Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 32 captains, transfers and differential tips ahead of Man Utd v Liverpool

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Our high-flying FPL manager offers his hints and tips on differentials ahead of Gameweek 32.

Welcome once again our regular Fantasy Premier League advice column – and this time around, our high-flying manager, currently sat around 2,500 in the world, will be casting an eye over Gameweek 32 and discussing differentials as we head down the home straight.

Before we hand you over, it’s our duty to warn you that this week’s transfer deadline is 11:00 BST on Saturday, just before Manchester City visit occasional bogey team Crystal Palace for the early kick-off. And with that out of the way, over to Matthew…

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Differential equations

Normally, I use my advice column to pore over the best ideas for transfers for the coming gameweek, but while I’ll touch on a few ideas later, the main point of discussion today is going to be how to pick out the best differentials – the players you have that others don’t.

One reason I’m not going to delve too deeply into the transfer market this time around is that at this point, you should already have a plan leading up to the double gameweeks in a fortnight’s time – either you should be stocking up on Liverpool and Arsenal players or ignoring them if you still have your free hit to use. I discussed strategy over the coming weeks in detail in this recent column, so head there if you’re looking for some ideas of how to handle the last few weeks of the season.

Now, back to differentials. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, the idea is that, as we get towards the end of the season, we’ll all be in positions where we either need to hold our leads at the top of various leagues, or look to find ways to make up a points gap. The best way to hold your lead is to make sure you have as much overlap as possible with the teams below you – after all, if you both have the same player, they can’t catch up off the back of their points.

But if you need to make up some ground, the opposite is true – you need to make transfers which involve players the people ahead of you don’t have, to give yourself a chance of picking up points which they miss out on. So how do you know what kind of changes you should make?

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The first thing to note is that there are some players who are essentially untouchable – even if everyone you’re trying to catch in your leagues also has them. These are the players whose combination of form and price are so strong that you’ll only be hampering yourself by not having them. Right now, Cole Palmer is the best possible example. If you need to find a difference for your team, he’s the last player you should touch, and unless the gap you’re trying to bridge is huge, then I’d even recommend signing him to teams without him regardless of what’s going on ahead of you.

The players you want to get rid of are the ones who are heavily-owned and not necessarily on their best form. Right now, the best examples are Erling Haaland, Kevin de Bruyne, Ollie Watkins and Bukayo Saka.

Both Haaland and De Bruyne were rested for the midweek game against Aston Villa and neither have been scoring with their usual frequency. Watkins missed out with injury, is a doubt for this weekend, and Villa have some very tough games coming up. Meanwhile, there are fitness concerns over Saka, with the chance that he’ll miss some further game time in the coming weeks.

All of them are great FPL assets at the right times, all of them are widely owned, all are expensive and all of them aren’t as likely to rack up big returns as they normally are in the next few weeks. That makes them perfect fodder for differential moves. Selling them allows you to zag while the league leaders continue to zig, while freeing up funds for big-name players elsewhere.

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Needless to say, who you sell will depend partly on your strategy for the doubles – if you aren’t free hitting on GW34, then selling Saka would be a terrible idea given that Arsenal play twice. But the biggest determining factor is simply what the teams ahead of you have. If most or all of the teams you need to make up ground on have the same one or two players, they’re the people you need to get rid of.

So who do you bring in instead? The best targets are usually players with high ceilings but who have fallen out of favour because of questionable form or recent injuries. Examples might include Rasmus Højlund and Matheus Cunha, both returning to fitness after lay-offs which saw them sold by a lot of teams a short while ago, and both with proven goalscoring records.

Big-name players who haven’t been at their best are also worth a gamble. Players like Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes haven’t been at their best this season – and neither have Manchester United as a whole - but we know what they’re capable of. They’d both be big risks, but if you’re a long way behind, that’s the kind of risk you need to take.

There’s a big difference between trying to make up, say, a 20-point gap compared to a 50-point gap at the top of your tables. If you only need to make up a few points per week between now and the end of the campaign, you don’t need to gamble too hard, just make sure you have sensible players that those ahead of you don’t. But if the gap is big and you need to hit double figure differences week after week, you’re going to have to roll the dice a little harder.

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That’s the judgement call that can be tricky to make – how big is the risk you have to accept? Is it Rashford big, or Harvey Barnes big, or just Ben White over William Saliba big? There are no hard and fast rules, but anything over 5 points per week of a gap is no small ask and requires some risk-taking. If it’s 10 plus per week, you need to go pretty big.

Transfer tips and captain picks

Back to this week now – and I’ll briefly whip through the teams whose players I’d recommend buying or selling this week based on form. Again, your chip strategy for the double gameweeks should inform your decisions more than anything else.

With the forthcoming fixtures, the best team to buy in on now is probably Manchester City – even with recent downturns by some of their star players, their forthcoming fixtures look pretty kind, a dodgy track record against Palace notwithstanding. If you don’t have Phil Foden, say, this is the time to sign him.

Elsewhere, West Ham assets like Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus look like great investments, while Brighton & Hove Albion’s fixtures aren’t the easiest. If you need Dominic Solanke for the double gameweek, then buying him ahead of Luton Town looks like a good plan.

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There are a ton of injuries going around right now, so keep an eye on the Friday press conferences to help make informed decisions. Saka seems likely to play at least some part while Watkins is touch and go, for instance, so wait and see what Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery have to say before making a move.

As for your captain chip, this week I think it’s pretty hard to look past Cole Palmer given that Chelsea face an ailing Sheffield United side. Erling Haaland and Dominic Solanke are eminently defensible selections, as is Mohamed Salah away to a rickety Manchester United team, but Palmer’s form has simply been sensational, so he’s my choice.

3 Added Minutes FC

Finally, a quick update on my example team, which had another solid week thanks to Foden and Palmer but sadly missed out on a huge week as I made the wrong captain call with Salah while no fewer than four of my players missed out, giving me two big fat zeroes in the starting side. Such is life – but still, a solid 66 points puts me back up to 2,752, another step back towards the Top 1,000 which I spent a lot of time in earlier this season.

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For this week, no major changes are planned barring injuries, as I only have one transfer and want to roll it with plenty of decent assets available. The big call will be in midfield and attack – I have both Saka and Anthony Gordon on the bench (the former because he dropped after missing out against Luton) and one very high-quality midfielder or attacker will have to make way to take the spot currently claimed by Harry Maguire. I’ll wait and see what Arteta says about Saka’s fitness before making that decision.

That’s all for this week – see you all next Thursday when I’ll try to guide you through Gameweek 33. Best of luck, and may all of your gambles play out perfectly.

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