Time is catching up with Fantasy Premier League managers ahead of the hugely important Blank Gameweek 31.
Our readers still have plenty of questions about how to prepare for this weekend, which has just five matches available for FPL points.
We’ve asked them to our panel, who have given us their thoughts on what transfers to make, how many hits to take, what chips to consider and how to handle the enigma that is Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side.
Who’s on the panel this week?
Chief FPL Manager – A member of the Fantasy community with a huge Twitter following, “Chief” runs the FPL Hints website and has six top 1% finishes to his name – one of which was an overall rank of 110th in 2011/12.
Joe – Scoutcast regular and the host of the excellent series, Meet the Manager. Joe is a fine manager in his own right, boasting a best-ever overall FPL rank of 840th in 2013/14 and having six other top 10k finishes to his name.
Question 1 – Chief
AJ: With so many teams following a similar template for Blank Gameweek 31, do you see it as a good chance to identify some differentials and take risks? Which differentials are you looking at?
Chief: “With Blank Gameweek 31 only consisting of five matches, I would argue that by aiming to field the best possible XI available without taking any hits that can act as a differential tactic and easily boost your overall rank.
“The fact is that not a lot of FPL managers will use their Free Hit this weekend as they may have already used it or instead wish to deploy it during Double Gameweek 32 or Blank Gameweek 33.
“That means many will have to succumb to -4s or -8s in Blank Gameweek 31 and even then they may struggle to field as many as nine players.
“But in terms of potential differential players, look no further than the West Ham defence, in particular, Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop.
“They host a shambolic Huddersfield team this weekend that has only scored eight goals in 14 away games which bodes well for the Hammers.
“But if you’re concerned about West Ham’s lack of clean sheets themselves and have more cash to spend, then Burnley’s Ashley Barnes could be the answer.
“He’s netted five goals in his last seven league games and it’s surprising that he’s still owned by less than 5% of FPL managers. He’s probably the standout pick in terms of the most in-form low-owned player for Blank Gameweek 31.”
Question 2 – Holly
Tom R: Just two big teams playing this weekend in Liverpool and Chelsea with the majority of managers tripling up on players. Chelsea seem weak in defence so doubling up in the Liverpool defence looks like a good shout, but is it worth the risk of only having one of Salah or Mane?
Holly: “I currently have two Liverpool defenders and Salah, so I’m not in the position to have both Salah and Mané.”
“If you are on a Free Hit, I’d say owning Salah, Mané and a defender is the way to go.”
“I wouldn’t sell a Liverpool defender in order to get the midfield double-up though – it’s very team specific this one.”
“The temptation to triple-up on Chelsea
“However, a trip to Goodison Park is unpredictable. The reverse fixture ended 0-0, Hazard and a defender
Question 3 – Joe
ITTOTONIC: When are you planning to use your Triple Captain chip?
Joe: “With a Free Hit planned in Double Gameweek 32 and the Bench Boost arguably a more potent chip for Double Gameweek 35, I’m likely to play my Triple Captaincy during a single Gameweek.
“Four fixtures look particularly appealing, where a player with strong captaincy potential faces a whipping boy backline.
“The first is this coming Gameweek when Liverpool travel to Fulham. With 68 goals conceded and only two clean sheets, Scott Parker’s troops are in a class of their own in terms of sheer awfulness.
“One of Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah looks well placed to prosper. But the question of which one leads me to swerve using the chip this time around. With only three of his 16 league goals coming on his travels, Mané comes with a strong caveat, in spite of his brace away to Bayern Munich midweek.
“So too Mohamed Salah, who is in poor form by his standards with only an assist in his last four run outs. I have no doubt Liverpool will hammer Fulham but it is hard to tell who will do the damage.
“Gameweek 36, when Mané and Salah take far stronger home form into battle against another whipping boy, Huddersfield, could be a better bet.
“I’m pencilling this one to Triple Captain one of this Liverpool pair, with Salah getting the nod if I see an improvement in form. The Terriers’ 5-0 away loss to Chelsea and a 6-1 hammering at the Etihad certainly whet my appetite for using this chip then. Progress in the Champions League though may scupper this plan, as the first legs of the semi-finals take place only a few days later, on 30 April and 1 May.
“Should Liverpool progress in Europe I’ll then be turning my attention to Manchester United and hoping the Red Devils fail to make the semi-finals.
“One of Paul Pogba or Romelu Lukaku looks ideal Triple Captain candidates when Huddersfield and Cardiff drop by in Gameweek 37 and 38 respectively. But with a Champions League semi-final sandwiched between the two, I could be put off if they prevail in the quarter-finals.
“As the UK government is currently finding out with Brexit, it can be costly to run down the clock on something as important as the Triple Captain chip, and I’m not keen on being forced into a maverick eleventh-hour ‘no-deal’ selection in Gameweek 38.
“I’m a big fan of Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, but not enough to triple captain him when Arsenal visit on the final day of the season.”
Question 4 – Holly
KWYAP123: How many hits would you consider using to field a full team in Blank Gameweek 31 if you’re Free Hitting in Gameweek 32?
Holly: “I’m also using the Free Hit in Gameweek 32 strategy, so I too am building a team for Blank Gameweeks 31 and 33.
“At present, I can get to nine players in each of these with free transfers (barring injuries, rotation and suspension).
“Thankfully, we should have a good idea whether Watford v Fulham or Newcastle v Crystal Palace will go ahead in Blank Gameweek 33 around the Blank Gameweek 31 deadline.
“Ultimately it depends on the player you are thinking of taking a hit to sign, as some are more worth it than others.
“Personally, I can get to a full XI in Blank Gameweek 33 without hits so taking one for a fringe Blank Gameweek 31 player would carry more risk, although taking a -4 and having a potential player in reserve could be advantageous.
“Try to prioritise attacking players for this weekend, including those from Liverpool and Bournemouth as well as Eden Hazard.
“A -12 or more may be a risk too far, but ultimately depends on your rank, how you’re set up for Blank Gameweek 33 and your aims for the season.”
Question 5 – Joe
Toby: Which are the best Chelsea options for his week, are you keen on defenders or is it a straight shootout between Hazard and Higuaín?
Joe: “When it comes to Liverpool’s chances of scoring a hatful against Fulham I’m brimming with confidence. An attacking double up looks key for this game.
“However, the same cannot be said of Chelsea for their trip to Everton. This leads me to think two defenders, Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz, and only one of Eden Hazard or Gonzalo Higuain, is the ideal coverage.
“So why am I so keen on Chelsea defenders for Gameweek 31?
“Over their last four home matches, Everton have fired off the lowest number of shots and had the lowest number of big chances of any team over that time frame in front of their own fans. In addition, their total of three goals over that period at home
“On a previous
“Also, both Luiz and Azpilicueta offer multiple points routes, should the Toffees upset the form book and score. Between them, they have racked up two goals, seven assists and 24 bonus points – not bad for a combined outlay of 12.2.
“I do back fielding one Chelsea attacker though in Gameweek 31. With five goals conceded and only Fulham shipping more
“Hazard looks better than Higuain for three reasons.
“One, is the Belgian’s range of points, with 12 chances and as many shots over his last four road trips. Penalties too are also in his favour.
“The third factor is that Higuain faces a far greater battle for our attention, for one of only three forward spots.
“Quite simply, I think there are better options from other teams up front. The strong home form of Callum Wilson and Ashley Barnes, who take on Newcastle and Leicester respectively, on the back of three goals in their last four home encounters, give them the edge.
“I also prefer Jamie Vardy to Higuain this week, with the Foxes talisman scoring four times in as many games, while the Chelsea frontman has only mustered one over that time.”
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