So I had a pretty good sports weekend.
On Saturday, my wife and I attended an event at the University of Virginia with our daughter, who is a student there. Naturally, the venue organizers projected UVA’s semi-final game of the Men’s NCAA national college basketball tournament onto large overhead screens for the crowd to watch. Surrounded by a sea of Cavaliers, we got to see the place erupt into pandemonium when Kyle Guy sank three consecutive free throws to win the game by one point with less than a second left on the clock. That is what we call clutch, folks.
On Monday, the Cavaliers went on to defeat Texas Tech in overtime to win the first men’s NCAA national basketball championship in the school’s history. We were back home by then, but my wife and I watched the game breathlessly on TV as our daughter and son (who is also a UVA student) texted us real-time footage of the scenes playing out on campus.
Monday also brought my fantasy EPL game week to a conclusion, and it went pretty darn well. I finished with 64 points in FPL, with a certain Belgian midfielder who plies his trade in London supplying fully half of my points: I had the good fortune to triple-captain him for his three-goal, one assist double game-week performance. That score was enough to lift me into 152,856th place in the world and 210th in the NMA BTB league. I think those are my highest rankings so far this season.
Things went even better in Fantrax, where the 211 points I scored in the 11-man NMA league tied me for #1 for the week along with D_Day. Here’s my week-winning squad:
In the 17-man NMA league I scored 224, which tied me for second place with The Motley Crewe. We were both 8 points behind the week’s winner, Team minhtruong. Here’s what my roster looked like; the Fantrax algorithm counts only 11 of 17 (the best at each position):
I’m now ranked 21st in the 11-man league (2902 points) and 13th in the 17-man league (3938).
I think you’d agree that’s a pretty great weekend then. Can I continue to improve my positions, or will I slip down the table as the season draws to a close? The answer to that question will begin to be answered on Friday, when Game Week 34 opens at the King Power Stadium (we should have confirmed lineups for the LEI vs NEW game ahead of the Fantrax deadline, so tune in to our Pre-Deadline Chat for the scoops).
Let’s have a look at the week’s slate of fixtures, and then we’ll dive into the picks. You’ll notice that the week continues all the way to Tuesday, making a double-game week for Brighton and Cardiff. However, neither of those teams has any strong Fantrax assets, so don’t get too excited.
Brighton vs Cardiff (DGW for both)
Artur Boruc (BRI vs BOU, $2.55): Boruc has spent Bournemouth’s last two games on the bench as Eddie Howe offered Asmir Begovic a chance to shine. Over those two matches Begovic conceded five goals and made several serious gaffes, so I’m betting Boruc gets his job back this week. The Seagulls have scored only one goal in their last three games, and only three in their last seven. On sale for under $3, Boruc looks a solid value this week.
Tom Heaton (BRN vs CAR, $3.94): Only Huddersfield have scored fewer goals than Cardiff. Available for less than $4, Heaton looks like a great play when the Bluebirds visit Turf Moor on Saturday.
Jordan Pickford (FUL vs EVE, $10.07): Pickford has registered three straight clean sheets, and this week he faces an already-relegated team whose offense is the league’s third-worst. His price makes him a little risky, but he has posted 46 points over his last three games.
Hugo Lloris (TOT vs HUD, $12.33): Wednesday’s clean sheet against Palace was Lloris’ first in two months. But he could be due for another on Saturday, when the dismal Terriers roll into Tottenham’s shiny new stadium.
Nathaniel Clyne (BRI vs BOU, $3.47): Clyne usually returns value away from home, and this week the Cherries travel to Falmer Stadium to face Brighton’s feeble attack.
Danilo (CRY vs MCI, $3.99): Oleksandr Zinchenko is crocked, and Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph started yesterday’s 1-0 Champions League defeat to Tottenham. That means Danilo could rotate back into the lineup on Sunday (at either right-back or left-back). City’s defense has kept clean sheets in six of its last seven games.
Benjamin Mendy (CRY vs MCI, $5.09): Man it feels good to include Benjamin Mendy in a Player Picks article again. The Frenchman played 80 minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Brighton, but was rested for the CL match at Tottenham yesterday in favor of Delph. Mendy could therefore be in line for a return to the S11 against the Eagles on Sunday, and we all know what he’s capable of.
Diogo Dalot (MUN vs WHU, $1.97), Marcos Rojo (MUN vs WHU, $1.00) With Manchester United’s stable of defenders depleted by injuries and suspensions, these two could be handy additions to your squad if you need to free up funds to spend elsewhere.
Kieran Trippier, (TOT vs HUD, $12.16): I don’t normally like to get spendy with defenders, but Trips is probably going to have a Fantrax field day supplying crosses against Huddersfield.
Aaron Ramsey (WAT vs ARS, $7.99): Ramsey is averaging nearly 10 ppg across his last four, despite putting in a full shift in just one of those matches. He has been better than anyone who has played in his stead lately, so with Arsenal one point outside the top four, I think Unai Emery will hand him a start this weekend.
Dwight McNeil (BRN vs CAR, $6.95): The English teenager has two goals in his last three games and boasts a Fantrax average that exceeds his price. Kudos if you were an early adopter, but even at retail he’s worth the investment for a home match against Cardiff.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (FUL vs EVE, $18.29), Richarlison, (FUL vs EVE, $16.27): There’s no two ways about it — these two guys are expensive. But Fulham is terrible, plus Siggy and Richarlison both do well on the road against weak opposition. And lately, they’ve both been doing well against everybody: Siggy has posted double-digits in each of his last three games, Richarlison in three of his last four.
Bernard (FUL vs EVE, $6.31): If Siggy and Richarlison’s price tags are too high for you, then consider Everton’s left-winger. Like the other two, Bernard faces Fulham this week and his returns have been good lately. But you can pick him up for a fraction of their prices.
James Maddison (LEI vs NEW, $18.29): Here’s another guy who will set you back a pretty penny. But he’s one of the most creative players in the Prem, and that has translated into 114 Fantrax points over his last 8 games. The Magpies are mired in the relegation scrum and won’t have the luxury of simply parking the bus in front of Martin Dubravka’s goal on Friday. That means they’re sure to open up opportunities for the Foxes, and Maddison will be ready to pounce.
Youri Tielemans (LEI vs NEW, $3.94): If James Maddison is too rich for your blood, then I offer you Youri Tielemans. The young Belgian is averaging over 11 ppg over his last four matches, notching two goals over that span. I’ve been touting him for weeks, but if you haven’t brought him in yet, the home match against Newcastle would be an excellent time to pull the trigger.
Kevin De Bruyne (CRY vs MCI, $5.79): The performances of all City attackers tend to suffer when the Citizens play on the road, but KDB’s low price mitigates your downside risk. After struggling with injuries all season, he’s again beginning to look like the world-beater we know he is. He only played a handful of minutes in yesterday’s CL loss, so he looks set to make the starting lineup against Palace on Sunday.
Christian Eriksen (TOT vs HUD, $14.07): Eriksen is the engine that powers Tottenham’s attack. He has put up 39 points in his last three games, and this week Spurs host Huddersfield.
Son Heung-Min (TOT vs HUD, $13.89): Harry Kane suffered an ankle injury during yesterday’s 1-0 Champions League victory over Man City, and Mauricio Pochettino says the striker could now miss the rest of the season. Son will be expected to produce goals in Kane’s absence, and the Korean has certainly shown us before that he is capable of shouldering the load. Oh, and also: Huddersfield.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (FUL vs EVE, $6.60): DCL is one of my favorite young players. He has grown with every game this season and now seems to have solidified his grasp on his role as Everton’s No. 9. He has put up 55 points over his last six games, and this week he squares up to the league’s worst defense.
Jamie Vardy (LEI vs NEW, $14.76): The party boy has a lot to celebrate lately. He has scored seven goals in his last six games, piling up 96 Fantrax points over that period. And he has been particularly lethal against lower opposition: He put up 29 against Huddersfield on Saturday, and 28 against Fulham last month. This week it’s 15th-place Newcastle, so he could be set for another huge haul.
Romelu Lukaku (MUN vs WHU, $11.11): With doubts around the fitness of many others in the Red Devils attack, Lukaku looks a sure thing for the tilt with the Hammers on Saturday. He’s priced right and loves to bully weak defenses, and the Hammers have conceded nine goals in their last four games.
The Double Gamers
I generally advise fantasy managers to pile into teams with double game weeks. Indeed, if you review the squads I posted in the intro section, you’ll see that my excellent fantasy scores from the last round were a direct result of this strategy. But I can’t think of two teams with less fantasy appeal than Brighton and Cardiff. Neither team has even one bona-fide goal-scorer, and both clubs are in serious jeopardy of relegation. This is a rare instance where I wouldn’t blame you for selecting a team full of promising single-gamers, shunning double-gamers altogether. But if you do want to roll with some DG’ers, here are the ones I’d look at.
Bernardo (BRI vs BOU, BRI vs CAR, $5.67): He’s averaging 8.5 ppg over his last 6 matches, all without a clean sheet or goal. He’ll be in my squad for Brighton’s double this week.
Lee Peltier (BRN vs CAR, BRI vs CAR, $3.42): Peltier’s average ppg of 4.2 is higher than his price. You probably wouldn’t look at him otherwise, but in a double game week that makes him a solid play.
Anthony Knockaert (BRI vs BOU, BRI vs CAR, $8.45): Normally Pascal Gross would be an easy call for a Seagulls double game week. But Brighton’s talisman has been sidelined with a hammy for over a month, he’s unlikely to feature anytime soon. Among the alternatives, Knockaert is the only one I would consider. With Gross just resuming training and Solly March doubtful, Knockaert looks assured of starts and will also get the lion’s share of set pieces.
And that’s it. To my eye, there are no other double-game week players who are worth the price you’d pay for them.
Are you loading up on double-gamers from Brighton and Cardiff, or are you instead relying on carefully selected single-gamers? Are you fielding players from the week’s marquee match-up between Liverpool and Chelsea, or are you avoiding that fixture? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Also, be sure to monitor team news from Manchester United’s Champions League fixture tonight, and from tomorrow’s Europa league matches for Arsenal and Chelsea. And be mindful that Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester City all have second legs of their CL match-ups next Wednesday, and United next Tuesday, so rest and rotation could impact squad selections for the weekend.
How many players from Brighton and Cardiff will be in your squad this week?
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4 or more