The return of the Premier League inches ever closer, with the staggered release of the fixtures for the remainder of 2019/20 marking the next big step in ‘Project Restart’.
We began our two-part ‘frisk’ of the fixtures on Friday, looking at those teams with a favourable run of games.
Now we turn our attention to those clubs with rather less appealing matches.
An earlier article scrutinised the remaining 92 fixtures as a block but here we will concentrate more on the next four Gameweeks and continue to study a similar lookahead as the season progresses.
In truth, there aren’t many clubs with completely awful runs over this timeframe, although a handful of sides do stand out for the wrong reasons.
We’ll reiterate our caveat from our first article and stress that only the first three Gameweeks have so far been confirmed but the order of matches has followed exactly as originally scheduled so far and there is no reason to think that won’t continue.
The upcoming matches are as follows:
Next four: LIV | nor | LEI | tot
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.5m) is the most popular sub-£7.0m forward in Fantasy Premier League at present and was consistently in the top five for ‘transfers in’ during the recent downtime.
Everton’s next four matches are far from ideal, however, as they encounter three of the top eight sides.
The Merseyside derby is first up and Liverpool’s generally resolute defence (fewest goals conceded, most clean sheets) will be the acid test for a Toffees attack that has been reinvigorated under Carlo Ancelotti.
Games against Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur follow after a more appealing fixture against Norwich City.
The Foxes and Spurs are, along with Liverpool, in the top five for goals scored since Gameweek 13 (the point at which Jose Mourinho took charge in north London).
Only three clean sheets have arrived under the Special One’s watch, however, so Calvert-Lewin, who did score against Arsenal and Manchester United prior to the mid-March suspension, maybe eyeing that fixture up with keen interest.
West Ham United
Next four: WOL | tot | CHE | new
West Ham United’s final six fixtures are actually very decent, with five of them against teams currently ranked tenth or below.
They are likely to fulfil the criteria of having “something to play for”, too, given that their Premier League status is on the line.
Until that point, however, they are probably ones to avoid.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are first up for the Hammers, who have kept only one clean sheet since David Moyes took charge – and that arrived in his first game in charge on New Year’s Day.
West Ham’s next three opponents are indeed in the top seven for goals scored this season, with Spurs and Chelsea set to welcome back a host of attacking talent for the restart in the shape of Harry Kane (£10.8m), Son Heung-min (£9.7m), Tammy Abraham (£7.5m) and Christian Pulisic (£6.9m).
At the other end of the pitch, Wolves have kept four clean sheets in their last five matches – although shut-outs have been harder to come by for Spurs and Chelsea, who have managed only ten between them in 2019/20.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Next four: ARS | lei | MUN | nor
The only side without a Premier League victory in 2020, Brighton and Hove Albion are very much embroiled in the relegation dogfight.
It’s not just form that has made Fantasy managers wary of Albion’s assets, with Graham Potter one of the more difficult managers to second-guess regarding team selection.
We can now add fixtures to the lists on ‘cons’, with Arsenal, Leicester City and Manchester United first up for the Seagulls.
The first two of those teams are third and joint-fourth for goals scored this calendar year, while the Red Devils have been buoyed by Bruno Fernandes‘ (£8.6m) arrival and will be further boosted by the return from injury of Marcus Rashford (£8.8m).
A double-header against Liverpool and Manchester City follows the trip to Norwich City, too, so things don’t get any easier in the medium term.
Get used to seeing Crystal Palace (bou | liv | BUR | lei) in these articles.
The Eagles have fewer meetings with sides in the bottom half remaining than any other Premier League club, with four of those outstanding games against ‘big six’ sides.
Palace’s fixtures are not all bad, though, and encounters with Bournemouth and Burnley in the first three Gameweeks back do provide some hope.
Those two sides are in the bottom five for goals scored this season and Roy Hodgson’s troops kept clean sheets in both of the reverse fixtures.
All nine of the Eagles’ shut-outs in 2019/20, indeed, have come against clubs ranked tenth or below.
Matches against Liverpool and Leicester City are less attractive and the shape of things to come for the south London outfit.
Bournemouth (CRY | wol | NEW| mun) are another team with a poor long-term outlook but, like Palace, have two decent fixtures in their first three Gameweeks back.
Home matches against Crystal Palace and Newcastle United look good from a defensive perspective, with those two teams in the bottom three for goals scored in 2019/20, but then the competency of the Cherries’ backline is another matter altogether.
Callum Wilson (£7.4m) started this campaign and 2018/19 very strongly, so will hope to emulate his early-season achievements in what is essentially the beginning of a mini-season – although is only one booking away from a two-game ban.
All four of the sides who enjoy an early Double Gameweek featured in our first Frisking the Fixtures piece, not least because many Fantasy managers will be stocking up on assets from these clubs ahead of the resumption.
It’s still worth mentioning Sheffield United (avl + new | mun | TOT | bur), Aston Villa (SHU + CHE | new | WOL | liv) and Manchester City (ARS + BUR | che | LIV | sou) in this article, however.
Many of us are likely to invest in these teams for that opening double-header but we might want to have an exit strategy in mind for some (if not all) of the assets concerned, given the games to follow.
The Blades and City have a double-header against ‘big six’ opposition immediately after the Double Gameweek, with Aston Villa running into Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester United following a less-daunting trip to Newcastle United.
As a side-note, Dean Henderson (£5.3m) will be ineligible to face parent club Manchester United on June 24 – so anyone plumping for the on-loan goalkeeper ought to have a contingency plan for that round of matches.
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