FPL Gameweek 18 – Projections

It was a disappointing weekend for the projections team, missing out on the 19 points of Kevin De Bruyne (£10.3m), 11 of John Lundstram (£5.2m) and 10 from Raheem Sterling (£11.8m). At least it had Mo Salah (£12.2m), scorer of both goals in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Watford. Knowing that the Hornets had conceded more double-digit hauls than any other team, the algorithm selected both Salah and Sadio Mane (£12.2m). The Senegalese star was unlucky not to join his teammate at the big table, as VAR ruled out his headed goal and left him on just one assist.

The team scored 54 points. Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m) helped Liverpool secure their second consecutive clean sheet, ending a period where the league leaders found them so difficult to complete. Jonjo Shelvey (£5.1m) was injured and didn’t play, plus there were blanks for Marcus Rashford (£9.1m), Heung-Min Son (£10.1m) and Ricardo Pereira (£6.5m). Captaincy went to Lys Mousset (£5.1m) rather than Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) – the Sheffield Utd forward failed to deliver and Vardy’s goal was quickly downgraded to an assist. At least George Baldock (£4.9m) brought in some points from the Blades.

OPTIMUM SQUAD

With Liverpool contesting the Club World Cup in Qatar, their clash at West Ham has been postponed until a future date. Consequently, a lot of very popular players won’t be in Gameweek 18 such as Salah, Mane, van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) and Andrew Robertson (£7.1m). It is a real test of managers’ benches and transfer organisation to see if 11 good players can be fielded, especially when highly picked Leicester and Chelsea assets have tough away games to Man City and Spurs respectively.

Vicente Guaita (£5.1m) gets the nod again, after contributing 8 points from a non-clean sheet position against Brighton. He made nine saves and claimed all three bonus points. A trip to Newcastle is worth backing, especially when the low-scoring Geordies are without prime attacking threat Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m). In defence, Southampton’s Jan Bednarek (£4.4m) is selected as the Saints seek their first clean sheet in 13 attempts, travelling to Aston Villa.

Baldock is joined in a Sheffield Utd pairing by Lundstram. The game’s second most-owned player delivered his sixth attacking return of the season when assisting the John Fleck opener. This time they’re away to Brighton, who have scored in all but one of their last ten games including an impressive 2-1 win at Arsenal. Yet they’ll have a difficult time against Neal Maupay (£5.8m) during his quest to score again, having done so in each of the previous three matches.

Over the last four gameweeks, only De Bruyne has had more shots on target than Maupay. That’s why the Belgian is also included for Saturday’s big match against Leicester. He had started to drift, with assists drying up and not being known as a prolific goal scorer but he has now netted in three of five league matches. Sell him at your peril, basically.

With no Liverpool, the algorithm’s final six places form three double-ups: for Spurs, Leicester and Man Utd. The Foxes’ rampant form was blocked in a surprise 1-1 draw with Norwich but they are still playing confident football in second place, in addition to reaching the Carabao Cup semi-finals following Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out win over Everton. James Maddison (£7.8m) opened the scoring at Goodison Park and had assisted Vardy’s strike against Norwich before it was changed to a Tim Krul (£4.5m) own goal. Prior to that, Vardy had scored in eight consecutive matches but has still been backed as the optimum squad’s captain, despite a daunting trip to face the champions.

Rashford and Anthony Martial (£7.7m) also scored in midweek cup action. Whereas the latter is cheaper and, as an incorrectly listed midfielder, feels like a cheeky life hack, Rashford is in supreme form and is less prone to injuries. Before blanking against Everton, he had tallied up seven goals, three assists and 13 bonus points from the previous eight games. Both will feel confident of adding more double-digit misery to Watford’s defence.

It’s a good time for Son and Harry Kane (£10.9m) to face Chelsea, considering Frank Lampard’s young side have hit a difficult period of four league defeats from five. Jose Mourinho’s entertainers have scored 19 times in the seven matches since his arrival and a win here would see Spurs leapfrog the Blues into fourth place. Being rotation proof is a huge plus for Kane owners, whilst Son has played all but three Premier League minutes since the managerial change.

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