We Fantasy managers currently find ourselves in a midweek limbo, with eight Gameweek 15 fixtures still to contest before we turn our attention to the weekend’s games.
With the matches coming thick and fast throughout December and into the New Year, we are due a “frisk” of the Premier League fixture list.
In this feature, we assess the top-flight clubs with the strongest and weakest runs of league matches over the coming weeks.
Our primary focus will be on a six-Gameweek lookahead here, which takes us up to the final set of games before FA Cup third round weekend – although we will scrutinise the long-term fixtures beyond that point where relevant.
Next six: wat | BHA | new | WHU | sou | nor
Palace’s victory over Bournemouth last night was the second of eight matches that the Eagles enjoy against sides currently in the bottom half of the Premier League table.
Quite simply, there isn’t a run as good as this over the next six Gameweeks and Roy Hodgson’s side sit top of our Season Ticker over this period as a result.
The omens are particularly good from a defensive perspective: in their six games against bottom-half teams this season, they have kept five clean sheets and conceded just one goal.
All six of their next opponents are in the bottom half for goals scored, too.
The Eagles aren’t renowned for their own goalscoring exploits and have created fewer big chances than any other top-flight team this season.
Only Watford and Newcastle, their opponents in Gameweeks 16 and 18, have scored fewer goals than the Eagles.
Even against bottom-half teams, Hodgson’s side have only scored at a rate of 1.33 goals per game.
However, the Eagles’ next six opponents lie in the bottom seven for big chances conceded in 2019/20.
Next six: BUR | wol | CHE | BHA | nor | sou
With a new manager at the helm and goals flowing at the business end of the pitch, Tottenham Hotspur’s FPL assets are suddenly back under consideration.
Spurs have scored ten goals in three competitive matches going into Wednesday’s clash with Manchester United and there are some appealing matches ahead for Mourinho’s troops, particularly in Gameweeks 19-24: Spurs enjoy four fixtures against sides currently in the relegation zone, with a double-header against Norwich City among them.
Before that, games against Burnley, Wolves and Chelsea will perhaps pose more of a test: those three clubs are in the top half for fewest big chances and shots in the box conceded.
That trio are also among the ten best clubs for big chances created at the other end of the pitch.
The good thing is that the games against Burnley and Chelsea come at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: those two clubs have kept only one clean sheet between them on the road in 2019/20.
Next six: LEI | shu | SOU | WAT | nor | bur
Two tough tests against high-flying Leicester City and Sheffield United await Aston Villa in Gameweeks 16 and 17.
No club had kept as many clean sheets as Leicester (six) heading into Wednesday night’s games, with the Blades just one behind on five shut-outs.
The two sides have conceded just 22 goals between them this season, as many as Villa have shipped themselves.
Beyond that, though, there are some really appealing fixtures.
The Villans faces all three sides currently in the relegation zone from Gameweeks 18-20, with a return match against 20th-placed Watford to come in Gameweek 24.
That trio of Premier League strugglers also languish in the bottom three for goals conceded, which will be of interest to those eyeing up Jack Grealish (£5.9m) et al.
Trips to bottom-half Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion also await Dean Smith’s troops in Gameweeks 21 and 23.
The Seagulls, Watford, Norwich and Southampton are in the bottom five for big chances conceded this season.
Next six: nor | AVL | bha | WAT | mci | liv
We have slightly tweaked the rules to include Sheffield United in this piece, as their double-header against Manchester City and Liverpool in Gameweeks 20 and 21 is obviously off-putting.
Over the preceding four Gameweeks, however, Chris Wilder’s side enjoy some particularly favourable fixtures.
Two of the bottom three in Norwich and Watford await, along with two sides currently hovering just above the relegation zone: Aston Villa and Brighton.
Many of us are predominantly interested in the Blades’ defence, with John Lundstram‘s (£5.1m) FPL ownership soaring to over 46%.
Villa will pose a challenge to their defensive solidity but Norwich, Brighton and Watford are in the bottom seven for goals scored this season – even if the Canaries have perked up slightly over the last fortnight.
That trio of clubs are also in the bottom eight for big chances created.
There is hope for Lys Mousset (£5.1m) at the other end of the pitch, too, with their Gameweek 16-19 opponents all having shipped at least 21 goals in their 14 league fixtures contested so far.
Next six: avl | NOR | mci | LIV | whu | new
Much like Sheffield United, the Foxes have a looming double-header against Liverpool and Manchester City that dents their assets’ appeal a little.
However, their seven other fixtures in Gameweeks 16-24 are all against sides currently in the bottom half of the table.
Factoring in their recent matches against Everton and Watford, Leicester will have faced all eight sides who have conceded the most amount of league goals this season in Gameweeks 14-24 – great news for owners of Jamie Vardy (£9.9m) and co.
West Ham, Norwich and Southampton, who Leicester enjoy four fixtures against between now and mid-January, are also in the bottom three for big chances conceded.
At the other end, those three clubs plus Newcastle are in the bottom half for goals scored.
Favourable fixtures still may not be enough for managers to invest heavily in Southampton (new | WHU | avl | che | CRY | TOT) and Newcastle United (SOU | bur | CRY | mun | EVE | LEI) assets in December but the two sides do enjoy some more appealing games in the next three Gameweeks, before things get trickier from Boxing Day onwards.
Danny Ings (£6.2m) is the most-owned Southampton asset by some distance and from his perspective, the prospects look good over the next trio of games: Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa are all in the bottom eight for goals conceded at the time of writing.
The Hammers have allowed more big chances than any club, while Villa are bottom for shots in the box conceded.
From a Newcastle point of view, our interests are perhaps more in their defenders.
In Southampton and Palace, the Magpies will be facing two clubs who – like themselves – are in the bottom three for shots in the box.
Chelsea (eve | BOU | tot | SOU | ars | bha) have a couple of tricky-looking games in north London in Gameweeks 18 and 20, although a trip to Goodison Park isn’t the daunting test it was towards the back-end of last season.
Home fixtures against Bournemouth and Southampton are particularly appealing at both ends of the pitch.
Manchester United‘s (mci | EVE | wat | NEW| bur | ars) six-Gameweek lookahead is also bookended by two away tests at City and Arsenal but there are some appealing games sandwiched within that, with a trip to Watford in Gameweek 18 – when several other clubs either blank or have a tough match-up – one to consider.
Next six: CHE | mun | ARS | BUR | new | mci
Out of form, low on confidence and with a manager teetering on the brink of the sack: who would back Everton’s Fantasy assets at present?
To compound their misery, the Toffees sit bottom of our Season Ticker over the next six Gameweeks.
Clean sheets have been in short supply (just one from Gameweeks 3-14) and there don’t look to be many in the offing between now and the New Year, with all bar Newcastle of their next six opponents currently in the top half for goals scored.
The Toffees had a decent record against the ‘big six’ in 2018/19 and, with the caveat being that this is written before the Merseyside derby, weren’t disgraced in matches against City, Leicester and Spurs this season.
That said, many of their most-popular FPL assets don’t come cheap and there is no question that better options exist in the low-premium price brackets over the festive period.
Next six: MUN | ars | LEI | wol | SHU | EVE
Unlike Everton’s players, many of us still retain faith – misplaced or otherwise – in Manchester City assets.
Pep Guardiola’s side have almost been completely fixture-proof in the last two seasons but they haven’t quite hit full throttle in 2019/20.
They have already dropped 13 points so far this season, having lost only 16 in the whole of 2018/19.
So long as their attacking assets are scoring, however, we Fantasy managers can overlook the results themselves.
A forthcoming double-header against United and Arsenal may look tricky on paper but those two clubs are without a clean sheet since Gameweeks 5 and 8 respectively, which should provide encouragement to owners of Raheem Sterling (£11.9m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.3m).
It is arguably the three matches that follow that are tougher tests: Leicester, Wolves and Sheffield United are, like the two Manchester clubs, in the top six for fewest goals conceded this season and have 14 clean sheets between them at the time of writing.
Next six: LIV| che | BUR | ARS | bha | whu
A Bournemouth side struggling for form and goals languish near the bottom of our Season Ticker over the next four Gameweeks before things improve drastically after Boxing Day.
Games against Liverpool and Chelsea should see plenty of benchings for Diego Rico (£4.3m).
With Eddie Howe’s injury-hit side on a run of five goals in the last eight games, there seems little incentive to invest in attacking assets, either, although the visit of a leaky Arsenal defence and the subsequent fixture swing in Gameweek 20 will perhaps increase their appeal.
Wolves (bha | TOT | nor | MCI | liv | wat) and Arsenal (whu | MCI | eve | bou | CHE | MUN) are in similar boats over the next six Gameweeks, with three meetings apiece against so-called ‘big six’ clubs interspersed by more ‘winnable’ games.
The problem for Arsenal is that their three more favourable fixtures, against West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth, all come away from home, where the Gunners have struggled this season and last.
Freddie Ljungberg’s side have won just once on the road in 2019/20 and are only scoring at a rate of one goal per game on their travels.
Wolves’ fixture run might not be enough for owners of Raul Jimenez (£7.7m) to offload, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s troops – and the Mexican striker himself – excelled against the big six sides in 2018/19.
Jimenez registered four goals and five assists against these ‘elite’ teams last season.
Barring a brief dalliance with their defenders under the pragmatic Quique Sanchez Flores, Fantasy managers have largely given Watford (CRY | liv | MUN | shu | AVL | WOL) a wide berth this season.
The uncertainty over their next managerial appointment and their fixture run from Gameweeks 17-19 especially will likely see that trend continue for the time being.
The Blank Gameweekers
A special mention to two sides we haven’t discussed yet: Liverpool (bou | WAT | – | lei | WOL | SHU) and West Ham United (ARS | sou | – | cry | LEI | BOU).
There won’t be many Fantasy managers who aren’t aware that these two sides blank in Gameweek 18. with Liverpool’s Club World Cup commitments forcing a postponement of their scheduled league clash with the Hammers to an as-yet-unconfirmed later date.
Interest in West Ham’s players will be in short supply but many of us still own Liverpool assets and will be loath to ditch before the blank given that a double-header against out-of-form Bournemouth and bottom-of-the-table Watford precedes Gameweek 18.
Many Fantasy managers will perhaps bench their Liverpool assets for one Gameweek only but a tricky trip to Leicester in Gameweek 19, followed by the far-from-straightforward visits of Wolves and Sheffield United, may have some of us pondering whether to ditch a player or two from Jurgen Klopp’s side in the short-term.
As we mentioned in our Manchester City entry, those three clubs are in the top six for fewest goals conceded this season.
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