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AM's Week 31 Player Picks

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Galin Dragiev ranks the Yahoo! Premier League players by Points per Game

Firstly, a reminder that Week 31 is Round 4 of the 2014 Rotoworld PL Cup, where we'll reduce the remaining 351 teams down to 200 ahead of the semi-final in Week 34. Good luck to all remaining fantasy managers.

Check out Steve's Free Kick | Jeremy's First XI

Week 30 was a better one for AM FC, with 106 points pushing me back in to the top 1000 overall. Luis Suarez as captain was the saviour as usual, but there were decent contributions from Ricky Lambert and others to provide an above average score.

Now as you all know, Week 31 is the double we've been waiting for, as 10 teams play twice: Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton, Swansea, Newcastle, Hull, West Ham and Sunderland. The full fixture list is below:

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Week 31 Fixtures
Weekend
Aston Villa v Stoke
Cardiff City v Liverpool
Chelsea v Arsenal
Everton v Swansea
Hull City v West Brom
Man City v Fulham
Newcastle v Crystal Palace
Norwich v Sunderland
Tottenham v Southampton
West Ham v Man Utd


Midweek
Arsenal v Swansea
Liverpool v Sunderland
Man Utd v Man City
Newcastle v Everton
West Ham v Hull City

Just to break is down for the double-gamers ...

Liverpool - @Cardiff, Sunderland
Man City - Fulham, @Man Utd
Everton - Swansea, @Newcastle
Arsenal - @Chelsea, Swansea,
Man United - @West Ham, Man City
Newcastle - Palace, Everton
Hull City - West Brom, @West Ham
West Ham - Man Utd, Hull
Sunderland - @Norwich, @Liverpool
Swansea - @Everton, @Arsenal

I'm sure you'll agree it's a strong selection of teams playing twice, so we should be doing everything we can to ensure we have 11 "double-gamers" in our Yahoo starting XI. For that reason, this week's column is going to completely ignore teams and players with one game.

It doesn't take a genius to deduce that you should be Liverpool focused this week. Not only are they playing the best attacking football in the league, they also have the pick of double-game fixtures, facing two relegation strugglers in Cardiff and Sunderland. Manchester City also have two very winnable games, at home to Fulham and away at rocking Manchester United, while Everton will fancy their chances of at least four points across their two games, at home Swansea and then away at Newcastle.


Arsenal start off with a very difficult test at rivals Chelsea before a far easier match at home against Swansea, while Newcastle have two home games and can beat Crystal Palace before Everton come to town. Manchester United have a tough away trip to West Ham and then play at home against Manchester City, and given the state of their defence I can't recommend many of their players - they could easily draw or even lose at Upton Park and I don't give them much hope in the Manchester derby. They may have beaten Olympiakos, but if ever a 3-0 win was unconvincing, this was it, as the Greek side squandered numerous chances. 


Hull are another side with a chance of four points, with West Brom at home followed by West Ham away, so their players are worth considering. The Hammers themselves will fancy their chances of causing an upset against Manchester United before Hull's visit, so again a few players may be of interest.


Sunderland could get something at Norwich but will surely to lose heavily to Liverpool, while Swansea players should be avoided altogether as they face two horrible away games at Goodison and the Emirates.

So in conclusion, you want to be focusing on Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton, with a smattering of Arsenal, and perhaps a representatives from Newcastle, Hull and West Ham. Sunderland and Swansea have drawn the short straw so their players are best avoided, and be wary of Manchester United. The key is to pick players who you know are going to play twice barring injury or suspension. For example - picking Aleksandar Kolarov is too risky because he shares starts with Gael Clichy. On the other hand, you know Pablo Zabaleta will play both.

With that in mind, click over to the next page to view the Week 31 player recommendations.



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KEEPERS
Simon Mignolet - The Liverpool stopper has winnable games against Cardiff and Sunderland and a very decent chance of a clean sheet in both. If you have the money, Mignolet edges out Joe Hart in the 'premium keeper' category, although Hart's not a bad choice either.
Tim Howard - The next best option if you have a bit less money to spend, as Everton face Swansea at home before travelling to Newcastle. Howard has been in solid form all season and should be good for one clean sheet at least.
Tim Krul - It's two home games for Newcastle, and Krul can be purchased at a very reasonable price. A clean sheet against Palace is possible before the more difficult task of keeping out Everton.
Allan McGregor - The budget option for those of us looking to maximise potential points from outfield players. It's a risk, no doubt, but Hull face West Brom and West Ham, two sides hardly known for the their goal-scoring exploits. He's in my team at the moment - I mean, When has picking a cheap keeper ever gone wrong? ...

DEFENDERS
Leighton Baines - Double figure fantasy scores are just starting to return for Baines, which isn't really enough when you're spending £18million+, but with a double week and a chance of clean sheets in both games, the set piece-taking, penalty-taking full-back is almost impossible to ignore. One thing worth noting - Baines has only had three shots on target all season, and has scored three goals. Shoot more Leighton!
Glen Johnson - It's been a difficult season for Johnson as he's struggled with numerous injuries, but there are signs of the England right-back returning to full match sharpness and his attacking abilities can shine against lesser opposition.
Curtis Davies - In my opinion Davies has done far more than Chris Smalling to deserve a place in recent England squads, but despite his fine form he continues to be ignored. The towering defender is second only to Joel Ward in the defensive points scoring charts and is one of the best premium options for the double week.
Phil Bardsley - After a dip in fantasy production Bardsley is back averaging double digits, so he was worth adding to the list considering Sunderland play twice. He'll have a chance of a clean sheet at Norwich and the chance of tackles, interceptions and blocks against Liverpool.
Pablo Zabaleta - As mentioned in the fixture analysis, Zabaleta is a dead cert to start both games and you can expect a strong showing and likely clean sheet at home to Fulham before the trip to Old Trafford.
Martin Demichelis - Slightly cheaper than Zabaleta and should be good for two starts, definitely against Fulham (with Vincent Kompany suspended) although there's always a slim possibility Joleon Lescott steals his place at for the Manchester derby. It is a very slim chance though, so Demichelis remains a good option.
Daniel Agger - The cheapest Liverpool defender (marginally over Jon Flanagan), Agger should retain his place alongside Martin Skrtel with Brendan Rodgers unlikely to make any changes to the side that was so impressive against Manchester United.
Bacary Sagna - With constant doubts over who starts between Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, Sagna is the safest and most affordable choice if you want an Arsenal defender in your starting XI. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are a touch too expensive considering the first match is very tough one at Chelsea.
Sylvain Distin - If you can't stretch to Baines then Distin offers a cheaper way to cover the possible Everton clean sheet(s). In an ideal world you'd be able to spend even less on John Stones, but Phil Jagielka is on the verge of a comeback so you can't be sure the young man plays twice. Go with Distin.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - With Mathieu Debuchy injured it has been left to Yanga-Mbiwa to fill in at right back and he's doing a decent job. Paul Dummett is also playing very well covering for Davide Santon at left-back, but with Yanga-Mbiwa priced at less than £4million he the perfect double-game filler for your Week 31 defence.
James Chester - A cheaper way to cover the possible Hull clean sheet against West Brom, Chester is back to full fitness and appears to be the preferred partner for Curtis Davies.
Winston Reid - The West Ham man has returned from a long-term injury and has slotted back in to the starting line-up. Reid was one of the top point scoring defenders in the Yahoo game last season so a price of less than £10million in a double week could prove good value.
Phil Jones - A token Manchester United player, Jones had a nightmare against Liverpool but somehow still managed to return five points. I don't advocate paying full price but if you're holding him a big discount then keeping him wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Always has the chance of a game in midfield.

MIDFIELDERS
Steven Gerrard - The Liverpool captain is the top scoring midfielder on the game, takes penalties, shoots from distance, takes free-kicks, takes set pieces and has started picking up solid defensive points since changing roles this season. He has the two easiest fixtures and despite his very high price you should be trying to get him in to your Week 31 team.
Santi Cazorla - Playing in the Mesut Ozil role behind Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger will be relying on Cazorla to provide the spark and it's rare that the little man fails to deliver. He is the pick of the Arsenal midfielders for the double week.
David Silva - A match winning performance against Hull from Silva, and it could be the catalyst for a strong end to what has been an up-and-down season. His goal and assist were world class and he's capable of repeating his huge fantasy score at home to Fulham, while causing Manchester United problems too. If he's out of your price range then Samir Nasri is the alternative.
Yaya Toure - I make it three poor games in a row for Yaya (Wigan, Barcelona and Hull), but I don't expect there to be a fourth. Expect a big performance against Fulham to set him up for Manchester United, and remember he's on penalties if Sergio Aguero remains side-lined.
Seamus Coleman - There is so much doubt around who starts in the attacking positions of Everton's midfield; Ross Barkley features sporadically but if he does play he replaces Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar has been in and out and there are the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Aidan McGeady too. Roberto Martinez has admitted he's going to rotate his options, so the safe pick is the excellent Coleman, despite the fact he's playing right-back.
Raheem Sterling - If you can't afford Gerrard then Sterling is the Liverpool alternative. The young England winger has been excellent as a right sided forward, particularly at Anfield where he seems to get in to the box more often, so he would be my choice over Philippe Coutinho, who lost his place in the starting XI to the impressive Joe Allen in the win at Old Trafford.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - With a whole host of Arsenal midfielders out injured it has opened the door for the Ox to start a few games and he is grabbing the opportunity with both hands. Terrific against Everton, Bayern and Spurs, he's certain to continue until Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey return.
Kevin Nolan - Two games at Upton Park and his partner-in-crime Andy Carroll back in the team winning headers, Nolan is definitely worth a look. Expect to see the chicken dance at least once during Week 31.
Moussa Sissoko - Showing signs of the form that announced his arrival in England back in 2012, Sissoko is slowly taking over the talisman role held by the now departed Yohan Cabaye and he's another player who generally plays better at home. Lucky for him Newcastle's two games are at St James' Park.
Adam Johnson - As mentioned last weekend, the purple patch is well and truly over, but AJ is still worth considering at his now reduced price in a double week, as you know he'll play both games and take set pieces.
Jake Livermore - I've scoured the entire Yahoo player lists and Livermore looks like the cheapest midfielder guaranteed two starts (assuming Michu won't be ready to play twice in a few days after a long spell out). On loan from Spurs, he's had a surprisingly productive fantasy season and could serve you well as a mid-priced filler.

STRIKERS
Luis Suarez - Captain.
Daniel Sturridge - There is a strong argument to include both Liverpool strikers given the fixtures, and it's an argument I'm in agreement with. Sturridge has had a couple of quiet weeks but he'll get chances against both Cardiff and Sunderland, and you'd expect him to take them this week.
Romelu Lukaku - He may have only scored six points against Cardiff, but it wasn't your typical "Lukaku went missing" performance. The powerful striker played well and was unlucky to see two of his efforts saved brilliantly by David Marshall. He looks in good shape, can cause both Swansea and Newcastle's defences problems and should be on your shortlist.
Manchester City Striker - Who plays? Nobody knows right now. If Sergio Aguero is back from injury then he's obviously the pick of the bunch, but if not you'd have to lean towards Edin Dzeko, as Alvaro Negredo continues to struggle for form while attempting to get over this nagging shoulder injury.
Wayne Rooney - It was Robin van Persie who grabbed the headlines against Olympiakos with a hat-trick, but he was stretchered from the field in agony and even if the injury is just a dead leg he may struggle to be ready for West Ham on Saturday afternoon. That would leave Rooney, who was dreadful along with the rest of his team-mates against Liverpool, but looked better in Europe. He also has a great scoring record against Manchester City and would take on penalty duty if van Persie did miss out against West Ham, so feel free to take a punt.
Andy Carroll - The big man was back on the score-sheet with a towering header against Stoke and was available at less than £5million before prices updated last weekend. He's still only £8million, a constant threat at set pieces and faces a fragile Manchester United defence before Hull come to visit. An excellent cheap option certain to start both games (provided he can avoid injury) and will allow you to spend a bit more elsewhere.
Nikica Jelavic - It was a close call between Jelavic and Shane Long, but Jelly seems to be taking free-kicks and I'd expect him to take penalties in place of the injured Robbie Brady. Hull can beat West Brom before the trip to Upton Park.
Olivier Giroud - Don't expect a huge fantasy return from Arsenal's trip to Chelsea, but Giroud will then face Swansea at home and tends to perform with far more consistency at the Emirates.
Papiss Cisse - It will be a brave man who picks Cisse given his form over the past 12-months, but the Newcastle man does have two home games and will be on penalty duty in the absence of the injured Loic Remy, unless Hatem Ben Arfa gets an unlikely start.

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So those are the players I'm considering for Week 31. Please check back here on Friday for Neal's injury and team news post when we'll have a far better idea of who's set to start and who's set for the bench.

The following is currently saved on my team page:

XI: McGregor, Bardsley, G.Johnson, Baines, Y.Toure, Cazorla, Silva, Gerrard, Carroll, Sturridge, Suarez (C)
Subs: Kaboul, Bertrand, Nocerino, Davis


Aside from some slight nerves about McGregor I really like it. 11 double gamers, with the only player missing that would've been nice to include being Lukaku. However, Carroll @ 4.97million is the enabler that allows strength in other areas, so barring injuries it's my final team.

How's your team looking?

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