FPL 2017/18: Blank Gameweek 31 Preview
There are just seven rounds of fixtures left to play for FPL players this season. That means there are 21 points available in Head to Head fixtures, and limited time to gain ground in mini-leagues, so every point counts at this stage of the season. Gameweek 31 this season falls on the same weekend as the FA Cup quarter-final matches, meaning that there are only four matches in the Premier League this weekend. We review the weekend ahead. All aboard.
Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek Deadline
For the 2016/17 Premier League season, the FPL deadline will be one hour before the commencement of the week's first game. The Premier League website lists each FPL deadline, you can always ask on social media, and you can also view a real time countdown on our Weekly Hype page
Fantasy Premier League: Blank Gameweek 31
Gameweek 31 is a repeat of the opening day of the season, and nothing more unpredictable than the opening round of fixtures than a Gameweek with just 4 fixtures, and 7 teams whose form is decided by the roll of a dice.
Liverpool are front-runners in regards to player selection for FPL players, and the only real talking point is whether to stack your team with more attacking options, or defensive ones, when Watford come to Anfield in the evening game.
That leaves Bournemouth, West Brom, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Stoke, Everton, and Watford, which is the complete collection of Premier League sides who plays hot-potato with its league form.
This time of year when the FA Cup quarter finals take place, a Blank Gameweek rolls through town leaving FPL players with a reduced fixture list, and lots of planning to be made (unless you're going to play your Free Hit chip).
We went to our Twitter account, @RealHypeTrain, and asked what your GW31 strategy was, and here's what we found.
Gameweek 31: Potential Strategies
Do Nothing / Normal Gameweek:
Our poll suggests that quite a few people will be treating this Gameweek just like any other, and are willing to accept that they'll only be having a reduced number of players this Gameweek. This is likely to be the case as nearly half of the active FPL players have already used the Free Hit chip.
- Advantageous is your head to head opponent has already played their Free Hit chip, so you can counter any potential moves a lot easier. It could also be a detriment if your opponent still has it in the bank. Same applies for traditional leagues.
- Ideal for players who have planned in advance and will have 7+ players available for this weekend.
- This also implies that you're holding out that everyone will captain Mohamed Salah, so you can negate everyone else as there aren't many other points on display.
Dropping points is never ideal, especially when you're dealing with unstable teams like Bournemouth, Everton, Stoke, and Huddersfield, who largely have suffered from indifferent form throughout the season. Players on the radar will largely come from Everton and Liverpool, most likely to make room for 2 or more of the Liverpool attacking options (Salah, Mane, and Firmino).
Using Another Chip:
Our poll suggests that nobody is considering this option right now, and with the Double Gameweek period coming up shortly, why would you considering using a Triple Captaincy, or a Bench Boost, on a Gameweek that only features 1 of the top 6 Premier League teams.
Free Hit Chip:
There's two schools of thought if you listen to any opinion about this chip.
1) You're using the Free Hit chip to bring in unreliable players from a bunch of lower table teams and it won't bring about the success you think it will.
2) This is the ideal week to use the Free Hit as it doesn't impact on my actual team and I can still make normal transfers going forward that won't affect the rhythm of my actual squad.
If you've still to use the Free Hit chip, here's how it's playing out with the three members of The Hype Team, who all have it available...
@HypeTrainPhil is debating playing his Free Hit on the final day of the season, believing that this Gameweek doesn't offer great value. He's the first of the two thoughts above. Phil believes that a GW38 Free Hit will have a great advantage for a final day showdown, especially as our own mini-league is dreadfully close between 3-5 players right now, and that might be telling.
@HypeTrainSam and @HypeTrainRob are more in the second school of thought, but for different reasons. Rob wants to ensure a Head to Head win more than anything else, whilst Sam needs to claw a few points back sooner rather than later and believes that this week might offer more than the eye is letting on.
What Sam and Rob are both agreeing on however is that the Free Hit Chip wouldn't be ideal for GW38 as the final round of fixtures won't throw up as much rotation turmoil.
Rob also believes that the Free Hit would be wasted on a Double Gameweek as the teams featuring in two potential weeks are likely to be the same (Man City, Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Spurs), so players can make accommodations with a second wildcard for both potential Double Gameweek scenarios.
Rob has also had bad luck with using Bench Boost chips in the past and doesn't want to complicate matters, believing that the Free Hit chip can plug a hole without destroying the fabric of your Fantasy team.
Sam also believes that from a differential standpoint, it is a great week to experiment with lowly selected players, and a Gameweek where good FPL players can be tactically astute ahead of others who might now be as knowledgeable regarding some of the teams that feature. Only Liverpool feature from the 'Top 6'. Sam is pleading for players not to plead ignorance, believing that if you know enough about the 8 teams, go for it, as your knowledge can prevail.
When thinking about using the chip, we advise you to go look at the Dream Team players from each week. Teams always hit 100+ points, and by only having 4 matches, you're greatly increasing your chances of picking the right players at the right time, at a time when you otherwise wouldn't consider them.
By cramming in as many potential routes to points as you can, you can cover your bases, and if worst comes to worse, you'll be better off regardless from a points perspective.
BOURNEMOUTH VS. WEST BROM
Previous Result: West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth (GW1)
Top FPL Player (BOU): Asmir Begovic (GK, 88pts)
Top FPL Player (WBA): Ben Foster (WBA, 90pts)
Right off the bat, the sight of two Goalkeeper's being the best players in both teams does not bring great joy to potential FPL talent this weekend. What's worse is that Begovic and Foster in our eyes are near the bottom of our consideration for this week, with Lossl (HUD), Pickford (EVE), and Butland (STK), offering a more attractive route into your squads.
With West Brom languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table, 1 of their 3 wins this season came against Bournemouth, but The Cherries started slowly to the season, and at home are a different prospect. From an attacking stance, the likes of Stanislas and Wilson have been hot and cold in recent weeks, but punting against a free-falling West Brom side is probably the best this week.
Bournemouth kept a clean sheet against Chelsea during GW25, their only since a 0-0 draw against Swansea during GW13. Bournemouth have been conceding the odd goal here or there, so you're best route to points from this game might be in attack.
West Brom last kept a clean sheet away from home against Liverpool during GW17's midweek 0-0 draw, and have since conceded to Stoke, West Ham, Everton, Man City, Chelsea, and Watford on their travels.
Against Spurs during their last outing in a 4-1 defeat, Bournemouth came racing out of the gate, and if they are able to match the same intensity and bounce-back quickly, West Brom could find themselves deeper into the red.
Our FPL considerations:
Junior Stanislas (MID - £5.9m):
Stanislas scored against Spurs during GW30, and has scored in 3 of his last 6 starts in the Premier League, and won't suffer from potential rotation like Josh King did, with Hower revealing he had minor neck trouble heading into the fixture.
Callum Wilson (FOR - £5.9m):
Wilson has started each of the last 12 Premier League matches, but has failed to score in the last 5 Premier League fixtures. There will be an element of faith put into picking Wilson, but he's Howe's guy and will likely retain his place.
Nathan Ake ($5.1m) OR Adam Smith ($4.8m):
You could go one of two ways. Ake is a certain starter and could chip in with a goal or assisting, having notched 2 each this season, or you would vouch for Adam Smith. Having to work his way back from injury, Smith has started the last 2 Premier League matches, and assisted Stanislas against Spurs. Smith loves getting forward and could be a vital attacking threat down Bournemouth's right side.
Salomon Rondon (FOR - $6.0m):
Scored against Leicester in a 4-1 victoring during GW30, and if there is one man to wipe a potential Bournemouth clean sheet, it could be Rondon's pace and power that does it.
HUDDERSFIELD VS. CRYSTAL PALACE
Previous Result: Crystal Palace 0-3 Huddersfield (GW1)
Top FPL Player (HUD): Jonas Lossl (GK, 110pts)
Top FPL Player (CRY): Luka Milivojevic (MID, 96pts)
Of all the matches this Gameweek, Crystal Palace's visit to Huddersfield is one fixture where FPL players who are considering their transfers of Free Hit options will have to throw a few players at the situation, and see what sticks.
On the opening day of the season, Huddersfield routed Palace 3-0 at Selhurst Park, but Palace were under the guidance of the 'Worst Manager in Premier League History', Frank de Boer, who lost all 7 matches whilst in charge of the London club.
Steve Mounie made a great impression against Palace earlier this season, scoring twice in the victory, whilst Zanka's flick from an Aaron Mooy corner was turned into the net by Palace's Joel Ward. Huddersfield's start to the Premier League season caught many off guard, especially as The Terriers beat Newcastle the following week, with Aaron Mooy scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory.
Since GW1 and GW31, 30 rounds of fixtures have played out and now we're looking at this match being a relegation six-pointer. Huddersfield sit 15th in the table with 31pts, whilst Palace are below the dreaded line in 18th with 27pts. A win for Huddersfield would move them 7 points clear of Palace with just 6 games to go, but an away win would bring the gap between the sides to just a single point.
We're potentially looking at a season with 3 promoted clubs staying up, and in the case of Newcastle and Brighton it would be richly deserved given the calibre of their Manager's and their application this season, but the jury is still out over Huddersfield's longevity in the top flight.
One element that could swing the fixture could be Wilfried Zaha. Palace's main-man returned against Chelsea, providing an assist for Patrick van Aanholt, and looked sharp at The Bridge. Zaha played the full 90 minutes against Huddersfield on the opening day of the season, and went into the campaign following a very good pre-season, with many FPL players banking on Zaha.
After a performance against Huddersfield which saw Zaha threaten on a few occasions, Zaha would miss the next 6 league matches through injury, and has recently missed Gameweek's 27-29 without another injury.
Under Roy Hodgson's leadership, Palace have lost their last 4 matches in the Premier League to Everton, Spurs, Man United, and Chelsea, which is uncharacteristic of a side who usually fare well against top-half sides. You have to go back to Gameweek 23's 1-0 home victory against Burnley for Palace's last league win.
David Wagner's side were last victorious in Gameweek 28's 2-1 win at West Brom, before losing 2-0 at Wembley to Spurs for GW29, and most recently drew 0-0 at home to Swansea despite The Swans being reduced to 10 men for 80 minutes when Jordan Ayew was the recipient of a red card for a high challenge on Johnathan Hogg.
Our FPL considerations:
Steve Mounie (FOR - £5.8m):
Our top consideration from this match is the man who downed Palace on opening day, Steve Mounie. Back in the fold as a regular start, Mounie hasn't scored in his last 2 matches, but recently netted against Bournemouth and West Brom, so can score against sides of Palace's calibre.
With Palace defensive options not being considered, this is one move that makes a great deal of sense, but you might have to pick between him and Wilson or Tosun if you're playing your Free Hit and will focus on 3 Forward's.
Wilfried Zaha (MID - £6.8m):
Changed the game at Stamford Bridge, despite Palace losing, and could be the vital cog that helps Palace close the gap on Huddersfield. The only doubts could be over a starting bireth, only having just returned from injury. Given the stakes of this match though, we think the winger will be given a start.
Jonas Lossl (£4.6m) OR Chris Schindler (£4.7m):
Huddersfield will go into this encounter as slight favourites, and could manipulate a clean sheet against a Palace side who come into the game with 4 consecutive defeats. If that is the case, Lossl is Huddersfield's top FPL player, and Chris Schindler is likely to be amongst the bonus points should a clean sheet turn into reality.
STOKE VS. EVERTON
Previous Result: Everton 1-0 Stoke (GW1)
Top FPL Player (STK): Xherdan Shaqiri (MID, 124pts)
Top FPL Player (EVE): Jordan Pickford (GK, 111pts)
Stoke are quickly becoming a favourite for the drop
Stoke haven't been victorious in the Premier League since Gameweek 24's 2-0 home win against Huddersfield, which was Paul Lambert's first home match in charge of the club. Since then, 4 draws and 2 defeats (against Bournemouth and Man City) have followed, and enter the Gameweek as slight underdogs against Everton.
Xherdan Shaqiri's impact has dried up in the recent 0-0 draw with Southampton, and the home defeat to Man City, but hosting Everton provides another feasible in which the Swiss international can thrive.
Everton have lost 5 consecutive away matches to Bournemouth, Spurs, Arsenal, Watford, and Burnley, and you have to go back to a 0-0 draw at West Brom during Gameweek 20 when Everton last picked up points on the road, so as enticing as it is, there will be lingering question marks over the inclusions of Leighton Baines or Seamus Coleman into your Free Hit squads, given that Everton just haven't been turning up on the road.
Everton are another club who have their best FPL player be a Goalkeeper, with Jordan Pickford joining Jonas Lossl, Asmir Begovic, and Ben Foster, in topping their clubs Fantasy tallies, with Everton largely absent of reliable FPL assets this season.
Gameweek 31 is a must win fixture for Stoke, with the club travelling to Arsenal for GW31, before hosting Spurs for GW32, so the visit of The Toffees possesses a sense of urgency amongst the club, who could be further into the red in 3 games time if they don't act swiftly.
Everton's 1-0 home victory on the opening day, with Wayne Rooney scoring the only goal of the game, is likely to be a blueprint for the design of this match. The return of Baines has added another dimension in Everton's defence, whilst Stoke will want to keep it tight against their visitors, especially to keep Cenk Tosun quiet.
Of all the fixtures, this could be the one to stock up on defensive assets from both clubs, especially as Midfield and Forward slots will likely be occupied by Liverpool players.
Our FPL considerations:
Leighton Baines (£5.6m) OR Seamus Coleman (£6.4m):
Everton have Baines, Coleman, and Bolasie back, with Tosun hitting form, so it isn't the worst time to bank on one of the above. With Wayne Rooney not on penalty kick duty, and Gylfi Sigurdsson potentially injured, Leighton Baines is primed for spot-kicks, and his appeal would have been irresistible should he have added to his 12pts during Gameweek 30's 2-0 home win against Brighton.
Coleman is also a goal-threat and Free Hit players could double-down with both if they see potential in an Everton clean sheet.
Cenk Tosun (FOR - £6.7m):
Tosun completed 90 minutes for the first time in the 2-0 victory over Brighton, and has scored in successive Premier League matches. If Stoke are to fall to pieces, Tosun will be the one who does the damage, and will be aided by Baines's delivery on the left-flank.
Jack Butland (GK - £5.0m):
Stoke's shot-stopper has made more saves than any other Goalkeeper this season, which makes him an attractive prospect if you think clean sheets will be at a premium this week, as it is likely that Butland will add a few save points to proceedings.
Xherdan Shaqiri (MID - £6.3m):
Shaq is back in a winnable fixture, and has been the player who has dragging Stoke through their recent fixtures. Shaqiri scores an incredible goal at Goodison Park a few seasons ago, so knows how to find the net against Everton. His inclusion might be necessary if you're trying to negate your mini-league rivals, regardless of if you have banked on Everton defenders.
LIVERPOOL VS. WATFORD
Previous Result: Watford 3-3 Liverpool
Top FPL Player (LIV): Mohamed Salah (MID, 237pts)
Top FPL Player (WAT): Abdoulaye Doucouré (MID, 119pts)
Liverpool enter Gameweek 31 as the overwhelming favourites among FPL players for points, and there is no denying their potential this week. Liverpool are the reason why many Free Hit players will not use the chip, believing the likes of Salah and Firmino will be enough to prop up their overall position on the FPL's standings.
Watford's 3-3 draw at Anfield on the opening day of the season is partially swaying us away from the selection of a defensive asset from either side, but presents a potential blueprint for the match with Liverpool set to attack the Hornets at every available instance at Anfield, though we are wary of Watford's own attacking threat in Troy Deeney.
This portion of the article doesn't need to be divulged in any substantial depth as we know the major players for this week are a certain attacking trio, and the thought of not owning or captaining one crippling FPL players this weekend.
Our FPL considerations:
Andrew Robertson (£4.9m) OR Virgil van Dijk (£5.6m):
If you want to cover your tracks this week with 3 Liverpool players, it is likely that a defender, midfielder, and forward will be on show for your Fantasy squads, with Robertson and Virgil providing the easiest routes to points. Robertson adds an attacking threat so may offer route to alternative attacking points at Anfield against Watford.
Sadio Mane (£9.4m) AND Mohamed Salah (£10.6m) AND Roberto Firmino (£9.5m):
The ideal situation for Free Hit players will be to have the attacking trio of Salah, Mane, and Firmino. All three options scored against Watford on the opening day of the season, so there is great potential in having 2 or 3 of the options at hand. Liverpool won't have to worry about rotation, and will be treating this fixture as a must-win encounter to continue their push for a finish in the 'Top 4' after suffering a setback in the 2-1 loss at Old Trafford.
Want to know more about The Hype Train?
The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
As well as providing FPL articles on our website, we are a founding Contributor to the new Fantasy Football Hub, where you can find more unique articles, including weekly Power Rankings, from The Hype Team. You can support us and read exclusive members only content for just £2 per-month by clicking here.
The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.