Should it get the green light to go ahead, the planned return of fans to Premier League matches could have major repercussions for Fantasy managers.
Providing the United Kingdom government’s four-step roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions remains on course, each top-flight club will enjoy one game in front of a predominantly home crowd before the end of 2020/21.
This won’t happen before May 17th and, as things stand, only Gameweek 38 falls after this date.
And so, in order for all 20 Premier League sides to be able to welcome back supporters through their gates, Gameweek 36 and/or 37 will likely have to move.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
The current schedule is fairly serene-looking.
Gameweek 32 will see Tottenham Hotspur play twice, with Crystal Palace blanking.
Gameweek 33 will see Spurs, Manchester City, Southampton and Fulham all blank, thanks to the clash with the EFL Cup final.
Only two previously postponed matches remain outstanding: Southampton v Crystal Palace and Aston Villa v Everton.
WILL GAMEWEEK 36 OR 37 MOVE?
This is where it starts to get complicated.
As it stands, Gameweek 36 is a midweek round of fixtures, with Gameweek 37 scheduled for a weekend.
Above: Gameweeks 35-38 as it stands (graphic courtesy of Legomané)
Martin Ziegler of The Times initially reported that the 36th round of matches would catapult into the free midweek after Gameweek 37.
The Athletic have since suggested that rounds 36 and 37 would each simply shuffle forward a few days, with Gameweek 36 taking place on the weekend of May 15/16 and Gameweek 37 in the following midweek.
DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 35?
Whichever of the above scenarios pans out, a free midweek will suddenly appear after Gameweek 35.
That gap could be used to incorporate Southampton v Palace and Villa v Everton, for starters.
Those two matches could theoretically be absorbed after Gameweeks 33 and 34, of course, but UEFA Champions League and Europa League games fall within those weeks and – generally speaking – the respective competitions tend not to clash.
A BIGGER DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 35…?
It doesn’t end there.
The FA Cup final will involve Chelsea and Leicester City and clashes with – as it stands – the Gameweek 37 fixtures.
If things stay as they are, then any affected Premier League games would very likely move back a few days to the free midweek and still fall within Gameweek 37.
But in any of the two scenarios above involving Gameweek 36/37 shifting, then the postponed league matches would seemingly also have to be swallowed up by Gameweek 35.
And so, up to eight teams could potentially have a Double Gameweek 35 and up to four teams could potentially have a blank in Gameweek 36.
Much talk has raged this week of the ‘Wildcard in Gameweek 31’ approach but another Double Gameweek would put the cat amongst the pigeons.
An eight-team Double Gameweek is Bench Boost or Triple Captain territory, with a Wildcard potentially used in Gameweek 34 to plan for it.
The problem is: it’s all theoretical at this stage and subject to change.
Confirmation is still awaited not only from the Premier League shareholders but also the UK government, with any setback in the roadmap to lifting restrictions meaning that the notion of fans returning would be shelved.
Then there are the fixtures themselves, with none of the eight double-headers shown in Legomane’s graphic particularly appealing, other than perhaps Crystal Palace’s.
It’s all (educated) conjecture at this point but, with Friday’s FPL deadline approaching, many Fantasy managers will face a chip-related dilemma or two ahead of Gameweek 31 without knowing the full picture beyond it.
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