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EPL Game-week 31 Fantrax Player Picks

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Stay focused — it’s already time to select your squads for Round 31.

Bruno Fernandes - Manchester United - Premier League
Bruno Fernandes has quickly established himself as an essential element of Manchester United’s starting lineup — and yours as well.
Photo by Glyn Kirk/ Pool via Getty Images

One of the most anticipated Game-weeks in EPL history is in the books. After a 100-day coronavirus shutdown, the league finally returned to action last week. The long-awaited restart sent fantasy managers into a tizzy: GW-30 contained two extra matches that created doubleheaders for four clubs, teams were allowed 5 substitutions along with an expanded bench, fitness reports were murky, and many players who thought their seasons had been ended by injury had recovered during the layoff. This all cast a maddening degree of uncertainty and excitement into fantasy squad selection.

It’s a relief to now have the first round of Project Restart under our belts, but there’s not much time to stop and reflect. Game-week 31 kicks off tomorrow! (BTW, The Fantrax “barn-door closes 4 hours after the completion of today’s MCI-Burnley match, and please be here for the Pre-Deadline/Live Chat for team news and confirmed lineups for Leicester/Brighton game so you can make last-minute roster adjustments ahead of the Fantrax deadline.)

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Here’s the full slate:

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Thursday 25 June 2020

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Let’s get right to it then. Below are my best ideas for Fantrax managers shopping for new players this week. Please note that quoted prices are current (ie, pre-barndoor) and will not adjust for a few more hours. If you are eyeing players who performed well in GW-30, grab them now before their prices bump!

Also keep in mind that eight teams have FA Cup commitments this weekend that could introduce uncertainty into their lineups for league play. Norwich and Manchester United play on Saturday, while Sheffield United, Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea, Newcastle, and Manchester City all play on Sunday. Tread carefully to avoid being bitten by rest and rotation.

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Goalkeepers

Emiliano Martinez (SOU vs ARS, $1.00): Bernd Leno’s injury in the 40th minute of the Brighton game broke the hearts of fantasy managers who had backed him for the DGW. Emiliano Martinez came in to replace him, making three saves and conceding two goals. His cut-rate price and nailed-on status make him your budget GK play this week, but just be aware that he’ll be shielded by a defensive line that is heavily-depleted through injury and suspension.

Martin Dubravka (NEW vs AVL, $12.81): A bit expensive, but his returns have equaled or exceeded his price in five of his last eight games. The Magpies are already stingy at home in the first place, and this week they welcome a Villa side whose performances in their double-game week leave one wondering if they’re at all interested in staying up.

Jordan Pickford (NOR vs EVE, $5.19): Pickford’s real-life quality doesn’t always translate into fantasy returns. But the 0-0 draw in the Merseyside Derby earned him 13 points, and this week he faces a Canaries offense that is the league’s worst.

David De Gea (MUN vs SHU, $10.32): The goal he allowed at TOT was poor, but it’s only the second one he’s conceded in his last six games. He’s a good play for this week’s visit of the Blades’ milquetoast offense.

Hugo Lloris (TOT vs WHU, $7.01): Twenty-six saves over his last five matches, and managed 10 points despite conceding in the 1-1 draw with Spurs. Priced at $7 it’s hard to imagine that he could fail to return value when the hapless Hammers travel to Spurs Stadium this week.

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Defenders

Shkodran Mustafi (SOU vs ARS, $2.90): David Luiz’s 25-minute clown show against City culminated in a red card that will see him suspended for two games. Rob Holding deputized for the calamitous Brazilian on Saturday and is likely to do so again this week. But Holding is a poor Fantrax value even at his dollar-store price. Mustafi is nailed-on, and his average return is almost twice his price.

Kieran Tierney (SOU vs ARS, $1.01): Sead Kolasinac started at left back in the 1-2 defeat at Brighton, so it should be Tierney’s turn again. He makes for a good budget-stretcher, but with a depleted defensive line to his right and a backup goalkeeper behind him, don’t count on clean sheet points from Tierney this week.

Ezekiel Schelotto (LEI vs BRI, $1.00): He put up 8 points in the shock defeat of Arsenal, without a clean sheet. Not bad for a dollar-store purchase.

James Justin (LEI vs BRI, $1.48): Justin picked up right where he left off, adding 12 points from Saturday’s Watford match to the 11 that he posted in the final game before the shutdown. With Ricardo Pereira unavailable until October, his 22 year-old deputy should be nailed-on, and this week there could even be clean sheet points in the cards.

Joseph Gomez (LIV vs CRY, $6.27): He was benched for the restart, but subbed in to replace James Milner after Milner suffered an early injury. Joel Matip also hobbled off with an injury later in the game, so with not much turnaround for recovery before the Eagles come calling on Wednesday, Gomez could make the S11 this time (with Lovren at $2.90 also getting minutes).

Matt Ritchie (NEW vs AVL, $2.90): A goal, an assist, and three SOTs in a Man-of-the-Match performance against SHU yesterday. Don’t count on CS points, though, because he lines up as a midfielder/forward. But then again, that’s why I like him, especially against a Villa side that was flat throughout their DGW and will have to go for all three points on Wednesday. (D or M)

Phil Jagielka (MUN vs SHU, $1.00): Enda Stevens was shown yellow twice in the Newcastle game yesterday, so he’ll sit out the trip to Old Trafford. That should provide an opening for the 37 year-old Jagielka, of whom Chris Wilder said in his presser is “the obvious man to come in.”

Jeremy Ngakia (TOT vs WHU, $1.01): He has started each of West Ham’s last four games, totaling 17 points over that span (and without a single clean sheet). Not bad for a hair over $1.

Romain Saiss (WOL vs BOU, $8.90): Averaging over 9 ppg over his last seven games. Wolves have a good schedule for the run-in, so at under $9 he’s a good one-week play that you can then turn into a longer-term hold.

Willy Boly (WOL vs BOU, $5.26): The least-expensive route into Wolves’ defense, and his average return is higher than his price. Like Saiss, he makes a good buy-and-hold for the run-in. (D or M)

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Midfielders

Nicolas Pepe (SOU vs ARS, $12.34): The Frenchman his piled up two goals (including a gorgeous left-footer against Brighton on Saturday) and three assists over his last four games. Arteta’s form player will save you big bucks over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if you pick him up on the barn door tonight. (M or F)

Sadio Mané (LIV vs CRY, $18.74): He somehow managed 9 points despite Liverpool’s languid display at Goodison Park yesterday. Neither Jurgen Klopp nor the Reds themselves will be satisfied with their performance, or with the 0-0 result. They’ll regroup and refocus on putting the title to bed, and that starts on Wednesday when the Eagles visit. (M or F)

Bruno Fernandes (MUN vs SHU, $4.72): Averaging 18.5 ppg over his last four, this guy just oozes class. He’s the best player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaier’s squad right now, and he belongs in your side too. He creates, he finishes, he takes PKs, and this week he’ll greet a SHU defense that will be missing Dean Henderson and John Egan. And because he is new to his role, he still costs less than $5!

Paul Pogba (MUN vs SHU, $2.09): Bruno Fernandes should be in your squad. Full stop. But if you want more Red Devils exposure for their cherry upcoming fixtures list, then the mercurial Pogba may be the answer. We never know what we’ll get from the moody, brooding Frenchman, but his brilliant display against the Blades, where he racked up 11 points in just 25 minutes, reminded us of what he’s capable on his day. I believe Ken is on a permanent Pogba boycott, but this could be a good week for you to hold your nose and swallow the stinky cheese.

Allan Saint-Maximin (NEW vs AVL, $7.82): A goal in each of his last two games, and this week he squares up to a Villa side that is steadily sinking into the relegation quicksand. It could be a good time to put Newcastle’s most dangerous man in your side. (M or F)

Stuart Armstrong (SOU vs ARS, $6.14): A goal, an assist, and 21 points against Norwich on Thursday, and averaging almost 12 ppg over his last seven games. Among the Saints midfielders he’s your best bet to exploit Arsenal’s depleted defense on Thursday, and his price tag won’t break the bank.

Son Heung-Min (TOT vs WHU, $15.04): Fourteen points without any goals or assists in Friday’s 1-1 draw with United, and this week Spurs welcome the Hammers, who are only clear of the relegation zone due to goal difference. (M or F)

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Forwards

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (NOR vs EVE, $13.21): DCL accrued exactly zero points in each of the games on either side of the pandemic pause, but in the three prior to that he piled up a whopping sixty-one. I’m backing him to return to form for the trip to Carrow Road, where the Canaries’ desperate need for points will probably leave their defense exposed. And that defense was already terrible in the first place.

Olivier Giroud (CHE vs MCI, $2.43): He has started Chelsea’s last four games, and scored goals in three of them. He’ll find the going quite a bit tougher against the Citizens, but for $2.43 he’ll pay you back in full with just a single SOT.

Mo Salah (LIV vs CRY, $21.31): I know he’s crazy expensive, but after settling for shared points in the Merseyside Derby, ‘Pool will be looking to wrap up the title ASAP. And since the Egyptian failed to come off the bench in that game, his price will drop a little after tonight’s adjustment. Bonus: He should also be on PKs if James Milner fails to recover from the knock he picked up yesterday. If you can fit him in, Salah could pay you back in spades this week.

Danny Ings (SOU vs ARS, $16.32): What a season this guy is having. He did his thing again at his first post-lockdown opportunity, notching a goal and putting up 17 points against Norwich on Friday. This week he’ll relish the thought of terrorizing Arsenal’s rag-tag defense.

Steven Bergwijn (TOT vs WHU, $2.56) Bergwijn has scored in half of the six games he’s played since making his debut in a Spurs shirt on 2 February, and he has missed double-digits only twice. He looked bright and energetic against United, while many of his teammates (I’m looking at you, Harry Kane) were pretty much anonymous. He’s a fantastic bargain for the visit of the Hammers tomorrow. (A word of caution: Jose Mourinho now has a full stable of attackers to select from, including Lucas Moura.)

Diogo Jota (WOL vs BOU, $12.07): His returns are almost as good as those of his partner, Raul Jimenez, but his price is substantially lower. That makes him a better Fantrax investment (unless you already hold Jimenez at a steep discount), and as I noted above, Wolves have a nice run of fixtures coming up.

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Are you shedding the double-game week players you piled on for GW-30? Are there any worth holding? Are you keeping the faith with any heavy-hitters who disappointed last week? Taking any punts on hunch differentials? Please share your plans in the Comments below!

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