Fantasy Premier League managers should keep an eye on the upcoming fixture-swing as we head into the home-stretch of the 2020/21 season.
Thankfully, the international break gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect and prepare for this period in great detail; a welcome change from the non-stop football schedule of the last four months.
During the last quarter of the campaign, we are often presented with chances to make up ground in mini-leagues and these usually involve a fixture-swing of some kind.
In this article, I am focusing on teams and players to target from Gameweek 31 onwards, whether or not you have a Wildcard.
I have chosen this particularly Gameweek (rather than Gameweek 30) not just because the fixtures change more drastically then but also because it can be hard to predict rotation and injuries in the aftermath of an international break, especially in the current climate.
Despite sitting seventh in the Premier League table, there is a lot of potential surrounding Liverpool between now and the end of the season.
Their assets could offer great captaincy potential between Gameweeks 31 and 38, barring the trip to Old Trafford in Gameweek 34.
While some might consider Mohamed Salah’s (£12.4m) price tag too steep, I still feel he could be gold in this run but there is no denying the value offered by Diogo Jota (£6.7m).
It is worth mentioning that they have been granted a more favourable UEFA Champions League schedule, with their two quarter-final legs taking place on a Tuesday and Wednesday in that order, rather than on Wednesday then Tuesday. It makes a huge difference having three days rest either side of the weekend league fixture rather than just two.
In defence, Fabinho (£5.4m) anchoring the midfield boosts the potential of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) at both ends of the pitch. Dropped from the international squad, the right-back will be well rested and ready to prove a point.
It has been a difficult season for Wolves in the absence of their talisman Raúl Jiménez (£8.1m) but their fixtures run Gameweeks 31 and 35 offer potential to remedy their 13th place league position.
No defender has been afforded more big chances than Conor Coady (£4.8m) (three) over the last six matches and the centre-back is absolutely nailed-on for 90 minutes every week.
Pedro Neto (£5.7m) has gone under the FPL radar too. No Wolves player has taken more than his 14 shots over the last six matches.
Investing in Arsenal is a bit tricky. While they are nine points off a Champions League spot, qualification through the Europa League is very much still a possibility.
However, they have drawn a tough quarter-final opponent in Slavia Prague so rotation seems likely in the Premier League.
Kieran Tierney (£5.3m) is the obvious option in defence but I worry about his minutes with the European schedule and the game-time he is likely to rack up with Scotland, all against a backdrop of muscle injuries this season.
I still do not trust Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) as there are always doubts about his position while Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) has been in fine form.
Out of all the teams mentioned so far, I would feel the most confident investing in West Ham, which is, in itself, a strange thing to say.
Jesse Lingard (£6.2m) is arguably the best budget midfielder in the game at the moment with three goals in his last four appearances. I am looking at him as a replacement for Ilkay Gundogan (£6.3m) with Manchester City set to blank in Gameweek 33.
Aaron Cresswell’s (£5.8m) credentials do not need repeating while Michail Antonio (£6.7m) has been unlucky not to find the back of the net more often. Motivation is a key factor in the tail end of the season and the Hammers have it in abundance with European positions a realistic target.
On paper, Gameweeks 31 to 33 look tricky for Leeds but, barring the Manchester City fixture, I still see a potential for goals against Liverpool and Manchester Unitedd before they embark on a great run.
Raphinha (£5.8m) and Patrick Bamford (£6.7m) could still find joy against these sides and the Brazilian especially is a great eighth attacker in case you suffer rotation in other areas.
Motivation is a big factor for Manchester United with a Champions League spot up for grabs so, despite the Europa League schedule, Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) and Luke Shaw (£5.2m) should still see regular game-time in the Premier League.
The left-back has been in the form of his life, over the last six matches only Raphinha (21) has created more chances than his 16.
While many will be tempted to part with Fernandes given his recent lack of FPL returns, I would still advocate holding with the fixture run.
There has been a lot of talk about effective ownership recently and there is no doubt in order to make serious ground, you need to bet against the template.
There will be plenty of opportunities to shoot up the ranks but I would, once again, like to repeat a phrase I use often on the FPL Wire pod: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.
That means do not sell good assets just for the sake of differentiating. Calculated risks are the key to ‘upside chasing’.
Good luck and enjoy the international break.
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