It’s been a while since our last “frisk” of the fixtures.
A succession of back-to-back Gameweeks, last-minute postponements and a drip-feed of rearranged fixture announcements have made the winter a tricky period for Fantasy managers.
Reacting to the very next Gameweek has been a challenge, never mind planning further ahead.
But following last Friday’s beautifully timed press release from the Premier League, we now know when the bulk of the outstanding matches will take place.
Aston Villa v Everton and Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton are the only two remaining games without a new date, with the former a possibility to be added to the pre-March international break calendar.
And it’s this period in particular that we’ll be addressing in this article, given that it includes two Double Gameweeks (potentially three, if Villa v Everton gets added to Gameweek 28) and one Blank Gameweek.
We’ll also have a cursory look at the calendar beyond this point, at the foot of this piece.
NEXT FOUR GAMEWEEKS: THE BREAKDOWN – AS IT STANDS
|2 x fixtures in Double Gameweek 26, 1 x fixture in Blank Gameweek 29||Spurs, Fulham, Aston Villa (3)|
|2 x fixtures in Double Gameweek 26, 0 x fixture in Blank Gameweek 29||Everton, Leicester, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sheff Utd, Man Utd, Wolves, Burnley, Chelsea (10)|
|2 x fixtures in Double Gameweek 26, 2 x fixtures in Double Gameweek 27, 0 x fixture in Blank Gameweek 29||Man City (1)|
|1 x fixture in Double Gameweek 26, 2 x fixtures in Double Gameweek 27, 0 x fixture in Blank Gameweek 29||Southampton (1)|
|1 x fixture in Double Gameweek 26, 1 x fixture in Blank Gameweek 29||Arsenal, Leeds, Brighton, Newcastle, West Ham (5)|
Spurs, Fulham and Aston Villa are the obvious teams to target for those Fantasy managers wanting a player with two fixtures in Double Gameweek 26 and an unaffected game in Blank Gameweek 29.
Players we don’t already own from Arsenal, Leeds, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham are low down the priority list this week but will become appealing again in the lead-up to Blank Gameweek 29.
Manchester City have back-to-back doubles starting from this weekend, while those holding onto Southampton assets have already begun a rollercoaster schedule that involves two Double Gameweeks, two single Gameweeks and a blank.
BEST AND WORST FIXTURES OF DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 26
Those who use our Season Ticker will have spotted that the new fixtures were added shortly after Friday’s announcement, with a rejig of the difficulty ratings following suit.
All of which leaves Everton (SOU | wba) at the top of our ticker if we look at Double Gameweek 26 in isolation, which those of us on a Free Hit will be doing.
The leakiest defences in the top flight await the Toffees over the next week, with Southampton and West Bromwich Albion the worst two clubs for goals conceded in 2021.
Even discounting the 9-0 thrashing at Old Trafford, Saints would still languish in the bottom three for that stat.
Those two teams, along with Everton themselves, it has to be said, have just one clean sheet apiece to their names this calendar year.
Tottenham Hotspur‘s (BUR | ful) brace of games perhaps looks better from a defensive perspective than it does attacking-wise.
Fulham and Burnley actually have the division’s joint-second-best defences over the last 15 Gameweeks, even if Nick Pope‘s (£5.6m) recent clean sheet record – four in 13 – is unremarkable.
The two sides may be capable of conceding, but they seldom get turned over.
Leicester City (ARS | bur) also face the shot-shy Clarets and an Arsenal side who have largely struggled for goals against the Champions League-chasing elite.
Aston Villa‘s (lee | shu) double-header is among the most appealing, not least because the Villans have excelled on the road this season.
An injury to Jack Grealish (£7.7m) looks like it may deprive Fantasy managers of the opportunity to field the Villa talisman against two suspect backlines, with Sheffield United’s defence injury-hit and out of form (one clean sheet all season) and Leeds’ own rearguard capable of self-combusting in any given game.
At the other end of our Season Ticker, Chelsea‘s (MUN | liv) defensive solidity under new boss Thomas Tuchel will be put to the test against two of the ‘big six’, while Pope may be relying heavily on save points in Burnley‘s (tot | LEI) two Double Gameweek 26 matches.
BEST AND WORST FIXTURES OF GAMEWEEKS 26-29
Those clubs with an extra fixture will naturally gravitate towards the top of our Season Ticker anyway but Aston Villa (lee + shu |WOL | new | TOT) and Spurs (BUR + ful | CRY | ars | avl) do have decent runs regardless, with ragged defences in Newcastle and Palace awaiting after Double Gameweek 26.
All of Leicester‘s next four opponents (ARS + bur | bha | SHU) are in the bottom half for goals scored in 2020/21, meanwhile.
Assets from these three clubs may well form the backbone of many Gameweek 26 sides, given that they tick multiple boxes: an appealing double-header in the coming Gameweek, attractive fixtures immediately after, and, in Spurs and Villa’s case, the bonus match in Blank Gameweek 29.
West Brom’s post-Double Gameweek schedule (BHA + EVE | new | CRY) is also positive-looking, for those considering a differential Mbaye Diagne (£6.0m) pick.
The West Ham (mci | LEE | mun | ARS) love affair might be temporarily over in FPL, as they are among the six teams without two fixtures in Double Gameweek 26 and have some iffy upcoming matches in terms of difficulty.
Their next three opponents, including runaway leaders Manchester City, are all in the top five for goals scored in 2020/21.
Tomas Soucek (£5.3m) and co will be back on the menu and dusted down off benches in Gameweek 29, however.
A clash with Palace is the only real favourable fixture for Manchester United (che + cry | mci | WHU) over the coming three Gameweeks, meanwhile.
Trips to two of the division’s most in-form defences sandwich that match against the Eagles and Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) didn’t score in any of the reverse fixtures of his three games in Gameweeks 26 and 27.
Chelsea‘s (MUN + liv | EVE | lee) next four games are all against teams in the top half for goals scored in 2020/21: should they emerge from that period with a couple of clean sheets or more, then their in-form defenders will be high on the priority list for Gameweeks 30-34.
Just to further complicate matters, European football has recommenced over the last week.
Moderator Legomane has produced a matrix above which illustrates when the other, non-Premier League fixtures will take place over the coming month.
Manchester City are playing twice a week, every week, until the March international break, while Spurs, Leicester and Manchester United will follow suit if they continue to progress in the Europa League.
Expect a spot of rotation from these teams (among others), with Pep Guardiola indeed saying after Wednesday’s win over Borussia Monchengladbach:
GAMEWEEK 30 ONWARDS
It’s worth a brief look at the schedule beyond Blank Gameweek 29, as some Fantasy managers will be “dead-ending” their squads for that decimated, four-match Gameweek and activating their Wildcard straight after.
Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal sit towards the top of the Season Ticker from this point.
Wolves’ run from Gameweeks 31-35 (ful | SHU | BUR | wba | BHA) stands out, while Arsenal face the bottom five and Crystal Palace in the run-in.
The problems when we get to this time of the season, of course, are motivation and distractions elsewhere.
Wolves will likely be solidly mid-table and in “on the beach” territory, while Arsenal’s primary focus could well be on the Europa League, which probably now represents their best chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Liverpool‘s final seven fixtures (lee | NEW | mun | SOU | wba | bur |CRY) look pretty good, too. Given that they might still be scrapping for a top-four finish by that point, perhaps the Reds’ assets who have so underwhelmed in 2020/21 will have one final big say in what has been a turbulent FPL season.