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AM's Week 31 Player Picks

Tevez is being tipped to start & will set you back less than 6.00.
Tevez is being tipped to start & will set you back less than 6.00.

You probably all know this by now but I wanted to begin by stating clearly that Week 31 is NOT a double week for Swansea City and Newcastle. As expected Yahoo have moved their "2nd" fixture in to Week 32 with the rest of the Easter weekend fixtures, which makes sense, but I completely agree with our reader's frustrations. This should've been shown clearly on the Team Page straight after the Week 30 deadline and not halfway through the week after fantasy managers have already started dropping discounts to pick up phantom double gamers.

Anyway, this leaves all teams with one game this week, and I see it like this.

- The current top 5 all have games that they should win. Manchester United travel to Blackburn, Manchester City host Sunderland, Arsenal go to QPR, Chelsea travel to Aston Villa and Tottenham are at home to Swansea. None of these are easy, but I'd be surprised if any of them lost and expect them all to pick up 3 points.
- In form Newcastle host a Liverpool side struggling badly in the league at the moment and all signs point to a home win here. I'm not banking on it but I can see a high scoring game, with the Barcodes maybe shading it in front of the Geordie faithful.
- I fancy Fulham and Everton to beat Norwich and West Brom respectively with home advantage giving them the edge over teams of similar quality.
- Wolves v Bolton & Wigan v Stoke as both are difficult to predict and I don't see many goals in either match so there could be some value in defensive the options.

Let's look at the players:

Al Habsi

As mentioned I'm expecting both Tottenham and Fulham to win and considering both are at home I feel Mark Schwarzer and Brad Friedel are the safest options for Week 31 and both are still affordable. It's always important to recommend a keeper for managers on a budget so I was tempted to put Wayne Hennessey in there, but Wolves really do frighten me at the moment, so in the end I decided Wigan's Ali Al Habsi at home to Stoke is a more sensible option. Definitely avoid Paddy Kenny, even @ 1.00, given Arsenal's form - if money is tight you're better off taking a zero for Thomas Sorenson.


Williams Gallas put in a man of the match display at Chelsea last weekend and he should be restored the the starting line-up alongside Younes Kaboul after both men got a rest for the FA Cup game against Bolton, Ledley King and Ryan Nelsen stepping in. I think Tim Ream represents great value for Bolton's trip to Wolves while Stephen Kelly is the best value pick if you want to cover Fulham's potential clean sheet. I'm also prepared to add Chris Smalling to the recommendations if we get news that he could start at right back ahead of Rafael to help add height to combat Blackburn's aerial threat.

Once again there a number of great cheaper options if you want to pad out your defence and spend more in attack. Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj should continue to deputise for the injured Alan Hutton and is a bargain @ 2.15, while Sebastien Bassong remains affordable (3.49), is guaranteed a start at home to Bolton and has stayed out of the red numbers recently. We also have the return of a 1.00 defensive enabler; Sotirios Kyrgiakos has started Sunderland's recent league games and should get the opportunity to block plenty of shots as they visit Manchester City

Van Der Vaart
Ben Arfa

I've got a hunch that Clint Dempsey will get back on the goal trail against Norwich so he's my top midfield pick despite his high price and I'll be looking to fit him in to my team. Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed today that Nani will not be fit to face Blackburn which means Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia should continue on the flanks and both are tempting given their current form. There is also space in the list for two Spurs midfielders - Gareth Bale looked close to his best against Bolton, shooting from everywhere and doing other things that get him lots of phantom points, so I'm expecting a strong showing from him against Swansea and from Rafael van der Vaart who is looking sharper each game and taking all set pieces.

How good is Ryo Miyaichi? The tricky Arsenal youngster - currently on loan at Bolton - looks excellent every time I see him play so I can't imagine Wolves are looking forward to attempting to keep him quiet. Tomas Rosicky has been the catalyst for Gunners' upturn in fortunes and is starting to improve his fantasy output playing just behind RvP, so I fancy a goal from him against QPR and he's still priced below 8.00. I'm staying on the Steven Gerrard bandwagon for now as I think there could be goal at Newcastle and also recommending Hatem Ben Arfa off the back of his impressive recent performances.

Van Persie

I'm putting a £20 bet on Robin van Persie to score 2 or more goals against QPR to cover the pain of not being able to afford him in Yahoo and he'll be my captain in the Official FPL game. I hope this shows you that I think he's going to have a rather strong week. Stating the obvious, Wayne Rooney is the pick of the Manchester United strikers and if you barndoored Papiss Cisse expecting a double week then I think he's worth hanging on to @13 given the form of Liverpool's defenders at the moment.

The rumours coming from Manchester City suggest Carlos Tevez is going to get a start against Sunderland in an attempt to boost the team after they fell 2 points behind United in the title race. Following some promising cameos he played 70 minutes and scored for the reserves in midweek so if there's a chance the rumours are true you'll want to get him in for the astonishing price of 5.88. Fulham's Pavel Pogrebnyak is due a goal after a few quiet matches and Nikica Jelavic is great value for Everton against West Brom, having scored 3 goals in his last 4 games.

That's it for the players - please check back on Friday for the team, injury and suspension news.

My current team is:

Friedel, Ream, Smalling, Gibbs, Sigurdsson, Gerrard, Valencia, Dempsey, Jelavic, P.Cisse, Tevez

The above leaves me with 1.23 in the bank but I quite like it as it is, although Van Der Vaart could come in for Dempsey if I need some extra funds to upgrade Smalling or any other injury doubts. I'm still holding Wayne Bridge, Ben Arfa & Junior Hoilett behind the scenes but they'll probably all end up being sold.

How's your team looking?