FPL Gameweek 31 – Captain Picks

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An excellent weekend of football saw the goals flying in at all grounds as 18 of the 20 Premier League teams found the back of the net in GW30. In what was definitely the biggest shock of the weekend, Chelsea got destroyed by a Matheus Pereira (£5.3m)-inspired West Brom. It was a truly remarkable result, even after taking into account the fact Chelsea were reduced to ten men following Thiago Silva’s (£5.6m) dismissal just before the half-hour mark. To add some context to the absurdity of the scoreline, Chelsea hadn’t conceded in seven home games in all competitions under Tuchel, West Brom hadn’t scored five away from home in a competitive fixture since 12th February 2012 and you have to go all the way back to October 29th, 2011 to find the last time the Blues conceded five goals at Stamford Bridge. Now just eight points behind 17th-placed Newcastle, hope is beginning to break out in the Black Country. This week's match against Southampton is massive.

It was also a good weekend for the English contingent of the Premier League who are looking to secure a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad at the upcoming Euros. As a heated debate broke out on between Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on MNF over Trent Alexander-Arnold’s (£7.3m) inclusion/exclusion in the England squad, Southgate was reminded of the wealth of attacking options he has to choose between when June comes around. Goals from Harry Kane (£11.7m), Mason Mount (£7.1m), Danny Ings (£8.4m), Ollie Watkins (£6.6m), Marcus Rashford (£9.5m), Mason Greenwood (£7.0m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.3m) will provide food for thought. Unfortunately, none of these players make the top the captaincy options as we look forward to GW31 and assess the choices ahead of Friday’s 18:00 deadline.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Mo Salah (£12.4m) vs AVL (H)

A Diogo Jota (£6.9m)-inspired win coupled with other results going their way have propelled Liverpool back into the top four picture. More importantly, following Jota’s introduction, the side looked more like the team that romped to last year’s title as opposed to their 2020-21 pale imitation. While the likes of Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane (£11.8m) and Jota all represent potential captain options this weekend, it’s hard to ignore Mo Salah (£12.4m). In many ways it’s been a strange season for Salah. While Liverpool’s form has been rightly questioned, Salah himself has also come in for much criticism despite putting together yet another solid campaign. Well on his way to yet another 20+ goalscoring season (all competitions), his third in four years at Liverpool, only Kane has more goals than Salah in the league at this stage.

From an FPL perspective, only Kane and Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) sit ahead of the Egyptian in the point-scoring charts and with six of Liverpool’s last eight fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table, Salah looks set for potential mega-hauls down the final stretch of the season. He’ll aim to begin that sequence with a match this weekend against Aston Villa. Liverpool’s 7-2 humiliation at the hands of the Villains back in GW4 represented the precursor to what has been a disappointing title defence. However, one player who escaped that match with their reputation untarnished was Mo Salah, who bagged both of Liverpool’s goals.

Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) vs TOT (a)

It’s all getting a little boring to continuously select Bruno Fernandes each week in these captain articles. That said it’s hard to make a justifiable case for not including a man who has recorded 29 goal involvements this season, is the current FPL top point scorer and has delivered at least five points in 19 different gameweeks so far. The boring choice is often the most reliable choice after all – there’s definitely a proverb in their somewhere. This week, Fernandes takes his point-scoring exploits to London, as Man Utd look to avenge the 6-1 hammering they took at the hands of Spurs earlier in the season. Naturally, it was Fernandes who got the one goals in that match, a second-minute penalty before his side capitulated following an Anthony Martial (£8.6m) red card. Since that time, the two teams' fortunes have drastically differed as Man Utd have consolidated a top-four spot while Spurs have continually thrown points away from winning positions. If only Mourinho could rely on his defence the same way the Red Devils do on Fernandes, though Jose has heroically taken none of the heat for the failings of his backline and will undoubtedly have a master plan for keeping Man Utd at bay this weekend before being let down on the pitch by his players. The more things change and all that.

Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) vs LEE (H)

There are some things that stats can’t measure and sometimes one of them is the impact Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) has had on a football match. A look at the statistics from City’s 2-0 victory against Leicester at the weekend will show zero goals and zero assists for the Belgian. What it doesn’t show is that he was once again the best player on the park and could have had a hatful of goal involvements had it not been for the woodwork and poor finishing by his illustrious teammates. At least he scored in #UCLfantasy.

A match against Leeds is up next for the Champions elect and given Leeds’ form this year, any score seems possible. Eight matches against the current top five this season have seen the Yorkshire club ship 19 goals, keep one clean sheet in those eight matches and concede three or more 37.5% of the time. Furthermore, only Southampton have conceded more goals than Leeds’ 30 on the road. As such, goals and chances should be on the agenda for City. Of course, the big danger with this pick is that, with the league effectively sewn up, De Bruyne will fall foul of Pep roulette ahead of City’s Champions League second leg against Borussia Dortmund next midweek.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Matheus Pereira (£5.3m) vs SOU (H)

There’s definitely more than a hint of point chasing in this one but there is some method in the selection. While it can’t be relied upon for West Brom’s opponents to go down to ten men every match, or Pereira to register two goals, two assists and 21 points each week, the Baggies’ chief playmaker has provided a measure of consistency, in addition to excellent value for money, in his first ever season in the Premier League. Seven goals; six assists; four double-digit point scores; on penalties, corners and set-pieces; costing £5.3m and owned by just 1.9% of FPL managers, Pereira is a nice differential option for anyone looking to take a flyer this weekend. They also have an appetising must-win fixture against Southampton at the weekend. While probably safe following their victory against Burnley last weekend, a record of one clean sheet in their last 13 league fixtures with an average of 2.6 goals conceded per match in that time frame would suggest West Brom are likely to get numerous chances on Monday evening. Having been involved in over 50% of West Brom’s league goals this season, it looks likely that Pereira will register some form of attacking return this weekend.

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