Here’s the first in a One’s to Watch series of articles, where I will be picking three key fixtures to preview from the Gameweek ahead, and highlighting a few players that you might want to bring into your FPL squads.
The aim is to create a handy, easy to reference guide to what’s coming up and hopefully help you to make decisions in the mind-boggling world of transfers.
Interestingly, this week is the second Double Gameweek of the season, if you count Spurs’s Gameweek 22 double as one, with GW37 also just over the horizon, leaving FPL players spoilt for choice and spaces in their Fantasy squads until the end of the season. Due to this I will be allowing myself to count fixtures in pairs this week, before going back to just three separate fixtures next week.
Here we go…
Bournemouth vs Man United + Man United vs West Brom
For those who have been planning for the Double Gameweek this pair of United fixtures will have stood out for sure and many managers already have some variation of Lukaku (11.6), Lingard (6.0) and De Gea (5.9). United’s key men are owned by 29.5%, 10.4%, and a whopping 44.7% of players respectively.
However, even the fair-weather fantasy managers and last minute tinkerers are lumping on the reds ahead of GW 34. At the time of writing, Pogba (7.8) is the second most transferred in player of the week (narrowly behind Kane) and Chris Smalling (5.5) is the fifth.
Both played fantastically in the improbable 3-2 comeback victory over City and seem to be boosting hopes that they’ll continue that buoyant form. Clean sheets in both games could be likely. And for the record, United are only 4 away from scoring as many goals this season as Bournemouth and West Brom put together.
Whilst the title is out of reach, Mourinho will expect nothing less than 2nd in the league this year and therefore I would count them as still having something to play for.
Yet, despite their great chances, we do need to bear in mind potential rotation. This is where Mata (6.8), Rashford (7.4) and Martial (7.8) come into the equation.
Martial hasn’t played in the last four games, despite being the highest scoring fantasy player out of this second-string trio, yet his pace, along with that of Rashford’s, may well be called upon against a West Brom side that look all but relegated. The pair are also playing for spots in the World Cup this summer, which quite incredibly isn’t the case for Juan Mata, who probably won’t get into the Spain side.
The chances of either Bournemouth or the Baggies getting a goal? Slim.
If you were to take a rather lengthy punt, Jay Rodriguez (5.3) or King (7.0) are probably your best options. Both strikers have scored two in their last three.
Southampton vs Chelsea + Leicester vs Southampton
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been scanning Southampton for signs of life like an over-acting TV doctor, however, I think we’ve finally found a pulse in the form of Charlie Austin (5.8).
After that chastening 3-0 defeat to West Ham they were pretty unlucky to lose to Arsenal. There were moments of quality on show from the Saints in that game.
Obviously, they have tricky fixtures coming up in Chelsea and Leicester, but you could argue that Southampton might be able to squeeze a result out of them if they are willing to embrace the more attacking style of play that they managed against the Gunners. Chelsea are out of the race for fourth now and have shown a soft underbelly. They’ve only won 2 of their last 8 games. I actually thought a resurgent West Ham would win against them last week, never mind draw.
However, Austin is the only man I would pick from a Southampton perspective. Tadic (6.2) and James Ward-Prowse (5.0) are both important to the team but generate poor returns in FPL terms. Elsewhere on the pitch, I think Southampton will struggle to keep clean sheets.
Looking at Chelsea, Willian (7.2) played very well in his last outing and was inches away from scoring on two occasions, before having an assist rubbed out due to Morata (10.4) being called offside. Hazard (10.6) hasn’t produced a goal or an assist in 4 matches, but he has played fairly well in that period and looked dangerous. Could he pull the strings against Southampton and then again at Burnley as part of Chelsea’s Double Gameweek?
Finally, in the Leicester game, two Foxes stand out for me: Maguire (5.6) and Vardy (8.9).
The big centre-back has impressed this season, although has suffered a decline since his 3 back-to-back clean sheets in GW’s 22-24. However, he is also a threat going forward and doesn’t back away from joining an attack or carrying the ball. Ranked 4th for defenders in the ICT (Influence, Creativity, Threat) index he could add to his 2 goals and 4 assists in the campaign.
Along with Jamie Vardy up top, the pair will fancy their chances against a side that has conceded a remarkable 9 goals in the past 3. To add to the case for Vardy, he’s scored in 3 consecutive games.
Crystal Palace vs Brighton + Brighton vs Spurs
Lastly, what a pair of fixtures this is. Derby day and the beginning of a torrid run-in for Brighton, who everyone has assumed to be safe, but could be a shock re-entry into the relegation scrap.
I know that might sound cynical as Brighton have played such a great debut season in the Premier League, but after they play these two tough games they have to face Burnley (A), Man Utd (H), Man City (A) and Liverpool (A). Ouch.
Brighton’s performance against Huddersfield at the weekend was fairly drab and they will be desperate for a response. That will require big performances from their main men, Glenn Murray (6.0) and Gross (6.0), plus midfield livewire Jose Izquierdo (5.9), who really should have scored 1 on 1 against Huddersfield goalkeeper, Lössl.
Palace will be boosted by the knowledge that they haven’t lost at Selhurst Park against Brighton since 2005. Their key figures remain Zaha (6.8), Milivojevic (5.1) and Townsend (5.6). The surprise package of the team this season has no doubt been Milivojevic, who recently became their first midfielder to reach double figures for goals in the Premier League, and has been brought in by 50k+ managers so far this week.
Moving into the Spurs game, we could expect goals galore from Harry Kane (12.9) who is currently a man possessed with the aim of stealing the Golden Boot away from Mo Salah. He’s is a hugely pricey asset but as we know he has a habit of hitting form towards the end of seasons.
Elsewhere don’t overlook Alli (9.0) and Eriksen (9.4) who are both in wonderful form. Alli has notched 3 assists and 3 goals in just 4 games, and Eriksen 3 goals and an assist in his previous 3.
Also worth a look…
- Burnley players
If Chelsea are to win the FA Cup and finish where they are now, that would mean that 6th place becomes a Europa League qualification spot. So, essentially Burnley are challenging Arsenal for it. Yep, Burnley who have won four games on the bounce. That’s right, Burnley who haven’t lost since early February. Please note that Chris Wood (6.3) and Ashley Barnes (5.4) both have 4 goals in their last 5 games. And Nick Pope (5.0) is playing for a spot as England’s goalkeeper at this year’s World Cup. What a time to be alive.
- Aubemayang (£10.8m)
No Double Gameweek for this fella in scintillating form but a trip up to Newcastle instead. He’s scored 5 in his last four games and grabbed an assist as well. Rafa knows how to lock up the toon’s back line but he’s going to have a big job on his hands come Sunday afternoon.
- Alex Pritchard (£5.4m)
Ok, bit of a punt this one, I’ll grant you that. But if Huddersfield are going to stay in the league they’re going to need to throw everything at Watford this weekend. That includes the tricky, mazing runs of Alex Pritchard. Watford have conceded the second highest number of penalties this season and their defenders aren’t the most mobile, shall we say. Could be a bold differential.
- Firmino (£9.5m) / Salah (£10.5m) / Mane (£9.5m)
Not much that needs to be said here but I couldn’t leave them out. They host Bournemouth in their only GW 34 fixture. After the magic of that Champions League performance mid-week, you’d be confident that at least two of Klopp’s magical front three will deliver once again.
- Arnautovic (£6.9m)
Last, but certainly not least, is Marko Arnautovic. West Ham take on Stoke in their only game of GW 34 and, as we saw from the Austrian player’s passionate verbal tirade launched towards Mark Hughes after scoring against Southampton, it could be fair to say there’s unfinished business between Arnautovic and the Potters. Whether it is just Hughes he has a problem with, we may never know, but I wouldn’t bet against him pulling out all of the stops to show his old club what they’re missing.
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