Welcome to the AM's Players To Watch for Gameweek 31. As long-time readers of my columns will know, my advice in seasons gone by had revolved around games that would allow you to make unlimited transfers each gameweek, selecting an entirely new 11 players if you so wished. Unfortunately Yahoo Fantasy Premier League is a glorious but distant memory, while Togga, sadly, was not able to return for this campaign which put an end to the Perfect XI column I'd been penning for the past two years.
This season I'll be a bit more general in my advice. Whether you're playing Official FPL, FPL or Fantrax Draft, Fantrax Salary Cap, Sky Sports, The Sun, The Telegraph or any number of other the fantasy games available to fans each season, I'll be offering my top five picks for the week ahead, mixing "must-haves" with hunch picks and players flying under the radar. Hopefully this will offer something for everyone, whether you're considering captain options, looking to make a transfers or pick up a free agent in draft.
We got our captain choice of Jamie Vardy bang on last week as he picked up two goals, an assist and maximum bonus points in FPL. Unfortunately that was just about the only positive. Mohamed Salah was heavily involved in three of Liverpool's goals but picked up just a solitary assists while Zaha, Ricardo, Jesus and Brooks all blanked. Hey-ho; that's in the past now, so let's move on to Gameweek 31:
Saturday 16 March
Bournemouth v Newcastle
Burnley v Leicester
West Ham v Huddersfield
Sunday 17 March
Fulham v Liverpool
Everton v Chelsea
A vastly reduced set of matches due to the FA Cup scheduling, with just 10 teams involved. Liverpool at Fulham is the stand-out fixture by a mile, with Bournemouth at home to Newcastle and West Ham hosting Huddersfield both worth a look. I also fancy Chelsea and Leicester to edge their away fixtures. With that in mind, here are the players:
Callum Wilson (FW - Bournemouth v Newcastle) - It was no coincidence that Callum Wilson's return in GW30 led to an improved performance and improved result for Eddie Howe's men. The striker leads the Cherries' line so well, his runs pulling opposing defenders left, right and centre, creating space for others, creating chances for others (Ryan Fraser in particular) and - of course - getting on to the end of plenty of chances himself. Eleven goals and 9 assists tells the story and is all the more impressive when you consider Wilson has missed 8 games due to various injuries. Newcastle beware.
Mohamed Salah (MF - Liverpool @ Fulham) - A no-brainer given the trip to a Fulham side with the worst defensive record in English league football. Despite looking less than 100% sharp Mohamed Salah continues to be involved in the majority of Liverpool's best attacking play, with his sensational assist for Sadio Mane's second goal last night a particular highlight. However, the Egyptian superstar is no longer the no-brainer captain choice when the Reds' have an excellent fixture. See below.
Declan Rice (DF - West Ham v Huddersfield) - What a week it's been for Declan Rice. Ironically named Ireland's Young Footballer of the Year and called up to his first England squad in the space of 24 hours, the 20-year old has been a shining light in another difficult season for West Ham. Mature beyond his years, Rice has made the Hammers' holding-midfield role his own and offers that rare mix of defensive solidity with intelligent forward passing. He also offers a genuine goal threat at set pieces and benefits from being listed as defender in FPL, meaning he's eligible for full clean sheet points. A win to nil seems likely against doomed Huddersfield and so it could prove a bumper fantasy weekend.
Jamie Vardy (FW - Leicester @ Burnley) - Back-to-back appearances in this column for the first time, and well deserved. I noted last week that Brendan Rodgers had held talks with Jamie Vardy, informing the striker that he would be the main man in his Foxes revolution, and that it would do wonders for his confidence. The message has indeed gone down a treat, with the 32-year old putting in a match-winning performance in GW30 with two goals, an assist and all three FPL bonus points. Burnley are on a run of three defeats and will be dreading dealing with a fired-up Vardy.
Eden Hazard (MF - Chelsea @ Everton) - Where would Chelsea be without Eden Hazard? Out of the race for a Champions Leagues spot, that's for certain. The Belgian rescued a point against Wolves with a stunning injury time equaliser to continue his role as the glue holding the Blues' season together. Next up is a trip to Goodison Park - the key game in hand over Spurs, Arsenal & Manchester United - with Maurizio Sarri relying on his talisman to drag the side to victory and draw level on points with 4th place Gunners.
Captain Choice: Sadio Mane (MF - Liverpool @ Fulham) - After weeks of stubbornly believing "you only need one" I've finally accepted my mistake and brought Sadio Mane in to my FPL side alongside Salah. He's the Premier League's form man, playing in a more advanced role than his team-mate and continued his incredible scoring streak with a classy double in Munich last night. Fulham are surely in for a heavy hiding on Sunday and so Mane will be taking my side's captain's armband in the hope of a third brace in a row.
That's it for Gameweek 31. Check out the Rotoworld PL Columns page to access a host of fantastic content to get you ready for the week ahead. If you have any questions about a specific player or your own fantasy team then feel free to post them in the comments below or hit me on Twitter (@nikarg) and I will get back to you.
Thanks for reading - good luck to all managers this weekend.