Like many Fantasy Premier League players I’m facing going into Gameweek 31 short on numbers. The clash with the FA Cup quarterfinals means that only four Premier League fixtures are being played this weekend.
Despite the reduction in fixtures there are still precious points to be gained to help you make a late rank climb.
For my personal team I have come down to a selection between two popular and relatively nostalgic FPL defenders.
Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman
Everton travel to Stoke this weekend on the back of a good win against Brighton and could be good value for another 3 points at the Britannia.
Gameweek 30 saw the return to the starting lineup of Leighton Baines to the Everton team alongside team mate Seamus Coleman for the first time this season. The attacking fullbacks have been such an important part of Everton’s team dynamic in the past and have been sorely missed in the months they have missed combined.
A return to form though in recent weeks indicates it may be time to give the pair some attention once again but towards which one is the golden question.
Leighton Baines has been a stalwart of FPL teams for years now. Popular due to his attacking threat from open plays and set piece wizardry the Englishman can claim to be the all time highest priced defender in the game’s history once claiming a mammoth price tag of over £8m. He has scored 38 goals in 398 Premier League appearances.
Baines’ team mate Coleman carries a little less pedigree in terms of history but is a few years younger. The lack of set pieces may go against the Irishman but he makes up for this ably from open play contributing 18 goals in 210 Premier League appearances.
Defensively as they play for the same team you can’t really make any comparisons on their potential here so we are only interested in this pair’s attacking threat.
More recent returns favour Coleman over Baines as the right back picked up an FPL point every 17.4 mins last season compared to Baines’ 20.8. This is the reason that Coleman’s FPL starting price this season was higher at £6.5m to Baines’ kinder £5.5m.
Both have missed large portions of this season due to injury and right now Baines has a low ownership of 3.9% but Coleman has an uber differential ownership of 0.7% which is potentially huge when he is considered as a premium defender. These percentages may not be entirely relevant as though as both of these players are expected to be popular picks this week for those using their free hit chip.
A look ahead to this weekend at Everton’s opponents puts little between the pair. Both full backs Stafylidis and Bauer were run ragged on Monday night by Man City’s wingers Sterling and Sane and there is every possibility that Everton will focus on this with Baines and Coleman getting forward often.
The pair do face risk defensively though with Baines possibly more so as he will have to take his duties more seriously to deal with the threat of Stoke’s explosive winger Shaqiri.
One of the biggest contributors to Baines’ performances over the years has been his selection as Everton’s chief penalty taker. He has scored 26 penalties missing 3 across 12 season including one for former club Wigan Athletic.
With Wayne Rooney having his penalty saved vs Brighton last time out there is every chance that duties are rotated once again and Baines is given the chance to take the spot kick if the opportunity arises. The potential for a penalty is always high with tricky, pacey players like Bolasie and Walcott up front for the Toffees.
Finally, we can’t consider any FPL transfer without a look ahead at the team’s schedule. Everton face some tough games in the two Gameweeks following Stoke as they host the league’s two most potent attacks in Man City and Liverpool. If you can ride out these matches then the schedule gets much kinder with games against Stoke, Newcastle, Southampton and West Ham.
The Toffees are out of the FA Cup though and as such lack the potential of a lucrative double Gameweek on the horizon which will lessen their appeal for the final run in. Any pick of the two would more than likely be a one week punt especially if you still have that precious second Wildcard.
So after all considerations I think it comes down to whether you want to try and pick up points from open play or rely on a set piece.
I believe that from open play Seamus Coleman is the better pick. He will be getting forward at every opportunity and will pose a good threat especially against Stafylidis who to me does not look like a strong player. I’m not expecting his defensive duties to be as necessary as Choupo-Moting lacks the pace and creativity of team mate Shaqiri.
Baines could face a more frustrating day tracking back to shut out the tricky winger but will still get his fair share of opportunities to contribute in attack.
The left back really comes into his own though when you add on set plays especially if he is given penalty duties. The potential of a goal from a defender is huge and indicates why Baines has been such a popular pick over the years.
Of the two I’m leaning more towards Coleman personally. The Irishman has a better recent points record, has a lower percentage ownership and I believe holds more potential across the whole match.
Both are very credible picks though in a week of reduced options and could easily come away with some big points.