Match importance: Fantasy Draft Gameweek 31

When considering which players to target it is helpful to consider match importance. We take a look at what that means for the Fantasy Draft game.

We’re getting to the business end of the season where a few teams have something to play for and others will soon be ‘on the beach’.

As former FPL winner Simon March noted, incentives play a part in performance as we approach the finish line.

In this article I’ll look at how prediction website FiveThirtyEight estimate the importance of each team’s upcoming fixture. This considers which sides can win the league, get relegated, or qualify for Europe.

Echoing Simon March’s words, FiveThirtyEight observe that when a match is more important to one team than the other, that team tends to outperform expectations. The boost in performance is relative to how much more important the match is to them.

Let’s use this info to help identify players for our Fantasy Draft team.

Remaining matches

Before diving into the FiveThirtyEight data, let’s take our regular look at the number of remaining fixtures for each side.

11Burnley, Everton, Leicester
10Arsenal, Chelsea
9Aston Villa, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle, Norwich, Southampton, Spurs, Watford
8Brentford, Leeds, West Ham, Wolves

Remaining fixtures (from GW31)

Burnley are once again among the teams to target. Along with Everton and Leicester they have 11 fixtures left to play over the remaining eight Gameweeks.

I’d expect more from the attackers at Everton and Leicester, while prioritising defenders from Burnley. The Clarets have mustered just 52 shots over their last six matches, only Crystal Palace have taken fewer.

Ticker Perspectives

Short-term view – the next two Gameweeks, courtesy of the Fantasy Football Scout members area

In terms of short-term punts both Burnley and Everton, with their upcoming Double Gameweek, top the list.

Interestingly Chelsea and Arsenal feature prominently and have 10 matches to squeeze into the last eight rounds.

Fast-forward view – beyond the upcoming Gameweek, courtesy of the Fantasy Football Scout members area

Skipping ahead a GW to steal a march on our rivals, Burnley again rank first in the season ticker.

But this time it’s Leicester and Manchester United who are their closest challengers, while Everton drop out of the top ten completely.

FiveThirtyEight Predictions

Projected goals – Gameweek 31
3.0Liverpool
2.4Manchester City
2.0Tottenham Hotspur
2.0Everton
2.0Manchester United
2.0Chelsea
1.9Burnley
1.8Brighton and Hove Albion
1.6Leeds United
1.6West Ham United

Everton are fourth in the ‘projected goals’ table for Gameweek 31, confirming their status as a jump-on, jump-off team.

Otherwise the model supplies a dose of reality with the stronger sides occupying the top places. Favourable GW31 fixtures for Liverpool and Manchester City make them our No 1 targets – if you are lucky enough to pick up their players in Draft. 

Projected goals – rest of the season
20.9Manchester City
20.6Liverpool
16.7Chelsea
14.3Tottenham Hotspur
14.1Arsenal
13.5Manchester United
13.2Leicester City
12.0Crystal Palace
11.0Southampton
10.6Brighton and Hove Albion

Over the rest of the season, too, they are clearly the two best teams.

Crystal Palace are perhaps an under-the-radar option.

The Eagles feature in both the fast-forward ticker view and the projected goals table for the remainder of the season. Having just come off a run of difficult matches, some of their players may be up for grabs in waivers.

Match importance

Aka team motivation.

100.0Manchester City
88.4Liverpool
77.6Arsenal
59.9Watford
59.5Burnley
58.2Tottenham Hotspur
51.3Everton
48.1Leeds United
25.7Manchester United
14.1Brentford
9.5Newcastle
8.7Chelsea
5.2Norwich City
4.3West Ham United
3.2Brighton and Hove Albion
1.4Southampton
0.4Crystal Palace
0.4Leicester City
0.2Wolverhampton
0.1Aston Villa

Those with a lot to play for are at the top of the table while the ‘on the beach’ teams are at the bottom. 

In other words, get players from the sides in the upper half and, from that group, look for match-ups against the bottom half teams.

It’s concerning to note how far down Leicester City are. Combined with their European progress, it doesn’t bode well for their Premier League performances.

Team Review

With Nick Pope in goal and Kasper Schmeichel as back up, I feel I have two great options in that department. 

Despite injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ruben Dias, neither are out long term so I’m backing them to prove worthy holds.

Although, with GWs rapidly running out, keeping any player with an injury needs to be carefully considered.

Otherwise I’m delighted to own Kieran Tierney with Arsenal ranking so highly for match importance/motivation until the end of the campaign. 

I thought Ricardo Pereira would be a canny pick but James Justin was favoured last time out. Ultimately, I’m not really sure I want to double-up on the Leicester backline. So that’s one slot available. 

And I’m undecided on Matty Cash. He’s been excellent over recent weeks, but Aston Villa don’t feature in any of the tables I’ve looked at in this article. Could there be better options elsewhere between now and GW38?

Like Everton, Leeds are good for the short-term but perhaps not great after that. Although with both sides languishing towards the bottom of the table, motivation may improve results.

This means that while the injured Patrick Bamford clearly has to go, Daniel James is a hold for the next two at least.

Three goals for Brazil over the international break from Richarlison is promising. Frank Lampard, and myself, will be hoping that translates into Premier League goals.

Waiver Picks

Ahead of Friday’s 11:00 BST waivers deadline I’ve lined up César Azpilicueta as my No 1 pick given Chelsea’s upcoming matches against Brentford and Southampton. Coupled with the injuries in defence, he’s the standout player for my team.

Although I’ll be hoping I don’t have to go too deep into my waivers as rotation risks and short-term punts from Everton (gulp!) are next on my list.

Up front, I’m backing motivation to spur on Teemu Pukki. Selections from Brighton and Watford are my not-very-exciting alternatives.

Overall the problem is, especially up front, the players I want aren’t available. I know I’m not the only one who has that feeling.

Scouting the Opposition

As always, I’ll have to rely on some luck against my rival this week, who owns both Joao Cancelo and Kevin De Bruyne. Riyad Mahrez making the starting XI would at least help my prospects.

I’ve held onto second spot in my eight-team Draft league, and have amassed the most points of any manager. But while I have one eye on first place, I’m also nervously looking over my shoulder as Khalid Ameen closes in. 

Whether it was by design or accident, Khalid was bottom after the initial Draft and this allowed him to get first dibs on new players in the GW2 waiver picks. If by design it was an excellent tactic.

I’m enviously looking at his front three of Ronaldo, Lukaku and Vardy, and hoping he doesn’t catch me!

Best of luck in your Draft leagues as the season nears its conclusion.


Getting ready for Gameweek 31? We’ve had a look at what to expect from the Gameweek 31 fixtures.

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