Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list from a Fantasy perspective returns for the first time in 2019.
In this feature, we assess the top-flight clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league matches over the coming weeks and offer our thoughts on the stand-out Fantasy assets from each of the sides discussed.
Although our primary focus will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead, we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Next six: MUN, ful, WAT, NEW, LEI, bur
Possible turning point: che (Gameweek 28)
Spurs are just over halfway through their excellent sequence of fixtures that began in Gameweek 15.
A resurgent Manchester United might prove to be stiff opposition this Sunday but the Red Devils have still only kept three clean sheets all season (the shut-out against Newcastle United was their first under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) and remain less than convincing at the back.
The underlying defensive stats are positive under Solskjaer: United rank second for fewest shots on target conceded and third for fewest big chances conceded since the Norwegian took charge.
The calibre of United’s last four opponents has to be taken into account though and the jury remains out on a backline that still includes Phil Jones (£5.1m), who has looked suspect alongside the more impressive Victor Lindelof (£4.8m).
Son Heung-min (£8.8m) exits for the Asian Cup after Gameweek 22 and it remains to be seen how his departure affects Spurs’ attacking output, but the Lilywhites unquestionably have some fine fixtures regardless – including a triple-header at home against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester City.
All six of their next opponents rank among the bottom 11 teams for shots in the box conceded over the last six Gameweeks, with Watford, Newcastle and Fulham in the bottom five for attempts on target allowed over that period.
Leicester’s record of seven big chances conceded over the last six Gameweeks is inferior to only three other teams, however.
No side has kept as many clean sheets as Spurs in the last six Gameweeks, a run that has included shut-outs against two teams they face in Gameweeks 26 and 27: Leicester and Burnley.
Those two sides plus Newcastle and Fulham rank in the bottom half of the table for shots on target in Gameweeks 16-21.
Leicester, Fulham and Newcastle also sit in the bottom four for fewest goals scored over this period.
Next six: bha, CRY, LEI, whu, BOU, mun
Possible turning point: mun (Gameweek 27)
One of only three teams who avoid a “big six” side in the next five Gameweeks (the others being Everton and Southampton: see below), Liverpool’s fixtures command attention for those Fantasy managers with or indeed without the likes of Mohamed Salah (£13.3m).
The likelihood of huge attacking returns in the next three Gameweeks might not be as probable as it seems, though: Brighton, Palace and Leicester rank in the top seven sides for fewest big chances conceded since the beginning of December (Gameweek 14 onwards).
Liverpool “only” scored a total of five goals against these three clubs in the respective reverse fixtures but the Reds are now a different proposition to the somewhat restrained team they were in the first month of the season, ranking top or joint-top for attempts on goal, shots in the box, big chances and indeed goals scored since the start of last month.
Jurgen Klopp’s team found the net on 11 occasions in the reverse fixtures of the matches in Gameweeks 25-27, though Manchester United will be a different prospect to the limp side that they faced in Jose Mourinho’s final game in charge.
Nevertheless, only Fulham have recorded fewer clean sheets than both the Red Devils and West Ham this season, while Bournemouth have shipped six more goals than any other team (22 in total) since the beginning of December – including three to Salah in Gameweek 16.
Liverpool’s remaining Premier League fixtures in January most definitely offer the possibility of further clean sheets (the Reds have 12 already in 2018/19), with Brighton, Palace and Leicester in the bottom six for biggest chances created over the last eight Gameweeks.
Next six: BOU, sou, hud, WOL, wat, MCI
Possible turning point: MCI (Gameweek 27)
Everton’s lack of clean sheets of late – not a single shut-out in the last eight Gameweeks – is the source of much discussion in the Fantasy community regarding the appeal of Lucas Digne (£5.2m) and the Toffees’ next five matches could very well represent the French left-back’s swansong in our Fantasy squads, with Everton’s fixtures stiffening from Gameweek 27 onwards.
Huddersfield’s struggles for goals this season (13 in 21 league fixtures) offers a glimmer of hope for a rare clean sheet in Gameweek 24, while Bournemouth, Southampton and Wolves sit in the bottom half of the table for shots in the box over the last eight Gameweeks.
Five of their next six opponents (the Terriers being the predictable exception) are all scoring at a rate better than a goal a game since the start of December, however, while Everton rank second-bottom for big chances conceded during that time.
For those who own Richarlison (£6.9m) and co, however, there are encouraging omens.
Everton have scored against all of their next six opponents already this season, including Manchester City at the Etihad.
Five of their next half-dozen opponents (including Pep Guardiola’s side, who like Everton are without a clean sheet since November) also rank in the bottom half of the table for big chances conceded in the last eight Gameweeks.
Next six: lei, EVE, CRY, bur, CAR, ars
And then: FUL
Possible turning point: mun (Gameweek 29)
Southampton’s upturn in fixtures prompted our recent analysis of two of their budget midfielders, with the Saints having the “easiest” run of matches over the next seven Gameweeks according to our Season Ticker.
In Gameweeks 25-28, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s troops face four of the six teams that have allowed the most shots on target in 2018/19. Arsenal are one of those sides, who the Saints put three goals past in December.
Cardiff City beat the south coast side 1-0 in Hasenhuttl’s first match in charge and the two teams will meet again at St. Mary’s in Gameweek 26.
The visit of Everton in Gameweek 23 is another attractive proposition from an attacking perspective: the Toffees have recorded no clean sheets in the last eight Gameweeks and have allowed the second-highest number of big chances (23) over that period.
Leicester and Palace’s defences will surely prove less obliging, with those two clubs ranking in the top three for fewest shots on target conceded over the last eight Gameweeks. The Foxes and Roy Hodgson’s side have registered a combined seven clean sheets during that period.
For those interested in Jan Bednarek (£3.9m) and co, the Saints face four teams between now and the end of February who have scored at a rate of a goal per game or less over the last eight Gameweeks: Leicester, Burnley, Cardiff and Fulham.
Five of the Saints’ next seven opponents also rank in the bottom half of the table for shots on target from Gameweek 14 onwards.
Cardiff City (HUD, new, ars, BOU, sou, WAT) aren’t a particularly popular team from a Fantasy perspective, with not one of their outfield players being owned by more than 4% of FPL managers.
There is no denying that the Bluebirds’ fixtures are among the best in the division over the next six Gameweeks, however, with only a trip to Arsenal – who themselves are unconvincing at the back – to be concerned about in the medium term.
Indeed, the Bluebirds’ appealing matches continue well into March and it is not until Chelsea visit South Wales in Gameweek 32 that Neil Warnock’s side have to really worry about a daunting fixture again.
Cardiff have largely held their own against mid-table/relegation fodder this season and only three clubs outside the “big six” have kept more clean sheets than the Bluebirds (five) in 2018/19.
Neil Warnock’s troops have, in fact, only conceded 16 goals in 14 matches against sides currently ranked seventh or below.
Their next two opponents, Huddersfield and Newcastle, have scored the joint-fewest number of goals in the Premier League this season.
Due to the reversal of their fixture against Spurs back in September, Watford (cry, BUR, tot, bha, EVE, car) only enjoy two home matches in the next seven Gameweeks.
The Hornets rank second for “defence” over the next half-dozen matches, though, taking on four of the sides that lie in the bottom six for shots on target in 2018/19.
Those same four teams – Cardiff, Palace, Brighton and Burnley – sit in the bottom half of the table for goals scored this campaign.
The defences Watford face might be tougher nuts to crack, however, with five of their next six opponents (the exception being Everton) among the ten meanest backlines for big chances conceded in the last eight Gameweeks.
Next six: SOU, wol, liv, MUN, tot, CRY
Possible turning point: CRY (Gameweek 27)
A Gameweek 22 encounter with Southampton is the calm before the storm for Claude Puel’s side, with trips to Wolves, Liverpool and Spurs sandwiching the visit of Manchester United before the Foxes’ fixtures turn for the better in Gameweek 27.
Leicester are a difficult team to fathom of late and recent evidence suggests those tricky-looking upcoming fixtures aren’t a formality, with the Foxes having defeated Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton over the last four Gameweeks.
This is the same team, of course, that lost at home to Cardiff and were then dumped out of the FA Cup by League Two club Newport County on Sunday.
Leicester’s defensive solidity – only Chelsea have conceded fewer shots on target in the last eight Gameweeks – will be tested by their matches in Gameweeks 24-26, with Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs having each scored the joint-highest number of goals (23) since the start of last month.
Gameweek 27 looks a great time to invest in Leicester assets, however, with the Foxes avoiding any of the “big six” in their subsequent nine fixtures.
Next six: eve, WHU, CHE, car, liv, WOL
And then: ars, MCI
Possible turning point: hud (Gameweek 30)
While Bournemouth have taken some pummelings in December, many Fantasy managers retain a soft spot for the Cherries and their assets.
Ryan Fraser (£6.1m) and Callum Wilson (£6.7m) remain the best-value FPL players in their respective positions and many Fantasy bosses have stuck with their Bournemouth players through the winter months in spite of a tail-off in form and fixtures for Eddie Howe’s side.
Goals for both players in the 3-3 draw with Watford would have rekindled interest but there is little let-up in Bournemouth’s tough schedule, as the Cherries sit bottom of our Season Ticker for the next eight Gameweeks.
There won’t be much interest in Bournemouth’s defensive assets (the Cherries have conceded 22 goals since the start of December, six more than any other club) but visits to Everton and Cardiff at least offer the hope of an attacking return for Fraser and Wilson, with those two sides also sitting in the bottom three for goals conceded over the last eight Gameweeks.
West Ham, meanwhile, have recorded only three clean sheets all season and rank 17th for shots on target and big chances conceded in 2018/19.
Top of our Season Ticker for the second quarter of the season but bottom for the next four Gameweeks, Newcastle United (che, CAR, MCI, tot, wol, HUD) are the first in a trio of unfashionable clubs (from an FPL point of view, we hasten to add) whose limited appeal is further diminished by their upcoming schedule.
No side has scored fewer goals than the Magpies since the beginning of December and matches against Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs in Gameweeks 22, 24 and 25 make for grim reading.
Only two sides have allowed fewer big chances than Wolves in the last eight Gameweeks, meanwhile, which doesn’t bode well for the Magpies’ prospects at Molineux either.
Home games against Cardiff and Huddersfield could make or break Newcastle’s season and the prospects of clean sheets all round in those two fixtures look strong: the Bluebirds and David Wagner’s side sit in the bottom three with the Tyneside outfit for shots on target from Gameweek 14 onwards.
The fact that back-up goalkeeper Ben Hamer (£4.0m) and the now-departed Collin Quaner (£4.3m) are Huddersfield Town‘s (car, MCI, EVE, che, ARS, new) two most popular FPL assets says all there is to know about the Terriers’ stock in the FPL community, so we won’t waste time discussing why they are ones to avoid. Suffice to say, Wagner’s troops have lost their last nine fixtures in all competitions.
As with Newcastle, the Terriers face two must-win games either side of a tetralogy of daunting fixtures and it is the away matches against Neil Warnock and Rafael Benitez’s sides that represent their best chance of any sort of Fantasy returns over the coming half-dozen Gameweeks.
It is perhaps unfair to lump Brighton and Hove Albion (LIV, mun, ful, WAT, BUR, che) in with the two aforementioned relegation-threatened clubs but like Newcastle, the Seagulls’ kind autumn schedule has given way to an altogether more testing succession of fixtures.
In their coming half-dozen league matches, Chris Hughton’s side face five of the seven clubs who have created the most big chances since the start of December (Fulham being the exception).
While FPL managers are unlikely to be punting on a member of Brighton’s backline during this period, the Seagulls could make life tricky for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea between now and the end of February: from Gameweek 14 onwards, only Maurizio Sarri’s side have conceded fewer big chances than the Sussex club.
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the reduced price of just £10.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.