking. Liverpool have only conceded 10 times all season at Anfield, so TAA’s ability to create goals is complemented by the team’s ability to keep them out on home turf. The 24%-owned defender would certainly be an armband risk but one that could pay off handsomely for daring owners.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Nathan Redmond (£5.4m) vs Huddersfield (H)

Having been rotated to the bench in GW37, Redmond came on at half time away to West Ham. The midfielder managed four shots inside the box on his introduction, with three of those blocked and one saved.

After the 3-0 defeat to the Hammers, Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “The last few weeks were very intense for us as a team. We have more game at home now where we want to play differently from how we did against West Ham. We want to show our fans that we can finish with a good win for them. The target is to end in the best way possible, getting the energy back and mentally being ready to finish the season with a good win. It would be a good ending to this season if we can do that against Huddersfield.”

On Redmond’s introduction, the Saints boss added: “In the second half we tried everything, and in the first 20 minutes of that we made a lot of chances. The change to bring Redmond in gave us new power up front. If we had scored there, we could have turned the table but in the end, there was not enough power in our game and against the ball to take something from West Ham. The energy the guys put on the pitch was okay, we worked hard while we were 1-0 down but after two, it was a long way to go and the guys knew they did not have the energy left to turn the table again from that position.”

Considering Hasenhuttl’s comments, Redmond’s GW37 impact and his status as a virtual ever-present under the new boss, a Gameweek 38 start appears likely. The manager’s press conference on Friday may give further line-up clues for the visit of Huddersfield

The Terriers’ 1-1 draw at home to Man Utd last weekend was just the second time they have conceded less than two goals in a match since GW29. Jan Siewert’s men have let in 24 goals in eight matches from Gameweek 30. Over the past five gameweeks Huddersfield have allowed 95 shots (60 inside the box), giving up 18 big chances in the process. With many managers set to roll the captaincy dice in GW38, Southampton’s Players’ and Fans’ Player of the Season Redmond could be an astute gamble.

The midfielder has two goals and two assists in his last six starts, generally operating in a central attacking role – though he would be forced wider if both Danny Ings (£5.4m) and Shane Long (£5.7m) start on Sunday. One of a host of players in the frame to replace the suspended Heung-min Son (£8.8m), the 5.4%-owned midfielder’s willingness and ability to get shots off in the box may prove profitable against a leaky Huddersfield outfit.