Pro Pundits - Az

How the Champions League race will impact my FPL plans

It’s great to see battles heating up at both ends of the Premier League table, especially as several teams have a shot at a place in next season’s Champions League.

The more sides that have something to fight for at the end of the campaign, the better for Fantasy managers. European football is really important these days and there will be plenty of assets upping their game to achieve it.

It is these sorts of players who I’ll be turning to as I hope to recover from a tough Blank Gameweek 28. After a strong run of form, it all came crashing back down to Earth over the weekend. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Just two red arrows in 16 Gameweeks had seen me rise from a worldwide ranking of two million to within reach of the top 100k and I felt invincible.

Then came the news that Jamie Vardy (£9.8m), the out of form forward that I’d been holding on to for his ‘golden’ set of fixtures was out of Blank Gameweek 28. My plans were thrown up in the air.

I took a hit for James Maddison (£7.5m) despite concerns with his own form, to try and get in on what I predicted to be a Leicester demolition job. I was actually close to taking further hits, and had my eye on the likes of Harvey Barnes (£6.2m) and Ayozé Péréz (£6.2m) but chose to play it ‘safe’. I’m glad I did!

Just 27 points and a Gameweek rank of 3,290,000 followed. Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) and the reliable Raúl Jiménez (8.0) were the only players who got me points. It was a poor weekend indeed.

But it’s not a complete disaster. I’m down to 114k, but my team is still in decent enough shape. We’re entering an important part of the season, with Double Gameweeks around the corner and a red-hot battle at both ends of the table has been ignited – ensuring the pool of form players remains big enough.

Liverpool may have run away with the league, but poor form for Leicester and Chelsea has coincided with a resurgence from Manchester United while Sheffield United and Wolves are still in the fight for Europe.

My prediction:

1. Liverpool (duh)

2. Manchester City

3. Leicester City

4. Manchester United

Third and fourth really is up for grabs right now. Leicester have a five-point advantage over Chelsea and an eight-point advantage over Wolves and Manchester United. I think this will be enough to see them over the line.

But their form is absolutely terrible, Brendan Rodgers men now four games without a win and Vardy hasn’t found the net since before Christmas. On top of that, Leicester have just one clean sheet in the last seven games; an alarming slump.  

The next three matches, all against teams battling relegation are so important for their chances of Champions League football next year. Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) coming back is absolutely huge for the Foxes and should free up Maddison to roam the pitch a bit higher.

I do worry about the likes of Barnes and Péréz, as Rogers could switch to wing-backs as he did against Manchester City in order to pair Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) with Vardy up top.

Their defenders are all pretty pricey now too, it’s a lot of money to pay for Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m) who only has a goal and an assist in 21 matches (with both coming in one game against West Ham). Those who got Çaglar Söyüncü (£5.0m), at £4.5m I imagine, will be happy to hold, however. I do think Leicester will be just about okay provided Vardy gets the party going again and Ndidi can stay fit.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have been lifted by the return of Bruno Fernandes (£8.3m), the all-action midfielder who is the pick of the litter. With Anthony Martial (£8.0m) ticking over, but looking like he’s being asked to solve algebra puzzles rather than play football on the pitch, I can see why many are making the move to Fernandes who offers set pieces, penalties, and is looking dangerous both in and out of the penalty area.

With Martial, you are looking for the odd bit of magic – of which he is capable of delivering – but Fernandes looks set to be a reliable points scorer from now until the end of the season. It seems an easy switch if you’ve got the cash in the bank.

I think these are the teams that will finish in the top four, but Leicester will be dragging themselves over the line, whereas I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will finish the season strongly.  

I’m not ruling Wolves out by any means, I just wonder how their squad will cope with advancing to the latter stages of the Europa League. Their play is based on such intensity, I fear they may burn themselves out. Diogo Jota (£6.3m) is tearing up the league at the moment, but I am a happy Jiménez owner. As he did last season, the Mexican international just keeps ticking over and he’s a joy to own whereas I feel Jota might regress at some point.

Alonso back on FPL radar but Chelsea defensive woes continue

Other than Marcus Alonso (£6.0m), it’s very hard for me to pick out any Chelsea options to consider. Willy Caballero (£4.8m) is standing in for Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m) while he sits on the naughty step but you don’t really want to go there anyway.

Alonso is the gem of a pretty uninspiring backline (especially without N’Golo Kante (£5.0m). The midfield has been ravaged by injuries, Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.3m) could, however, provide an intriguing differential when he returns to fitness at a bargain price.

Up-front Tammy Abraham (£7.6m) looks set for a spell on the sidelines and it doesn’t seem to me that Lampard is completely convinced on the ability of Olivier Giroud (£6.5m) to lead the line despite starting the last couple of games. This is a team on the decline in my opinion, and I’d be amazed if they held on to their current position of fourth in the league.

Lundstram benched again as Fantasy owners consider selling the 'Lord'

Sheffield United are of course another outsider to finish in the top four, but I think they are going to draw too many games before now and the end of the season to really trouble the likes of Manchester United and Wolves.

In terms of options, I’m struggling to pick any out, particularly from their attacking ‘force’. Their ascent up the table has of course been built on a strong backline, but with John Lundstram (£4.9m) out of favour and the likes of Jack O’Connell (£4.7m), John Egan (£4.6m) and Chris Basham (£4.5m) offering absolutely no attacking threat whatsoever, I think you can do better by looking at the wing-back options.

But… speaking of wingbacks… Oh, how I love wingbacks. I love them more than anything and it’s so great to see two of the most attacking wingbacks in the game in Alonso and Matt Doherty (£6.2m) flourish in recent weeks.

Of course, it would be even sweeter if I owned them! Not to blow my own trumpet too loud, but I did recommend Doherty on a video I did on Instagram for Fantasy Football Scout just before he hit form… I hope someone listened!

We all know the history of these players, but a premium price point for Doherty this year, and a place on the bench for Alonso most weeks has, somewhat understandably, seen people reluctant to pick these players. However, you just need to look at their stats over the last two Gameweeks to know what you are getting.

And, like a fine cheese and wine pairing, his wingback counterpart Doherty may be the perfect accompaniment – and there’s a key difference between Chelsea and Wolves. Wolves actually keep clean sheets. It’s 3 out of 4 in the league since Wily Boly (£4.8m) has come back. The potential of clean sheets, with the attacking threat that Doherty provides is incredibly attractive.

I decided this year that I would adopt a new policy with defenders. I will only pay over £5.0m for a defender if he a) has attacking threat from open play (i.e. is a wingback) or b) has set pieces in his locker. Of course, there are many players that fit this bill, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m), and Alonso meeting both criteria.

The form of Doherty and Alonso, combined with Alexander-Arnold’s attacking and clean sheet potential suggests to me that we are seeing another shift in where our money should be going. I for one am thinking of moving some funds around to change the balance of my squad, and a triple-up of Alonso, Doherty and Trent Alexander-Arnold fills me with excitement and joy.

Watching the marauding runs of a wing back, or a full back with Trent’s crossing ability, and set pieces in his locker, makes for a more entertaining game… and isn’t that what this is all about after all?

BLANK GAMEWEEK 28 FPL MATCH REPORTS

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Az Follow me on Twitter : @ffscout_az” Follow him on Twitter

1,022 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rainer
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 10 hours ago

    #SUFC Henderson, Basham, Egan, O'Connoll, Baldock, Lundstram, Berge, Freeman, Osborn, McGoldrick, Moussett.

    Stevens NOT in the squad.

    1. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      Lundstram and Berge in the same team 😯

    2. FOO FIGHTER
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Lundstram bandwagon incoming!

        1. FPL Pillars
          • 3 Years
          1 month, 10 hours ago

          Dial up?

      • Monkey Hanger
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Lundstram and Berge both starting. Has the Lord got his place back?

        1. Rainer
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 3 Years
          1 month, 10 hours ago

          Berge playing deeper, Norwoods role, who's been given the night off it seems. Wouldn't think so.

    3. Rainer
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      #NUFC Darlow, Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Rose, Bentaleb, S.Longstaff, Lazaro, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton.

      1. FPL Pillars
        • 3 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Strong line up, Newcastle going for it

      2. Monkey Hanger
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Fernandez gets a well earned rest.

    4. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      First Newcastle team put out by Bruce

      1. Fred54
        • 5 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        What does this even mean?

        1. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 9 Years
          1 month, 10 hours ago

          It means he's put out his strongest team

          1. Fred54
            • 5 Years
            1 month, 10 hours ago

            Oh right, it kinds of reads like its the first Newcastle team he's ever put out.

            Yes, Newcastle have been relatively 'first team' in all rounds.

          2. Jarvish Scott Talent
            • 5 Years
            1 month, 10 hours ago

            And it's still shite

        2. Freddiebell
          • 3 Years
          1 month, 10 hours ago

          I think it means Bruce doesn't want to get knocked out tonight

          1. El Presidente
              1 month, 10 hours ago

              WBA is stronger than NEW

              1. Klaren
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                • 2 Years
                1 month, 10 hours ago

                Not an expert on Championship but I don't think WBA is playing their 1st team.

                1. El Presidente
                    1 month, 10 hours ago

                    No, you right

          2. El Presidente
              1 month, 10 hours ago

              My money is on WBA

          3. gooberman
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 8 Years
            1 month, 10 hours ago

            Sorry, I know this is a fantasy football forum but I'm raging and need to let it out. Just seen the Liverpool line up. WTF is Klopp playing at? No Salah, no Firminio, no Trent and no Allison. Seriously why? Why are we not full strength? 5th round of the FA cup against Chelsea away for god sake. I tell you what Jürgen next season why don't you just not enter the domestic cup competitions at all! This comes days after City claim yet another trophy.

            Up against it to qualify for the next round of the Champions League and could go out. I'm afraid winning the league and nothing else does not make a great season.

            1. Tony Martial
              • 1 Year
              1 month, 10 hours ago

              Even with that team..

              You will still beat Chelsea

              1. gooberman
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                • 8 Years
                1 month, 10 hours ago

                Part of me hopes they lose

                1. Marvin de Milo
                  • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                  • 3 Years
                  1 month, 10 hours ago

                  Which part?

                  1. Cahill
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    • 9 Years
                    1 month, 10 hours ago

                    the hardest part

                    1. Marvin de Milo
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 3 Years
                      1 month, 10 hours ago

                      Heels?

            2. Rainer
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              • 3 Years
              1 month, 10 hours ago

              You answered your own question...

              "Up against it to qualify for the next round of the Champions League and could go out".

              Key players rested tonight, with that in mind, and there's a good chance a few more will be on Saturday.

              Winning the league does not make a great season 😆 😆 😆

              1. gooberman
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                • 8 Years
                1 month, 10 hours ago

                Obviously it depends on definition of great. The great Liverpool teams of the past were winning doubles and trebles. To win only 1 of the 4 major tournaments is good but not great.

                Now they have lost a league game and can't get the records, surely Saturday with the CL match only a few days later was the game to rest all the key players, not tonight.

                1. Rainer
                  • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                  • 3 Years
                  1 month, 10 hours ago

                  A bit of both is on the cards it seems.

                  This lineup is stronger than the vast majority expected. If you don't trust Klopp now as a Liverpool fan then you're lost, lets see how the match goes. Big hitters on the bench too if needed.

                  Trent & Wijnaldum have played a lot of football recently & didn't get the summer off either. Nearly every Prem team also has a cup keeper too.

            3. FOO FIGHTER
                1 month, 10 hours ago

                Liverpool are EPL Champions so to say waiting 3 fkn decades.

                And you want to post this rubbish?

              • Monkey Hanger
                • 6 Years
                1 month, 10 hours ago

                Obviously doesn't respect the cup. This is the first year he has got past the fourth round.

                1. El Presidente
                    1 month, 10 hours ago

                    I dont think its that, he´s just on this mission to prove a fkn point and he´s at it a long time now. Everything is ok when pepsodent klopp does it, imagine this is Mourinho doing it...

                  • FOO FIGHTER
                      1 month, 10 hours ago

                      Mickey Mouse Cup and FA Cup have taken the back seat for most teams.

                      Pep enjoys winning the Mickey mouse Cup for some reason.

                      This Cup should actually only be reverted to teams who are short of cash.

                      And that is the truth.

                      1. I Member
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 4 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        Pep didn't even play his strongest team in the final, it's just that City's squad is ridiculous. When you have players like Jesus, Mahrez, David Silva, Cancelo, etc. on your bench you can easily challenge for the domestic cups.

                        1. FOO FIGHTER
                            1 month, 9 hours ago

                            But what benefit do City gain from winning the League Cup? Winings = Pennies. Cant even pay Foden's wages for a week.

                            It just defeats the object when there are many teams struggling to keep the floodlights on.

                            Then City get to splurge 100's of champagne bottles and fake fireworks.

                            The League Cup should be provided to the teams who need cash. Not the teams who will piss it out on champagne.

                    • El Presidente
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        Its not terrible but obviously he´s being cocky as he usually is

                      • Forza
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 5 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        People will tell you that the first team needs resting, but that's only because Klopp doesn't sub the stars early enough when the win is secure. They have to manage minutes at some point, but it should have been done in the second half of league games.

                        Having said that, if TAA/Salah started and got injured it could've killed your chances against Atletico.

                        1. gooberman
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 8 Years
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          Yes I've noticed this. There have been many games when Liverpool have had the game won with 15 - 20 mins left but still Salah stays on. Never understood it.

                          1. Forza
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 5 Years
                            1 month, 10 hours ago

                            Salah's missed a total of 27 minutes over the last 13 league games... it's bewildering.

                            1. gooberman
                              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                              • 8 Years
                              1 month, 10 hours ago

                              Similar with Mane. 5-2 v Everton and 4-0 v Leicester and still played 90 mins in both. Both of those games were won with half an he left

                      • Brosstan
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 5 Years
                        1 month, 9 hours ago

                        I hope this is a wind up. Very good if so.

                        1. gooberman
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 8 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          No not a wind up. I was further emphasising the other posters point about Liverpool's stars staying on the pitch and not getting an early rest despite the game being won by citing a couple of examples. Not sure how that can be considered a wind up.

                    • Tony Martial
                      • 1 Year
                      1 month, 10 hours ago

                      Mané starts

                      Won’t start against Bournemouth then 🙁

                    • Sun Jihai
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 8 Years
                      1 month, 10 hours ago

                      First time Lundstram plays alongside Berge
                      Will be interesting how they fit together
                      Not crazy to imagine Berge replacing Norwood as a more defensive mid and playing alongside Fleck and Lundstram

                      1. Klaren
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 2 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        I can't see Wilder benching Norwood

                      2. Rainer
                        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                        • 3 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        Captain Norwood won't lose his place.

                        1. I Member
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 4 Years
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          Bit strange that the captain isn't involved at all tonight. Maybe he's injured.

                    • RealVirg
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        If you already have 3 Liverpool, KDB and Auba...do we want a blank in GW31...should I be cheering Liverpool or Chelsea on that note???

                        1. Klaren
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 2 Years
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          Depends on rest of your team, KDB and Auba aren't really relevant for GW31.

                      • Dr. Agabuse
                        • 7 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        I am usually one to wait but if i do, i will be priced out of Saka, forced to go with Hayden or smn that plays at least in 31 or cant lose Traore and must lose Grealish instead.
                        No relevant other players in that price category.

                      • Tony Martial
                        • 1 Year
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        What does it take tonight for all of the teams playing tonight to play in GW 31?

                        1. Jarvish Scott Talent
                          • 5 Years
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          Liverpool to lose
                          Newcastle to lose
                          Chelsea to lose as well as Man City to lose

                          1. I Member
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 4 Years
                            1 month, 10 hours ago

                            And Sheffiled United to lose as well as Man United to lose.

                            1. Jarvish Scott Talent
                              • 5 Years
                              1 month, 10 hours ago

                              Unless Newcastle win as well, in which case Sheff Utd may play Villa in 31.

                          2. Tony Martial
                            • 1 Year
                            1 month, 10 hours ago

                            Oh lol won’t happen

                            One of Chelsea or Liverpool though so we all hope Chelsea’s wins?

                            1. I Member
                              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                              • 4 Years
                              1 month, 10 hours ago

                              Only if you want Liverpool to play in GW31.

                          3. Old Man
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 8 Years
                            1 month, 10 hours ago

                            Good idea - let them all lose. (Except Leicester)

                            1. Dr. Agabuse
                              • 7 Years
                              1 month, 10 hours ago

                              Lets Leicester lose too

                              1. Dr. Agabuse
                                • 7 Years
                                1 month, 10 hours ago

                                Do you think theres a chance, you could lose tbh?
                                I was looking at pulling the trigger on Vardy before he falls but would hate if you lost and didnt blank then..

                          4. Forza
                            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                            • 5 Years
                            1 month, 10 hours ago

                            Hmm, might have a cheeky punt on Liverpool and Chelsea to go out tonight, should be decent odds!

                      • Dr. Agabuse
                        • 7 Years
                        1 month, 10 hours ago

                        Do you think theres a chance, you could lose tbh?
                        I was looking at pulling the trigger on Vardy before he falls but would hate if you lost and didnt blank then..

                        1. Dr. Agabuse
                          • 7 Years
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          Ups sorry

                      • FOO FIGHTER
                          1 month, 10 hours ago

                          YNWA, let's smash them you REDMEN!

                        • Daniel S.
                          • 10 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          Come ooooon Chelsea

                        • Daniel S.
                          • 10 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          Oh my Pedro. What you were doing

                        • Daniel S.
                          • 10 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          Rudiger almost

                        • Daniel S.
                          • 10 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          Chelsea all over Liverpool atm...

                        • Ole Trafford
                          • 7 Years
                          1 month, 9 hours ago

                          Wasn’t going to play FH in gw31 but if Liverpool play most wont anyway. FH in gw34 or gw37 or possibly in gw29 if it’s a double?

                        • JelliedSpark968
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          29 days, 11 hours ago

                          What would you do with this team?

                          Henderson Dubravka

                          TAA, Stevens, Fernandez, Taylor, Williams

                          Salah, Mane, KdB, Grealish, Mooy

                          Jimenez, Ings, DCL

                          1FT, 0.1 ITB

                        • Aseel
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • 5 Years
                          28 days, 15 hours ago

                          Lovely article Az.
                          Enjoyed reading it. Cheers!