The impending double Gameweek has a major influence on our latest Watchlist refresh, with assets from three teams – Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough – gaining temporary boosts in the reckoning.
However, Monday night’s clash with Arsenal delivered some concerning news for those considering Boro defensive coverage, with goalkeeper Victor Valdes missing out with a rib injury.
Interim boss Steve Agnew declared he had “literally no idea” on a likely return for the keeper, who was due to be assessed following the training ground setback. While we wait on the prognosis, the uncertainty in the Boro goal diminishes both Valdes and replacement Brad Guzan as options.
With Fabio forced off with a knee injury against Arsenal, and match fitness perhaps an issue for returning duo Calum Chambers and George Friend, ever-present Ben Gibson strengthens his spot at the top our defender rankings.
That also means that Palace’s Wayne Hennessey, who has amassed 37 points and four clean sheets from their last seven fixtures, cements his spot at the summit of our keeper rankings.
He’ll face two strong attacking sides in Gameweek 34 – Liverpool and Spurs – but the recent shut-out against Arsenal will give managers hope that Sam Allardyce’s revived defensive unit can claim another scalp. If not, Hennessey’s propensity to earn save points – demonstrated by his 10 stops in the recent victory at Stamford Bridge – provides a handy fallback.
Also rising in our keeper ranks is Southampton’s Fraser Forster. The 5.0 target has a difficult single Gameweek 34 fixture away to Chelsea, although that’s followed by a match-up with Hull City at St Mary’s, which then precedes consecutive doubles in 36 and 37.
Monday night’s Riverside Stadium clash was also notable for the return of Petr Cech, who had missed three outings with a calf injury. Arsenal have only kept two clean sheets in ten – even conceding to Middlesbrough – but they face Leicester City next Wednesday and join Southampton in offering double Gameweeks 36 and 37. Cech, therefore, earns a tentative boost in our rankings, although Forster remains our preferred route into the Gameweek 36 double.
Elsewhere, Manchester United’s David de Gea missed his first match of the season at Sunderland, but returned in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea to maintain a high Watchlist ranking.
Jose Mourinho’s defence have kept an outstanding six clean sheets in nine and while the trips to Burnley and rivals City will test their resilience, De Gea could well be in line to deliver rare save points – particularly in the latter fixture.
Further down the ladder, there’s little movement for Burnley’s Tom Heaton or Hull City’s Eldin Jakupovic, who provide assured options with a strong set of upcoming fixtures – albeit without the boost of a double Gameweek.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford remains on a simmer.
A popular back-up to Heaton in our squads, the Black Cat can offer a double Gameweek 37, although with relegation looming prior to those fixtures, motivation could become a factor. Desperate for goals and victories, Pickford’s lack of clean sheets is set to remain an issue, with save points his main source of income. The youngster has produced 36 saves in his last seven outings – more than any other FPL keeper.
In defence, the aforementioned Gibson is chased by Maya Yoshida and will doubtless give way to the Southampton option once Gameweek 34 has been cleared. Boosted by his two double Gameweeks, Yoshida has produced two clean sheets, a goal and seven bonus points in his past four Gameweeks.
Elsewhere, Patrick van Aanholt provides a differential addition to our defensive options.
The Dutchman has scored four goals this season and makes a timely return for Palace’s twin fixtures. Introduced from the bench against Leicester City on Saturday, we’re backing him to oust Jeffrey Schlupp and retain a starting birth for the run-in. Joel Ward, as a most unglamorous 4.8 option, is replaced in our rankings, then, although he remains an alternative for those unwilling to risk the returning Van Aanholt.
Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia is also replaced, as team-mate Eric Bailly is swapped in, with the Ecuadorian’s starts over Gameweek 34 and the Old Trafford meeting with Swansea City far from assured. Bailly, as Jose Mourinho’s first-choice centre-back alongside Marcos Rojo, is now our preferred option, at least until Chris Smalling or Phil Jones return to give the United boss rotation options.
Just as Jakupovic retains his rank among our goalkeeper standings, so Harry Maguire finds a place in our defenders listing.
Back-to-back goals have finally translated his consistent threat into points and, with favourable fixtures to come, starting with the Gameweek 34 home tie with Watford, the centre-back/right-back remains in our thinking. We surely hold and play Maguire at present.
Elsewhere, Laurent Koscielny supersedes Hector Bellerin as our Arsenal option following the Spaniard’s relegation to the bench on Monday night as part of Arsene Wenger’s shift to a 3-4-2-1.
Similarly, Jan Vertonghen is swapped in as our Spurs candidate. With Danny Rose believed to be approaching a return to contention, Ben Davies’ stock takes a blow, while Kyle Walker’s vulnerability to the Kieran Trippier option has him ignored. Vertonghen, at 5.7, is the cheapest route available. However, given the clamour for three attacking options in the Spurs ranks, he holds limited appeal.
Above the Spurs man, Bournemouth’s Charlie Daniels enjoys a renaissance. While Eddie Howe’s defence are far from reliable and are without a double Gameweek, they boast an outstanding schedule and Daniels’ attacking flair will perhaps be given greater freedom once safety is assured.
The Cherries left-back has three goals and as many assists this season and could prove a worthwhile differential purchase for those booking their wildcard for a forthcoming Gameweek.