This type of gameweek is never fun for Fantasy Premier League managers as we battle against fixture rescheduling to put out a team of any kind. This year the Blank Gameweek has served us up with just eight teams to choose from:
- Crystal Palace
- West Brom
That’s your lot for Gameweek 31. And bearing in mind how awful West Brom are, Everton’s woes away from home and Watford’s fixture away to Liverpool, our pickings are actually even slimmer!
Despite this, I don't think the eight teams playing this week should necessarily be your sole focus. If you are happy with your squad for this week (I think eight or more players should be more than adequate) and you have planned transfers around the future Double Gameweeks, then you should definitely make transfers that involve players without a game.
All of this will eventually lead to us having a Double Gameweek later in the season, so we can all look forward to massive scores. But for now, it's damage limitation as we look at the best of a bad bunch.
Best: Liverpool – Watford (h), Crystal Palace (a), Everton (a), Bournemouth (h), West Brom (a), Stoke (h)
The Reds are the best team available this week and their fixtures mean it is a viable strategy to go all out on Klopp's men. We need to be wary of rotation in future weeks as they progress to the Champions League quarter-final but, for now, fill your boots.
Worst: Everton - Stoke (a), Man City (h), Liverpool (h), Swansea (a), Newcastle (h), Huddersfield (a)
Looking solely at the sides with a fixture this week, Everton have it worst. Stoke is not the tough trip it once was but Everton are not good travellers under Sam Allardyce. After that, they face two of the top four before a kind run to finish off the season.
Mohamed Salah/Roberto Firmino (MID/FWD, 10.6m/9.5m, Watford at home)
There is only one viable spot for your armband this week and that is firmly on Mohamed Salah.
Considering his ownership and the lack of other options, it could be extremely damaging if you try to go off-piste and Salah delivers (which I fully expect him to). He blanked last week against Manchester United but he is never quiet for long.
Roberto Firmino is also a must-own for this week, and a potential candidate if you really want to swim upstream and not captain his Egyptian teammate.
The Brazilian striker has two goals and two assists in the last four. If you don't own him yet you should definitely get him in against a Watford side who conceded three to Liverpool in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season.
Christian Benteke (FWD, 7.6m, Huddersfield away)
There are not many strikers you can rely on in this difficult week. Benteke is not exactly reliable either but he might well be a shrewd investment, especially when looking at Palace’s fixtures for the rest of the season.
He has also hit a vein of form at exactly the right time, blanking only twice in the last nine weeks and averaging 4.5 points per game in that time (not world-beating but solidly consistent).
Palace travel to Huddersfield this week and they need a result as they have lost four in a row and slipped into the relegation zone.
Xherdan Shaqiri (MID, 6.4m, Everton at home)
The dynamic Swiss midfielder can be unplayable at times and he was an excellent option not long ago when he scored in three consecutive matches.
He has blanked twice in a row since then and this is absolutely a one and done punt, as Stoke must face both the North London clubs in the two weeks after this match. However, he could provide for owners as Stoke welcome Everton (who have lost their last four away games) to the bet365 Stadium.
Junior Stanislas (MID, 5.9m, West Brom at home)
This is the week to invest in Bournemouth as they play at home to rock-bottom West Brom. The Cherries still need to get a few more points to ensure safety and this is the perfect match to pick up a win.
Stanislas has started the last six matches and scored three goals in that period, not bad for a 5.9m punt.
Jack Butland (GK, 5.0m, Everton at home)
It seems odd to be recommending a goalkeeper from a team residing in the bottom three, especially when he costs 5.0m. However, there are two big points in Butland’s favour.
First is that Stoke are hosting Everton and I've already talked about how poor they have been away from home in recent months.
Second, Butland seems to be a bonus points magnet. He regularly brings in points from the number of saves he makes and he managed to get three bonus points twice in the last three weeks, despite scoring an own goal in one of those games.
Andrew Robertson (DEF, 4.9m, Watford at home)
You really should have triple Liverpool for this week as they are easily the best team with a fixture. Van Dijk and Karius are both decent alternatives. However Robertson is the cheapest option and he has plenty of attacking potential.
He may only have two assists so far this season but he loves getting forward and I would expect that number to go up soon.
There's a reduced pool of players, so there's not many people I would avoid entirely. As discussed above, if you have a long-term plan and price movements dictate buying a player without a fixture in Gameweek 31 then you should do it (although something tells me all those people transferring in Son are reacting to his four goals in two games and not thinking about the long-term planning).
All this being said, I can see literally no hope for West Brom and no reason to invest in any of their players.
Pardew has turned serious professionals like Gareth Barry and Jonny Evans into taxi thieves and that poor discipline has transferred to the pitch where they fall apart regularly (they have conceded three or more goals in four of the last six games).