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Week 36 FPL Player Picks: Two out of Three Ain’t Bad

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Following crowded and barren fixture lists recently, the schedule now returns to normal. With three single-game weeks left, which players are set to thrive in fantasy Premier League thanks to favorable schedules the rest of the way?

Virgil van Dijk celebrates victory with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson - Liverpool FC - Premier League
Two out of these three in the Liverpool defense isn’t too bad when it comes to your fantasy team.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In recent weeks, FPL’s roller-coaster schedule has had us focused on which player(s) were best primed to perform in the immediate game week, looking at stars from teams who enjoyed attractive match-ups in double game weeks, or who were simply playing in weeks with limited fixtures. Chances are pretty high that you have already played both your wildcard and free hit chips, and if so, you’re going to be stuck the rest of the season (only three game-weeks!) with anybody you add in.

Whether it’s pinball, a coin toss, or rock-paper-scissors, two out of three is a common way of breaking a tie and ending up with a winner (like when two wolves and one sheep vote on what to have for dinner). In that vein, now that we have a trio of single-game weeks to finish out the season, a good strategy is to target players from teams with two out of three home games. Another is to look for those with two favorable match-ups. As immortalized by Meat Loaf, two out of three ain’t bad.

So let’s take a gander at the run-out. Home games are in bold, and games against lower half teams are in Italics, which means that home games against lower half teams are in bold italics. This list is arranged by the Premier League table, and the number of “points” given in parentheses is the count of bolds + italics:

  1. MANCHESTER CITY (3): at Burnley, v. Leicester, at Brighton
  2. LIVERPOOL (4): vs. Huddersfield, at Newcastle, v. Wolves
  3. TOTTENHAM (4): v. West Ham, at Bournemouth, v. Everton
  4. CHELSEA (1): at Manchester United, v. Watford, at Leicester
  5. ARSENAL (3): at Leicester, v. Brighton, at Burnley
  6. MANCHESTER UNITED (4): v. Chelsea, at Huddersfield, v. Cardiff City
  7. WOLVES (2): at Watford, v. Fulham, at Liverpool
  8. WATFORD (3): v. Wolves, at Chelsea, v. West Ham
  9. EVERTON (3): at Crystal Palace, v. Burnley, at Tottenham
  10. LEICESTER (2): v. Arsenal, at Manchester City, v. Chelsea
  11. WEST HAM (2): at Tottenham, v. Southampton, at Watford
  12. CRYSTAL PALACE (4): v. Everton, at Cardiff, v. Bournemouth
  13. NEWCASTLE UNITED (3): at Brighton, v. Liverpool, at Fulham
  14. BOURNEMOUTH (3): at Southampton, v. Tottenham, at Crystal Palace
  15. BURNLEY (2): v. Manchester City, at Everton, v. Arsenal
  16. SOUTHAMPTON (5): v. Bournemouth, at West Ham, v. Huddersfield
  17. BRIGHTON (3): v. Newcastle, at Arsenal, v. Manchester City
  18. CARDIFF (4): at Fulham, v. Crystal Palace, v. Manchester United
  19. FULHAM (4): v. Cardiff, at Wolves, v. Newcastle
  20. HUDDERSFIELD (2): at Liverpool, v. Manchester United, at Southampton

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By the table above, we have no shortage of winners with 4 or 5 “points”: Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Cardiff and Fulham.

As for the losing end of the schedule, I’d clearly stay away from Chelsea, which is not only limited to one home game, but is also stuck facing three teams in the top half of the table. Otherwise, while not as dire, things may prove a bit tricky for Leicester, Wolves, West Ham, Burnley, and Huddersfield.

There are plenty of teams in the middle — Manchester City, Arsenal, Watford, Everton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, and Brighton — and you might fancy their players. I’m certainly not gonna stop you if you want any of them. But if you can get two out of three not once, but twice... that’s something too difficult to pass up! So let’s focus on (most of) the 4- and 5- point sides:

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Liverpool (v. Huddersfield, at Newcastle, v. Wolves)

With Liverpool kicking off the final three games home to last-place Huddersfield, they’re certainly the team to start with. The Reds are chasing Manchester City for the EPL title, and it could very well go down to the last day. They’ve got two home games, and only one game against top half competition. Huddersfield and Newcastle have nothing to play for, while Wolves might be fighting for a spot in Europa League. But that game is at Anfield, and if Liverpool need the win to stay in the Premiership title race, it’s no contest who would have more to play for.

The only rain on ‘Pool’s parade is that they have two Champions League legs against Barcelona crammed into their schedule (May 1 & 7, bracketing the Newcastle match), so beware of the usual rotation risks; however, chances are that the line-up switches will come in the midfield engine room as usual, rather than from the regularly starting stars in attack and at the back.

By this advanced stage of the season, I don’t need to tell you whom you’ll want to add if you are short of the maximum three Reds. Any among the usual suspects will do: forward Roberto Firmino (£9.3m), midfielders Mo Salah (£13.2m) and Sadio Mane (£10.0m), defenders Andrew Robertson (£6.8), Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m), and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m), and goalkeeper Alisson (£5.9m). Salah comes at a hefty price, but the Pharaoh superstar has roared back into a purple patch with a goal or assist in each of the past four games. Meanwhile, TAA is not only very affordable, but he’s the in-form defender with two assists in the last three affairs.

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Tottenham (v. West Ham, at Bournemouth, v. Everton)

Midfielders - Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Of course, two out of these three in the Spurs’ midfield isn’t too bad either.
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Like Liverpool, Tottenham enjoys two home games, and only one of the final three fixtures comes against a team in the top half. Spurs have gotten off to a high-flying start at their new stadium, with four victories in as many tries across all competitions, by a combined score of 8-0. On top of that, Spurs’ 11 road victories are behind only the 12 each by Liverpool and Manchester City.

Like the Reds, Spurs do face further fixture congestion thanks to the Champions League. But given that Harry Kane is out injured, and with a top four spot up for grabs, Mauricio Pochettino does not have the luxury of resting his attacking stars in midfield. Christian Eriksen (£9.3m), Dele Alli (£8.8m), Son Heung-min (£8.8m), and Lucas Moura (£6.8m) are all attractive targets. (The worry, of course, is that Spurs will secure a top four finish before the finale, which could afford a respite for Eriksen, Son, and perhaps others against Everton.)

With much more depth on the defensive side, rotation has been in play on that end, particularly at wing back, where Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ben Davies, and Kyle Walker-Peters have been playing musical chairs. The tune is more promising for central defender Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m) who has started the past seven games, although Davinson Sanchez or Juan Foyth could throw a wrench into things.

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Manchester United (v. Chelsea, at Huddersfield, v. Cardiff)

The Red Devils’ quest for a top four finish looks difficult at the moment. The match with Chelsea is crucial. If Manchester United can secure those three points at Old Trafford, the remainder of the schedule looks quite rosy, particularly if Cardiff is relegated prior to the finale. That’s plenty of “ifs,” though.

One thing that stands out is that Huddersfield and Cardiff tie for second-most penalties conceded (eight each). That points to a pretty good probability for joy from midfielder Paul Pogba (£8.6m), who has 13 goals on the season, seven of those from the penalty spot, five in 2019. Forward Marcus Rashford (£7.4m) has not exactly been lighting up the score sheet lately, but given his affordable price, he could certainly pan out nicely.

The other big thing that simply screams is that Huddersfield has been shut out in nine of its past 14 games, and it’s five for eight in that respect for Cardiff. Sure, the Manchester United defense has not kept a clean sheet in its past eight games, but something’s gotta give. The smart money will have it going the Red Devils’ way, so it could prove fruitful to go with keeper David De Gea (£5.7m) or defender Chris Smalling (£5.6m).

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Crystal Palace (v. Everton, at Cardiff, v. Bournemouth)

Amazingly, the Eagles have actually been better (+1 goal difference) away than at Selhurst Park (-6), so by the numbers having two home games is not exactly an advantage. Even so, Cardiff’s home form (-16) and Bournemouth’s away line (-17) are too much to ignore. Forward Wilfried Zaha (£8.8m) has six goals and four assists in the past dozen games, while midfielder Luka Milivojevic (£6.4m) boasts four scores and one helper in the past half dozen. Given Jeffrey Schlupp’s unfortunate injury, I’d turn to defender Martin Kelly (£3.9m) in back as a great option if you’re looking to save money for a big purchase elsewhere.

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Southampton (v. Bournemouth, at West Ham, v. Huddersfield)

As of now, the Saints have something to play for, while facing three comparatively unmotivated teams in the lower half of the table, two of those at home. However, security may be assured shortly, taking the edge off. On top of that, Southampton is far from a top-notch side itself. Midfielder James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) has no goals in his past five games, but he’s always just a magical free kick away from getting started again. Defender Maya Yoshida (£4.1m) has not scored yet this season, but similarly seems on the verge, having taken five shots, with two on target, in the past three games. As far as cheap keepers go, Angus Gunn (£4.3m) could be a productive shout; he has averaged 4.4 ppg in his admittedly small sample size of 10 games, which is the same production as Manchester City’s much more expensive Ederson, the #2 keeper in the game behind only Liverpool’s Alisson.

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Cardiff (at Fulham, v. Crystal Palace, at Manchester United)

and Fulham (v. Cardiff, at Wolves, v. Newcastle)

It’s at this point where we go so far down the table that diminishing returns meet the edge of the cliff. For Cardiff, your best bet is keeper Neil Etheridge (£4.6m), who has been wildly uneven this season, which means that he’s had some incredible three game returns (28 points in GW1-3, and 26 points in GW 19-21 and GW 20-22). Maybe you can get lucky like that again! For Fulham, forward Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.3m) has risen from the dead, notching a goal and assist each in the past two games. As with Etheridege, you’ll be hoping he can maintain form a la his five goals plus a helper in GW 2-6. But you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

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[SOURCE NOTE: Home/away splits came via www.soccerstats.com, penalty kick stats came via www.transfermarkt.com, and otherwise stats came from the Official Premier League and Fantasy Premier League sites.]

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Are you making your transfer(s) with a single-minded focus on Week 36 only, or instead with an eye to all three remaining games as I am? What team’s schedule stands out to you, and which player(s) are you leaning toward buying and/or captaining? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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