After weeks of anticipation finally the gameweek no-one was looking forward to is upon us. The GW FPL bosses have wearily prepared for simply to field a team of 6+ players and where a measly eight teams play. That’s right, it’s the GW31 preview.
If you’re feeling apathetic, you’re not alone. After a gruelling GW30 where Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane mustered a lofty 1 point between them, the prospect of a two-week break following GW31 is quite frankly a relief, especially for those still in possession of their second Wildcard with time to tinker ahead of the double gameweeks (34 & 37).
But attentive FPL managers will of course be preparing to exit GW31 basking in triumph, and depending on your tactics, the first significant blank gameweek of the season (excluding Spurs and West Ham’s absence in GW21) could be pivotal for your team. With just four fixtures and only one of the top six involved, fielding a full 11 players could be enough to steal a Solly March on your mini-league rivals.
There have been three tactic options for GW31: Free Hit, steadily acquire options in the week preceding or make reckless one-week point hits. Patient buyers and sellers will likely have their line-up settled, but Free Hitters and impulsive buyers still have options aplenty.
Liverpool aside though, those options are pants. Taking hits for players you wouldn’t consider in other weeks isn’t ideal (you wouldn’t have taken a -4 for Rajid van La Parra in GW6, would you?), but this is understandable if you plan to activate your Wildcard from GW32 onwards. Alternatively, deciding on a Free Hit template from a mix of mid-table and relegation fodder is about as exciting as finding out that everyone you know this week is captaining Salah.
For those still undecided on the line-up, this template will hopefully add some weight to any decisions you’re yet to make.
GK: Jonas Lossl (£4.6m)
Stoke’s Jack Butland is a consideration between the sticks, but Huddersfield’s top points scorer gets the nod. Lossl may look like a Danish deer in headlights when up against any of the top six, but his debut Premier League season has been creditable on the whole. He’s the fifth-highest bonus point-scoring goalkeeper and even has an assist. The Terriers’ GW31 opponents Crystal Palace are the joint second-lowest scorers on the road.
DEF: Florent Hadergjonaj (£4.5m)
Journalists’ nightmare Hadergjonaj celebrated his permanent signing at Huddersfield last week with a clean sheet and full bonus points against Swansea. The Albanian’s stellar recent performances have seen him start 7 in a row for the Terriers, and he has a Tripper-esque quality delivery when surging forward.
DEF: Leighton Baines (£5.6m)
As atrocious as Everton’s away record is (more on that later), the return of Baines in GW30 was as timely as it was impactful. Baines provided an assist and kept a clean sheet against Brighton, and would have been privately steaming at Wayne Rooney stealing his spot kick privileges. Stoke don’t score many at home, and Baines offers attacking threat concurrent with his defensive vigilance.
DEF: Adam Smith (£4.8m)
With three assists already Smith is the optimal Bournemouth defender to own for GW31. The Cherries have mustered just two home clean sheets all season, so loading up in advance of a clean sheet against hapless West Brom is naive. But Smith is the one whose attacking impetus negates his and his colleagues’ frailties.
MID: Mohamed Salah (£10.6m)
The obviously obvious captain pick, Salah first got tongues wagging with a goal and an assist against Watford in August. Now, 30 weeks later, the Egyptian is vying with Harry Kane for the Golden Boot and battling with Kevin De Bruyne for player of the year gongs. You of course already own him. This is just a note to say this week he’s playing against Watford.
MID: Sadio Mane (£9.4m)
Owned by 50% less bosses than Salah, Liverpool team-mate Mane has provided attacking returns in each of his last three. His renewed league form has been particularly timely for those who opted for the Senegalese in advance of GW31.
MID: Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.3m)
Stoke’s stocky superhero has enjoyed his best season for Stoke in the Premier League, returning seven goals and six assists. It may be curtains for him after GW31 as FPL managers draw up their battle plans for the double gameweeks, but Shaqiri can go out with a bang against an Everton team which possesses the second-worst away record with just one win from 14.
MID: Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m)
The mercurial winger returned from injury with an assist in Palace’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, and his impact will need to be significant if the Eagles are to remain a top-flight club. Palace are yet to win without Zaha this season, but of the top six Palace only have Liverpool left to play after GW31.
FOR: Roberto Firmino (£9.4m)
Salah aside, only five players have more FPL points this season, and Firmino too enjoyed a goal and assist against Watford in August. The second sure-fire certainty in GW31 squads, Firmino is also a viable captaincy alternative to Salah having scored three and assisted two in his last five.
FOR: Callum Wilson (£5.9m)
The Bournemouth striker may have blanked in five straight games, and might not even start against West Brom if Jermain Defoe improves his fitness this week, but hapless West Brom’s defenders will still be more scared of Wilson than he is of them. Regardless of his minutes Wilson is a good striker facing an abysmal team. The rot stops here….surely.
FOR: Steve Mounie (£5.8m)
Mounie’s peculiar debut season for Huddersfield has seen him return three double-point hauls but only six goals. His penchant for explosive scores is as alluring as it is frustrating, but Mounie remains a stellar striker option for a Terriers side who’ve lost just one in four.
More FPL Gameweek Tips
Wondering who to pick as as your Gameweek 31 Captain?
Holly discusses the best options in her weekly GW31 FPL Captain tips article.
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