Fantasy Football Scout regulars David, Andy, Tom and Neale return to pick out their favoured players for the upcoming Gameweek in our weekly Scout Squad feature.
The ‘Free Hit’-type selections unsurprisingly feature an abundance of players with two fixtures in Gameweek 35, along with the obligatory threesome of Manchester United assets ahead of their triple-header.
Each panelist has put forward an 18-man long-list of Fantasy Premier League assests and will explain their notable inclusions and omissions below.
The players listed will then be narrowed down to a squad of 15 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.0m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of the Friday night deadline.
Each writer must meet the following requirements:
- At least one goalkeeper costing £5.0m or less
- At least one sub-£5.0m defender
- At least one midfielder listed at £6.5m or below
- At least one forward priced at £7.5m or lower
- No more than three players from the same club
SCOUT SQUAD PICKS
|GK||Vicente Guaita||Vicente Guaita||Vicente Guaita||Vicente Guaita|
|Emiliano Martínez||Edouard Mendy||Edouard Mendy||Jordan Pickford|
|Edouard Mendy||Emiliano Martinez||Fraser Forster||Emiliano Martinez|
|DF||Harry Maguire||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Harry Maguire||Andrew Robertson|
|Trent Alexander-Arnold||Harry Maguire||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Harry Maguire|
|Timothy Castagne||Timothy Castagne||Lucas Digne||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|Lucas Digne||Lucas Digne||Timothy Castagne||Timothy Castagne|
|Tyrick Mitchell||Rob Holding||Antonio Rüdiger||Antonio Rudiger|
|MF||Bruno Fernandes||Mohamed Salah||Bruno Fernandes||Bruno Fernandes|
|Mason Greenwood||Bruno Fernandes||Mason Greenwood||Mohamed Salah|
|Mohamed Salah||Diogo Jota||Mohamed Salah||Mason Greenwood|
|Wilfried Zaha||Wilfried Zaha||Wilfried Zaha||Wilfried Zaha|
|James Ward-Prowse||Anwar El Ghazi||James Ward-Prowse||Bukayo Saka|
|FW||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Kelechi Iheanacho||Kelechi Iheanacho||Dominic Calvert-Lewin|
|Kelechi Iheanacho||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Ollie Watkins||Ollie Watkins||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Kelechi Iheanacho|
|Jamie Vardy||Edinson Cavani||Ollie Watkins||Ollie Watkins|
|Chris Wood||Che Adams||Che Adams||Christian Benteke|
Most popular picks: Vicente Guaita, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire, Timothy Castagne, Mohamed Salah, Wilfried Zaha, Bruno Fernandes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Kelechi Iheanacho (four), Emiliano Martinez, Edouard Mendy, Lucas Digne, Mason Greenwood, Jamie Vardy (three)
Of all the teams playing twice in Double Gameweek 35, Crystal Palace have the best schedule from a defensive perspective.
Their trips to Sheffield United and Southampton have excellent clean sheet potential which is why Vicente Guaita is my top goalkeeper for this round, while Tyrick Mitchell, who reclaimed the left-back berth in Gameweek 34, is also in my Scout Squad selection.
No Premier League team has conceded fewer goals than Manchester United over their last six. Harry Maguire has played every minute this season and last so he is arguably the most likely to feature in all three of their Triple Gameweek matches.
With Liverpool now playing twice in this round, Trent Alexander-Arnold is a key option to own. No defender has created more big chances than him in their last half-dozen appearances.
Chelsea are still the best team for lowest expected goals conceded (xGC) score over their last six, which is why I’ve gone for Edouard Mendy and Andreas Christensen, the latter having started each of the last three league matches in a row.
Bruno Fernandes has also been an ever-present for Manchester United since their return to European football, so I cannot look past him in midfield. While the returns have dried up recently, he remains in the Premier League’s top 11 for minutes per expected goal involvement over the last six.
I have also included Mason Greenwood in my selection considering the recent out-of-position exploits that have seen him sit behind only Mohamed Salah for total shots in the box over his last six outings.
Crystal Palace’s aforementioned fixtures are also kind for attacking potential too. Over the last six, Sheffield United and Southampton are both in the Premier League’s worst three for conceding big chances.
Meanwhile, Wilfried Zaha has two attacking returns in his last four starts since returning from injury.
Since Gameweek 29, no Premier League player has been afforded more big chances than Dominic Calvert-Lewin, which should see him get something against West Ham and Aston Villa; two sides who have obliged of late.
Kelechi Iheanacho is an obvious inclusion considering the continuation of his form. Since Double Gameweek 26, he has produced nine goals and two assists and sits top of the Premier League for shots on target over the last six.
Meanwhile, his colleague Jamie Vardy ranks joint-top with Iheanacho for big chances created over the same period. Friday’s meeting with Newcastle is, of course, more appealing than a Tuesday-evening trip to Old Trafford but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Foxes find the net there.
As so often happens, there’ll no doubt be a ‘single Gameweek’ player who outscores most of those with two or even three fixtures in Triple Gameweek 35.
But seeing as though we’re effectively picking a Free Hit side in this feature, the ‘two bites at the cherry’ mindset still wins out every single time.
And nothing sums up the faint ridiculousness of this blinkered Double Gameweek approach than talking up Crystal Palace players, not one of whom features in top 45 highest-scoring FPL assets of 2020/21.
But their double-header against Southampton and Sheffield United is unquestionably the most favourable of the nine teams with two or more fixtures, even if the Eagles themselves routinely flatter to deceive.
A little surprisingly given how much we tend to given them a wide berth, only four clubs have kept more clean sheets than Palace this calendar year. Vicente Guaita racked up a combined 17 points in the reverse fixtures of his Gameweek 35 matches, too.
In the Saints and the Blades, Wilfried Zaha – who has played a part in 45% of his side’s goals when he has featured – will be facing the two teams with the worst defensive records in 2021. He’s in my squad should Roy Hodgson pass him fit on Friday, despite the misgivings over Palace as a whole.
Among the sea of state-the-bleeding-obvious picks elsewhere, Anwar El Ghazi requires a bit of explanation.
Providing Jack Grealish remains out as expected, the £5.2m-rated Dutchman could prosper against a jaded Manchester United XI and an Everton side that Villa defeated 2-1 in an end-to-end spectacle last week.
The trigger-happy El Ghazi’s minutes-per-chance average of 24.2 is the best among FPL midfielders with significant game-time this season and he’s on penalties to boot. More importantly, he’s currently in Dean Smith’s good books – which is not always the case.
While many of my peers have plumped for Mason Greenwood, I’m going to put a bit of faith in Edinson Cavani.
Most United players will have at least one benching in Gameweek 35 and the veteran Uruguayan will no doubt share game-time with Greenwood (and others) over the next week, with the latter probably edging the minutes.
But no player has scored more Premier League goals off the bench than Cavani this season and his goals-per-90-minutes average (0.58) is better than that of any United asset.
Injuries to David Luiz and Danny Ings partly influence my selections of Rob Holding and Che Adams, meanwhile.
Double and Triple Gameweek players unsurprisingly make up my entire 18-man squad this time.
More often than not, Crystal Palace have struggled at the back this season, but for the best part of an hour did contain Manchester City last weekend. With Roy Hodgson in charge, they will always set up with a defence-first mentality, which leads me to goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. The 34-year-old has kept six clean sheets since the turn of the year, with the Spaniard accompanying Edouard Mendy and Fraser Forster.
While Everton’s defence isn’t exactly watertight either, I’ve found a spot for Lucas Digne, who put in another good performance against Aston Villa last time out. The Frenchman registered his ninth FPL assist of the season, and could play as a wing-back if Carlo Ancelotti reverts to a back-three system.
I also like Harry Maguire, who has played every minute of every league game this term, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Timothy Castagne and Antonio Rüdiger.
Further forward, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Mohamed Salah, plus Leicester City duo Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy are obvious inclusions, so I’ll dedicate a bit more of my time to some of my other picks.
Talisman Wilfried Zaha has been playing through a potential groin injury in recent matches, but providing he is passed fit, could be an excellent differential option, given that the Eagles have arguably the best pair of fixtures. The 28-year-old has already reached double-figures in terms of goals in the Premier League, while opponents Sheffield United and Southampton both rank in the bottom two for big chances conceded in 2021.
Elsewhere, James Ward-Prowse’s dead-ball deliveries could be key, with team-mate Che Adams, plus Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins completing the forward list. The latter was the best player on the pitch against Everton last weekend, setting the tone with his pressing from the front. He’s now produced returns in five successive matches and is up to 15 goals in all competitions this season. I’d put Calvert-Lewin slightly ahead, but it’s close, and both are brilliant options in Triple Gameweek 35.
I don’t particularly trust Crystal Palace from an attacking point of view. In fact they are the worst team when it comes to expected goals this season with 27.43. But sometimes you have to just back the fixtures and it doesn’t get much better than Sheffield United and Southampton. Sheffield United have conceded the highest expected goals this season, which is also the case in the last six matches.
Southampton are also in the top five worse teams over those half-dozen games, hence Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke being included. My Manchester United attacker choices this week would really depend on the line-up versus Roma, but it was promising to see Mason Greenwood selected in the original team for Liverpool. He’s had 17 shots in the box over the last six matches, nine more than both Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. Considering only four players (and no midfielders) have a higher expected goal involvement over the last six than Fernandes, he has to be in.
Luke Shaw continues to top chance creation tables for defenders, but it’s also interesting to see Lucas Digne in the top five over the last six matches. Timothy Castagne has also increased his attacking output, especially since playing on the right side, with eight chances created and three shots in the box over the same time period.