This weekly series puts the spotlight on three players who all have an ownership of 5% or under in Fantasy Premier League.
As we enter the business end of the season, a considered differential pick could provide a welcome boost for those Fantasy managers chasing a mini-league deficit or striving to improve their overall rank.
Finding a credible differential is a test at the best of times but we have an even smaller pool of players to choose from this weekend, with half of the top flight without a league fixture.
On top of this, many of the appealing Fantasy assets who are in Premier League action in Gameweek 31 have seen their FPL ownership rise as a result of the lack of competition in the transfer market.
There are plenty of differentials within the active top 10k, too, as opposed to the overall FPL ownership figure that includes “ghost teams”: Callum Wilson (£6.4m), owned by just 1.04% of the top 10,000 at the point of the Gameweek 30 deadline, is one example.
We are sticking to the usual rules for our weekly feature, though.
Two of our midfield selections play each other this weekend but their clubs have no clean sheets between them in a combined 14 Premier League matches, so we are banking on goals.
An alternative route into the Newcastle attack is also examined.
Harvey Barnes (£5.5m)
FPL ownership: 0.5%
Youri Tielemans (£6.0m) was close to being our now obligatory Leicester City differential this week.
The on-loan Belgian has delivered attacking returns in each of his last three Premier League starts and is owned by fewer than 1% of FPL managers overall (the same applies within the top 10k).
Since he made his debut in Gameweek 26, only two midfielders have had more attempts on goal than Leicester’s loanee.
One of those players is Harvey Barnes (£5.5m).
Not even Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) can match Barnes’ shot tally over those five Gameweeks.
He is, of course, still yet to score and questions remain over his composure in front of goal and finishing ability.
Having said that, the young winger was only a flying Sergio Rico (£4.4m) save away from opening his account against Fulham in Gameweek 30 and earlier curled another effort narrowly over.
Barnes certainly passed the eye test against the admittedly limited Cottagers and registered his third assist in seven appearances last Saturday.
Barnes continues to be overlooked by the wider Fantasy community: seven Leicester players, including Tielemans, have been bought by more FPL managers in the lead-up to Gameweek 31.
Thirty-three FPL midfielders are proving more popular acquisitions at the time of writing.
On Saturday, Barnes will be up against a Burnley defence that has shipped the joint-highest number of goals (nine) in the last three Gameweeks.
The Clarets have kept only one clean sheet in ten matches and have conceded more chances from their right flank (i.e. Leicester’s left) in 2018/19 than any other side.
Dwight McNeil (£4.4m)
FPL ownership: 0.5%
Perhaps one for the Free Hit crew if they are maxing out on premium options elsewhere, Dwight McNeil (£4.4m) is among the most appealing bargain-bin midfield options in Blank Gameweeks 31 and 33.
McNeil’s performance against Liverpool last weekend was one that defied the key underlying stats.
The young winger didn’t register a single shot or key pass at Anfield, touching the ball just once in the hosts’ area.
However, anyone who saw the game would have been impressed by how much trouble McNeil caused Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m) down Liverpool’s right.
Four of McNeil’s six take-ons were successful, while the Burnley winger delivered eight crosses from the left flank.
Sean Dyche called the England under-20 winger’s display “outstanding”, which bodes well for his chances of starting for the 12th Premier League match in a row on Saturday.
Since his return to the Burnley starting XI in Gameweek 20, only four FPL midfielders have delivered more crosses than McNeil. Those four players have the advantage of being their club’s chief set-piece takers, however, so McNeil is among the leading midfielders for deliveries from open play.
There is plenty of height for McNeil to aim at in this Clarets’ side.
Chris Wood (£6.2m) and Ashley Barnes (£5.7m) didn’t get much joy out of the Liverpool defence last week but a Leicester backline that is without a clean sheet since New Year’s Day may prove easier for Burnley’s strike pair and McNeil to penetrate in tandem.
McNeil’s average of a shot every 51.1 minutes over the last 11 Gameweeks is far from eye-catching but is still the best among Burnley’s regular starters in midfield over the last few months and almost on a par with Wood’s mean (49.7) during that time.
Ayoze Perez (£6.1m)
FPL ownership: 1.5%
Ayoze Perez (£6.1m) comes into Gameweek 31 fresh off the back of a 16-point return against Everton last weekend – by some distance his biggest haul of the season and his first double-digit one at that.
The streaky Spaniard’s three goals and one assist in the last four Premier League fixtures is exactly what he managed in the first 26 Gameweeks of the season and, for those FPL managers who look back at previous trends, we are entering into the time of the year when the Newcastle forward comes to life: Perez’s match-winning strike in Gameweek 31 of last season sparked a run of six goals and two assists in eight games.
Perez also scored three goals and set up another in the final three games of the Magpies’ Championship-winning season of 2016/17.
Perez’s recent upturn in underlying stats are perhaps partly down to the arrival of Miguel Almiron (£6.0m).
Newcastle’s Spanish-speaking front three look more potent than they did when Christian Atsu (£5.1m) was deployed in Almiron’s position and have demonstrated an excellent understanding over the last month.
Since the Paraguayan midfielder made his full debut in Gameweek 27, Perez ranks among the top six FPL forwards for overall goal attempts, shots in the opposition area, efforts on target, penalty box touches and chances created.
Salomon Rondon (£5.9m) is the obvious route into this Newcastle attack but his FPL ownership is surging towards the 10% mark and more than one in four of the top 10,000 managers owns the Venezuelan striker.
While Bournemouth are far less porous on their own turf than they are on the road, the Cherries have the fourth-worst defensive record in the Premier League this season.
Eddie Howe’s side have conceded two or more goals in six of their 15 home matches in 2018/19, too.