Fantasy Premier League managers now have to consider a multitude of new problems with the return of European football and remaining FA Cup matches.
How will the restart of the Champions League and Europa League impact team selection? Will players be tired from the travel and additional match time?
When will all of the postponed matches be rescheduled? What will Gameweek 29 look like with the FA Cup fixtures scheduled for that weekend?
There are so many questions and at the moment very little in the way of answers for FPL managers. I’m trying to plan ahead and make my transfers count, not just for the week ahead, but for the long-term too.
I played my Free Hit chip back in Gameweek 18 meaning that, on paper, Gameweek 29 will be difficult to manage. Sheffield United, Everton, Southampton, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester and Manchester United have all made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. So when they play their Premier League matches scheduled for that weekend remains to be seen.
We do know that the following matches will be played as planned as these teams are out of the FA Cup:
- Brighton v Newcastle
- Fulham v Leeds
- West Ham v Arsenal
There have also been rumours we might get some fixtures rearranged to this week. In particular, Spurs v Aston Villa, as Spurs will be unable to play additional matches in Gameweeks 27 and 28 if they beat Wolfsburg in the Europa League this week.
However, this is all speculation until we get an official announcement from the Premier League.
So what do FPL managers do while we wait for official announcements?
Transfers at this stage of the season are vital. In most other parts of the season making a transfer for one or two weeks works really well, as it allows us to target a particular player or team for a match or two. But with multiple Double Gameweeks to come over the remainder of the season, we have to try and ensure we use our transfers as best we can, so they work in both the short and long-term.
For me, my biggest issue will be Gameweek 29, as this this is a key Gameweek for me to work towards. I currently own three West Ham players and two Leeds assets:
- Patrick Bamford (£6.8m)
- Stuart Dallas (£4.9m)
- Aaron Cresswell (£5.8m)
- Tomas Soucek (£5.4m)
- Michail Antonio (£6.6m)
Having only five players available is not viable for that Gameweek and therefore my transfers have to work for Double Gameweek 25 and Gameweeks 26 to 28 (which may or may not be doubles) as well as blank Gameweek 29.
As a result, I’m targeting certain teams who have nice fixtures and play in Gameweek 29.
Brighton are currently a gift FPL managers should take advantage of.
Having kept five clean sheets in their last six Premier League matches, they are defensively rock solid and their attacking stats have taken a turn for the better over the last few weeks.
In Gameweek 24, Brighton had 26 shots on the Aston Villa goal and forced Emiliano Martinez (£5.2m) in to nine saves. Were it not for Martinez’s outstanding performance, Brighton would have won the game comfortably, as they restricted Villa to just two shots and no big chances.
Lewis Dunk (£4.9m) has already taken a £0.1m price increase this week, as 56,255 managers have invested in the Brighton defender so far. This makes him the third most popular defensive transfer ahead of Gameweek 25.
In the last six Gameweeks, Dunk has returned 44 points for his owners. He is top of the pile out of all defenders in the game by form, a whole 1.2 ahead of Matt Targett (£4.9m) in second place.
Brighton are not expected to have any Double Gameweeks and this may be off-putting for many FPL managers, especially if you still have your Free Hit.
However, for managers like myself who do not have the Free Hit chip left, Dunk looks like an excellent option.
Over the last six Gameweeks Brighton are now sixth for attempts in the box, just two behind Manchester United and with only in-form teams and Liverpool above them.
Brighton also sit fourth over the same period for minutes per chance, just 0.1 minutes behind Chelsea and Liverpool and 0.2 mins behind league leaders Manchester City.
While Danny Welbeck (£5.5m) failed to return any FPL points in Gameweek 24, he was second for expected goals (xG) underachievers, meaning that he was unlucky not to return FPL points for the 0.3% of managers who own him.
Premium Members Area table showing xG underachievers for Gameweek 24 after Monday evenings fixtures
Welbeck, alongside the likes of Alexis Mac Allister (£5.3m) Leandro Trossard (£5.7m) and Neal Maupay (£6.1m) are all huge differentials in FPL. Of the four, Mac Allister has virtually no ownership at 0.0%, with Maupay having the highest at 3.0%.
Even at Maupay’s level of ownership, he is still a huge differential and is heading in to a run of fixtures against sides who (aside from Leicester) have been susceptible to conceding goals. They could all be excellent picks to cover you all the way through, and potentially beyond Gameweek 29.
- Gameweek 25: Crystal Palace six conceded in the last three Gameweeks
- Gameweek 26: West Brom five conceded in the last three Gameweeks
- Gameweek 28: Southampton 14 conceded in the last three Gameweeks
- Gameweek 29: Newcastle six conceded in the last three Gameweeks
These defences could allow plenty of opportunities for the Brighton forwards to score FPL points.
Unlike Brighton, FPL managers know Leeds will play twice in Double Gameweek 25 and their assets are already high on their wish lists.
Alongside this double there is the potential of Leeds having another Double Gameweek over the next few weeks too. Couple that with them having a fixture in Gameweek 29 and Leeds look to be the perfect fit for FPL managers.
Patrick Bamford (£6.8m) is already owned by 53.7% of the game. He is also currently the most transferred forward with 144,991 new owners so far, ahead of his double in Gameweek 25.
Obviously Bamford will be owned by the majority of FPL managers by the time we arrive at Gameweek 29, but there are still plenty of other great options.
Alongside Bamford I currently own Stuart Dallas (£4.9m) and he came off my bench for a -1 when Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.7m) was ruled out. Despite his negative return, he is still a great option.
Dallas is the most transferred in defender ahead of Gameweek 25 with 152,148 managers bringing in the Leeds defender.
While Leeds haven’t kept a lot of clean sheets recently (just one in the last seven Gameweeks) Dallas has returned a seven and a 12 point haul in that time. He did this by scoring a goal in Gameweek 21 and registering a clean sheet, and created an assist and brought in all three bonus points in Gameweek 23.
Depending on Double Gameweek updates beyond Gameweek 26, I will probably look to bring in a third Leeds option. Raphinha (£5.4m) is the stand-out for me currently. He has now returned in each of the last five gameweeks, accumulating 38 points made up of two goals, four assists, five bonus points and a clean sheet point.
At just 3.6% ownership, Raphinha is a great differential option. He is on a fantastic run of form, a guaranteed Double Gameweek and has a match in the blank Gameweek in 29 so there is a lot to like about him as a FPL option.
Think long term
Right now, planning ahead and for the present is key. Leeds offer the perfect blend of Double Gameweeks and playing in the Blank Gameweek too.
Brighton have a great fixture list of single Gameweeks as well as a fixture in that all-important blank Gameweek 29.
There are other clubs I am keeping a firm watch on too. If Spurs make it through to the next round of the Europa League then there is an increased chance of Aston Villa and Spurs playing each other in their rearranged match in Gameweek 29, as they are both out of the FA Cup.
If this does end up happening, FPL managers will breathe a sigh of relief as this will give us access to options such as Harry Kane (£11.0m), Son Heung-min (£9.5m), Ollie Watkins (£6.5m), Jack Grealish (£7.8m) and the Aston Villa defence during Gameweek 29 – something that would be incredibly helpful to FPL managers at large.
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