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12 Mar 2019 by Tim Blackwell

FPL Blank Gameweek 31 – Captain Picks

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With just five fixtures to be played on BGW31, Liverpool’s attacking assets will be heavily captained as they travel to Craven Cottage to take on a leaky Fulham. Elsewhere, the return of Callum Wilson (£6.4m) led to the return of Ryan Fraser (£6.1m) to fantasy relevance. West Ham and Lukasz Fabianski (£4.8m) offer clean sheet potential vs Huddersfield, while Ashley Barnes (£5.7m) will look to continue his hot streak at home against Leicester.

PREMIUM OPTIONS

Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) vs Fulham (a)

Another week, another disappointing FPL performance from Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) and another two big chances spurned. Sure he broke his three-game baron run with an assist but given Liverpool netted four goals, five points is a scant return for his 2.8 million owners. The Egyptian has now been clean through on goals four times in two matches with zero points to show for it.

Still, at least he’s getting in the position to miss and it’s that positivity that has placed Salah at the top of the captains picks list. That and he’s playing Fulham.

The Cottagers have the worst defensive record in the league having conceded 68 goals in 30 matches and are just what Salah needs to get back amongst the goals this weekend.

Still there are other Liverpool attacking choices, which brings us nicely to…

Sadio Mane (£9.9m) vs Fulham (a)

After another brace at the weekend there is a growing feeling within the community that Sadio Mane (£9.9m), not Mo Salah, is the man to captain in GW31.

From an FPL standpoint, it was the manner of his second goal that impressed this writer. Clean through and with an open net at his mercy, Mane could have squared it to Salah for a tap-in. A goal for Salah would have broken Liverpool’s record for the fastest player to 50 top-flight goals. Instead, the Senegalese forward showed all the selfishness you’d want from your FPL player in bagging his second of the game.

On paper it’s hard to argue with a Mane captain selection, as he is arguably Liverpool’s in form fantasy asset:

  • Eight goals in his last eight Premier League matches.
  • Six scores of 7+ points in those eight games.
  • Two double-digit point hauls in his last three fixtures.

There is, however, a caveat to all of this positivity surrounding Mane, and that's his away form. Of the 16 goals Mane has scored this season, only three have come away from home.

However…

MID-PRICED CANDIDATE

Callum Wilson (£6.4m) vs Newcastle (H)

GW30 heralded the return of Callum Wilson and the English striker picked up right where he left off with a goal and assist away to Huddersfield. Even with the injuries, Wilson has been on fire when he’s played this season.

Eddie Howe has been patient with Wilson over the past few gameweeks but was rewarded with a performance that will have delighted his 14.9% owners. The Cherries welcome Newcastle to the Vitality Stadium and although their form has picked up of late, they have conceded in their last six away matches. Their task of keeping Bournemouth at bay won’t be helped either by the suspension to Fabian Schar (£4.8m) and the injury to Jamaal Lascelles (£4.7m).

BUDGET ALTERNATIVE

Lukasz Fabianski (£4.8m) vs Huddersfield (H)

The bad version of West Ham were out on full display in GW30 with Cardiff the beneficiary this time. The Hammers continue to be consistently inconsistent, making their FPL assets difficult to trust from one gameweek to the next. A match at home against Huddersfield in GW30 would normally represent an attractive looking fixture but who knows if the good version of West Ham will turn up?

To remedy this, instead of trusting West Ham, let’s place our faith in Huddersfield and more specifically their inability to score away from home. Having blanked in their last five away Premier League matches, the Terriers average just 0.57 goals per game away from home.

Clean sheet hunting brings our attention to Lukasz Fabianski (£4.8m), who seemingly gets save points every week. With a high probability of keeping a clean sheet, points for saves and subsequent chance of bonus points, Fabianski makes for an interesting budget captain alternative.

A final thought on West Ham’s highest owned asset, Felipe Anderson (£7.2m), who originally seemed the best option to take the armband. That was until FFS Neale tweeted out this nugget:

DIFFERENTIAL CHOICE

Ashley Barnes (£5.7m) vs Leicester (H)

Currently owned by just 3.5% of FPL managers, it is perhaps a little surprising Ashley Barnes isn’t a member of more FPL squads. Indeed, our resident FPL podcaster, Trystan, stated in our most recent podcast that “the FPL site is wrong” when it comes to Barnes’ ownership figures. In the interest of full disclosure, Ashley Barnes is my pick on the podcast for “differential of the week” so I’ve doubled down on my selection here. For the sake of credibility, I also currently top our differentials league, but given the trio I’m against, that might not be saying much.

However, you don’t just have to take my word for it – here are some stats to back up the selection. His recent form has been excellent – the Englishman has scored in five of his last seven Premier League matches, which includes a goal in each of Burnley’s last three home games.

Burnley’s home scoring record is equally impressive, with the Clarets last failing to score at home in the Premier League in GW10 (a run of nine matches). Their opponents Leicester are also yet to keep a clean sheet under Rodgers and have conceded ten goals in their last four away games.

With just the five fixtures this weekend, Barnes is an excellent option, particularly for those players looking to play their Free Hit chip, as his budget-friendly price will allow funds to be freed up for the week’s pricier big-hitters.

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