The article I have been most dreading is finally here… the fateful game week 31 with more blank fixtures than you can shake a stick at. With just four Premier League fixtures to assess the pickings are going to be slim to say the least in GW31 but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap a few points.
The big question is how to play this week and whether you try to haul maximum points by using a chip such as the ‘Free Hit’ chip or to take a hit yourself and field a team of 4 or 5 players.
The one good thing this week is that Liverpool play and with them being in such good form, most managers will have at least a couple of their players. The bad news is that everyone will have Salah so there are few gains to be made here. In terms of Liverpool, of course the focus has to be there with a favourable home game against Watford looking the pick of the games but it makes sense to have a trio of Reds for the latter stages of the season anyway with mostly green fixtures between now and the end of the season.
Is The Free Hit A Load Of $hi!?
The Free Hit chip certainly has its value. But for GW31 we have come more and more to the conclusion that it probably isn’t that worthwhile. It really all depends on your team and your take on how much potential lies in those other fixtures.
Stoke City for example average 0.9 goals per game. Everton who they face this weekend only average 1.2 goals per game and only 0.7 away from home – so looking to goals in that game is statistically foolish.
The same could be said of most of these sides with Bournemouth the most likely to score alongside Stoke on 1.2 goals per game on average. Hardly inspiring stuff! And then you have to get lucky and actually have the goal scorer in your side. By contrast, Liverpool score an average of 2.4 goals per game.
The upshot of it is that unless you are going to stack your side out with defenders and hope for a few clean sheets (which seems unlikely to produce big points in itself) then you may be better served to hold on to the chip until a double game week – unless you are looking to bench boost in one DGW and triple captain in another.
Game Week 31 Tips
Right, with that rather rambling pre-amble out of the way… let’s take a look at the fixtures:
Bournemouth Vs. West Brom
Barring a miracle it looks like West Brom will be the first team relegated from the Premier League this season and although Bournemouth are not quite out of deep water yet they are far more comfortable than their rivals this week. You never quite know what you are going to get from Eddie Howe’s side but they do usually grab at least a goal. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in around 17 games now and although West Brom are on a dreadful losing run they have been scoring goals.
This looks like the best opportunity for points outside of the Liverpool game but the trouble is that both of these sides seem to get their goals from various sources. Junior Stanislas has been chipping in the with odd goal for the home side recently but it really is a lottery as to who you might put in.
The advantage of putting a Bournemouth player in is that they have three good fixtures on the bounce – which cannot be said for any of these other sides in GW31.
As for West Brom, again it is a lottery but with Burnley and Swansea up next it might pay to put a cheap defender in and take a punt over the next few weeks as they will surely have to tighten things up as they scrap for every point available.
Huddersfield Vs. Crystal Palace
Huddersfield have been over achievers so far this season and their manager David Wagner has managed to get every drop out of his players. The same cannot be said for Crystal Palace and this will probably end up being a scrappy game. The away side need to win more than the home side with Huddersfield probably happy to take a draw and ensure the gap to the bottom three does not close.
Crystal Palace are just coming off the back of three very tough games (all of which they have lost) but they have shown glimmers of attacking flair in those games and could be worth a punt this week. Van Aanholt has scored two in his last two games and although he is unlikey to score three in a row for the first time in his career he could well get a clean sheet in this game.
This does look like a game for defenders so if you are considering the free hit then stocking up on at least one defender from both sides here is a good bet.
Stoke Vs. Everton
Two pretty uninspiring sides here do battle and with Stoke having more to play for and Everton having dreadful away form it is the home side who are most likely to come out as victors. Shaqiri showed flashes of brilliance against Man City and remains the top pick for the Potters whilst a defensive pick in Bauer at just £4.5m is great value.
For Everton, they have looked better with Tosun in the side and he is the standout player for them on recent form.
Liverpool Vs. Watford
Watford have really fizzled out since their early season form and last week’s defeat at Arsenal doesn’t bode well for this game. As far as Liverpool are concerned they will be desperate to get back to winning ways after an off day at Old Trafford and it will be the usual attacking players that should haul the most points.
Saido Mane has been the forgotten man for much of the campaign but with two goals and an assist in his last three outings is he could be the one Liverpool player with differential at 10.7% ownership (although expect that to rise before Saturday).
Andy Robertson has now played the last 8 games on the trot and looks a good pick at the back if you want a little more balance and with a clean sheet more than possible for Liverpool it probably makes sense.
However, if you want to go all out attack then squeezing Firmino, Mane and Salah in to your team should be pretty potent for GW31 and for the remainder of the season.