The Scout Squad panel reassemble to champion the standout Fantasy picks for the coming weekend.
There is a lot of uncertainty about how much disruption the coronavirus pandemic will have on the Premier League season over the approaching weeks and months but, at the time of writing, we’re operating under the assumption that all ten Gameweek 30 fixtures will go ahead.
Regular readers will know the format of this recurring feature but for the uninitiated, staff members Paul, David, Neale and Geoff each propose an 18-man squad of players for the approaching Gameweek and explain their notable inclusions/omissions below.
The 72 nominations listed will then be narrowed down to a squad of 15 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £85m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of the Gameweek 30 deadline at 11:30 GMT on Saturday.
There are requirements for at least one sub-£5.0m goalkeeper, at least one defender costing £5.0m or less, at least one midfielder listed at £6.5m or below and at least one forward priced at £7.5m or lower.
Each panelist is restricted to no more than three players from the same team, as is the case in FPL.
We will again be adding a captaincy to the Scout Picks, with details of that revealed on Friday.
|GK||Karl Darlow||Karl Darlow||Karl Darlow||Karl Darlow|
|Bernd Leno||Ben Foster||Bernd Leno||Bernd Leno|
|Dean Henderson||Vicente Guaita||Dean Henderson||Dean Henderson|
|DF||Marcos Alonso||Andrew Robertson||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|Trent Alexander-Arnold||Marcos Alonso||Marcos Alonso||Marcos Alonso|
|Matt Ritchie||Aaron Wan-Bissaka||Federico Fernandez||Matt Doherty|
|Matt Doherty||John Egan||George Baldock||George Baldock|
|Jack Stephens||Max Aarons||Gary Cahill||Aaron Wan-Bissaka|
|MF||Bruno Fernandes||Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane|
|Sadio Mane||Pedro||Kevin De Bruyne||Kevin De Bruyne|
|Pedro||Bruno Fernandes||Bruno Fernandes||Bruno Fernandes|
|Ismaila Sarr||Riyad Mahrez||Ismaila Sarr||Ismaila Sarr|
|Michail Antonio||Ismaila Sarr||Michail Antonio||James Maddison|
|FW||Olivier Giroud||Olivier Giroud||Sergio Aguero||Sergio Aguero|
|Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Jordan Ayew||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Raul Jimenez||Raul Jimenez||Raul Jimenez||Raul Jimenez|
|Roberto Firmino||Teemu Pukki||Teemu Pukki||Danny Ings|
Most popular picks: Karl Darlow, Marcos Alonso, Bruno Fernandes, Ismaila Sarr, Sadio Mane, Raul Jimenez (four), Bernd Leno, Dean Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (three)
An injury to Martin Dúbravka has introduced Karl Darlow as an interesting budget goalkeeping option as Newcastle host Sheffield United this weekend. The Blades come to St James’ Park in the bottom five for shots on target over the last four matches, while the Magpies have not conceded at home since Gameweek 21.
That’s why I’ve also included Matt Ritchie after he switched to midfield and started taking penalties for Newcastle, admittedly missing one last time out.
Marcos Alonso is my first-choice defender for Gameweek 30 considering his recent resurgence. While Villa are having defensive issues, the left-back has registered the same number of penalty box touches as Mason Mount over the last four, while Dean Smith’s men are struggling for goals.
Bruno Fernandes looks like an excellent midfield option for Gameweek 30 as Manchester United travel to face Spurs. Over the last four matches, Jose Mourinho’s troops have conceded the second-highest number of shots in the box and are in the bottom five for big chances conceded. Meanwhile, Fernandes, on free-kicks and penalties for the Red Devils, has blanked just once in his first five Premier League appearances.
Sadio Mane gets the nod over Mohamed Salah for Liverpool’s trip to Everton, considering his superior goal-scoring record on the road this season. That’s why I’ve also included Roberto Firmino, who has the most goals of any Liverpool player away from home in 2019/20 – and could be spurred on by his first Anfield strike of the campaign netted against Atletico Madrid midweek.
I’ve included Pedro as an exciting differential in midfield ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Aston Villa. I’m expecting an easy win for Frank Lampard’s men considering the ongoing defensive struggles at Villa Park and, in the last four matches, Pedro has created more chances and registered more shots in the box than any other Chelsea player.
Not far behind the midfielder for efforts inside the penalty area is Olivier Giroud, deputising for the injured Tammy Abraham. The Frenchman has started the last three Gameweeks in a row and registered attacking returns in each of them.
Ismaïla Sarr has been an excellent player for Watford at Vicarage Road registering a total of four goals and three assists across his last five home matches.
Despite a poor outing for Everton in Gameweek 29, Dominic Calvert-Lewin keeps his place in my thinking. I am sure that Monday’s Merseyside derby will not be a one-sided affair, with the Toffees likely doing everything they can to frustrate Liverpool. Meanwhile, Calvert-Lewin remains joint-top of the division for shots on target over the last four matches of fit players.
Sharing that mantle with him is Jordan Ayew, who has now scored or assisted in each of his last three matches and faces Bournemouth’s shaky defence in Gameweek 30.
Liverpool’s post-winter break wobble and Alisson’s likely absence at Goodison Park should play into the hands of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Everton’s attack on Monday evening, although the Toffees themselves are ropey at the back and without a clean sheet since Gameweek 22.
I anticipate goals in the Merseyside derby, then, even if we may not see the seven scored in the reverse fixture.
Djibril Sidibe served up a disastrous display at Stamford Bridge last weekend and the right flank has been a problem area for Everton of late, with the Toffees having conceded more chances from that wing than all bar two clubs since Carlo Ancelotti first took charge.
Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mane could make hay down Liverpool’s left, then, although I would expect Ancelotti to take some preventative measures after his side’s pounding in west London.
Saturday’s match on Tyneside looks anything but a thriller and indeed fewer goals have been scored at St James Park this season than at any other ground in the top flight.
Add Sheffield United’s defensive solidity into the mix (they are conceding at less than a goal per game away from Bramall Lane) and we are in ‘last game on Match of the Day’ territory.
Karl Darlow is set to take the injured Martin Dubravka’s place between the posts and offers us a decent sub-£4.5m goalkeeping option, while the Magpies’ vulnerability to headed attempts and efforts from set plays leads me to John Egan: the Blades’ stopper has had more of those than any of his fellow Sheffield United defenders this season.
I also look to Carrow Road for what might seem like an unlikely home clean sheet on paper, but delve a little deeper and the prospects look positive.
Norwich City have conceded on only two occasions in their last four matches in East Anglia, with Leicester shut out altogether a fortnight ago and Liverpool limited to a solitary Mane strike in Gameweek 26.
Max Aarons, creator of two goals over the last six Gameweeks and supplier of seven big chances in 2019/20 (only three defenders have carved out more gilt-edged opportunities this season), is my chosen representative in the Canaries’ defence.
At the other end of the pitch, I’m backing Teemu Pukki to exploit a Southampton backline that has allowed more big chances than all teams bar Aston Villa over the last six Gameweeks.
Opposition weaknesses often play a big part in my Scout Squad selections and Dean Smith’s side are perhaps the most obliging team in the division on that front.
Goals, big chances, shots in the box, attempts from set plays, shots on target: whatever metric the Villa defence is measured by, they are in the bottom two for it this season.
Chelsea are in fine form at present, too, so my triple-up on Olivier Giroud, Pedro and Marcos Alonso requires little elaboration.
Elsewhere, a tired-looking Tottenham Hotspur are there for the taking for Manchester United, with a depleted Spurs frontline offering Aaron Wan-Bissaka an excellent chance to add to his tally of four shutouts in five matches. As we came to learn last season, whenever there’s a clean sheet, Wan-Bissaka is generally in contention for bonus points.
Watford’s home form also leads me to a double-up on Ben Foster and Ismaila Sarr.
Foster has seven clean sheets in 14 matches at Vicarage Road this season, while Sarr has seven attacking returns in five appearances on home soil since Nigel Pearson first took charge of the Hornets.
Manchester City’s upcoming Champions League clash with Real Madrid next week (should it go ahead) has a major influence on my selection of big-hitters.
I’m backing Kevin De Bruyne to return to action to step up his match fitness, which earns the Belgian a spot ahead of Mohamed Salah in my midfield.
At the back, an injury to Martin Dubravka brings Karl Darlow into contention as a cut-price keeper for Newcastle’s home clash with Sheffield United.
The Magpies have kept three successive clean sheets at St James’ Park, which also merits Federico Fernandez an inclusion as a differential.
Owned by less than 3.0% of squads, the Argentinean has claimed eight bonus in that trio of shutouts. Indeed, Fernandez has averaged 5.5 points per home start this season.
Elsewhere at the back, Gary Cahill has stepped up his goal threat ahead of Palace’s trip to Bournemouth.
Only two defenders have bettered his five shots in the box in the last four Gameweeks and with Steve Cook a big doubt for the Cherries, Cahill’s aerial presence could prove decisive at set plays.
Cahill has steered the Eagles to three straight shutouts, yet sits in just over 1% of squads.
I also fancy Michail Antonio to deliver returns and help West Ham breach the resilient Wolves’ defence.
The Hammers have impressed in recent home matches, scoring at least three goals in three of the last five.
Since returning to the starting XI in Gameweek 25, Antonio has recorded six big chances – second only to the seven of Dele Alli among FPL midfielders.
His ten shots in the box sit fourth in midfield during that period, underlining his differential appeal with an ownership under 1%.
Karl Darlow looks to be a secure starter for Newcastle United in the short term after Martin Dubravka picked up a knee injury, and his budget price makes him a nice pick with a home game in Gameweek 30.
While Bernd Leno and Dean Henderson are also strong picks, the cut-price availability of Darlow should allow funds to filter through to some other, high-priced options in my squad this week.
Two of those expensive assets are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Marcos Alonso, with the latter having started three successive league games for the first time since October. Alonso is only behind Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah for points per match this season.
Fernandes gets my third midfield slot, behind Sadio Mane and Kevin De Bruyne because of their respective opponents.
Ismaila Sarr is my fourth midfield selection having registered two goals and an assist in his last home game against Liverpool. In total, he has seven attacking returns in his last five starts at Vicarage Road.
Up front, I expect Sergio Aguero to profit at home to Burnley, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could punish frustrated owners who sold him after the ‘Double’ Gameweek 29 disappointment.
Speaking of punishing sellers, Jamie Vardy came off the bench and scored twice last Gameweek, kicking into form and significantly helping Leicester’s attacking fluidity.
Raul Jimenez and Danny Ings are both included in my picks, but Ings will need to start showing returns to be included in the future.
THE COMMUNITY CHAMPION
Each week, one of the Fantasy Football Scout community takes on the Scout Picks by pitting their chosen XI against ours.
The community member who beats our picks by the biggest margin over the campaign will win a £100 Amazon Voucher and a place in our Moderators and Contributors League for the following season.
In Gameweek 29, Bilal7 beat the Scout Picks 48-40.
gwitbrock‘s winning margin of 23 points in Gameweek 25 is the target to beat.
Our Scout Picks article on Friday will have further details on who is representing the community this week.
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