Blank Gameweek 29 is just around the corner and this presents the perfect opportunity for managers that still have their Free Hit to gain some valuable ground. With just 4 teams in action this weekend, a number of managers will be scrambling to make it to 11 players, especially those who own Patrick Bamford (£6.7m) and Heung-Min Son (£9.5m). Both players were withdrawn before halftime as injuries once again plagued Premier League teams this season. Although Bamford’s availability is still in question, it is almost certain that Son will miss out this weekend after picking up a muscular injury according to Jose Mourinho.
Both Bamford and Son are highly owned assets this season with 49% and 53.2% respectively. This means almost all the active managers in the game will need to take additional hits to not only replace them but ensure they can go into the gameweek with a minimum of 7-8 players at least. This is why BGW29 is the optimum time to play the free hit because the ability to field 11 players of one’s choice without having to take any hits or disrupt the ecosystem of their current team is an opportunity that is too good to miss out on.
Fulham vs Leeds United
This is probably the toughest game to call this weekend. Fulham have been in great form in recent weeks bar the loss to Manchester City a few days ago. The Cottagers ensured shutouts against the likes of Everton, Liverpool, and Sheffield United. This makes Alphonse Areola (£4.6m) and Ola Aina (£4.6m) great differential picks for this weekend. Leeds United have failed to score a single goal in their last 4 games and with Bamford a strong doubt, the Whites may once again struggle to break down a rejuvenated Fulham side that will hop out of the relegation zone for the first time this season should they pick up a win here.
Areola has 9 clean sheets in total, with 3 of those coming in the last 5 games. Only Nick Pope (£5.6m) and Emiliano Martinez (£5.4m) have a higher save percentage than the Frenchman this season, so you’d expect him to rack up a couple of saves as well. Aina is the standout defender to pick from Scott Parker’s side. The Nigerian has 2 goals and 1 assist to his name in the league. He possesses a significantly higher goal threat than his compatriots and is available at a budget price of £4.6m. None of the Fulham attackers look appealing given there are alternate options from other teams that have proved to be a lot more consistent with their returns this season.
Moving onto Leeds United, keep an eye out for any injury updates from Marcelo Bielsa regarding Bamford’s availability. The English striker has one of the highest expected goal involvements of all players in the league this season. What’s more interesting is Bamford has scored in all three of his league appearances against Fulham. The former Middlesbrough striker has also scored 12 goals in 15 league appearances in games played on Fridays, his best ratio on a specific day of the week. A bizarre statistic but one that could prove fruitful to those who show faith. A definite hold if declared fit.
Raphina (£5.6m) has been a revelation for managers looking for a budget midfielder this season although the Brazilian has now scored just once in his last 5 games and it could be that fatigue may be getting to him. The winger misplaced 50% of his passes against Chelsea last weekend although he was still getting into dangerous positions.
If Bamford is declared unfit for this game, it could have a knock-on effect on the rest of the team as well. Those looking for an outside differential can consider Rodrigo (£5.7m) who should ideally take up Bamford’s role should he miss out on this game.
Brighton vs Newcastle United
In hindsight, this is the game to target this weekend given the wretched situation Newcastle find themselves in. The Magpies are without Callum Wilson (£6.5m), Miguel Almiron (£5.6m), and Allan-Saint Maximin (£5.1m) which means they are devoid of any real threat going forward. Jamaal Lascelles (£4.2m) once again bailed out Steve Bruce’s men late into stoppage time against Aston Villa last weekend which means Newcastle have to look elsewhere for goals at the moment.
Brighton on the other hand are definitely the most unfortunate team this season given how the opposition goal tends to repel the ball no matter what they throw at it. After finally picking up a win against Southampton last weekend, the Seagulls should be raring to go against a Newcastle side that look quite fragile. Unbeaten in all 7 of their meetings with the Tyneside club and having conceded just once to them in that time, Brighton defenders are a must-have this gameweek.
Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) is the standout option here given his aerial threat. The centre back has 4 goals to his name and is often in the mix for bonus points when his side keep a clean sheet. Those looking for a cheaper route into that Brighton defense could consider Ben White (£4.4m). Robert Sanchez (£4.5m) is also a great asset to own at the price of £4.5m after ensuring shutouts against the likes of Leeds, Fulham, Tottenham, and Liverpool. The defensive double is very much a viable strategy here as Brighton seem highly likely to keep a clean sheet among all other teams playing this weekend. Newcastle are rock bottom for xG conceded and have barely looked convincing at the back.
Further up the pitch, Leandro Trossard (£5.7m) could be a shrewd differential after having scored against Southampton last weekend. The midfielder often looks great on the eye test but struggles for consistency in terms of goals and assists. This could also largely be due to Brighton’s inability to put the ball into the back of the net. In the reverse fixture, Neal Maupay (£6.1m) scored a brace and picked up an assist so he could be worth a shout as well.
West Ham vs Arsenal
Arsenal are on the back of a big win against arch-nemesis Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby last weekend. The Gunners looked great overall and deservedly came away with all three points although it took a fortuitous penalty decision to do so. Mikel Arteta’s men come up against a West Ham side who have looked fantastic under David Moyes this season. The Hammers did suffer a marginal loss to Manchester United last weekend but are still a tough nut to crack.
Managers will be spoilt for choice with Arsenal assets going into this weekend so it’s important to tread carefully. But they do offer some enticing budget options in midfield with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe (£4.2m) and Martin Odegaard (£5.9m). The latter is slightly more expensive but certainly the more well-rounded option at the moment. The Norwegian has scored a goal in each of his last two games in all competitions and seems to be hitting form right in time for Free Hitters. Sitting behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Odegaard has been the wizard waving his wand and producing magic for the Gunners lately. His four chances created over the last two gameweeks are joint-top for Arsenal, and his total of four shots is just one less than Alexandre Lacazette (£8.1m).
The Frenchman is another option that is worthy of consideration. Almost always manages to go under the radar due to the presence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m) but Lacazette is Arsenal’s top scorer in the league this season and has a fine record against the Hammers. The former Lyon striker has scored 4 goals in his last 5 games against West Ham and enjoys finding the net in London derbies. Although it is important to take note of whether he starts against Olympiacos in the Europa League this week as Arteta tends to rotate between Lacazette and Aubameyang. The Gabon striker could come into consideration as well should he remain on the bench or play reduced minutes in the European fixture.
One would expect both teams to score in this fixture which means aiming for clean sheets from either side could prove futile. Nevertheless, Kieran Tierney (£5.2m) deserves a shout for his respectable performances this season. The Scottish fullback has been a breath of fresh air in that Arsenal backline. Tierney loves to bomb forward regularly and send in those dangerous crosses which saw him pick up an assist against Tottenham last week.
Former Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard (£6.1m) is definitely on the radar of most managers. Dubbed ‘Lingardinho’, the 28-year-old has blanked just once since joining West Ham on loan in January. His ineligibility to play against parent club Manchester United should see the midfielder well-rested. Moyes’ side penetrate with a lot more venom with Lingard in the side and his record against Arsenal speaks for itself. During his time at Manchester, the midfielder has scored 4 goals in 7 games against the Gunners in all competitions which is the most by him against a team in his entire career. Those are tasty numbers and with an ownership of just 10.2%, the former Manchester United midfielder should definitely be in your consideration.
With Lingard back in the side, this will naturally boost Michail Antonio’s (£6.6m) chances of hauling against Arsenal. The bully, tyrant, and tormentor of defenders will be hoping to wreak havoc against the Gunners who succumbed to his voodoo in the reverse fixture. Simply put, West Ham are a completely different side with Michail Antonio in the fold.
As mentioned earlier, both teams look destined to score in this fixture given their defensive instability of late which is why a clean sheet doesn’t seem to be on the cards. Although managers who are keen cannot look further than Aaron Cresswell (£5.9m). The left-back has 10 assists to his name this season, which is the most of any defender in the league. The full back is also on some set pieces and can whip a hell of a ball into the box.
Aston Villa vs Tottenham Hotspur
Just like West Ham, Aston Villa have set new standards for themselves this season. Only Manchester City have kept more clean sheets than the Villans, largely due to the heroics of Emiliano Martinez who has been a legend for FPL managers this season. However, Villa have looked vulnerable of late and have lacked that creative spark going forward without the presence of Jack Grealish (£7.5m) who so often pulls the strings in the final third. Keep an eye out for any late updates on the English midfielder’s return to action. If he were to miss out again, none of the Aston Villa assets look appealing given that there are more explosive options to go for from other teams.
Tottenham Hotspur provides managers with a number of options going into this gameweek and probably possess the best captaincy candidate in Harry Kane (£11.5m). The England striker has a fine record against Aston Villa, netting 5 goals in his last 3 league appearances against them. Injury to Heung-Min Son should see Kane take up a more advanced role up front although the majority of the chances were being created by the South Korean lately. Nevertheless, Harry Kane is a man on fire this season and has the highest goal involvement of any player in the league so its no secret he will be one of the most captained assets this Gameweek.
Gareth Bale (£9.6m) has also hit form of late, having registered 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games. Although it’s important to be wary of the fact that Mourinho has withdrawn the Welshman either side of the hour mark in the last few games and he is yet to complete 90 minutes this season. But with Son out of the picture, this presents an opportunity for Jose to give the former Real Madrid winger his first full game of the season. Managers looking for a differential aside from these two can take a look at Lucas Moura (£6.6m), who has also got a couple of goals and an assist in recent weeks. Spurs defensive assets are to be considered only if Jack Grealish were to miss out again. The likes of Davinson Sanchez (£5.2m) and Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) are nailed on options at the moment while Hugo Lloris (£5.6m) doesn’t justify his lofty price tag when realistically Robert Sanchez is the go-to GK for this gameweek.
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