Every team is back in action this weekend, with ten about to play their first Premier League game in three weeks due to FA Cup duty and the international break. That’s right, the end-of-season run-in is about to escalate with Gameweek 32 bringing the first doubles of the season (discounting Everton v Man City in February). Chip strategy means many FPL managers will use this weekend to activate their Free Hit, Triple Captain or Wildcard tools in their attempts to catch up on mini-league rivals, extend leads and rise up the ranks.
Worst gameweek in memory.— FPL Bandit 🤠 (@FPLBandit) March 17, 2019
Thank goodness I didn't burn a chip.
Well done those Mané owners who captained! 👏
Gameweek 31 was quiet and largely forgettable, highlighted by Liverpool’s late win over Fulham. Sadio Mane (£10.0m), Karlan Grant (£5.0m) and Josh King (£6.5m) brought in 13 points, with West Ham’s Javier Hernandez (£6.1m) coming off the bench to score twice and secure a 4-3 comeback win over Huddersfield. Everton kept the week’s only clean sheet, beating Chelsea 2-0 thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m) slotting home the rebound from his own penalty miss. Of the 15 games set to take place between Saturday and Wednesday, the most glamorous involve Tottenham, who start off at Liverpool before unveiling their stunningly-renovated White Hart Lane against Crystal Palace.
An abysmal score of 22 wasn’t out-of-place in Gameweek 31, with the game’s average being just 26. Still, the optimum squad fielded 11 players and found a way to deliver no goals or clean sheets. A defensive triple-up on Bournemouth backfired, drawing 2-2 with Newcastle, as Leicester’s Harry Maguire (£5.4m) scored negative points for his third-minute dismissal at Burnley. Captain Mo Salah (£13.3m) continued to let us down, as the team’s only returns came from the assists of Nathan Ake (£5.1m) and Felipe Anderson (£7.2m).
The places in this week’s optimum squad are exclusively taken by double gameweek players, although those who aren’t using a chip will be optimistic about several players with just one game. At the Emirates, Arsenal host Newcastle with the lingering question over whether Unai Emery will start both Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m). Gameweek 31’s match against Man Utd was the first time they’ve started together in five games, although the subsequent win and coming up against a Newcastle side who play with three centre backs could work in their favour. Don’t be so confident defensively, though, as Newcastle have scored in eight of their last ten games and Salomon Rondon (£6.0m) is in great form. Plus, Arsenal have conceded at home to Burnley, Cardiff, Fulham and Bournemouth.
The latter face Leicester – a battle of two unpredictable sides. There’s potential for Jamie Vardy (£9.1m), James Maddison (£6.8m), Callum Wilson (£6.5m), David Brooks (£5.1m) and Josh King to score more in one match than many will in two. Then at Anfield, Salah and Mane take on Tottenham. The majority of Free Hit users will go without them but, with such a high ownership, this could soon backfire with goals.
The algorithm heavily backs Chelsea and Man City. Antonio Rudiger (£5.9m) and David Luiz (£5.9m) have a generous pair of games, with the Blues facing Cardiff and Brighton. Their 12 clean sheets have only been bettered by Liverpool and Man City and they’re against the second and fifth lowest scoring teams of the season. The battle for fourth place has intensified and every game counts for Mauricio Sarri, but don’t discount the possibility that one of these may make way for Andreas Christensen (£5.0m).
Until recently, Aymeric Laporte’s (£5.9m) place in Pep Guardiola’s line-up was untouchable. The manager known for tormenting FPL managers seemed to have a blind spot for the Frenchman, who played over 85 minutes for 26 of City’s first 27 games. However, he left the Carabao Cup final early with a hamstring injury and missed the following three league matches. If fit, Laporte should return to the line-up for the meetings with Fulham and Cardiff.
Please see a bar chart race for Fantasy Premier League players. I created this using Steven’s modified Observable file. Great work guys and thanks for making it available!#FPL pic.twitter.com/DWpqtLGA7y— Richard Kenny (@InfernoSix) March 24, 2019
Brighton’s Mat Ryan (£4.4m) gets the nod in goal because of his low budget-enabling price, facing Southampton in their other game. Completing the defence is Jeffrey Schlupp (£4.5m), who is an alternative for those who currently have Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.5m). Costing slightly more but with a much lower ownership of 4.4%, Schlupp has been playing in midfield for Crystal Palace’s last six games. One goal and three assists have followed, making him a fantastic option for Huddersfield (H) and even Tottenham (a).
That second match is the grand opening of the newly-renovated White Hart Lane. The magnificent stadium is both a celebratory occasion for Spurs and a great chance at party-pooping for Palace, who beat Man City 3-2 at the Etihad in December. For those who deem Harry Kane (£12.5m) too pricey, Son Heung-min (£8.6m) is an interesting alternative after following three consecutive goals with four blanks.
Fresh off hat-tricks for both England and Man City, Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) is in the form of his life. An exceptional talent, he has proved himself to be FPL gold and has the most projected points for GW32 (20.09). Guardiola loves to rotate and has the squad depth to back it up for their quadruple quest but, with such a close title race, will he risk rotating an in-form Sterling? He did during City’s DGW25 trip to Everton.
Even if Sterling’s minutes are limited, he has perfect opponents in Fulham and Cardiff. There’ll be plenty of time to cause damage. He is close to overtaking Salah as this season’s highest FPL scorer and, alongside Eden Hazard (£10.9m), has the most double-figure hauls with eight. Explosive yet consistent, Sterling is a brilliant captaincy choice.
Well, here's a strong case for having Hazard in DGW32 who likely faces both car and BHA 👀— Neil Murray (@neilswmurrayFPL) March 18, 2019
(Also bodes well for Aguero who likely plays both ful and CAR and those looking at Milivojevic who plays HUD and tot) pic.twitter.com/6SyxtZXYqK
Hazard is just as strong, considering his penalty duties and lack of rotation fears. In fact, Brighton have conceded the most penalties this season (nine) with Cardiff joint-second with seven. Gameweek 5’s reverse fixture against the Bluebirds saw Hazard bag a hat-trick and 20 points, as the festive meeting with Brighton brought both a goal and an assist. So the Belgian has the history, the security and the explosiveness needed.
Those with the luxury of the Triple Captain chip will be stressing over the three-way tug for the armband, with the strongest candidate arguably being Sergio Aguero (£11.8m). Being the preferred striker for the champions is huge, as is facing two relegation-threatened teams and not having being called up for international duty. This should initially keep him ahead of Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m), who took part in both of Brazil’s matches.
It’s hard to predict how Watford and Wolves will approach this double gameweek, with their FA Cup semi-final on the horizon. It’s all they have to play for, with both destined for 7th-10th finishes and both about to face Man Utd. Whilst Wolves have used the fewest players of all teams this season (19), Watford drastically rotated their line-up for Gameweek 30’s trip to Man City. Therefore, Troy Deeney (£5.9m), Roberto Pereyra (£6.0m) and Gerard Deulofeu (£5.6m) all come with a risk, especially if the easier Fulham game is where this occurs. The latter two make the optimum squad, hoping for Deulofeu to repeat his recent hat-trick heroics.
The Man City and Chelsea domination continues with Ederson (£5.6m), Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m), Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m), Kyle Walker (£6.4m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£6.0m) making the reserve list. Both goalkeepers offer the security of starts at a cheaper price than defensive teammates but without any attacking potential. Watford offer Ben Foster (£4.6m) and Craig Cathcart (£4.5m), who was rotated for the Man City defeat but has three goals this season. Vicente Guaita (£4.2m) was displaced by Wayne Hennessey (£4.5m) for the Burnley game. Afterwards, manager Roy Hodgson said: “We knew there would be a lot of high balls coming into the box and we thought maybe he (Hennessey) would be the one most adept to deal with it”. As cheap as Guaita is, he is a risk.
The return of Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) raises questions about how minutes will be shared between him, Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m), David Silva (£8.5m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.5m). There’s also a curiosity regarding the lack of Leroy Sane (£9.3m) over recent weeks, playing just 140 minutes from the last six games. He hasn’t produced any goals or assists since Gameweek 23 but could be a great differential for those who are chasing down mini-league leaders. Some may be surprised to see Paul Pogba (£8.9m) so low down but his dip in output has coincided with playing a slightly deeper role for the Red Devils. He’s likely to play all 180 minutes, though.
Up front, Kane is fixture-proof and can score against anyone. He’ll be excited to finally play in Spurs’ new stadium and you’d have to back him to christen it with at least one goal. Both Romelu Lukaku (£10.8m) and Marcus Rashford (£7.6m) end the international break with niggles, so it might be worth waiting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s press conference before committing to either. Raul Jimenez (£6.8m) is Wolves’ only recognised striker but has two tricky matches, whilst Gonzalo Higuain (£9.6m) could make way for Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) at least once.