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Week 33 FPL Player Picks: Whipsaw

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After a slim week 31 followed by a mammoth double game week 32, we now whipsaw back to a limited number of fixtures in week 33. Which teams and players can deliver fantasy Premier League success?

Team celebration - Liverpool - Premier League
Did you miss these guys midweek?
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images,

Official FPL recently suffered through a rough Week 31 when only 10 teams featured and fantasy points were painfully hard to come by (unless you captained Sadio Mane). Week 32 was all about loading up on Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Watford, Wolves, and any of the other teams you fancied who enjoyed two games... hopefully they brought a bounty of points for your FPL side!

Now the schedule craziness [which includes a FRIDAY deadline!] brings us back to a slimmed down fixture list, with just 12 teams in play for FPL week 33. Many of our favorites — most notably three “Big Six” teams in Manchester City, Manchester United, and Spurs, plus 7th place Wolves who also enjoy plenty of fantasy investment — are unavailable for selection, and their stars will languish on your bench.

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IS IT WORTH TAKING A TRANSFER POINTS PENALTY?

Most fantasy managers have used at least one or two of their chips in recent weeks, so many will likely hold off on playing another this week. Instead, the major question is whether to take a -4 point penalty to use an extra transfer (or -8 for two extras).

In normal circumstances — that is, most weeks — I don’t advocate taking a transfer penalty. After all, those -4 hits add up over the course of a season, you don’t want to make a habit of it except in the most trying of circumstances. If you took a -4 hit every week, you would suffer a penalty of over 150 points for the whole season!

Even more importantly, the reason for being disciplined is because in most weeks you are thinking about replacing someone in your line-up who is expected to play, and thus would probably give you at least 1-3 points. If you would have gotten 2 points from who you kept, you need 6 points from the player you added in to break even, and 7+ to profit. You also run the risk of the player you replaced actually scoring higher than whomever you added in!

But this week, if you’re short of 11 active players, then you have my enthusiastic permission to buy an extra transfer or two. I can’t say for sure that it will work out, not by any means, but mathematically it’s a smart play on balance. You’re replacing a certain zero, which means that you need only four points to break even, and if the replacement has better potential in future weeks, you’ve improved your team. If you get a big score out of who you pick, you’re going to be loving life. And if the replacement delivers only 2 or 3 points, that’s really not such a big dent for a shot at more? Sometimes rolling the dice is better than leaving them in the cup doing nothing.

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Where can you turn in the daunting task of getting up to a full starting line-up, or at least somewhere close? This is the half-dozen fixture list we have to choose from:

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From that limited field, there are a few stand-out teams whose players should be at the front of your mind:

LIVERPOOL

Well, hopefully you didn’t sell off any of your Reds. Any or all of them look good, but of course we’re starting with midfielder Sadio Mane (£10.0m), whose scintillating recent form has considerably narrowed not only the ownership gap, but also the fantasy points difference with Mo Salah (£13.2m). While Mane boasts nine goals in his past 10 games, Salah has slouched to only one score in his past nine appearances. With limited transfers and likely more pressing needs elsewhere, you may be stuck with Salah and unable to go to Mane if you want to, but don’t despair. There’s always hope that the Pharaoh superstar will recharge his slightly dimmed star, and if and when he does, you’ll be sorry if you don’t have him any more.

In goal, you can’t go wrong with Alisson (£5.9m), who has delivered 7 clean sheets in his past 12 away appearances. The usual suspects manning defense in front of him — Andrew Robertson (£6.8m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m), and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.5m) — are all as solid a choice as ever thanks to their offensive and defensive contributions.

Liverpool will have the back of its collective mind looking ahead to next Tuesday’s Champions League game against Porto, but there’s plenty of rest time thanks to kicking off the Premier League weekend on Friday, so that should not be a concern, particularly since this game at St. Mary’s is absolutely vital if the Reds want to stay in the hunt for the EPL crown.

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CHELSEA

Things are not all rosy for Chelsea, which has a congested fixture list, having just played the first of seven games in April. But it’s not like they’re playing Champions League against a global heavyweight such as Manchester City (like Spurs) or Barcelona (as is Manchester United). Chelsea is in Europa League... against Slavia Praha, to boot. In the quest for a top four domestic finish, Maurizio Sarri should absolutely prioritize taking three points from West Ham’s visit to Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard - Chelsea FC - Premier League
Celebrations are back in order for a certain Chelsea superstar.
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Naturally, it starts with midfielder Eden Hazard (£11.0m), who has rewarded FPL managers with three double-digit scoring efforts in his past eight games. Unfortunately, that’s it for the offense, unless you can get a handle on who among Callum Hudson-Odoi, Gonzalo Higuain, Olivier Giroud, Willian, Pedro, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek is going to start. So I’m looking to the defense, starting with keeper Kepa Arrizalabalaga (£5.4m) who has six clean sheets in his past nine home tries. In defense, dual threats Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m) and David Luiz (£6.0) seem the most likely to stay in the XI, but keep an ear for team news (which could be problematic for a Monday match following a Friday deadline).

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BOURNEMOUTH

There are home and away splits, and then there’s Bournemouth, which has the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of home/away gulfs. The Cherries’ home differential of +7 is 7th in the league, behind only the Big Six. But Bournemouth’s away differential of -22 is all the way down at 18th... better than only already relegated sides Huddersfield and Fulham! (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, eh?)

Where’s Bournemouth this week? You guessed it, home in the cozy confines of Dean Court (a.k.a. Vitality Stadium). Burnley’s -15 road differential isn’t quite as bad as Bournemouth’s, but it isn’t much of an improvement, tying for 5th worst in the Premiership. We love the EPL because of its unpredictability, so you can’t quite count on what you expect, but Bournemouth SHOULD win something along the lines of 2-0 or 2-1. And maybe 3-0 or 3-1 if you get lucky.

Of course, speaking of unpredictability, the Cherries do frustrate many a fantasy manager. Callum Wilson and Joshua King (£6.5m each) are both good choices, but which one is going to fire this week? Likewise in midfield, where Ryan Fraser (£6.2m) and David Brooks (£5.1m) offer a tough choice. I like Wilson over King due to his superior points per minute output, but you can make a case for King, largely based on the fact that he’s on PKs. With Fraser, I just love how many chances he creates, but Brooks’ lower price combined with his comparable fantasy scoring efficiency also tempts mightily.

Facing the Clarets’ fairly meager road offense, Bournemouth options aren’t too bleak in back this week, either, thanks to extremely cut-rate costs for the likes of keeper Asmir Begovic (£4.3m) — who seems to have retaken the job from Artur Boruc — and defender Nathaniel Clyne (£4.4m), who may be the best choice among the lower-priced options. It’s difficult to see going up the ladder to Nathan Ake (£5.1m) unless you have the dough to spare. With respect to the keeper spot, you will want to be more certain about the status of Begovic vs. Boruc before jumping in if you’re so inclined, so keep an ear to news from Eddie Howe as the deadline approaches.

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LEICESTER CITY

Officially relegated, Huddersfield is just playing out the string. Sure, Leicester doesn’t have much to play for, technically, except that... wait, they do! With Brendan Rodgers having come in as manager so recently, every Fox will want to impress, lest they be jettisoned over the summer.

With six goals and an assist in the last seven games, forward Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) tops the list for Leicester. While James Maddison (£6.8m) has been effective with a goal and two assists in the past five games, new midfielder Youri Tielemans (£6.1m) has been the playmaker extraordinaire, with four assists and one score in that stretch. At the back, you can go with keeper Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) if you have a hunch, but defender and wily veteran Wes Morgan (£4.5m) is really screaming out to you, having scored a goal in each of the past two games, delivering an astounding tally of 25 points in that short span. It’s probably a mirage, but you never know, maybe he has actually found the fountain of youth!

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OTHER PLAYERS

Newcastle v. Crystal Palace is about as even a match-up (on paper) as you’re going to get. No result would surprise me in this one. Despite coming off a lackluster road effort in the 2-0 loss at the EPL stadium opener for Tottenham, forward Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) has actually been in brilliant road form, with four goals and two assists in his past six travels away from Selhurst Park.

On the other hand, Newcastle has three clean sheets in its past five tries at St. James’ Park. If you think that Zaha and company can be held down, keeper Martin Dubravka ( 5.0m) and defender Florian Lejeune (£4.4m) are pretty decent shouts. On the offensive end, all 9 of forward Salomon Rondon’s (£5.9m) goals, and four of his five assists, have come since Week 12.

As much as Gunners’ fans will hate to admit, Arsenal at Everton is also an even affair... again, on paper, based on being at Goodison Park rather than the Emirates. A la Chelsea, Arsenal is navigating the tough balancing act between trying to win Europa League and trying to finish in the top four domestically. The Gunners have a seemingly much tougher Europa foe in the form of Napoli, so they really need to succeed in the Premier League. Defender Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) has an assist or clean sheet in seven of his past nine games, while forward Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) boasts at least a goal or assist in each of his past six games. Meanwhile, Everton’s Lucas Digne (£5.2m) has kept a clean sheet or delivered an assist in each of his past five games; I’m not really expecting the Gunners to be held scoreless, so I suppose that means I’m hoping for an assist (or goal!) from the rampaging Toffees’ wing back and set piece specialist.

[Note: Home/away split data used in this article came via www.soccerstats.com]

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How does your team look for Week 33? Are you having any trouble fielding a full starting XI? Are you — gasp — considering using a chip? Or are you playing tight this week and keeping your remaining chips in your pocket for later use? Please let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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