In this Gameweek 31 edition of the Friday Foreplay I present the captain picks, investigate the heavy hitters, predict clean sheets, and speculate on possible punts.
Before we delve into the Gameweek preview, I want to remind you of the massive double Gameweek coming up. With rescheduling of fixtures due to cup competitions and the Muamba incident the following is a summary of teams both missing and enjoying double Gameweeks.
Teams not playing in Gameweek 34:
Teams with a double Gameweek 35:
- Aston Villa
Teams with a double Gameweek 36:
Yet to be rescheduled: Stoke v Everton.
- Dempsey: A surprise first pick of the captain bunch, based on the fact that Dempsey is the only one to have a home game. Looking only at Fulham’s home games, Dempsey has scored six goals, registered an assist, and stolen seven bonus points in his last five games at Craven Cottage. Fulham face Norwich who haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home all season, conceding an average of almost 1.9 goals per game.
- Rooney: Manchester United play Blackburn away, looking to revenge for the shock defeat at Old Trafford earlier in the season. Two thirds of Blackburn’s games end with more than 2.5 goals scored, so it’s safe to say that all signs point to Rooney as a decent bet for captain. He’s enjoying an excellent run of form with eight goals, an assist, and ten bonus points in his last six league games for United.
- Van Persie: The Dutch maestro faces QPR away from home. QPR have been beleaguered from all sides since Mark Hughes’s appointment, culminating in a second sending off for Cisse and a 3 – 1 loss to Sunderland. Arsenal, on the other hand, are playing their best football of the season, with several key players hitting form. The only caution I have is that Arsenal have seemed less reliant on RvP than earlier in the season.
Walcott has received bonus points in five of his last seven games, having only had one bad game in that run. He scored a slick goal against Aston Villa and is a threat to any fullback. Arteta is a cheaper option but less likely to enjoy an explosive Gameweek.
Nani is still out for Manchester United resulting in a likely starting place for both Young and Valencia. Both are goal threats, deliver decent crosses, and are likely to be involved in United’s goals. Valencia is probably a safer bet to start and is cheaper to boot.
Now is the time to invest in Tottenham and Gareth Bale. Despite suffering a miserable bout of form in their last five games, Tottenham are likely to finish the season with a bang. The dip in form coincided with tough games (Chelsea (A), Stoke (H), Everton (A), Manchester United (H), Arsenal (A)) and from Gameweek 31 until the end of the season the fixtures are more Fantasy friendly. The improved fixtures start with a home game against Swansea. The Wales team concedes twice as many goals away from home (1.6 v 0.8) and Tottenham have scored in all their home games. This bodes well for the Tottenham attack and Bale, who has looked most dangerous in their tough games.
Other strong plays include:
- Baines, who last week scored his first goal since Gameweek 18 and has a home game to boost his clean sheet chances. He’s on spot kicks and set pieces and is therefore always involved. His price is the biggest barrier to entry, but if you have the cash he is an intriguing option.
- A home game against Sunderland should give Aguero several chances to score. He’s currently only 75% to play according to the Fantasy Premier League game, so look out for news about his fitness.
- Pogrebnyak has a phenomenal strike rate since joining Fulham and has every chance to continue striking gold against Norwich.
Clean sheets are hard to predict this Gameweek because most of the best defences (by goals conceded) are playing away from home. Looking at choosing the home teams with the least goals conceded three surprising choices pop up (and one obvious):
- The obvious choice is Manchester City with newly returned Kompany marshalling the defence.
- Everton are enjoying their traditional end of season good form. Hibbert is cheap at £4.7 but could be susceptible to rotation.
- Tottenham have conceded 35 goals and play at home against Swansea. Gallas is back from injury and represents the cheapest link in the Tottenham defence, priced at £4.6.
- Aston Villa is an outside bet and have to contain a revived Chelsea team. Warnock is their highest scoring defender. Be warned that this play would be a risky one and a likely path only for those playing catch up to their mini-league leader.
Taking a Punt
- With David Silva’s form dropping, Nasri has stepped up and looked dangerous in the last games. He scored the winning goal against Chelsea, as well as hitting the bar.
- Despite Liverpool’s faltering form I’m not willing to elevate P. Cisse and Ben Arfa above the punt level. Liverpool’s defence has been solid this season and will be looking to keep it tight following the bad results against QPR and Wigan.
- Martinez looks to be playing out his end of season magic tricks for Wigan. Moses has assisted or scored in each of his last three games and has a home game against Stoke to keep his form high. He went off injured against Liverpool but should be fit to face Stoke. However, have a replacement ready on the bench, should he fail to recover in time.
- I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yakubu trouble Evans, despite the Manchester United defender enjoying his best spell in heart of the champions’ defence. The Yak is a risky bet, but a decent one to differentiate.