As we approach the Sunday season finale, there are several approaches you can take, based largely on how your team is doing:
- If you are leading your mini-league, you will likely want to play conservatively. With whatever move(s) you have available, simply go with whom you think will do best.
- If you are behind in your mini-league but have a chance to move up, you will want to take a risk or two. Feel free to look at differential picks (as highlighted in Wednesday’s Staff Picks article) who are not already in the rosters of the teams ahead of you and seem unlikely to be added by them. Play a captain you normally wouldn’t, a hunch you have to go big. Don’t be shy about making an extra transfer (or two) and taking a -4 (or even -8) hit if your team doesn’t look too good, particularly if you have suspension and/or injury problems such as Son Heung-min, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and/or Andrew Robertson. (Feel free to wait as long as you can for injury news, of course.)
- If you are way behind in your mini-league and don’t really have any hope of improving your position, then you may wish to find your “Dani California” (see below).
- No matter how you are doing, if you have one of the four chips left, go ahead and use it! (If you have more than one left, play the one you think will grab you the most points, obviously, and please promise to re-think your strategy next season.)
What is “Dani California”? Well, as a non-native but long-time Angeleno, I have dutifully become a fan of the unofficial band of Los Angeles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chock full of fun-filled antics, dreamy sounds, surrealist imagery, kaleidoscopic wordplay, energetic funkadelia, and Hollywood bona fides (Thrashin’, Point Break, The Simpsons, L.A. Lakers’ super-fandom, etc.), how can anybody resist?
The local radio stations play plenty of the Chili Peppers. It’s mostly the greatest hits that everybody knows and which I already have in my collection. But in recent months I kept hearing a wonderful song every now and then, and I came to the unexpected realization that I simply didn’t have it. You guessed it: “Dani California”. So I decided to complete my collection, and am all the happier for it. It feels extremely belated, but it’s never too late, is it? Whenever I feel like it, I can give it a listen. No need to wait for the radio to oblige. A giant hole has been closed.
Taking that principle to your fantasy team, is there a player you have missed out on somehow all season? Did you stay away from Raheem Sterling or Eden Hazard since you already had Mo Salah and didn’t want two premium midfielders? Did you not choose Sergio Aguero because you hate Manchester City, or because you were all about cheap strikers? Did you fail to add a player from a team you like because you thought their players weren’t good value? Did you avoid high-scoring defenders because you expected that fad to pass? Well, now is your last chance to change things up, right any wrong, have some fun and go out on a high note!
As we well know, the Sunday finale has a reputation for being unpredictable and open. With the four Champions League spots being all-but-mathematically secured, the three relegation slots already decided, and only the two-team battle for the Premiership title left in the balance, it should be even more so. With that in mind, which players look primed to leave smiles on fantasy managers’ faces as we get one last chance at glory ahead of the summer?
Ederson (£5.7, Manchester City at Brighton)
For much of the season, Liverpool’s Alisson has stood out as the top fantasy keeper. But in case you hadn’t noticed, Manchester City’s Ederson has closed the gap, notching six clean sheets in the past seven games, and 10 in 12. Manchester City is away, and Liverpool is at home, but given the widely disparate level of competition, I give Ederson a considerably higher chance of securing a shutout. Unlike the pecking order for the Brazil national team, I peg Ederson to come out on top this week, which should put him ahead at the end of the campaign.
Lloris has been stellar in his past five home games, earning 12, 10, 6, 6, and 4 points. Everton certainly has dangerous individual offensive players, but Richarlison is out, and the Toffees’ attack as a unit is terribly unconvincing.
Jordan Pickford (£4.9, Everton at Tottenham)
Don’t look now, but after only six clean sheets through Week 27, Pickford and Everton have astonishingly delivered eight in the past ten games. And while we all have the fresh memory of Lucas Moura scoring a second-half hattrick at Ajax (including the breath-taking, last-minute capper) on Wednesday in Tottenham’s ecstatic Champions League semifinal triumph, Spurs’ offense has sputtered in league play recently; they have only one goal total in their past four EPL games. Harry Kane remains out injured, Son Heung-min is suspended, Spurs’ place in the top four is all but guaranteed, and the team will be dealing with a hangover following their CL euphoria.
Since taking over midway through the season, five of Guaita’s seven clean sheets have come at Selhurst Park. Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s offense is merely mediocre on the road. There’s probably only about a 50/50 shot at a clean sheet, but even if he doesn’t get it, Guaita should compensate with saves; he has nabbed 3+ in each of the past seven games, and on top of save points he has delivered 6 bonus points over that span.
Mark Travers (£4.0, Bournemouth at Crystal Palace)
With Artur Boruc out due to a family-related issue, Mark Travers got a shock start, and boy did the young Ireland international deliver, bringing home 8 points from the Cherries’ 1-0 win over Tottenham. Yes, the victory and clean sheet were aided by Spurs’ pair of foolish red cards, but don’t forget Travers’ dazzling array of saves prior to the visitors’ meltdown. Travers might not get the start again, and even if he does, lightning may not strike twice, but personally I don’t see why Eddie Howe wouldn’t go with him again. If you’re looking for a super cheap option to free up money elsewhere (say, by dropping Alisson as part of a double switch, installing Travers as your starter but settling for your back-up keeper coming in if necessary), it’s the type of bold, crazy move that just might pay off if you’re lucky.
Aymeric Laporte (£6.3, Manchester City at Brighton)
Sure, Vincent Kompany could score another unbelievable, legend-cementing rocket as he did in the 1-0 win over Leicester, but chances of that are pretty slim. The more reliable way into the Citizens’ back line comes via fellow central defender Aymeric Laporte, who boasts six clean sheets, two assists and 12 (!) bonus points in the past seven games.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.8, Liverpool v. Wolves)
How many superlatives can you use to describe TAA at the moment? Not enough! Even without counting his pair of assists in Tuesday’s brilliant Champions League over Barcelona, Alexander-Arnold has five helpers in his past five league games, and eight in the last ten. As a defender! He has also delivered five clean sheets in those ten games. With the game at Anfield with a potential title on the line, expect the dynamite youngster to step up big again.
Lucas Digne (£5.4, Everton at Tottenham)
Many of us dropped Lucas Digne during his horrid stretch from Week 23-28 when he scored a total of zero points. Oops! In the ten games since, the rampaging left back has brought eight clean sheets, one goal, one assist, and ten bonus points.
Ricardo Pereira (£5.3, Leicester City v. Chelsea)
Digne-lite, following a rough patch, Pereira has improved recently with two assists and two clean sheets in the past half-dozen tilts. The Foxes are at home, and while the Blues would normally be pretty tough competition, Maurizio Sarri may want to rest some of his stars following Thursday’s overly long, extremely tense Europa League semifinal victory.
Ryan Fredericks (£4.5, West Ham at Watford)
Jeff (who plays only the Fantrax leagues) pegged the young offensive-minded defender in the Staff Picks for best differential, and David followed suit in his Fantrax Player Picks. Hey, I don’t want to miss the party! Fredericks is a high-risk, high-reward play, as he has delivered 8, 1, 1, 5, and 14 points in FPL in his past five starts. If you’re looking to pull a rabbit out of your hat, you’ve got to believe in magic.
Raheem Sterling (£11.7, Manchester City at Brighton)
The premium midfield spot is awfully tough this week, as Mohamed Salah is an injury doubt, and, given the recent Europa League toil combined with his Real Madrid want-away status, Eden Hazard is a risk for being rested. Like much of the Citizens’ offense, Raheem Sterling tends to do most of his damage on the road. But with the title on the line, I’m not expecting City to get shut out, and that means there will be a goal... or two... or three. In the reverse fixture at the Etihad, Sterling starred with a goal and an assist in the 2-0 victory, meaning that he may just be the best bet to shine.
Sadio Mane (£10.3, Liverpool v. Wolves)
With Roberto Firmino out and strike partners Mo Salah (concussion) and Divock Origi (muscle cramp) being injury doubts, extra pressure will likely fall on Mane. With 12 goals and an assist in the past 15 games, do you doubt that he can step up and deliver?
I expected Pogba to deliver last weekend against Brighton, a team that gives up no shortage of goals and has conceded the most penalty kicks in the league. What did the World Cup winner do? Hit the woodwork twice, of course. Has he been taking lessons from Marcos Alonso? Against Cardiff, which has allowed the third-most goals and ties for second-most PKs conceded, I’m tossing another coin in the wishing well and hoping for better fortune from Pogba.
Bernardo Silva (£7.8, Manchester City at Brighton)
Unlike many of his teammates, Bernardo Silva doesn’t do the vast majority of his damage at the Etihad; instead, he spreads it around. Bernardo boasts two goals and an assist in his past three away games, so he presents a strong chance of delivering as a considerably cheaper and less-selected option than Sterling.
Luka Milivojevic (£6.5, Crystal Palace v. Bournemouth)
The Palace sniper has scored in three of his past four home games. Only six teams have conceded more penalties than Bournemouth. And even if he doesn’t get a chance from the spot, he can always deliver if he gets a shot just outside the box.
Youri Tielemans (£6.0, Leicester City v. Chelsea)
It’s difficult to find consistency at the midfield position, particularly at a lower than premium price point. Tielemans has been an absolute revelation since his January transfer, seamlessly adapting to Brendan Rodgers’ attack and notching either a goal or assist in eight of the past 10 games.
It’s not just Tielemans who has overshadowed the more high-profile winter transfer of Gonzalo Higuain to Chelsea, Ryan Babel has as well. Babel has become the focal point of the Fulham attack ahead of Alexander Mitrovic, netting three goals plus two assists in the past five appearances at Craven Cottage. By comparison, Mitrovic has no goals with only one helper in that quintet.
James Ward-Prowse (£5.1, Southampton v. Fulham)
I already shared my opinion of JWP in Wednesday’s Staff Picks, so there’s no need to repeat myself. Go read it if you haven’t already!
Sergio Aguero (£12.0, Manchester City at Brighton)
As mentioned, Vincent Kompany scored Manchester City’s most recent legendary goal on Monday. But when you think of legendary Sky Blue goals, the first that probably comes to mind is Kun’s 2012 winner against Queens Park Rangers that delivered the title. Goals often come from unexpected sources, but there’s no reason to shy away from picking the most expected source, a certain Sergio Aguero. After all, he has scored 20+ goals for a fifth straight season; why not add one or two more to cap things off in style?
Jamie Vardy (£9.0, Leicester v. Chelsea)
Vardy and the Foxes’ offense didn’t have many chances in the game at Manchester City, but things should change at home with a tired Chelsea squad coming to town. Vardy has six goals and one assist in his past five home tries, and he should be able to keep that form going.
Callum Wilson (£6.8, Bournemouth at Crystal Palace)
After his return from injury in Week 30, Wilson has four goals and four assists in four road appearances, but he has nothing — no goals, no assists — in four home games. It’s bizarre, but sometimes you just have to go with the numbers.
Ayoze Perez or Salomon Rondon (£6.1 or £5.9, Newcastle at Fulham)
This is your last chance to go with the anybody-facing-Fulham strategy! Of course, one caveat is that the Cottagers have actually been playing some defense lately. Another is that it’s a tough choice between Rondon and Ayoze Perez. I’d give the edge to Perez, who has been in blistering form lately with five goals in the past four games. But if you prefer the more consistent Rondon, I certainly have no problem with that.
We all know that Arsenal is simply not good on the road. And if Arsenal concedes two goals at Turf Moor, they will finish with the team’s worst defensive season ever in the Premier League era. Will it happen? Why not? The Gunners are coming off allowing three goals each to Wolves and Leicester in their past two league trips away from the Emirates. Meanwhile, Wood and Barnes have heated up the Clarets’ offense in the second half of the season, scoring nine and eight goals, respectively. I’d lean toward Barnes since he’s on PKs, but the open-play danger of Wood could work well, too.
Shane Long (£4.7, Southampton v. Huddersfield)
At home against a horrible defense in what should be a wide open finale, Long finds himself the very unexpected man in form, with four goals in his past six games, as Danny Ings has taken a back seat. At Long’s price, he offers extremely low risk for what could be a very fine reward.
Is your strategy to play it safe, or instead go bold for the grand Premier League finale? Which player(s) are you looking to add to your fantasy team, and whom are you captaining? Do you have a “Dani California”? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!