The best FPL defenders for a Gameweek 31 Wildcard

International breaks are always popular times for Wildcards in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), and with Double Gameweek 33 on the horizon, usage is about to spike again.

23.1% of the site readers in our sidebar vote said they are planning to activate the Wildcard chip ahead of Gameweek 31, so it’s with this in mind that we have produced a position-by-position guide to pick out the best and most discussed options in each category.

You can read a rundown of the stand-out balls here.

All stats taken from this article are from our Premium Members Area.

KIERAN TIERNEY

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Kieran Tierney (£5.1m) has become a vital part of Mikel Arteta’s rebuild at the Emirates, donning the skipper’s armband in the second half of the league win over Aston Villa in Gameweek 30. The Scot has produced one goal, three assists, 11 clean sheets and 11 bonus points in 22 Premier League appearances this term, averaging 4.8 points per match, a team-leading total among defenders.

The impressive Gabriel Magalhaes (£5.3m) Ben White (£4.5m) are alternative options at the back, whose partnership has gone from strength to strength in recent months. The duo kept their 13th clean sheet in 25 league starts together at Villa Park, both collecting bonus points in the process. White – the cheapest route into Arsenal’s defence – has proven to be one of the bargain FPL buys of the season: his total of 103 points is higher than that of any other sub-£4.9m option in any position.

The Gunners are in good form and have won six of their last seven to surge into the Premier League top four, putting them in pole position to claim the final Champions League place for next season. Some very decent fixtures book-end a tricky run from Gameweek 34-35 (a north London derby also has to feature in the above schedule somewhere), so there are plenty of points opportunities for one of only two sides in the top six who don ‘t have the distractions of cup competitions at home or abroad. They also have two decent fixtures up next (one of which is against the team on the joint-longest losing run in the division, Brighton and Hove Albion) before their Double Gameweek 33.

REECE JAMES

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Rece James (£6.2m) hasn’t been involved for Chelsea since sustaining a muscle injury in Gameweek 28 and wasn’t part of the squad that faced Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Sunday. He has since withdrawn from England duty, although Thomas Tuchel’s weekend comments suggest that he’ll be in contention for the Premier League clash against Brentford in Gameweek 31.

“The recommendation is that he does not go. He is still in individual training, otherwise we would have brought him to Lille and we would have brought him here for sure. There is no doubt about it. He needs one more week of rehabilitation and I think we can provide this much better. It is not the job of the national team to do this.” — Thomas Tuchel on Reece James

James is a game-changer for Chelsea at right wing-back. In the Premier League this term, he has averaged 0.79 attacking returns per 90 minutes, a figure that only Mason Mount (£7.5m) can better in the Chelsea squad. His ability to rack up big hauls is also notable: he has returned 18+ points on three separate occasions this term. There was his two-goal display at Newcastle United at St James’ Park, his rampaging performance at the Emirates when he again struck, and more recently, his outing against Burnley, which ended with James having scored the opener and teed up a goal for Kai Havertz (£7.9m). Although he may occasionally be rotated (Chelsea’s Gameweek 32 visit to Southampton looks particularly precarious with Champions League quarter-finals against Real Madrid either side), the Blues’ remaining schedule suggest James is probably worth the risk, especially as they have two previously postponed fixtures that still need to be rearranged.

However, if James fails to make it in time, there are alternative options at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Rudiger (£6.1m) is usually a safe bet, having been benched in only one league match that he has been available for all season. His attacking threat is somewhat limited from open play, but he has chipped in with a couple of goals and three assists in 2021/22, while only Joao Cancelo (£6.9m) Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.5m) have registered more shots among defenders. Trevoh Chalobah (£4.7m), meanwhile, has played every minute of the league campaign in March and netted his fourth goal of the season against the Canaries in Gameweek 28. He also registered an assist for James against Burnley at the start of the month, while slotting in effortlessly in defense, even at right-back during the first half of the Newcastle match.

JOAO CANCELO

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There’s not much more we can say to you about Joao Cancelowho averages more points per match (6.0) than any other midfielder or forward in FPL bar Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) Son Heung-min (£10.8m). With nine attacking returns and 15 clean sheets to his name at 27 Premier League appearances, the Portuguese should hit the 200-point mark by the time 2021/22 season draws to close, providing too much rotation doesn’t hit during the run-in . He’s also, remarkably for a defender, 13th among outfield players for goal attempts – only one of which has been converted, admittedly – ​​in the current campaign.

As for Manchester City, Pep Guardiola’s side have a kind run-in, facing just one top-six opponent in their remaining nine matches, when they host Liverpool in Gameweek 32. They also have a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers to be rearranged, which will hand them a Double Gameweek later in the season.

Aymeric Laporte (£5.8m), meanwhile, has missed just one Premier League match since the turn of the year, although the return to fitness of Ruben Dias (£6.2m) will create additional competition at centre-half.

ANDREW ROBERTSON

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With the expectation – at least for now – that Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss or at least not be risked in Gameweek 31, Andrew Robertson (£7.2m) is the stand-out defender at Liverpool, providing he recovers from illnessof course.

The Scot has at least five more Fantasy returns than any other player over his last 14 starts, with 116 points coming his way in that time (that’s an average of 8.3 per match). Meanwhile, his assist at the Emirates took his tally to 11 for the season, level with Alexander-Arnold.

The Reds have some huge games coming up after the international break, including their trip to the Etihad in Gameweek 32. Jurgen Klopp’s side also face Man City in the FA Cup later in April, rivals Manchester United and Everton in the league and have their two -legged tie with Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals. As a result, we should probably expect a degree of rotation, although with the title still up for grabs, that should hopefully be kept to a minimum.

CONNOR ROBERTS

Budget defender Connor Roberts (£4.4m) has now started each of Burnley’s last 10 Premier League matches, becoming first-choice right-back for Sean Dyche. In that time, he has produced one assist, four clean sheets and three bonus points, averaging a respectable 3.7 points per match. His attacking instincts and long throws raise his potential, whilst it’s also worth noting that his more expensive team-mate, James Tarkowski (£4.9m), is just two yellow cards away from a two-game ban.

The Clarets, meanwhile, have a nice blend of quantity and quality of fixture ahead: they have more matches (five) and Double Gameweeks (two) than any other team in the next three rounds. These include meetings with rock-bottom Norwich City, an Everton side with the league’s worst away record and a potentially ‘on the beach’ Southampton outfit who have lost their last four matches in all competitions. Defensively, only one team (Brighton) below eighth in the table have conceded fewer goals than their 38, while their total of seven clean sheets ranks a pretty decent joint-ninth overall.

ALSO CONSIDER…

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Matt Doherty (£4.8m) has had an extended run in the Tottenham Hotspur starting XI of late, and has rewarded Antonio Conte’s faith by providing one goal and three assists in his last five starts. Yes, he’s not completely nailed with Emerson Royal (£4.6m) lurking, but his form has picked up in the last few weeks, while five of Spurs’ remaining nine matches are against teams ranked 13th or below.

The return of Timothy Castagne (£5.3m) James Justin (£4.9m) at Leicester City is also worth mentioning. Admittedly, neither player feels completely nailed, especially with a demanding European campaign to contend with, but there is plenty of upside. The Belgian, after three months out with injury, opened the scoring in the Foxes’ 2-1 win over Brentford in Gameweek 30, while Justin racked up three shots and made several notable forays into the penalty box in the same match.

Raphael Varane‘s (£5.5m) injury record is a bit concerning, yet his importance to his side is clear, with Manchester United losing just two league games in which he’s started compared to six without him. Now, out of all cup competitions at home and abroad, the Red Devils are one of three top-seven sides who are free to concentrate on league matches between now and the end of the season. They face struggling Everton and Norwich City soon, along with two clubs who have packed schedules over the coming two months, Leicester City and Liverpool. In addition, there are also appealing matches against Brentford, Brighton and Crystal Palace during the run-in.

Newcastle United get to play three games in succession on Tyneside between Gameweeks 32 and 33, while they also have appealing away trips to Norwich and Burnley still to come. According to reports, Fabian Schar (£4.3m) has been forced to pull out of the Switzerland squad due to injury. How bad it is and whether it impacts on the Magpies remains to be seen, but Dan Burn (£4.4m) is a similarly priced option at the back if he is set to miss out for a period.

Finally, England’s newest recruits Marc Guehi (£4.5m) Tyrick Mitchell (£4.5m) might be worth a look with one eye on Crystal Palace’s run from Gameweek 33 onwards, which sees them face successive matches against Newcastle, Leeds United, Southampton and Watford, plus a likely Double Gameweek in the final weeks.


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