Fantasy Premier League managers will have to factor an EFL Cup final between Aston Villa and Manchester City into their plans for future Gameweeks.
The Wembley encounter clashes with the Sunday of Gameweek 28, forcing Villa and City’s matches to be postponed to a later (or potentially earlier date).
What does it mean for our Fantasy teams? Well, not only will the players of those two clubs be fixtureless that weekend, the assets from Sheffield United and Arsenal, their respective Blank Gameweek 28 opponents, will be out of action too.
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Investment in the Gunners generally has remained at a minimum this season (although many are considering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.7m) in for Jamie Vardy (£9.9m) right now) but assets from the other three teams – Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m), John Lundstram (£5.1m), Dean Henderson (£5.0m) and Jack Grealish (£6.7m) are all in a large number teams. Furthermore, many of us have value tied up in them too.
That means that you will find it hard to sell these types of players as they will likely have a corresponding Double Gameweek in the future and it could cost a lot to buy them back in. There have been murmurs of a possible Double Gameweek 25 or Double Gameweek 26 but I am ignoring that for now as there is nothing concrete at the time of writing.
With Blank Gameweek 31 expected to ravaged by FA Cup postponements, as detailed by this article, the Free Hit chip is probably best saved for then. So the challenge for Fantasy managers is how to best position themselves to take advantage of Blank Gameweek 28 using only free transfers and the odd hit(s).
Personally, when it comes to Blank Gameweeks, I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. Rather than take hits to field a full 11, I try to look for the assets that can go big. Getting just one or two points for showing up is not a significant advantage.
Using the Season Ticker in the Members area, I have deleted the fixtures for the four blanking teams (Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal).
As expected, Liverpool sit top of the pile and it goes without saying that you should look to optimise your quota of three players. Leicester’s Gameweek 28 fixture at Norwich means that Vardy is a potential captain candidate that week and should probably be retained despite his dip in form. Defensively though, the Foxes’ fixtures do not look very promising.
Southampton seem a great team to target at both ends of the pitch after their visit to Anfield in Gameweek 25 is out of the way. Not much needs to be said about Danny Ings (£7.0m) but the likes of Nathan Redmond (£6.2m) could be a good pick as he tops the expected goal involvement (xGI) (1.05) amongst their midfielders.
Newcastle, sitting second in the ticker, are unpredictable at the best of times but, in attack, Miguel Almirón (£5.8m), at under 5% ownership, could be an effective differential.
The fit-again Jamaal Lascelles (£4.2m) looks a better bet though, with the Newcastle captain carrying significant goal threat from set-pieces as detailed by Tom Freeman in his article this week.
Elsewhere, Burnley have decent fixtures leading up to Gameweek 28 and have rediscovered their mojo.
Chris Wood (£6.2m) has the potential to deliver across this run, only Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) (12), Raul Jiménez (£7.6m) (12), Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) (15) and Roberto Firmino (9.6m) (17) have taken more shots in the box than the Kiwi (11) over the last four Gameweeks amongst forwards.
Only Sergio Agüero (£12m) (six) has scored more goals than his three too. The Gameweek 27 fixture against Bournemouth looks the best time to hop on an emerging Wood bandwagon.
Chelsea are another team with a great fixture in Gameweek 28 (Bournemouth away) but the preceding fixtures are not the best. Bit of a ‘don’t buy don’t sell’ situation there at the moment with form also not the best, especially at home. Tammy Abraham’s (£7.7m) injury is a concern as well.
While the likes of Brighton and Palace have good fixtures on paper, they are inconsistent and don’t score many goals so I see the ceiling for their attackers as quite low. Wolves’ Europa League campaign resumes after the Leicester game and given how badly it dented their reliability early on in the campaign, I’m a bit wary of their assets as well. This might be overthinking on my part though, admittedly.
In summary – don’t be worried if you can’t field 11 during Blank Gameweek 28. It’s not worth shipping out reliable assets such as De Bruyne or Henderson for. Lundstram might be expendable though, depending on whether he loses his spot full-time to the resurgent Muhamed Bešić (£4.4m).
In terms of my own team, I am inclined to ship the injured Sadio Mané (£12.3m). Though he is tipped to be back for the Norwich game in Gameweek 26, Liverpool play Atletico Madrid away on the Tuesday. The turnaround time between fixtures is the shortest possible so I really don’t think Klopp risks aggravating the Senegalese’s hamstring by starting him twice in a space of 72 hours.
Firmino’s aforementioned stats of late have been great so switching to the Brazilian using the two free transfers is an option with someone like Redmond or Adama Traoré (£5.8m) to come in midfield. I’m more inclined to double-up in defence though with Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) coming in for Çaglar Söyüncü (£5.0m) and Son Heung-min (£9.9m) for Mané.
Only Salah (16) has taken more shots than the Korean’s 13 amongst midfielders for the past four Gameweeks. Robertson has created just one fewer chance (seven) than Trent Alexander Arnold’s eight over this period as well.
That would still leave me with two Manchester City players, Lundstram and Grealish, as well as Kelly which is not an ideal situation, but still manageable with three free transfers to use before the Gameweek 28 deadline. This is how I’m currently setup before the weekend’s team news.
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