After assessing the teams who should be backed over the next six Gameweeks in last night’s article, our lunchtime focus turns to those sides who may face a tricky time over the coming period. Liverpool have only two matches at Anfield, and face four difficult away trips, while Aston Villa assets may best be avoided over the next month or so, with Tim Sherwood’s side having to face the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton.
The Reds’ upcoming run sees them face five of the top eight sides in terms of shots attempted from inside the box over the last four Gameweeks. With Brendan Rodgers side having conceded nine goals over the same period, the omens for defensive returns for the likes of Simon Mignolet (5.1) and Martin Skrtel (5.5) don’t look promising. Even the opponents who don’t feature in those top eight teams, Crystal Palace, offer a considerable threat on their travels, as illustrated at Liverpool last season, when they registered a comprehensive 3-1 victory.
In terms of the other end of the pitch, the outlook is slightly brighter, with the return to fitness of Daniel Sturridge (10.5), judging by the 3-2 win against Aston Villa, a significant boost. The Merseysiders’ next two opponents, Everton and Tottenham, have been resolute at the back in recent weeks, though, and could limit the attacking potential of Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho (8.1). Over the last four Gameweeks, no side has allowed fewer shots from inside the box than Southampton, with 18, while assuming Vincent Kompany is fit for the encounter in Gameweek 13, that could also be a tricky proposition. Even Palace, who have allowed the third highest number of goal attempts from inside the area across the last four Gameweeks, have only conceded three goals in that time, so based on the fixtures, investing in any Liverpool attacking asset right now appears a risky strategy.
While Louis van Gaal’s men may be riding high at the top of the Premier League, the Red Devils will certainly be tested in their next three matches against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City. All three sides have performed pretty well for the majority of this season, so while United lead all teams for goals over the last four Gameweeks with 10, it may be that attacking returns are more scarce for the likes of Wayne Rooney (10.3), Anthony Martial (8.4) and Juan Mata (8.8) in the short-term. The match-ups against West Brom and Watford could also be pretty tricky, with the Baggies having yet to concede in their three away matches so far, while Watford have only let in one goal in their four encounters at Vicarage Road.
United have generally been a solid defensive unit this season, having registered four clean sheets. Up against potent attacking sides in Arsenal and City, along with dangerous opponents such as Everton and Palace, the likes of David de Gea (5.5), Chris Smalling (6.3) and Matteo Darmian (5.8) may struggle to deliver great value over the next four Gameweeks. The fixtures against West Brom and Watford at the end of this block do, however, offer strong possibilities of defensive returns, so many Fantasy managers may be fairly happy to stick with their United defensive assets.
After keeping a clean sheet on the opening day of the season at Bournemouth, Villa have conceded 12 goals in their last six matches, and failed to register another shut-out. While Swansea have netted just once in their last three matches, and Stoke have only found the back of the net seven times so far, it’s only those two outings which offer any real hope of defensive points. City, Chelsea and Tottenham all feature in the top five for total goal attempts over the opening seven Gameweeks, while Everton have managed a reasonable 11 goals so far. Owners of the likes of Brad Guzan (4.5) and Micah Richards (4.6) should perhaps be on the look out for alternatives in the budget price bracket, then.
No Villa midfielder or attacker has an ownership of more than 4% in FPL, and while the Villans have scored in all four of their away matches, goals will probably be hard to come by at Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton. The home clashes against Stoke and Swansea, with both sides ranked among the top four teams for shots allowed from inside the area over the last four Gameweeks, do offer some hope of attacking returns, but clearly any further investment in Villa attacking assets is unlikely to pay off over the coming period.
BE WARY OF…
The Toffees have featured in this article throughout the season so far, but there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, with Roberto Martinez’ men only facing three more difficult fixtures (LIV, MUN, ars), before their schedule turns more favourably (SUN, whm, AVL). Ross Barkley (6.9) and Romelu Lukaku (8.2) have still managed strong starts to the season despite the tough fixture list, and given neither are in the premium price bracket, they both look worth keeping hold of, and possibly investing in over the next week or two, with Villa and Sunderland among the worst defences so far this term.
Clean sheets are likely to be hard to come by in Everton’s next three matches, with United and Arsenal both finding the back of the net with regularity of late, while Sturridge’s return for Liverpool makes them a different proposition. It looks best to wait until the fixtures to ease from Gameweek 11 to think about investing in the likes of Tim Howard (5.1) and Phil Jagielka (5.4).
Spurs have a mixed upcoming schedule, with three difficult looking fixtures (swa, LIV, ars) over the coming period combined with three easier looking matches (bou, AVL, WHM). Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been impressive at the back recently, only conceding one goal in their last four matches, so it’s perhaps worth sticking with any Tottenham defensive assets in the hope they can continue that strong form.
Tottenham rank fifth for total goal attempts over the last four Gameweeks, and while Arsenal and Bournemouth both fare well when it comes to analysing sides who allow the fewest number of shots from inside their own penalty area, the likes of Harry Kane (9.2) and Christian Eriksen (8.3) and even the in-form Erik Lamela (6.8) could still produce some attacking points. With only one plum home fixture, at home to Aston Villa in Gameweek 11, there are probably better options available to Fantasy managers at this point.
The Hornets have found scoring goals difficult, particularly at Vicarage Road, so the home match-ups (ARS, WHM, MUN) don’t offer much hope for that record of just one strike in front of their own fans improving. Watford have netted four times in their three away clashes, and the fixtures on the road (bou, sto, lei) do look more promising for the prospects of Odion Ighalo (5.2) and Troy Deeney (5.3) in attack, with the Potters and Foxes ranked sixth and seventh so far this season for shots allowed from inside the box.
All three sides visiting Vicarage Road are in good goal scoring form, so adding to the three shut-outs registered at home appears unlikely. A shut-out against injury-hit Bournemouth could be a possibility, but Stoke have scored two goals in each of their last two home matches, while Leicester have averaged 2.5 goals per match in front of their own fans so far this term. Defensive returns could be in short supply over the next month or so, then.