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EPL Best XI: Top Picks for Gameweek 31

Kevin King

Kevin King

Kevin is a suffering Tottenham supporter living in Buffalo, New York, where also suffers from being a Buffalo Bills fan. He covers Major League Soccer and the English Premier League for Rotowire.

The Premiership saw a full slate of fixtures on the weekend, with the highlight being an emphatic 3-0 win for Liverpool over Manchester United. Tottenham continued their struggle to find scoring, dominating possession, but dropping a 1-0 decision to Arsenal.

Looking at last weekend’s Best XI, it all started in goal with a clean sheet performance from Sunderland’s Vito Mannone against Crystal Palace. Mannone packs a ton of value, and fantasy owners would have done well exploiting a punchless Palace attack. Lesson learned: when in doubt, pick the keeper who is facing Palace.

On defense, Vincent Kompany’s red card was a bit of a gut punch. The 10-man Sky Blues still managed a clean sheet, but those who selected Kompany did not receive any of the spoils because of his departure in the 10th minute.

Everton’s Seamus Coleman was brilliant, netting in Everton’s win over Cardiff while Luke Shaw did no harm while keeping your budget in line for the rest of your squad.

Yaya Toure and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain each contributed with an assist, while Eden Hazard and Adam Lallana rounded out the midfield with a few shot attempts each. Overall, a very average output from the Best XI’s midfield.

Between Romelu Lukaku and Wayne Rooney there were three shots on goal, but the big money came where it has been coming from all season long, with one Luis Suarez.

At this point plugging Suarez in as your captain is as close to automatic as dropping Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in as your Fantasy La Liga captain.

Remember too, that there are mid-week games that count towards your final score for gameweek 31. Both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Swansea, Newcastle, Everton, West Ham, Hull City, Liverpool and Sunderland all give you a bonus game in this scoring period.

The first game on deck Saturday is the game of the weekend, and for Arsenal it may be the game of their season. A win for the Gunners over Chelsea would drop them right into the middle of the title hunt. A loss, and they can start gearing up for their FA Cup run and put their championship dreams to rest.

Gazing over the fixtures list, it has become habit now to look for Liverpool’s next fixture. Fear of a let-down after last week’s mammoth win over United is a concern, but we’ll let other people bet against Luis Suarez and company. On top of that, ‘Pool have two games in this scoring period against well inferior foes.

The mouth-watering prospects of what Manchester City could do to a Fulham side that has allowed a staggering 65 goals this season is the next matchup to key in on. We can, and probably should, expect a 4-0 type of score line there. Again with City, there is the bonus game mid-week against United.

Southampton and Tottenham battle in a match between sides that have eyes on next season’s Europa League. A win legitimizes any European aspirations for the Saints, and for Spurs? Well, they’re a disaster off the pitch right now with nobody knowing what to expect from them on the pitch. Tim Sherwood’s lineups have been head-scratchers, and a Thursday night trip to Portugal could leave the North Londoners wobbly on their return to White Hart Lane.

In the remaining fixtures for the weekend, mid-table clubs take on the relegation battlers; so without any further ado, let’s jump into this weekend’s Best XI:

Formation: 3-4-3

Goalkeeper:
Simon Mignolet
(Liverpool) – The Reds have really ratcheted up their defense lately while Cardiff have scored three goals in their last seven games against teams not named Fulham. The Bluebirds have the second-lowest goal tally in the Premiership. It’s a recipe for a clean sheet for the Belgium international. And then mid-week, the Reds see lowly Sunderland roll in to Anfield. There’s a very good chance Mignolet posts two clean sheets in this scoring window.

Defense:
Joleon Lescott
(Manchester City) – With Vincent Kompany out, Lescott will be the central figure on defense for City. A betting man would put a clean sheet on the board for City against Fulham on the weekend, and 180 minutes of football gives Lescott that much greater of an opportunity to rack up points.

Per Mertesacker (Arsenal) – Fans of the Gunners have been so hot and cold on the German defender at times, but he’s playing as well as any center back in the Premiership right now, and was as close to perfect as one could play last weekend against Spurs. Although he has a tall test against Chelsea on Saturday, he too will see two games in this scoring window, with an easier test against Swansea at The Emirates mid-week.

Winston Reid (West Ham) – Again, the potential of 180 minutes in this scoring window makes Reid an attractive option. Although Manchester United come to Upton Park on a high note, the Red Devils always seem to struggle there. The Hammers’ mid-week tilt with Hull City will allow Reid, who is very good in the air, a chance to find the net for the first time since October.

Midfield:
David Silva
(Manchester City) – Slotting Silva into the fold against a pitiful Fulham side is mouth-watering. At the very worst, Silva has to be expected to at least notch an assist, with upside at a goal and at least one assist, as City have turned to him for more than just playmaking since Sergio Aguero went down with his hamstring injury. The Spaniard then gets a shot at United mid-week, and big matches is where Silva really seems to shine.

Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton) – Schneiderlin scored against Norwich a week ago, and has been in fine form recently. Because of his emergence this season, there are whispers that Arsenal may be in on the defensive-minded midfielder this summer. He has even commented that he’d like to play for a bigger club. These last nine games are a showcase for him if he does indeed have higher aspirations. Tottenham also struggle with players like Schneiderlin, so despite him not being on a club that has two games this week, he’s still a very strong play.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) – Ox had a myriad of chances to score last weekend against Spurs. He looked terrific on the ball, and his speed wreaked havoc on Tottenham. With two games this week, and being in great form, he’s a terrific play.

Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United) – Januzaj has been tantalizingly close to a real breakout game for the Red Devils seemingly all season long. He looks terrific week-in-and-week-out, but it seldom shows on the score sheet. With a sour taste in their mouths from last weekend’s drubbing by Liverpool, and buoyed by their mid-week Champions League win over Olympiakos, Januzaj’s supporting cast will be buzzing and the playmaker is a prime bet to tally against West Ham. And Januzaj is in the “two games in one week” club, which makes him an essential choice.

Forwards:
Daniel Sturridge
(Liverpool) – Unless Liverpool is handed more penalty kicks on a silver platter, it’s either Sturridge or Suarez pulling in the goals for the Reds. With Cardiff City and Sunderland on the docket this week for Liverpool, there is not telling the damage Sturridge and Suarez are going to do.

Shane Long (Hull City) – Players seem to have an uncanny knack for scoring against their old clubs, especially when that club is showing painful signs of regret that they ever let him go. Long is the type to carry a chip on his shoulder, so he’ll be laying it all out there to make the suffering worse for West Brom. Long and the Tigers also see West Ham mid-week.

Luis Suarez (C) (Liverpool) – No-brainer and not a lot to say here. You expect at the very least one goal from Suarez. There is no reason not to think he may even bag a brace (or more?) against a down-trodden Cardiff City side. And then you get bonus Suarez! Liverpool take on Sunderland mid-week. Suarez could see his season tally get to 30 goals before the week is up.

Mignolet

Joleon Lescott – Per Mertesacker – Winston Reid

David Silva – Morgan Schneiderlin – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Adnan Januzaj

Daniel Sturridge – Shane Long – Luis Suarez (C)