Fantasy Premier League: No Salah in a Gameweek 34 wildcard team?

There are now just five gameweeks remaining of the most chaotic season in FPL history.

Following the weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals, we now have a clear view of the fixture schedule for the run-in.

Now could be the ideal time to activate your wildcard, with a view to attacking Double Gameweek 34 and the future doubles in Gameweek 36, with potentially a Bench Boost on top, and Gameweek 37.

The following obviously assumes these players make it through the remaining Gameweek 33 fixtures on Wednesday and Thursday unscathed.


Examining the fixtures

Come Saturday, four clubs will have seven fixtures remaining this season: Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton and Leicester City. Chelsea could choose to rotate around the FA Cup final, but their absence from the final four of the Champions League makes them a wise investment for FPL.

Reece James (£6.3 million) could now be worth the risk, having delivered 11 attacking returns from his 15 Premier League starts this season, but may still be prone to some substitute appearances. A double up with Antonio Rudiger (£6.2 million) should also be a consideration: he’s been involved in 13 of Chelsea’s 14 clean sheets in this campaign, while also contributing three goals and three assists. Marcos Alonso (£5.5 million) provides a saving on both those options but hasn’t always seen consistent minutes.

In midfield, a duo of options have come to the fore: Kai Havertz (£7.9 million) and Mason Mount (£7.6 million). Havertz is the more explosive pick, with five goals and one assist since the last five gameweeks, but he has been used in a wider role more recently. Mount delivers consistency, security of minutes and his source of returns is more balanced between goals (10) and assists (nine). Timo Werner (£8.6 million) provides a late entry to the conversation: he’s on a hot streak, with three goals and two assists in all competitions since the March international break.

It would be great to go all-in on Leicester assets for the run-in, but their progress to the Europa Conference League semi-finals continues to hamper their domestic performances, with both James Maddison and Harvey Barnes starting at least one Premier League game on the bench since the international break. However, Kasper Schmeichel (£4.9 million) could be a useful pick-up between the sticks for those managers looking to avoid rotation-prone assets: he’s averaging four saves a game.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (£4.4 million)also of Leicester, is among the best budget midfielders at the moment, but Everton’s Anthony Gordon (£4.6 million) is at the same position and at a similar price and has picked up a goal and an assist since the international break. Everton are fighting relegation and striker Richarlison (£7.5 million) could be their best chance of avoiding the drop: he has two goals and one assist in April, before Wednesday’s meeting with Leicester. Navigating fixtures against Liverpool (away) and Chelsea (home) in Gameweek 34 and Gameweek 35 won’t be easy though.

Aston Villa look to be safe from relegation already and their remaining schedule is kind, but given they have lost four in a row there are questions about their motivation for the run-in. Philippe Coutinho (£7.1 million) has seven attacking returns from 12 appearances since signing in January, but he’s unlikely to get the nod from us in a midfield packed with options.


The form book

When it comes to form, Manchester City and Liverpool are locked in a battle for the title and there’s a strong argument to triple up on both sides via a wildcard. I expect to see narrow victories rather than high-scoring affairs on the run-in, so going defense over attack could be key. Liverpool full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.4 million) and Andrew Robertson (£7.3 million) have been in sensational form since the turn of the year, notching 15 clean sheets and 10 assists between them in 2022.

For Manchester City, Joao Cancelo (£7.1 million) continues to be the best route into their defense, having had more shots on goal than any other defender this season (62 — which is TWENTY more than next-best Alexander-Arnold). Cancelo has 10 attacking returns to show him for his efforts and has been involved in 16 clean sheets. A City double up with Ruben Dias (£6.1 million) or Aymeric Laporte (£5.9 million) could pay off for the run-in, but we may see some rotation from Pep Guardiola as he has a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid to deal with, too.

Further forward, midfielders Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8 million) and Mohammed Salah (£13.2 million) remain my top picks from the two clubs, with the competition for places in each attack making the rotation risk high for options outside this pair. Right now, based on both form and fixtures, I think De Bruyne is the must-have premium — it’s plausible to give him the armband every single week until the end of the season — as he has four goals and an assist for City in his last four Premier League games.

While Salah has been a fantastic option this season, his returns and points have dried up in recent weeks. Liverpool also have a tougher run of games of the top two over the next few weeks, with other options from City, Tottenham and Chelsea looking better placed for the captaincy. Therefore, a calculated risk to go without Salah for the run-in could pay dividends — going against the most-owned player in the game would provide a significant differential for those looking to climb up mini-leagues and gain in the overall ranks. It could also all end in tears, though!

Despite that shock home loss to Brighton on Saturday, Spurs have still won seven of their last eight games, and their 25 goals in those matches makes them, by far, the top attack in the Premier League during that period. Making a case for both Harry Kane (£12.6 million) and Son Heung-min (£11.1 million) is highly justified if funds allow, but can impact the overall balance of a wildcard squad. It is a coin toss of which option to go for if you can’t afford both, with the £1.5 million price difference perhaps the most significant factor in play.

Their Spurs team-mate Dejan Kulusevski (£6.2 million) remains outstanding value, with 10 attacking returns from his first 12 Premier League appearances after joining from Juventus in January.

Another enabler to consider would be Brentford forward Ivan Toney (£6.9 million), who is among the form players in the league, scoring six goals in the last six gameweeks as his club have won five games out of six in that time. The only downside of picking up Toney is that Brentford also only have single gameweeks to the end of the season.

Wildcard team

If I was on a wildcard this week, the squad I’d build would look something like this.

De Bruyne and Son are the premiums of choice for budgetary reasons, with a stacked defense and a flexible formation.

The budget players all have a Double Gameweek 36 — which would work well for a Bench Boost if you have that chip remaining.

(Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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