By Stuart Thomson
Last week I commended the bravado of those FPL managers who doubled up with Firmino and Coutinho in their midfields. Okay, this paid off slightly with the pair combining to get 13 points, despite both only playing 45 minutes. Better still though, many managers doubled down on the Spurs midfield duo of Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son, who combined for 27 points—19 of which came from Son who got 2 goals and an assist. Damn Son, what a return that is. On another day, Son could easily have doubled his goal tally with one effort flying off the bar and another rolling just past the post. I was left cursing my lack of Spurs midfield as a league rival took both players, captained Alli and ruined my FPL weekend before 3pm on Saturday.
On a more positive personal note—and away from FPL—my local team Livingston won 2-1 against Alloa to win the Scottish League 1 and seal their return to the Championship. Come on the Lions!
Crystal Palace vs Leicester
Palace continued their strong form with a convincing 3-0 victory over Arsenal. Zaha (£5.9m) again impressed for Palace, bagging 2 assists, while Andros Townsend (£5.8m) also chipped in with a goal and assist to gain a 14-point haul. Although I’ve warned previously against Palace’s tough set of fixtures, they may get another break here against a potentially weakened Leicester side.
With Leicester facing Atletico Madrid midweek in the Champions League, both Vardy and Mahrez saw limited game time in the previous fixture against Everton and—after a narrow 1-0 defeat in Madrid—the Champions League dream is not yet over for Leicester. As such, these 2 may again see limited time this weekend in order to stay fresh for their biggest game of the season.
Everton vs Burnley
Lukaku (£10.4m) returned to form against Leicester with 2 goals. He’ll look to build on this performance against Burnley, who failed to notch their first away win of the season last week against lowly Middlesbrough. Burnley have failed to score in 50% of their away games this season while Everton have only failed to score once at home this season in 16 outings, keeping 7 clean sheets in the process. Everton are heavy favorites to record a win here and Lukaku—who will surely be central to any such victory— is a strong contender for captaincy this week.
Man Utd vs Chelsea
The biggest fixture of the weekend sees Jose Mourinho welcome his former club Chelsea to Old Trafford. If Man Utd want to halt Chelsea’s march towards the title, they’re going to need Mourinho’s mind games to put Chelsea off their stride. I fancy this to be a low-scoring affair with Mourinho perhaps parking the bus and looking for some magic from Ibrahimovic (£11.4m)—although I still think Chelsea will sneak it. With a goal and assist last week, Ibra clocked 12 points to serve a timely reminder of his potential ahead of next week’s double gameweek. Whether or not this will be a big game for him, he’s worth thinking about for next week anyway.
Middlesbrough vs Arsenal
Another defeat last week to Crystal Palace may force Wenger to change things up for Arsenal’s visit to Middlesbrough. With just 1 won in their last 5, Arsenal have slipped to 6th in the table. The Riverside stadium hasn’t seen too many goals this season—with another 0-0 draw last weekend—but Arsenal must surely be able to shift a gear against 2nd bottom Middlesbrough.
The big issue now is what to with Alexis Sanchez. Much has been made of Sanchez’s supposed desire to leave Arsenal, with Chelsea rumored as a potential landing spot. Perhaps this uncertainty has unsettled him further. Perhaps he has back problems from carrying the rest of the team for most of the season. Whatever it is, he’s blanked for the last 3 gameweeks. It seems ridiculous to be thinking about binning the highest scoring player in FPL—especially with 2 double gameweeks still to come in the final 6 weeks—but that’s the stage we’re at now. Priced at £11.6m, he’s the highest priced midfielder in the game and needs to be able to justify the hefty price tag. For those that do have him, bear in mind the abundance of high-scoring midfielders that all cost more than a million less and think about what the extra money could do for your team. Personally, I’m going to stick for now and hope that my faith is rewarded.
Southampton vs Man City
After 4 games without a win, Man City got back on track with a comfortable victory, albeit to a struggling Hull side. Top-priced Aguero (£12.8m) scored for the 4th straight game and picked up maximum bonus points in the 3-1 win over Hull. He will be looking to continue his form and prove to manager Pep Guardiola that he’s still their number one striker, with Gabriel Jesus rumored to soon return from injury. In midfield, Raheem Sterling (£7.6m) was also in top form last week, providing 2 assists, and given his discount price he is proving to be a better value option than the likes of De Bruyne (£10.4m) or Silva (£8.6m).
Stoke vs Hull
Stoke welcomed back Shaqiri (£6m) into their starting lineup after months out through injury and were immediately reminded of his quality as he provided the assist in a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool. Shaqiri had a lively performance, and with an inviting home tie against Hull—followed by other favorable fixtures against Swansea, West Ham and Bournemouth—is an interesting differential option. Hull have conceded more than any other team on the road and will give Shaqiri a chance to sharpen up further and prove his worth to FPL managers. Hull have a woeful scoring record away from home, failing to score on 9 out of their 16 games so there’s also clean sheet potential here for Stoke. However, with no defenders that provide strong attacking returns, I’m not keen on taking any of the Stoke defense on a longer term basis.
Sunderland vs West Ham
West Ham’s Antonio left the field early last week after suffering a hamstring injury and has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season. That will leave Snodgrass (£5.7m) and Lanzini (£6.4m) with more responsibility, the former finally getting some extra points for West Ham with a first assist since his winter transfer.
Sunderland are all but certain to be relegated after suffering their 3rd straight defeat at the weekend and I don’t see their fortunes turning this weekend. West Ham ended their terrible run of results last week with a win over Swansea and should build further on this victory.
Tottenham vs Bournemouth
After thrashing Watford 4-0—a scoreline that could easily have been doubled— Spurs should continue to keep pressure on Chelsea at the top against a Bournemouth side that has lost 60% of their away games this season, conceding 33 in the process.
Harry Kane (£11.3m) returned for the final 30 minutes against Watford and should start this week, with the struggling Vincent Janssen being the obvious choice to make way. Spurs haven’t necessarily lacked firepower in Kane’s absence, with Alli (£9.2m), Eriksen (£8.8m) and Son (£7.1m) all making significant contributions. After big scores last week, both Alli and Son have risen in price as FPL managers scramble for a bigger stake in the Spurs midfield. Kane’s return may affect the midfielders’ goal returns, but there should still be plenty of opportunity to go around and more assist potential with the potent striker leading the line.
As mentioned at the top of this article, doubling (or even tripling) down on the Spurs attack is becoming a rewarding strategy and any one of the Spurs 4—Kane, Alli, Son and Eriksen—could be a strong captaincy choice for week 33.
Watford vs Swansea
Watford’s leading scorer Deeney (£6.9m) will be feeling a bit sore after being dropped for the heavy defeat to Spurs and will surely be looking to prove his manager wrong. He should return to the starting line-up against Swansea and look for him to be amongst any goals.
Llorente (£6.3m) got a 45 minute run-out for Swansea last week after missing their previous 2 fixtures. He should be pushing for a start come Saturday, which will hopefully give his teammate Sigurdsson a boost. Now priced at £7.6m after dropping in consecutive weeks, Siggy has blanked in his last 4 matches and has obviously suffered from the lack of a more talented striker ahead of him. Still on most set pieces for Swansea, he’s too central a figure to remain quiet for long and should reward those that continue to believe in him.
West Brom vs Liverpool
With only 1 clean sheet in their last 8 games, West Brom welcome a strong Liverpool side to The Hawthorns. Last week, Liverpool’s Coutinho and Firmino were rested from the start, before coming on to score the equalizing and winning goal, respectively. They should both return to the starting 11 this week. More significantly, Daniel Sturridge (£9.6m) came off the bench to make his first appearance for 2 months. Still not back to full fitness, Sturridge will likely start on the bench this coming week but a future return would be a bonus for Liverpool’s fairly easy run-in until the end of the season.
The remaining postponed fixtures have now been scheduled and have created a bumper double gameweek in week 37, with some additional fixtures also lined up for week 36. Those that still have their wildcards have some flexibility here; those without should start planning their future moves around these fixtures now. Here’s an overview of the remaining double gameweeks to help you plan for some extra points in your final title push.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (Away), Spurs (Home)
Man Utd vs Burnley (Away), Man City (Away)
Middlesbrough vs Bouremouth (Home), Sunderland (Away)
Arsenal vs Man Utd (Home), Southampton (Away)
Southampton vs Liverpool (Away), Arsenal (Home)
Arsenal vs Stoke (Away), Sunderland (Home)
Chelsea vs West Brom (Away), Watford (Home)
Leicester vs Man City (Away), Tottenham (Home)
Man City vs Leicester (Home), West Brom (Home)
Man Utd vs Tottenham (Away), Southampton (Away)
Southampton vs Middlesbrough (Away), Man Utd (Home)
Sunderland vs Swansea (Home), Arsenal (Away)
Watford vs Everton (Away), Chelsea (Away)
Tottenham vs Man Utd (Home), Leicester (Away)
West Brom vs Chelsea (Home), Man City (Away)