We take a closer look at the remaining fixtures of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, asking which teams have the most favourable – and most unfavourable – run-ins.
We recently gave you the chance to commission an article for Fantasy Football Scout during the current hiatus and, by some distance, the most suggested idea was an analysis of the top flight’s outstanding matches – a reminder that some FPL managers are still active and using their weekly free transfers to slowly build for the resumption while there is a suspension in play.
While we don’t know exactly how the left-over games will be rescheduled (the ten fixtures originally earmarked for Gameweek 30, for example, might not be the first set of games to take place if/when we do restart), we do know who each team has yet to play.
Our Season Ticker remains out of action for the time being but we’ve mocked up a basic image below, showing the remaining fixtures for each side:
For the uninitiated, our Season Ticker uses a colour coding scheme based on the difficulty of the fixture, with dark blue being the hypothetically ‘easier’ matches and dark red exactly the opposite.
There are a number of factors that go into deciding this, one of which is recent results: for example, Leicester are 13th in the home form table over the last eight matches but 4th in the away table over the same timeframe, hence why upcoming fixtures against the Foxes are slightly different colours depending on the location of the game.
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Sheffield United all have ten Premier League matches remaining as a result of their Blank Gameweek 28 postponements, with the other 16 teams in the division having one fixture fewer to fulfil.
Number of Home Fixtures Remaining
6 – Aston Villa, Manchester City
5 – Bournemouth, Brighton, Everton, Newcastle, Norwich, Spurs, Watford, West Ham
4 – Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester United, Sheffield United, Southampton, Wolves
Number of Away Fixtures Remaining
6 – Arsenal, Sheffield United
5 – Burnley, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, Wolves
4 – Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brighton, Everton, Manchester City, Newcastle, Norwich, Spurs, Watford, West Ham
Fewest Matches Against the ‘Big Six’ Remaining
1 – Manchester United
2 – Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Spurs, Wolves
3 – Arsenal, Bournemouth, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle, Norwich, Sheffield United, Southampton, Watford, West Ham
4 – Aston Villa, Brighton, Crystal Palace
Most Matches Against the Bottom Half Remaining
6 – Manchester City, Manchester United
5 – Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Norwich, Southampton, Spurs, Wolves
4 – Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Everton, Sheffield United, Watford, West Ham
3 – Brighton
2 – Crystal Palace
Manchester City not only have one game more than 16 other teams in the Premier League, but they also enjoy some excellent fixtures during their run-in.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal might present sterner tests for Pep Guardiola’s side but City face six teams currently in the bottom half as well as tenth-place Burnley, who they demolished 4-1 at Turf Moor earlier this season.
Should strugglers like Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford or Norwich be requiring wins by the time they face City, then that might well open the game up a bit more for Guardiola’s troops, too.
City’s own worst enemy could be themselves, however.
The question of motivation is one that could be asked, given that the league title is gone and a top-four place (should that even mean anything, of course) is all but assured.
City remain in the FA Cup and Champions League, too, so if those two competitions get the go-ahead to resume, the league would seem set to take third priority in Guardiola’s mind.
Leroy Sane‘s (£9.3m) return from injury will only add to the competition in attack, meanwhile.
Manchester United are arguably a more attractive proposition than their cross-city rivals.
While they too are fighting on three fronts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has so far not shown any inclination to prioritise the FA Cup or Europa League over the Premier League, particularly with a qualification spot for the 2020/21 Champions League well within their grasp.
That’s not to say it wouldn’t happen at some stage, of course, given that Solskjaer managed minutes and rested a number of key players for the trip to Fulham last season ahead of a clash with PSG.
United were in decent nick before the suspension of play in March, with Bruno Fernandes (£8.6m) in excellent form following his arrival from Portugal.
He has been the most-bought FPL asset in each of the ’empty’ Gameweeks we’ve had so far and looks on course to repeat that trick ahead of the next deadline on Friday.
His regular returns and United’s remaining fixtures are reason enough for non-owners to seriously consider acquiring his services, even if we don’t know exactly how the Red Devils’ outstanding matches will be rearranged.
Spurs, who are hardly in great shape, are the only ‘big six’ side that Solskjaer’s troops have left to face, with six of United’s remaining nine matches against teams currently in the bottom half.
Four of the five teams with the worst defensive records in the division face United in the run-in.
It’ll be interesting to monitor Marcus Rashford‘s (£8.8m) fitness between now and any possible resumption, as the thought of the England striker playing in tandem with Fernandes, Anthony Martial (£8.0m) and potentially Paul Pogba (£8.3m) is an appetising one, especially with the fixtures ahead.
Arsenal, like Manchester City, have ten fixtures to fulfil in 2019/20.
They’re not all great ones, mind: the Gunners face five of the top eight in the final quarter of the season, including Manchester City, Liverpool and their north London rivals.
Nevertheless, with an ‘extra’ game than 16 other teams, many of us may be tempted to hold onto assets we originally recruited for the Double Gameweek that never happened until we get more concrete information.
The Gunners, who were on an eight-match unbeaten run before the current hiatus, still have to play five of the bottom seven teams.
Three of those five opponents, Aston Villa, Southampton and Norwich, have conceded the most goals in the top flight this season.
A bit like Arsenal, no other team has a clear run of excellent fixtures between now and the end of 2019/20.
The likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea face only two of the ‘big six’ and encounter five bottom-half teams during the run-in, however, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side also playing tenth-place Burnley.
Whether that’s a good thing or not for giant-killers Wolves is another question, as they have sometimes made heavy work of the also-rans: note their disappointing home draws against Newcastle and Brighton this calendar year.
Santo’s troops also remain in the Europa League, meanwhile.
Chelsea face four of the bottom five in their run-in, although with N’Golo Kante (£5.0m), Tammy Abraham (£7.5m), Mateo Kovacic (£5.3m), Christian Pulisic (£6.9m), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.3m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.2m) all likely to be nearing a return from injury if/when football resumes, second-guessing Frank Lampard’s first-choice starting XI will be even trickier than normal.
Perhaps Nick Pope (£4.9m) would be a decent goalkeeping target for those that don’t own him already.
There is a possibility of clean sheets when Burnley eventually face Watford, Sheffield United, Norwich, West Ham, Palace and Brighton, while Pope should at least rack up plenty of save points when the Clarets head to Anfield and the Etihad.
Crystal Palace were on a three-match winning streak before coronavirus stopped play but their run-in is arguably the weakest in the division.
Seven of their remaining nine fixtures are against teams currently in the top half, of which four are against the traditional ‘big six’.
The Eagles’ defensive assets have generally been the ones to attract investment this season: while their attack has struggled for goals (only Newcastle and Norwich have scored fewer), Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) and co have the sixth-meanest record in the top flight in terms of goals conceded.
However, Roy Hodgson’s side face six of the seven highest-scoring teams in the division when the Premier League resumes, which will cool interest considerably.
It’s difficult to say if any team will be ‘on the beach’ when football gets the green light to resume, given that many players will be champing at the bit to be back on the grass, but Palace are one potential candidate.
Hodgson’s troops sit nicely in 11th place at present, very likely to be assured of Premier League safety. While they are within striking distance of a Europa League place, a couple of swift losses in the tough fixtures that they still have to complete will leave them with very little to play for.
Brighton and Hove Albion very much do have plenty to play for, namely Premier League survival.
One of the most out-of-form sides in the division, the Seagulls haven’t won a single league match this calendar year – and the fixtures ahead don’t look too good, either.
Albion face six teams currently in the top half, although at least their four meetings with ‘big six’ clubs all come at the Amex.
There is also the possibility that, depending on the order of matches, Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley could have little to play for by the time Graham Potter’s side face that trio of mid-table fodder.
Still, not many of us will have much incentive to invest in a team that is winless in nine and playing under a manager who is prone to some maddening rotation.
Brighton have recorded only two clean sheets in their last 18 matches, too.
Aston Villa are one of four clubs with ten league matches left to play and, depending on the make-up of any possible Double Gameweek, the talismanic Jack Grealish (£6.4m) may attract one or two buyers in the season run-in.
However, it’s important not to be blinded by the extra outstanding fixture.
Villa still have to face Wolves, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Sheffield United – all of whom could be still competing for a Champions League or Europa League place – along with runaway leaders Liverpool.
A trip to Goodison Park is no easy test, either, given that Everton have generally performed well at home (three wins, two draws and no defeats) since Carlo Ancelotti took charge.
Villa do, at least, enjoy more home games than any other team in the division apart from Manchester City (both six).
The rest of the top flight is a bit of a mixed bag and we’ll only really know which teams to dodge in the short term once the matches have been re-ordered.
Sheffield United, for instance, have ten games to play and will likely have at least one Double Gameweek – but six of their remaining fixtures are away from Bramall Lane and half a dozen are against teams in the top half of the division.
However, the Blades also have some appetising matches against Newcastle, Aston Villa and Southampton to come – so offloading the likes of John Lundstram (£4.9m), especially given the value that Chris Wilder’s side has provided in 2019/20, would be a bold move with so much unknown.
Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham all face five of the top ten in the run-in but still enjoy some excellent games around those matches and are three teams we might still have an eye on, given that they may be fighting for their lives deep into the season.
While there are some teams who we can clearly target (Manchester United) and avoid (Crystal Palace), most of the Premier League clubs have a mixed bag of fixtures remaining and a lot will depend on how the season is restructured.
Will the FA Cup be played on the same weekend as the Premier League or instead staged in midweek, for example? That would perhaps determine when the Blank/Double Gameweeks in the season run-in will be or, indeed, whether we won’t have any beyond accommodating the two outstanding Blank Gameweek 28 matches.
When will the Champions League and Europa League fixtures be? If they fall either side of a plum Premier League game, then there could be rotation on the domestic front for some clubs.
More importantly, though, what order will the Premier League games be in (will they replicate Gameweeks 30-38 exactly?) and how will FPL treat it, with one super-Gameweek 38 or with additional Gameweeks tagged on?
There is so much unknown at this stage, not to mention new injuries and returning players, that it is very difficult to make cast-iron plans for when top-flight football restarts in the summer – if indeed it happens at all.
The article above will, hopefully at least, give those gradually overhauling their squad or those needing to clear out some deadwood a few ideas on what to consider over the coming months.