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Week 35 Player Picks: A Single Game Sandwiched Between Doubles

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The picks seem like they should be simpler with a return to a single game week, but surrounding fixture congestion complicates things

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League
Time for another celebration by Wayne Rooney?
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Hmm, a thin slice of meat (or cheese if you prefer) squeezed between giant slabs of bread? Does that inverse Dagwood sound like something the Earl of Sandwich would be proud of? No, of course not. But hey, it’s the only thing on the menu, so go ahead and take a bite.

Manchester United theoretically has a tantalizing fixture welcoming Swansea, but the Red Devils are in the midst of a spell featuring 15 games (all competitions) in 51 days as they walk the tightrope act between trying to finish in the Premier League top four and/or taking a stab at winning the Europa League. Jose Mourinho’s preferred team was on the pitch in the Manchester derby, but some rotation should be in order this weekend.

Rendered as afterthoughts for much of the season, Leicester City’s players have become fantasy forces of late under Craig Shakespeare. However, this is the Tigers’ eighth game (again, all competitions) in April and they won’t have too much recovery time following their midweek appearance, whereas they’ll be at the Hawthorns playing a much more well-rested West Brom side that is merely playing its fifth fixture in the month after being the only team to sit out Game Week 34 entirely.

Arsenal v. Tottenham is always a tough fixture to pick players from since you can never expect either offensive fireworks or complete clampdown defense. Given that this is the third game in seven days for the former and the third in eight days for the latter, there is likely even less value in the North London derby than usual due as several stars could suffer rotation.

I would normally be excited about the Eagles offensive regulars with Crystal Palace hosting a Burnley side which struggles mightily away from the cozy confines of Turf Moor. However, Palace is coming off both a weekend and midweek game, whereas the Clarets rested during the week. It would be no surprise to see some of the Palace stars who started both games seated off to the side when the whistle blows for this one.

It’s not that those teams should be avoided entirely, of course. It’s just that the regular fantasy favorites who have been burning the candle lose luster, as those who have gotten some rest take the focus.

GOALKEEPERS

Claudio Bravo (Manchester City at Middlesbrough) [5.0, 3.93]

It’s no surprise that Middlesbrough don’t score much away, but it’s not as if they score much at home either. The Citizens defense doesn’t seem quite as stingy as in seasons past, but they’re still allowing only the fourth-fewest goals both overall and on the road. Bravo was injured late in the Manchester United game, so if he can’t recover, Willy Caballero is a nice fill-in.

Fraser Forster (Southampton v. Hull City) [5.0, 4.44]

The big Englishman may be coming off a shellacking at Chelsea, but the Blues boast one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, whereas the visiting Tigers have managed the fewest away goals, bar none.

Ben Foster (West Brom v. Leicester City) [4.7, 8.14]

Albion is pretty stingy at home and while the Foxes have perked up lately, they remain one of the most anemic road offenses on the season. As mentioned, West Brom’s disciplined defense is well-rested while Leicester’s counter-attacking gazelles will be running on fumes.

Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace v. Burnley) [4.3, 4.55]

Sure, the Clarets watched the midweek action on television while the Eagles will be more fatigued after playing. It shouldn’t really matter that much from a defensive perspective. Palace has bested Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks while giving Tottenham a tough battle. Meanwhile, Burnley arrives in Selhurst Park as the league’s sole winless away team.

DEFENDERS

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton v. Hull City) [5.5, 11.50]

Great chance at a clean sheet combined with plenty of offensive forays. Win, win!

Gael Clichy (Manchester City at Middlesbrough) [5.2, 7.12]

Clichy started seven straight games prior to the midweek Manchester derby, when he was rested. With goal shy Middlesbrough visiting the Etihad, City is a natural avenue to ride for defense and it seems likely that Clichy will be reinstalled in the line-up.

Matteo Darmian (Manchester United v. Swansea) [5.0, 4.67]

As mentioned, I am not as high on Manchester United as I would normally be. That said, with injuries across the back line, Darmian has emerged as a nice value play, racking up points as the Red Devils kept three straight clean sheets against Sunderland, Chelsea and Burnley right before the Manchester derby. It would be no surprise to see another with the Swans coming to the fortress of Old Trafford.

Adrian Mariappa (Watford v. Liverpool) [4.0, 1.65]

The Watford returnee has come out of nowhere to score 9 points in Official and 26 points in Fantrax in his past two games. As long as he keeps starting, at his price you’ve got to have Mariappa in your team.

Jack Stephens (Southampton v. Hull City) [4.1, 3.59]

If you don’t have the cash to splash on Bertrand, more affordable defensive mate Stephens should do you nicely.

MIDFIELDERS

Robbie Brady (Burnley at Crystal Palace) [5.5, 4.16]

Following four straight games coming off the bench, Brady has started the past three. With Joey “Charlie Hustle” Barton suspended for gambling, Brady gets free reign over spot kicks, with the caveat being that the Clarets are not particularly offensive-minded on the road. The Irish winger hasn’t scored or assisted in his past eight games, so he’s not the best play in Official, but in Fantrax he’s averaged 10.5 ppg in his past six starts.

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool at Watford) [8.5, 16.00]

The Brazilian playmaker is in majestic form with four goals and a helper in his last five games. Unlike Roberto Firmino who tends to flourish at Anfield but struggle elsewhere, Coutinho is generally strong regardless of locale, so you can expect his brilliance to continue in the Hornets’ nest.

Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace v. Burnley) [5.6, 11.44]

Eagles offensive stars Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha all started both last weekend and in the midweek affair, so any among them could suffer rotation. After making only a cameo appearance off the bench in the midweek clash, Cabaye should be back in action from the get-go with an extremely favorable match-up.

Nathan Redmond (Southampton v. Hull City) [5.9, 10.36]

Somewhat shockingly, Redmond has outscored fellow Saints midfielder Dusan Tadic in Official fantasy, but unsurprisingly he’s cheaper, making him a much better option. In Fantrax it’s basically a wash in terms of both price and production, making it a coin toss in that arena...or of course you could go with both, since after all it’s Hull City coming to town!

Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke v. West Ham) [6.0, 6.65]

After two strong games, the Swiss maestro struggled at Swansea. Hey, it happens. With West Ham visiting, Shaqiri is a strong bet to get back on track.

STRIKERS

Jermain Defoe (Sunderland v. Bournemouth) [7.6, 12.47]

Call this one a gut feeling. After piercing the net 14 times in the first 24 games, the Black Cats’ sniper has zilch in his past nine games, a period in which entire Sunderland team has two goals total. Bournemouth comes to town having allowed the second most away goals in the league, so this seems like a fine time for the dam to break.

Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton v. Hull City) [6.4, 2.85]

He’s got four goals and an assist in his six starts for the Saints. At home against Hull City who have conceded the most away goals in the league, the Tigers will surely wish the import had stayed in Italy.

Romelu Lukaku (Everton v. Chelsea) [10.5, 20.67]

You should know the drill by now. Look to Lukaku at home (where he has 16 goals and five assists), don’t on the road (eight and one, respectively). If you’re worried about Chelsea’s defense, relax. After all, the Blues have not kept a clean sheet in their past 11 games. If someone on Everton’s going to score, it has to be the ex-Chelsea man, doesn’t it?

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United v. Swansea) [8.6 and 5.86]

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic injured, Rooney earned the start at Burnley last weekend and notched a goal. After Marcus Rashford was rotated into the starting line-up for the midweek derby, you have to expect Mourinho to turn back to Rooney for the upcoming mouth-watering match-up.

How are your teams shaping up? Which players do you like this weekend? Join in the discussion below!