If there’s one thing we’ve learned from finale days in past seasons, it’s that strange things happen (like the evac of Old Trafford in ‘16). That means it’s even more difficult to predict than your run-of-the-mill weekend in November or March. But that doesn't really change the approach, does it? All you can do is go with what seems the most probable result. Unless, of course, you just want to pick a team at random. Which is fine, but then really just stop reading and go do your own thing. Me, I’m gonna try to figure this thing out.
The race for the top four is basically set, unless Liverpool unexpectedly loses at home to Brighton, and Chelsea wins at Newcastle. The relegation zone is also pretty much a done deal, save the even less likely scenario whereby Southampton loses to Manchester City and Swansea beats Stoke by a combined nine goals.
So as much as we fear it all going haywire, things really should go as planned, really. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe. At least you managers in the +Bench League will have a once-a-year opportunity to see all of the line-ups before that league’s final deadline 15 minutes before kick-off. I expect our pre-deadline chat to be lively on that account, so I hope you can join us.
[Note: The salaries quoted below are are barn door prices for the NMA league; YMMV.]
Like any self-respecting miser, I hate paying premium for keepers. But Manchester United has the stingiest home defense in the league (9 goals allowed), and Watford has scored two goals TOTAL in its past 11 games away from Vicarage Road. If you want a near-guaranteed clean sheet win, pay up!
UPDATE: It sounds like Jose Mourinho plans to field a second team, resting David De Gea, Chris Smalling and perhaps Alexis Sanchez as well. What was that about strange things happening on the finale day?
Loris Karius (Liverpool v. Brighton, $6.01)
I’ve got a trivia question for you: What team has allowed the fewest home goals (10), behind only Manchester United? You got it, the Reds! Here’s another: What team has scored the fewest away goals (9)? You guessed it, Brighton! Wow, even if you’re not from Boston, you are wicked smaht! Here’s another question you already know the answer to: Does Loris Karius sound good this weekend?
Both teams have been playing well, but with Albion’s valiant effort to avoid relegation officially dashed, the edge has to go to the home side being able to keep its momentum going.
Lucasz Fabianski (Swansea v. Stoke, $4.84)
A bad team with everything to play for against a bad team with nothing to play for? Even if its hopes are slim to none, let’s go with the former. Caveat: With the Swans chasing a 9-goal differential, I wouldn’t blame you for fearing they will leak some.
After the five goal horror show at the Emirates, it’s easy to imagine Sean Dyche changing from Nick Pope to Tom Heaton, who would be an outstanding budget option at Turf Moor. Be sure to check team news as the deadline approaches, of course.
Chris Smalling (Manchester United v. Watford, $9.25) Smalling is averaging 10.4 ppg over his past 15 games, scoring fewer than 8 points only twice in that span. Giddyup!
Take a look at Sanchez’ home scores since mid-January: 8, 9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 9. So, um, yeah, if you don’t mind getting 8 or 9 points for $7.15, take it.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool v. Brighton, $6.89)
Both Reds’ defenders better known by their initials — TAA and VvD — are good bets here. But if I’m picking one, I’ll go with TAA since he’s always got a chance to go big, having scored scored at least 12 points five times this season, compared to only once for VVD.
Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace v. West Brom, $6.01)
The former Liverpool man has scored fewer than 6 points only once in his past seven games, so he is a safe bet to return value.
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City at Southampton, $1.35)
If you’re looking for cheap filler, gaze no further. He has averaged only 21 minutes in his past three games, but has returned 4.8 ppg. In fact, you might want to start a list of prospects for next year with his name at the top and a note about his rock-bottom price.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley v. Bournemouth, $12.96)
JBG has averaged 11.0 ppg in his past eight home games, and would you call Bournemouth a good defense? I certainly wouldn’t.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace v. West Brom, $12.54)
Zaha has averaged 16.3 ppg in his three home appearances since returning from injury, and the Eagles should be able to fly at Selhurst Park against Albion.
David Silva (Manchester City at Southampton, $12.32)
After resting midweek, Silva should be back in the swing of things for the finale. Amazingly, he actually averages more points on the road (11.7 ppg) than at home (6.8 ppg), so don’t shy away with the Citizens leaving the Etihad.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool v. Brighton, $11.40)
Mane has averaged 16.0 in his past four games, with three goals and two assists. On top of that, he’s by far the cheapest option among the Salah/Firmino/Mane trio that looks extremely enticing given the locale and opposition.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace v. West Brom, $6.37)
RLC has been a disappointment this season, but he has perked up with 10 and 11 points in the last pair of games thanks to a goal and assist. This match-up looks ideal for keeping up the mini-streak.
Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United v. Watford, $15.50) As much as I love Mo Salah and Harry Kane , sorry I’m not shelling out 20+ clams for anybody. I could see going in the $15-ish range, though. Watford has conceded the third most goals in the Premiership, and Alexis will want to get in on that action.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool v. Brighton, $14.44)
I’d rather spread it around. Firmino is roughly half the price as his teammate Salah, and he’s scored 15+ points in three of his past five home affairs.
Jordan Ayew (Swansea v. Stoke, $10.39)
Jordan only has two goals (and no assists) in his past 10 games, so it’s not like he’s been setting the world on fire. But Andre’s brother has been good at picking up phantoms, and he has scored in three of his past six home games. With the Potters coming to town and a 9-goal difference to overcome, he should be shooting at will.
Everton is a pretty strong home team, but the Toffees have allowed the third-most away goals this season. If there’s to be joy from the Hammers, Arnie should be involved.
He’s already in your team, right? If not, what are you, a nihilist? Sure, Arsenal’s a horrible traveling team (no wins outside the Emirates in 2018), but even so, PEA is averaging 10.2 ppg away from home since his arrival. And with his price still not caught up, you can add him to that list for next year too.
How are you feeling about the final game week? Which players are you sure will deliver, and who are you worried about? Do you have any hunches that you’re playing? Will you be awake and trading in the pre-deadline chat? Let us know in the comments below!