There’ll likely be hundreds of thousands of Free Hit chips being played this weekend, as Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers attempt to navigate around a four-match Gameweek 29.
We’ve already devoted plenty of coverage to the optimum Free Hit squads but not every FPL boss will have this chip in hand.
Others still in possession of the Free Hit will be waiting for another Gameweek to deploy it, meanwhile.
So for those looking at Blank Gameweek 29 assets as more than just a one-week punt, it’s worth taking a closer look at the games beyond this weekend.
We’ll be back over the international break with a more in-depth frisk of the fixtures once the other dozen clubs return to the fold.
GAMEWEEK 30-38 FIXTURES
Arsenal’s fixtures stand out in particular from Gameweek 31 onwards, with six of their final eight matches against clubs in the bottom half – although the flip side to that argument is that these Premier League strugglers will be scrapping for their survival.
Fantasy managers without a Wildcard intact may well look upon the likes of Kieran Tierney (£5.2m), Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) and Bernd Leno (£5.0m) not just as one-week-only punts but also longer-term holds, with even the Gameweek 30 home clash against a sub-par Liverpool not the fearsome test it once was.
The downside with Arsenal assets, of course, is rotation risk.
In between Gameweeks 24-28, Arsenal faced Benfica twice and Olympiacos in the Europa League.
Only Leno and Granit Xhaka (£5.2m) have escaped a benching in the league over that period, with Aubameyang and Saka most notably rested in the win over Leicester City at the back-end of February.
The chief reason that Spurs don’t feature higher up the Season Ticker is that they blank in Gameweek 33 thanks to the clash with the EFL Cup final.
Their outstanding fixture from that weekend, a home match against an out-of-sorts Southampton, is yet to be rescheduled, but there is a strong possibility that it could fall in Gameweek 32 given that subsequent free midweeks would be scarce if they continue to progress in the UEFA Europa League.
Spurs assets are a god-send for those using their Free Hit chip in Gameweek 33 but even for the rest of us, fixtures against less-than-watertight defences in Newcastle, Sheffield United, Leeds United and potentially Saints stand out between now and Gameweek 35 and are worth navigating around that blank.
The Lilywhites have become flat-track bullies of late: they have lost their last seven matches against clubs in the top half, with all of their victories from Gameweek 11 onwards coming against Leeds (12th), Sheffield United (20th), West Bromwich Albion (19th), Burnley (15th), Fulham (18th) and Crystal Palace (11th).
THE MIXED BAG
Leeds assets look ideal for Gameweek 31 Wildcarders.
The Whites can be lumped on for a Blank Gameweek 29 clash with an admittedly improved Fulham, with a tasty-looking Yorkshire derby against a desperate Sheffield United following after the international break.
Stuart Dallas (£5.1m) and co can then be cast aside, benched or at least whittled down to one or two representatives before they return with a vengeance in the final three Gameweeks.
Aston Villa have more games to play (11) than any other team in the division, with an as-yet-unannounced Double Gameweek clash involving Everton something to look forward to.
The downside is form, with Villa sitting in the bottom half over their last six, eight, 10 and 12 matches.
And the fixtures themselves are not great, with eight of their remaining 11 matches against teams in the top half.
The clean sheet prospects of Emiliano Martinez (£5.4m) don’t look too great in those games, given that he has kept just one shut-out against a team currently in the top eight.
Fulham haven’t been beaten by any club outside of the top eight since Gameweek 9 and they’ll face seven such ‘also-rans’ between now and the end of the season.
It’s the Cottagers’ much-improved defence that has really demanded FPL attention of late, with five shut-outs arriving in their last eight.
There are a number of fixtures that scream ‘clean sheet possibility’ in their run-in, starting with a double-header against Villa and Wolves – who are scoring at a rate of less than one goal per game over their last 12 matches – after the international break.
The elephant in the room is Gameweek 33, when they blank.
With some of us needing to bench Manchester City and Spurs assets in that round of fixtures, there’ll be little room to accommodate an Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) or a Josh Maja (£5.5m) if managers are planning to hold for Gameweek 35.
Those FPL bosses using the Free Hit in Gameweek 33, however, will not have such an issue.
WEST HAM UNITED
West Ham’s fixtures are Jekyll-and-Hyde in nature, with their next four at the London Stadium all against top-half clubs and their next five on the road at the homes of bottom-half teams.
They have one of the best run-ins in the division from Gameweek 34 onwards, with their trickiest test coming against Chelsea in Gameweek 33 – again, handing an advantage to those on a Free Hit that particular weekend.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Brighton may have the stand-out Gameweek 29 fixture but their schedule looks iffy beyond that, particularly from a defensive perspective, with six top-half clubs and Leeds United to follow.
The likes of Joel Veltman (£4.4m) and Robert Sanchez (£4.5m) are at least benchable at their prices, and can be wheeled out for, at the very least, the Gameweek 33 clash with Championship-bound Sheffield United.
Fantasy managers without a Wildcard remaining will probably want to go easy on the Albion assets this weekend, then, lest they want a bench-full of Seagulls or resign themselves to using free transfers to move Brighton players on in future.
Newcastle United players are being widely overlooked by FPL managers anyway in the run-up to Gameweek 29, with even the non-playing Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m), Mason Mount (£7.0m) and Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.6m) attracting more transfers in than the most-bought Magpie.
There is little that appeals beyond this weekend, too, unless we are looking way ahead to the final two Gameweeks of the campaign and meetings with two relegation rivals.
A trip to Burnley in Gameweek 31 is punctuated by six clashes with top-half clubs, although talisman Callum Wilson (£6.5m) is expected to be fit again after the international break and offers security of starts when rotation will be rife elsewhere.
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