Fantasy Premier League’s (FPL) leading light delivers from his single match of Double Gameweek 34, while strikers with two matches start the week well and Crystal Palace assets stake their claim for berths in Free Hit squads.
Mohamed Salah was named in Liverpool’s starting line-up having been sold by 112,000+ owners before yesterday’s deadline.
The Egyptian had also suffered an exodus of 302,000+ prior to his absence from the Merseyside derby last weekend.
Despite all that, and the fact that he had just a single fixture against Bournemouth in Gameweek 34, he remained the top captain pick, with the backing of just over a million managers (18.3%).
Only three of FPL’s top 100 teams handed Salah the armband, weighing up the chances of Salah outscoring the likes of Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku in one match, compared to the duo’s doubles, and coming down in favour of the two premium forwards.
All of Liverpool’s front three started on Saturday and all three scored in a full-strength line-up that brushed aside Bournemouth 3-0.
Collectively, Salah and Roberto Firmino had been sold by over a million managers (1,095692) over the last two Gameweeks, but they returned eight points apiece against the Cherries, with the Brazilian awarded two bonus to bump up his haul.
Whether that will prove enough for those who kept faith in the pair above players with a Double Gameweek remains to be seen, but it did mean that Salah has now scored or assisted in eight successive home matches, and in eight of his last nine Gameweek starts overall.
The Reds’ trip to West Brom in Gameweek 35’s reduced schedule should ensure sales involving all of their assets is put on hold for now, with Salah already the third most bought player ahead of next weekend.
And should coach Jurgen Klopp continue to field a strong side despite the approaching Champions League semi-final, selling on Salah might well remain risky business.
The situation is rather more confused regarding Firmino, however, with roughly equal amounts of managers currently buying him in and selling him off for Gameweek 35.
But the focus yesterday was very much on Salah, with the entire team seemingly determined to help him in his quest for the Golden Boot.
The excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold ended up being the one to provide the assist for the Egyptian’s goal and the four chances he created on the day is more than any other defender in the Gameweek to date.
Salah’s sublime header was one of six attempts he mustered, a Gameweek-leading total he shared with Sadio Mane, who has produced in six of his last seven Gameweeks (four goals and three assists).
Alexander-Arnold’s attacking display was further burnished by a clean sheet and maximum bonus points – his first of the season – for a 12-point return.
The Reds’ rearguard have now managed three shut-outs in four Gameweeks, and six in the last 10, to reward the 8.5% of managers who stuck by Andrew Robertson and the 7.3% on Virgil van Dijk.
Bournemouth, rather predictably, failed to provide any real resistance – it’s nine matches without a clean sheet for them, and they have just one from their last 21 Gameweeks ahead of Man United’s visit on Wednesday.
Mixed bag for Burnley…
Business in Burnley’s defence for their Double Gameweek 34 (LEI CHE) was brisk, with 266,000+ managers bringing in a member of their backline.
But their 2-1 win over the Foxes meant they’ve kept just one clean sheet in 12 Gameweeks now.
At least the 72,000+ who made Kevin Long the Clarets’ most popular defensive pick for the double cashed in when he scored his first goal of the season. Two bonus points handed them a double-digit haul to go with the assist and five points accrued last week.
Up front, Chris Wood (2.8%) scored for the second match running and now has five goals and an assist from his last five Gameweeks.
But he needed two attempts to net yesterday, which denied Ashley Barnes’ 5.0% ownership an assist.
That made it two successive blanks for the forward, who was also booked for a late challenge on Kasper Schmeichel which could keep the Leicester goalkeeper out of his side’s second fixture in their double, at home to Southampton on Thursday.
It’s unclear whether Wood and Barnes will be retained for their own Thursday night fixture at home to Chelsea.
Sam Vokes was given only a five-minute run-out yesterday, although he did score twice against the Blues in Gameweek 1’s 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.
…and Leicester too
Schmeichel was bought by 23,000+ for Leicester’s Double Gameweek 34, but that figure paled before the 246,580 who opted for Jamie Vardy.
The striker was second only to Kane for transfers-in, and he was also handed the armband by 225,269 (4%), who were suitably rewarded with his fourth goal in as many matches.
Vardy now has eight strikes in 10 starts and will fancy his chances of adding to that total when Southampton visit. They are, after all, a side that has conceded three goals per match for four straight Gameweeks.
The 27.1%-owned forward had five shots – all in the box – against Burnley, which is more than any other player in the Gameweek so far.
Riyad Mahrez was rather less impressive for his 13.7% ownership, failing to produce for a third straight match.
He had been picked up 59,000+ new owners but is currently the most sold player ahead of a Gameweek 35 blank.
Marc Albrighton was another to enjoy an uptake in ownership, with 30,004 new managers. He was promptly benched, as Demarai Gray and Shinji Okazaki started.
Kelechi Innehacho then replaced the latter at half-time as Leicester’s attacking line-up, Vardy and Mahrez aside, remains somewhat fluid.
What is more settled is the Foxes’ lack of clean sheets – they’ve managed just one of those in nine Gameweeks now.
Royal returns at Palace
The lack of a Double Gameweek 34 didn’t deter investment in Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic (11.4%), and he treated his 124,000 new managers to another fine display.
The Serbian international produced his first two assists of the season to take him to three goals and two assists from his last four Gameweeks.
Two bonus brought in nine points in the 3-2 win over Brighton, and his last four Gameweek hauls now read: 10, 9, 10, 9.
His long-term form is equally impressive, with eight goals from his last 15 Gameweek starts before yesterday’s match.
Palace’s schedule (wat LEI stk WBA), which includes a fixture in Gameweek 35, is strong enough to suggest that Milivojevic might well retain his owners despite the lack of two fixtures in Gameweek 37. He will certainly be a target for those activating the Free Hit chip ahead of Gameweek 35.
That also applies to the star of the show yesterday: winger Wilfried Zaha.
Only 18,125 picked him up this week, despite a goal against Bournemouth last time out.
Zaha scored twice against the Seagulls for a season-best 14 points and has now returned in four of his last five appearances (three goals, two assists) to prove an effective differential for his 4.9% ownership.
He fired five shots on goal, three of which came in the box, as he and Andros Townsend were again preferred up front despite Christian Benteke’s return to fitness, although the Belgian was introduced from the bench late on.
The Seagulls’ schedule (TOT bur MUN mci liv) meant that they needed to take something from their trip to Palace.
They got two goals and a spirited performance, but that horrendous run-in leaves them considerably more vulnerable than they would like.
Glenn Murray ended a run of three Gameweeks without a goal as Brighton twice reduced a two-goal deficit yesterday.
Found in 434,000+ squads, he was the side’s most popular Gameweek 34 signing, claiming 41,000+ new owners.
Lewis Dunk claimed the assist for Murray’s goal – his second attacking return of the season to reward his modest 9,000 Double Gameweek investors – but it’s now four blanks in a row for the popular Pascal Gross (17.2%).
Jose Izquierdo, from a Jurgen Locadia assist, scored the visitors’ other goal – his fifth of the season. He now has three goals and an assist from his last nine Gameweeks.
Things have been considerably less productive at the back, with no clean sheets in 12 matches.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan (3.6%) had to make do with a single save point at Selhurst Park and looks unlikely to secure a shut-out against Spurs on Tuesday either.
Brighton can only hope the visitors will have more than an eye on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Man United as the south coast outfit are again being pulled into the relegation mire.
Huddersfield’s last-gasp 1-0 win at home to Watford boosted the Terrier’s survival prospects, while doing little for most Fantasy managers.
Only seven midfielders have had more attempts than Tom Ince’s 67 this season, but his winner yesterday was only his second league goal of the campaign.
Centre-back Zanka was the unlikely source of the assist as Watford came within seconds of keeping a first away clean sheet since Gameweek 25.