FPL Season 2018/19 – Gameweek 31 Preview

Jamie-Vardy-Lưeicester-City
“Leicester’s Jamie Vardy was one of gameweek 30’s stand-out performers with 16 points” (Source: public domain) by Tieu Vu

Gameweek 31 brings us this season’s second (and probably biggest) blank gameweek, and from what it looks like, it could be carnage. No less than five games have been postponed as a result of the FA Cup quarter-finals, which will take place this weekend as well. Add to that the ongoing European obligations for Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal, and this week might end up being one of the most challenging gameweeks in terms of squad selection. Though as a number of fiso members have been doing with GW31 in mind it’s probably wise to keep an eye on the upcoming run of fixtures when deciding on your FPL transfers for this gameweek (or using your free hit chip), we’ll be focusing on the games taking place in gameweek 31.

Which games are taking place in gameweek 31?

HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM DATE & TIME
Bournemouth Newcastle Saturday March 16th (15h00)
Burnley Leicester Saturday March 16th (15h00)
West Ham Huddersfield Saturday March 16th (15h00)
Fulham Liverpool Sunday March 17th (14h15)
Everton Chelsea Sunday March 17th (16h30)

Which FA Cup quarter-finals are taking place this weekend?

HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM DATE & TIME
Watford Crystal Palace Saturday March 16th (13h15)
Swansea City Manchester City Saturday March 16th (18h20)
Wolves Manchester United Saturday March 16th (20h55)
Millwall Brighton Sunday March 17th (15h00)

The FA Cup quarter-finals not only affect the upcoming gameweek, but the blank gameweek 33 as well. Simply put, the Premier League clubs that qualify for the FA Cup semi-finals will have a blank in week 33. We’ll place a simplified scenario table below, but for more detailed information you should definitely consult Ben Crellin’s Twitter account.

If this team wins… …this GW33 fixture will be postponed
Watford Watford – Fulham
Crystal Palace Newcastle – Crystal Palace
Manchester City Manchester City – Cardiff
Brighton Tottenham – Brighton

*Man United and Wolves face each other in gameweek 33, so this fixture is automatically postponed

Before we move on to our premium, differential and captaincy picks of the week, a quick overview of how our picks for gameweek 30 fared last weekend:

PICK PLAYER (Club) FPL POINTS
Premium pick Mo Salah (Liverpool) 5
Premium pick Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) 2
Premium pick Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth) 13
Differential Jamie Vardy (Leicester) 16
Differential Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) 2
Captain Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) 5
Captain Sadio Mané (Liverpool) 14

Premium picks

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the points potential of a player rises considerably when Fulham are the opponents. The Cottagers have conceded 68 goals in 30 games, 28 of which were conceded in 14 home games. This coming weekend, Liverpool are visiting Craven Cottage, so the Reds’ attacking assets are going to be in high demand in the build-up to gameweek 31. Our first premium pick of the week is Mo Salah (£13.4m), who has been more than disappointing for his owners in terms of FPL returns. One goal and one assist in the last seven gameweeks is way too little for his price tag, but the Egyptian still was the midfielder with most attempts on goal (25) and attempts on target (10) in the game. In other words, he’s been getting into the right positions, but he hasn’t been delivering much of an end product. Salah and Liverpool have been less productive in away games (24 goals in 15 away games versus 44 goals in 15 home games), so this should be taken into account, but any game against Fulham is the perfect opportunity for them to add to their respective goal tallies. Added bonus: Liverpool have an away game against Southampton in blank gameweek 33.

Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) is known for a few things, including his natural goalscoring abilities, his passion for having parties, and the fact that he loves impressing a new manager. Since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers at the King Power in gameweek 28, the 32-year old striker has scored four goals and provided one assist, totalling 31 FPL points. This weekend, the Foxes are rolling up to Turf Moor in Burnley to face the local FC. The Clarets have drastically improved their form in comparison to the start of the season, but they have still conceded five goals in the last three home games. Leicester haven’t been spectacular away from home, as illustrated by their 23 goals scored and 18 points won from 15 away games, but the general impression is that the Foxes have been underperforming under previous manager Claude Puel. They possess plenty of firing power and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Vardy score his fifth goal in the last four matches on Saturday.

After a gruelling run of fixtures against Liverpool (away), Wolves (home), Arsenal (away) and City (home), Bournemouth got back to winning ways against Huddersfield last weekend. One of the stand-out performers in that game was FPL favourite Ryan Fraser (£6.2m). The Scottish winger hadn’t recorded an attacking return since gameweek 22, but he never lost his offensive threat. The away game against the Terriers finally saw him back on the score sheet and he also provided an assist, with 13 FPL points as a result. Next up is Newcastle at home and the Cherries, boosted by the return of topscorer Callum Wilson, will be looking forward to add to the 18 goals the Magpies have conceded in 14 games on the road. Bournemouth love playing at home (only six teams have performed better in home games so far this season) and Fraser is often on set-pieces for the Cherries, so a second consecutive gameweek of attacking returns could be on the cards for the little dribbler.

For more GW31 transfer ideas please have a look through the discussions on our FPL GW31 transfers forum topic on the subject.

A differential pick or two

Sometimes it’s better to just be straight with people: our first differential pick of the week is not in FPL-point scoring form and he hasn’t been for a while. Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson (£7.2m) is the most-owned Hammers asset (16.2%), but he hasn’t posted attacking returns since his assist against Liverpool in gameweek 25. In all honesty, if this weekend’s opponent hadn’t been Huddersfield, Anderson probably wouldn’t have made this list, but with his form from earlier this season in mind (7 goals and 2 assists between gameweeks 11 and 19), he gets a (final?) chance. Also, pickings are kind of slim this week. On the positive side, for the Hammers that is, Huddersfield have allowed 43 shots inside the box in the last four gameweeks, a total only exceeded by Fulham. Felipe Anderson takes care of the some of the set-pieces for the Hammers as well, especially the (indirect) free kicks on the right side of the final attacking third, so hopefully he’ll be able to bring some joy to the 16.2% of FPL managers that currently own him.

Our second differential pick of the week is a whole other story. Burnley’s Ashley Barnes (£5.7m) is currently probably one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated attacking assets in the official game. The budget forward has scored 5 goals and gave 1 assist over the last seven gameweeks, a run that included four consecutive games in which he found the net (between gameweek 24 and 27). Barnes has brought home 39 points for his owners since gameweek 24, which equals an average of almost 6 FPL points per game. Combine that recent consistency with his price tag and his current 3.5% ownership becomes somewhat hard to understand. In gameweek 31, the Clarets are facing Leicester at home and the Foxes have conceded 10 goals in their last four away games. What’s more, Burnley have not failed to score in a game at Turf Moor since gameweek 10 and they have a game in blank gameweek 33 as well, away to Bournemouth.

The captaincy

Recommending Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (£10.9m) for the captain’s armband is a notoriously risky move, but we’re doing it anyway. The Belgian superstar has been in a decent bit of form recently with a goal and an assist in his last two Premier League games, rewarding the 29% of FPL managers who have selected him with 16 FPL points. In the nine games that he played in 2019, Hazard scored five goals and provided two assists for a total of 64 FPL points. He has also attempted 21 assists over that period, the fourth-most of all players. Despite the many troll-related comments regarding the Chelsea forward, he’s still the third-highest scoring player in the official game (182 points), just behind Salah (203) and Sterling (198). The Blues are facing an Everton side at Goodison Park this Sunday that has been up and down this season. The Toffees have lost five of their 15 home games and conceded 21 goals in those 15 games, while Chelsea have won 8 of their 14 away games and scored a total of 21 goals. It’s not at all sure that this will become a high-scoring affair, though it could be, but Hazard’s arm is a pretty safe place for the band this weekend.

For our second captaincy suggestion of the week, it was between Mo Salah and Sadio Mané (£9.9m), and we’ve gone with the latter, courtesy of his recent form in comparison to his Egyptian team mate (including two more goals in the Champions League last night). In the shadow of Salah, the Senegalese winger has become the fourth-highest scoring player in the game (!), not in the last thanks to the 8 goals he scored in his last 8 Premier League games. As a matter of fact, Mané is currently fifth on the topscorers list with 16 goals, just 1 goal behind his team mate Salah in second place and 2 goals behind leader Kun Aguero. Practically the only potential downside to captaining the powerful winger is that away from home he tends to be (much) less productive in terms of goals, as are Liverpool as a whole. He has scored just 3 goals in away games this season, but what’s possibly more telling is that his last away goal came all the way back in gameweek 4 against Leicester. Then again, the Reds are visiting Fulham this weekend…

For more Captaincy ideas check out the FISO forum GW31 FPL Captain Poll where Salah and Mané are leading the votes by some distance.