Neal Thurman

Perfect XI

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Perfect XI Player Picks WK30

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

You can't keep me down.  As it turns out, Nik is much better than I am at taking vacations so while he's off doing fun things with his lovely family, I'm going to take another turn at the wheel writing a Perfect XI Player Picks column.  As always with Perfect XI, transfer limits aren't an issue so the most important thing we can do is look at the schedule and see where the value is likely to be.  


Premier League Match Week 30 Schedule

  • Manchester United vs Liverpool
  • Everton vs Brighton
  • Huddersfield Town vs Swansea City
  • Newcastle United vs Southampton
  • West Bromwich Albion vs Leicester City
  • West Ham United vs Burnley
  • Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
  • Arsenal vs Watford
  • Bournemouth vs Tottenham Hotspur
  • Stoke City vs Manchester City


Schedule Thoughts

Manchester City heading to Stoke City is the match-up that you'd like to lean on the most with one caveat, you have to be comfortable that you have a valid replacement strategy available to you.  With this representing the final match of the match week, the one thing we have going for us is that City tends to replace like-for-like.  The one caveat is the returning Raheem Sterling who is said to be on track for the weekend (but not mid-week).  The fact that Sterling is listed as a forward but the alternatives - Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane - are listed as midfielders could put you in something of a line-up conundrum.  If you pick Sterling plus one of Aguero/Jesus as your forwards and Sterling is absent in favor of Sane/Silva then you'd be left picking a Stoke City forward.  Likewise, if you pick multiple City midfielders including Silva/Sane then you might be left either picking a secondary City option from the Gundogan/Fernandinho pile or a Stoke City midfielder if Sterling starts in place of Silva/Sane.  Not a huge concern as you have options but this is particularly germane to optimizing a PXI team down to the last match of a match week. 


As far as the other matches, clearly Chelsea and Spurs look like strong bets.  Chelsea aren't on great form but Palace are at a huge deficit without Zaha.  Bournemouth are playing much better in the second half of the season but even playing at the Vitality Stadium Spurs should be considered a big cut above.  The rest of the schedule is pretty neutral to me.  Liverpool are likely to be neutralized to at least a large extent by Mourinho's tactics. There could be defensive points available between Newcastle and Southampton as both have big trouble scoring while keeping a fairly tight hold at the back.  The one sneaky-interesting fixture will be Leicester City traveling to West Brom for what should be an away win.  Claude Puel didn't inspire a great deal of confidence when he was hired but he has been effective and, despite what you may have read, Riyad Mahrez is not retiring (he was apparently hacked).


Player Picks


  1. Ederson - Seems like a pretty sure clean sheet albeit with few saves likely.  Could we be looking at 75%+ possession on the road for Pep's guys?  That certainly counts as attack as the best form of defense in my book. 
  2. Martin Dubravka - Playing against Southampton has been good for goalkeepers, throw in playing at home and you've got an attractive proposition. 
  3. Kasper Schmeichel - Leicester City are one of those great mid-table teams that permit some shots that limits the downside for a goalkeeper selection in this format.  I like the chances of a clean sheet (not as much as Ederson's but I still like it) with a few saves.  If the downside is conceding one with a few saves thrown in, that isn't so bad compared to the downside of guys like Courtois who might only face one shot and your fate rests entirely on whether he lets it in or not. 
  1. Ben Davies + Serge Aurier/Kieran Trippier - It's hard not to go with both Spurs wing backs when they have a favorable schedule and at Bournemouth seems to count in that regard.
  2. Marcos Alonso - The only risk here is that Palace are bad enough that Alonso might be rested for a match that closes out the Saturday schedule.  If he is, you have to decide how interested you are in either his direct replacement or a defender from Arsenal, Watford, Bournemouth, Spurs (one you haven't already picked for another line-up spot), Stoke City or Manchester City.  Not ideal but not horrible as a back-up plan. 
  3. Kyle Walker - Certainly not the PXI star he's been in past seasons but a strong enough probability of a clean sheet to merit inclusion, especially in a week when some of the other potential candidates at the back from places like Liverpool or Manchester United are tough to pick playing against each other (and Arsenal having fallen apart entirely and not being worthy of anyone's trust at this point)
  4. Harry McGuire - If you're looking for a "differential" then McGuire against West Brom is a strong bet for a clean sheet along with fairly strong, but rarely spectacular, peripheral contributions
  5. James Tarkowski - Bunley haven't been Burnley for a while but Tarkowski has been consistently productive and @WHU isn't exactly the most daunting of away fixtures.
  1. Kevin De Bruyne
  2. Eden Hazard
  3. Leroy Sane
  4. Christen Eriksen
  5. Son Heung-Min
  6. Riyad Mahrez

Hard to argue with your starting line-up containing your pick from the above list.  I'd have Hazard down further on the list if the opposition weren't Palace and the venue weren't Stamford Bridge but the above is my order of preference.

  1. Harry Kane
  2. Sergio Aguero/Gabriel Jesus
  3. Mo Salah

Like the above grouping, there isn't a ton to say here.  Kane and whichever Manchester City forward starts against the Potters are the obvious choice based on quality plus match-up.   Salah has been so incredibly productive that he is worth throwing into the conversation even against Manchester United at Old Trafford.  


As usual with PXI, I have to apologize for not sounding more daring or insightful than "pick the biggest superstars in the Premier League" but that's how the game has been designed and if nothing else you should consider this your weekly reminder not to overthink things by getting too cute by picking the "differential" that makes all the sense in the world in the salary cap constrained world of the Official Premier League salary cap game.  Here, it's just foolishness.  


Enjoy the matches!

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
Email :Neal Thurman

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