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03 Apr 2019 by Colm Hayes

FPL Blank Gameweek 33 – Captain Picks

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Two players from both Liverpool and Leicester enter our captaincy musings for BGW33, along with a Bournemouth striker. Eden Hazard could boost his credentials tonight ahead of the visit of West Ham on Monday but the Chelsea midfielder may struggle to earn armbands considering the form and fixtures of several assets this weekend.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Sadio Mane (£10.0m) vs Southampton (a)

With title-chasing Liverpool visiting St Mary’s on Friday night, Mane is the first of our two Reds picks for the armband in BGW33. Since Gameweek 23, the Senegal star has only blanked on three occasions – scoring nine times and providing one assist over that period.

Now owned by over 31% of bosses, Mane sits top of the FPL form standings. The midfielder managed two shots from outside the area against Spurs in GW32, with both narrowly missing the target, while supplying one key pass.

With three wins in their last four league outings, Southampton are in good form. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side conceded four goals in that period, three of those away to Manchester United in a GW29 defeat. Over that game and wins against Fulham (H), Spurs (H) and Brighton (a), the Saints conceded an average of 15 goal attempts and seven shots inside the box per match. Hasenhuttl’s men also shipped two goals against both Cardiff (H) and Arsenal (a) in Gameweeks 26 and 27.

Up against his old club, Mane has the potential to once more wreak havoc in fantasy terms. Gameweek 22 was the last time the midfielder blanked in successive fixtures, with three double-figure scores to his name since then.

Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) vs Southampton (a)

The Egyptian grabbed a fortuitous, much-debated assist last weekend as Hugo Lloris pushed Salah’s header onto Toby Alderweireld to gift Liverpool a match-winning own goal. The midfielder had four other attempts on goal at Anfield – three off-target efforts and one blocked shot.

Salah has not scored since GW26 at home to Bournemouth, while he has just one other assist to his name since then. The £13.2m man recorded twice as many touches in the box as Mane against Spurs and had more shots but continued to look low on confidence in goalscoring terms. His blocked effort came after he spurned an opportunity to slip Mane in on goal, with Salah failing to record a key pass during the encounter.

The 35.7%-owned Salah is still a worthy armband contender in BGW33. In 11 outings against top-six teams this season, relegation-battling Southampton have conceded 28 times. The Saints’ only clean sheet against a ‘bigger’ side came away to Chelsea in GW21.

Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) vs Huddersfield (a)

The Leicester striker has scored five goals in five games since Claude Puel was sacked ahead of Gameweek 28, while also providing one assist. Vardy headed in the Foxes’ second at home to Bournemouth last Saturday from a Youri Tielemans (£6.1m) cross.

The forward missed his other big chance at the King Power, firing wide inside the box with just Asmir Begovic (£4.3m) to beat. The goalkeeper saved another Vardy effort from inside the area, while the Englishman also saw a shot blocked outside the box.

Tielemans has four assists since GW28, with James Maddison (£6.8m) sitting on two. The Belgian made three key passes in GW31, while his midfield partner supplied five. Under Rodgers, the pair are attempting to release Vardy at every opportunity once Leicester win the ball back. On his pressing style, the Foxes chief told BBC Sport: “We showed a real appetite, hunger and tactically we were very good. Our pressing was excellent, the boys are understanding tactically how we want to press and the importance of that. Each game, each day in training, we are getting more used to it.”

Now into ninth place in the table, Rodgers’ ambition to possibly bag a Europa League qualifying spot should mean that Leicester are not ‘on the beach’ too early this season. Asked how much the Foxes are considering that seventh-place finish, the manager responded: “With real thought. I said from my first time here that was what I wanted to achieve, and hopefully that can be the case throughout my time here. I'd take it at any time. We're here to win games. We're also here to build a team and so we're certainly not going to go into games without trying. I've said to the players, 'There are seven cup finals’ and it was a good performance, exceptional. They will get better, day by day in training, and game by game, you can see how they're looking to work and the confidence they're gaining from it.”

Huddersfield’s relegation puts a different complexion on Leicester’s visit to the John Smith’s stadium this weekend. It is difficult to assess how going down will impact the Terriers in their remaining league fixtures but Jan Siewert’s men have leaked shots and goals recently. Since GW29, Huddersfield have shipped nine goals as part of allowing their opponents 57 shots. Almost 72% (41) of those were taken inside the penalty area.

Vardy is unquestionably a player in form, while Leicester appear motivated under Rodgers. The striker only has two double-figure returns all season – an 11-point score at home to Huddersfield back in GW6 and a 16-point haul at home to Fulham in GW30. With 39 points in Leicester’s last five gameweeks, Vardy’s consistency and fixture mark him out as one of BGW33’s top captaincy options.

Callum Wilson (£6.5m) vs Burnley (H)

Bournemouth’s England forward missed a golden opportunity to score in GW32, firing his only attempt straight at Kasper Schmeichel (£5.1m) from inside the six-yard box. Ryan Fraser (£6.1m) had supplied the cross for Wilson’s gilt-edged chance.

The striker has now missed 16 big chances this season, second only to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (19). Since returning from injury three gameweeks ago, Wilson has one goal and one assist – both coming as part of an 11-point outing away to Huddersfield in GW30. He also spurned a big chance in that clash and another at home to Newcastle in GW31, when the forward failed to post attacking returns.

Burnley kept a first clean sheet since GW23 at home to a weakened Wolves XI last Saturday. Between GW24 and BGW31, the Clarets conceded 16 goals. In the last four gameweeks, Sean Dyche’s side have allowed their opponents 50 shots (29 inside the box). The majority of those attempts came in the 4-2 defeat away to Liverpool in GW30.

The Cherries’ motivation is hard to gauge but Eddie Howe’s comments after the loss to Leicester suggest his side will not be donning the flip-flops just yet. The Bournemouth boss said: “Our away record is a concern and we are trying to find ways to improve what we do. I want a game tomorrow after that performance. People travel a long way to come and see us play and we didn't perform.”

With 11 goals and nine assists this season, Wilson is returning attacking points once every 99.8 minutes. In this truncated gameweek, the 15.9%-owned forward represents a risky but potentially profitable armband option.

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

James Maddison (£6.8m) vs Huddersfield (a)

With such a favourable fixture for Leicester, a second Foxes asset had to be considered for the BGW33 captaincy. Owned by 6.6% of managers, Maddison has one goal and two assists in the past six gameweeks.

The midfielder's set-piece specialism promotes him over team-mate Tielemans, who as mentioned has two more assists than Maddison in the same period. The Englishman scored a free-kick away to Burnley in GW29, while he has created more than double the amount of chances set up by Tielemans since Gameweek 27.

After Brendan Rodgers arrived as boss, Maddison told the Leicester Mercury on his plans to add more goals: “I am just trying to make sure my performances are as high as they can be at the minute and then I think the goals will come. I have never really struggled to chip in with goals and assists and stuff but hopefully I can get back on goalscoring form.”

The midfielder has completed 90 minutes twice under Rodgers and been substituted in the other two league outings – after 80 minutes against Fulham and in the 63rd minute at Burnley while on a yellow card. For those planning to take a risk with the armband, Maddison’s creativity and set-piece dominance for Leicester make him a tempting differential option for this blank gameweek.

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