Our regular “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list from a Fantasy perspective returns ahead of Gameweek 26.
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 five-Gameweek lookahead (Blank Gameweek 31 being such an unknown quantity at this point), we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Next five: wol, HUD, BUR, whu, EVE
Newcastle are one of only two clubs – the other being Arsenal – who face just two members of the “big six” between now and the end of the season.
The Gunners themselves are indeed the only Champions League-chasing side who the Magpies come across in the next 11 Gameweeks.
As well as having three appealing home fixtures between now and the middle of March, Rafael Benitez’s side are only of just eight top-flight clubs that are currently guaranteed a fixture in Blank Gameweek 31 (Bournemouth away).
Having won only two home matches in the first half of 2018/19, the Magpies have strung together back-to-back wins at St. James’ Park – the second of which was an eye-catching 2-1 victory over Manchester City last Tuesday.
It’s that trilogy of fixtures at Tyneside that demands attention in the next five Gameweeks, with Huddersfield, Burnley and Everton in the bottom half of the table for big chances created and shots in the box in away games this season.
That trio of teams have won just six times on the road in total out of a possible 37 top-flight matches.
Only Cardiff have scored fewer away goals than the Terriers in 2018/19.
Fabian Schar (£4.6m) is a stand-out centre-half pick given his eye for goal, though club captain Jamaal Lascelles (£4.6m) is arguably the most secure of the back three given the wealth of centre-backs available to Benitez.
DeAndre Yedlin‘s (£4.5m) advanced role at wing-back is also worthy of consideration, though.
Salomon Rondon (£5.7m) may re-enter the budget forward conversation, too. Of the six teams with the worst defensive records over the last six Gameweeks, the Magpies face five of them between now and Gameweek 32.
Next five: sou, WAT, EVE, wol, WHU
Along with Newcastle, Neil Warnock’s troops are the only Premier League club who don’t have a blank or face a “big six” side in the next five Gameweeks.
It’s the top half-dozen clubs that Cardiff have been routinely thrashed by this season but the Bluebirds have a decent defensive record against teams ranked seventh or below.
In the 17 matches contested against clubs outside of the “big six”, the Bluebirds have conceded only 19 goals and kept seven clean sheets.
In fact, only five teams have registered more top-flight shut-outs overall than Cardiff this season.
At home, Warnock’s side have conceded only seven goals in nine matches against the sides currently outside the top six, keeping four clean sheets along the way.
Bruno Ecuele Manga (£4.4m) and Sol Bamba (£4.6m) look secure at centre-back for the time being, with Sean Morrison (£4.7m) out for the medium term.
Cardiff are third-lowest scorers in the division this season, however, with Bobby Reid (£5.2m) – who hit a brace against Bournemouth in Gameweek 25 – the only one of their FPL forwards to have scored a goal this season.
Next five: NEW, bou, hud, CAR, che
Wolves’ next four fixtures are the best in the division, according to our Season Ticker.
A turn in difficulty in Gameweek 30 and possible blanks in Gameweeks 31 and 33 (depending on Wolves’ progression in the FA Cup) is worthy of note but until then the West Midlands club have much in their favour.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have scored at least three goals in each of their last three Premier League matches and their next three opponents sit in the bottom five for big chances conceded over the last six Gameweeks.
From a defensive perspective, Cardiff are the lowest scorers away from home this season, while Newcastle have themselves only found the back of the net on nine occasions in 13 matches on the road.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, have by some distance the worst scoring on home soil in 2018/19, having registered five goals in 13 games at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The usual suspects of Diogo Jota (£6.0m), Raul Jimenez (£6.7m) and Matt Doherty (£5.3m) of course appeal hugely, though the addition of Leander Dendoncker (£4.3m) to the Wolves midfield seems to have freed Joao Moutinho (£5.3m) in recent weeks – the Portuguese midfielder has five assists in the last three Gameweeks.
Next five: tot, CRY, BHA, wat, FUL
For those Fantasy managers already planning ahead, Leicester City are one of only five teams currently guaranteed to avoid a blank in Gameweeks 27, 31 and 33.
Aside from this weekend’s trip to Wembley, their forthcoming fixtures are well worthy of consideration.
The Foxes avoid any of the “big six” from Gameweeks 27 to 35 and are the only club who can boast such a run during that period.
Only the current top four have a better defensive record than Claude Puel’s side this season and the likes of Ricardo Pereira (£5.3m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) seem ripe for Fantasy investment from Gameweek 27 onwards.
Leicester sit in the top six for fewest big chances and shots on target conceded in 2018/19.
Palace, Brighton and Fulham (who the Foxes face at home over the next month or so) sit in the bottom seven for big chances created in away matches this season.
Watford, meanwhile, have only scored three goals in the last four Gameweeks and sit in the bottom five for shots in the box, efforts on target and big chances created during that time.
Although they have a difficult Gameweek 29 (tot) and 30 (MUN), Arsenal have a very enticing trio of matches (hud, SOU, BOU) before that point.
Huddersfield and Bournemouth – along with the Gunners themselves – sit in the bottom four for goals conceded over the last six Gameweeks.
The Terriers have lost six home matches in a row, while Eddie Howe’s side have not gained a single point in their previous seven Premier League fixtures on the road.
Southampton have improved of late under Ralph Hasenhuttl and are unbeaten in five matches but in a Gameweek where there a few other convincing captaincy candidates, a home match for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) a week on Sunday appeals greatly.
Liverpool (BOU, mun, WAT, eve, BUR) have three kind-looking home matches in the next five Gameweeks, as well as trips to Manchester United and Everton.
The Cherries’ poor away record we mentioned above, though United, Burnley and Watford have tightened up at the back of late and sit in the top eight for fewest goals conceded over the last six Gameweeks.
Nevertheless, Liverpool are among the quintet of teams who avoid a blank in Gameweeks 27, 31 and 33 and are the only top-flight club who are unbeaten on home soil this season.
But for those blanks, Brighton and Hove Albion (BUR, blank, lei, HUD, cry) would have featured more prominently in this write-up.
The Seagulls, who are without a fixture in Gameweek 27 due to Chelsea’s involvement in the Carabao Cup final, could also have a blank in Gameweeks 31 and 33 should they progress to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the FA Cup.
West Ham United also warrant a mention but tricky-looking away trips to Crystal Palace (four clean sheets in their last six at Selhurst Park) and Manchester City in the next three Gameweeks keeps them down the Season Ticker for the time being.
That said, the run of matches from Gameweeks 29-32 (NEW, car, HUD, EVE) will be certainly worthy of further scrutiny in our next Frisking the Fixtures piece.
Next five: liv, WOL, ars, MCI, hud
Although the Cherries are blank-free over the coming seven Gameweeks, there is little else in their favour over the next month.
For owners of Ryan Fraser (£6.1m), Joshua King (£6.4m) et al, Bournemouth face the three teams who have conceded the fewest big chances this season in the next four Gameweeks.
Liverpool and City have the two best defensive records in 2018/19, while Wolves have conceded fewer goals than all bar five teams.
At the other end, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have just plundered ten goals in their last three matches, while Liverpool, Arsenal and City are among the four clubs that are scoring at a rate of two goals per game or better this season.
Eddie Howe’s side, who travel to Anfield and the Emirates before February is over, have conceded more goals in their last six away matches than any other Premier League club.
Next five: mci, blank, TOT, ful, WOL
After a fairly barren start to 2019, Eden Hazard (£10.9m) finally clicked into gear in Gameweek 25 with a 15-point haul against Huddersfield Town.
Ditching the Belgian after a double-digit return won’t sit easily with some of his owners but Chelsea now face Manchester City and Spurs either side of a blank and there are a handful of premium midfield assets elsewhere with both easier fixtures and an unaffected match in Gameweek 27.
We have underscored the defensive credentials of both City and Wolves above but Spurs themselves have conceded the joint-fewest number of big chances over the last six Gameweeks.
Everton (wat, blank, car, LIV, new) are another club to blank in Gameweek 27 because of the clash with the EFL Cup final and have only one home league fixture in the next five Gameweeks.
That solitary match at Goodison Park happens to be a Merseyside derby and the Toffees also have to face Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United at home before the season’s end.
Looking all the way through to Gameweek 38, Marco Silva’s side are one of just three clubs who have to face five of the “big six” in the final third of 2018/19.
Southampton (CAR, ars, FUL, mun, TOT) have a real mix of fixtures over the next five Gameweeks.
Home matches against Cardiff and Fulham certainly entice but along with Bournemouth, the Saints are the only club to face three of the “big six” between Gameweeks 26 and 30.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side will also blank in Gameweek 31 if Watford progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.