Here’s our 2nd FPL free hit teams article where Rob Reid talks through the fixtures in GW31 and outlines his current draft free hit team. Rob has finished 3 of the last 4 seasons in the top 0.5% of FPL managers.
FPL free hit teams – Rob Reid shows his current draft GW31 free hit team and analyses the fixtures
See also current 4k OR Jordan Sadler’s free hit team article
The second blank gameweek of the season is upon us and this time it’s a major fixture disruption, with 5 only GW31 matches being played. Those of you who have followed my roller-coaster campaign will know that I’ve adopted a different chip strategy this season, my lowly OR of 903k at the end of GW22 forcing me to rethink my plans and play my Wildcard early. So far, it’s gone ok – 7 green arrows in the last 8 weeks has put me back at a somewhat healthier OR of 235k, which included a successful Triple Captain chip in GW25.
Now the hard yards start for my team. I’m entering uncharted territory in terms of chip usage in that I have to negotiate the big doubles and blanks without a Wildcard. There were a couple of strategies available, but I’ve gone for using my Free Hit Chip in GW31 to start of this run. I’ve provisionally planned to play my Bench Boost in GW32, but I’m fluid on this and could do it in GW35 depending on where the fixtures finally fall. The tricky part will be bridging the gap between GW32 and the second blank – GW33. More on this in later weeks, for now it’s the fun part – the GW31 Free Hit. Here’s a few thoughts on the fixtures for this week and the players I’m considering.
Bournemouth vs Newcastle
Let’s start with the home side. The win at Huddersfield last weekend was their first since they crushed Chelsea in GW24, but they have faced 3 of the top 6 and 7th placed Wolves in that run. They also have the best home form outside of the top 6 and a fine run of fixtures until they face Spurs in GW37. Visitors Newcastle staged a rousing comeback against Everton in GW30 to make it 3 wins in their last 4. They have however struggled on the road, with only 2 wins so far this season and an away goals scored tally that’s only better than Cardiff and Huddersfield. The bookies have Bournemouth as favourites at 21/20 with Newcastle 13/5 for the win.
Bournemouth have several good options in attack. Ryan Fraser went into double figures for assists this weekend, with budget option David Brooks also appealing in midfield. Callum Wilson capped his return from injury with a goal and an assist last weekend taking his season tallies to 11 and 9 of each respectively. Strike partner Josh King also has 9 goals and 3 assists to his name. Newcastle’s goal record away from home also brings their defence into consideration, with Ake and cheapie keeper Boruc probably the most appealing options. I’m less drawn to Newcastle players, simply because it’s an away fixture, but you can’t ignore the form of strikers Rondon and Perez. Defensively it would probably be Yedlin or keeper Dubravka if you’re backing The Magpies to shut The Cherries out.
Burnley vs Leicester
3 defeats have left The Clarets staring nervously over the shoulders, only 2 points above the drop zone and they know they must improve on what has been surprisingly poor home form this season. Leicester should still have some new manager bounce about them and have done ok on the road this season, ranking 10th for away from. The bookies favour an away win in this one with The Foxes at 7/5 and Burnley at 2/1. The draw is 21/10.
This one is all about the strikers for me. We have Jamie Vardy at Leicester who always seems to come into form when a new manager comes in. We then have Barnes and Wood for Burnley who between then have scored 12 in the last fixtures. Otherwise it’s the strong assist potential of Maddison and Ricardo Pereira at Leicester and Tom Heaton’s potential save points at Burnley.
West Ham vs Huddersfield
On paper this looks like it should be pretty one-sided. West Ham’s best performances have all come at home this season and bottom side Huddersfield have the second worst away form in the league, with a division low 8 goals away from home all season. The EPL can be a funny old thing sometimes mind and I don’t think many expected Cardiff to turn the Hammers over so easily last weekend and nobody expected Huddersfield to beat Wolves back in GW28. The bookies don’t expect any surprises though – the home side are clear favourites at 8/15 with The Terriers a long 11/2 for the win.
I guess it’s all about The Hammers then and despite them not being the most convincing at the back I think there’s a strong case for a double or even a triple up at the back here. Fabianski, Diop and OOP defender Rice would be the main options on the radar here. The problem for the other players is gametime and form. Arnautovic, Lanzini, Antonio and Anderson are all viable options. The first 3 all have had injury issues so gametime would be a concern and Anderson has been in poor form of late. The plus side though is simply they are playing Huddersfield who I’ll be honest aren’t really on my radar for this week!
Fulham vs Liverpool
Second versus second bottom looks a fairly foregone conclusion on paper, though are the nerves getting to Liverpool a little? They have drawn their last 3 away fixtures and will be coming in to Sunday’s game off a tough midweek trip to Munich. Fulham however have the second worst home defence in the league, so you’d be expecting The Reds to end that run of away draws. The bookies are very confident of this as well – Liverpool are 1/4 and Fulham 9/1 for the win.
Every manager and his dog will own and probably captain Salah this week so it’s all about which other 2 Liverpool players you go for. Mane’s recent form means he’s a dead cert for the second Pool spot for me. It’s then a case of do you go for a defender or a third attacking player? Firmino would be the potential 3rd attacking player, though despite his 2 goals last weekend he’s hardly hit the heights this season. If going for a defender it’s a straight fight between assist king Robertson, the set-piece threat of Van Dijk or a bit of both from Alexander-Arnold. Like Huddersfield, Fulham players are off the radar for me.
Everton vs Chelsea
An odd one to call this with both teams all over the place form-wise. Everton lost last weekend despite being 2-0 to Newcastle with 25 minutes left, just the latest weird turn in a horribly erratic season for The Toffees. Their home form is a bit ‘meh’ having both scored and shipped 21 goals at Goodison Park. Chelsea’s away from eerily echoes Everton’s home – also 21 goals scored and conceded! They are in the top 5 in the league for away form, but 5 of their 6 league defeats this season have come on the road. The Blues are favourites with the bookies – 10/11 for the win, with Everton at 11/4.
Hazard looks a good shout for this one. Returns in both his last 2 matches taking him to 13 goals and 11 assists this season. It’s then a case of do you add a second attacking player, in which it would probably be Higuain seeing as Pedro and Willian seem to alternate gametime. Defensively, it doesn’t look an obvious clean sheet for the visitors – with Alonso having lost his place it would be Kepa, David Luiz or Azpilicueta I’d consider here. For Everton, there’s some good attacking options the best of whom in my opinion is Sigurdsson (11 goals and 3 assists this season.) Richarlison also has 11 goals this season, netting in the defeat at St James’ Park and although they’ve not looked great at the back, Digne does offer attacking treat from defence.
Triple Liverpool coverage looks a must with Salah, Mane plus another. I think triple West Ham looks a good option also, it’s just a case of do I gamble on triple defence or on the gametime for a midfielder or forward. Hazard looks like he’ll be in as well, it’s then about filling the rest of the slots with Bournemouth, Leicester and Burnley players all in contention. The other bit of good news is it looks like budget won’t seem to be much of problem with plenty of good budget fillers available.
My Current Draft
I hope this has been of use to anyone using their Free Hit this week, or simply just for some transfer ideas for those who aren’t. I’ll post my final Free Hit team in the contributors article on Friday.
See also current 4k OR Jordan Sadler’s free hit team article
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