By Stuart Thomson
Week 34 saw 3 Premier League clubs enjoy a double gameweek and showed just how valuable these bonus fixtures can be in FPL. In the FPL Dream Team—the highest scoring players of the week that can fit into a standard FPL formation—7 of the 11 players had played 2 fixtures. There were also some notable disappointments as Marcus Rashford of Man Utd and Middlesbrough’s Alvaro Negredo both drew blanks, much to the annoyance of FPL managers captaining them with the extra fixture in mind.
Looking ahead to this week’s fixtures, I’ll be hoping to make up for my lack of double gameweek players last week and will be relying on a long shot as captain to make the difference.
Crystal Palace vs Burnley
Palace showed against Liverpool—and in previous big matches—that they’re almost fixture-proof, capable of big returns against most sides. Benteke (£7.3m) rose to the occasion of facing his former club, scoring twice at Anfield. Palace followed up this victory with a 1-0 home defeat to Spurs, but limiting an on-fire Spurs side to just 1 goals is in itself quite impressive.
The visit of Burnley will give plenty of opportunity for Palace to continue their scoring form, with Burnley conceding twice the number of goals on the road as they do at home. Burnley also don’t offer too much from an attacking perspective with top scorer Gray (£6m)—on 8 goals—failing to score in the last 7 games.
Everton vs Chelsea
After a disappointing 0-0 draw with West Ham, Everton face Chelsea as Lukaku goes up against his former club. Throughout the season, Lukaku has been linked with a move back to Stamford Bridge, which could give him the added motivation to prove his worth and impress his potential future manager.
Chelsea easily disposed of Tottenham 4-2 in the FA cup semi-final—perhaps surprisingly given Spurs’ recent form—before repeating this scoreline against Southampton. Diego Costa managed to get his first double-digit tally since week 14, with 2 goals, an assist and maximum bonus. An issue with Diego Costa (£10.3m) this season has been his lack of explosiveness compared to other strikers in his bracket but this performance is a timely reminder of just how dangerous he can be.
At home this season Everton have been impressive, losing only once and conceding just 13 goals. While Chelsea have regained the form that’s kept them at the top of the table, this game might not be the best for investment in Chelsea. Also, with 5 different scorers in their previous 2 games, Chelsea’s sheer abundance of talent makes picking a game-changer on any given day a difficult task. Costa and Hazard (£10.4m) however are amongst the overall leaders in FPL and should continue to be the focal points of a strong Chelsea offense.
Man Utd vs Swansea
With Ibrahimovic suffering a season-ending injury against Anderlecht, Man Utd were without their top asset for their double gameweek. Regardless, they came through the week with a 2-0 victory over Burnley and a goalless draw with Man City.
Over 200,000 managers transferred in Marcus Rashford ahead of the fixtures but were left frustrated as Rashford was left on the bench against Burnley before blanking in the City game. However at £6.6m, not too much capital is tied up in him, so a lack of returns is less disappointing than it would be for a premium option. In midfield, Ander Herrera (£6.3m) has emerged as a useful low-priced option in recent weeks, with 3 assists and a goal in his last 3 games before the City fixture. This is more than he produced in his previous 20 games though, so he’s either starting to improve as a player, or a regression is coming. Personally, I’d like to see more consistency before I seriously consider him as a fantasy asset.
After 6 games without a win, Swansea managed to put together a decent performance, beating Stoke 2-0. The underperforming Sigurdsson finally produced again, creating a goal for Llorente, who has also been lackluster in recent performances. They should find the going tougher this week though against a United side with 5 clean sheets in their last 6 games.
Middlesbrough vs Man City
Middlesbrough got their easier (on paper) fixtures out of the way last week with a 4-0 defeat to relegation rivals Bournemouth before narrowly beating Sunderland 1-0. Now they only play top half teams until the end of the season as they try to stay in the Premier League. I would avoid them for the rest of the season.
While I will be avoiding Middlesbrough players, I would be happy to target opposing players. City will hope to rebound from their 2-1 defeat to Arsenal and Agüero (£12.8m) will look to continue his scoring run as Man City welcome back Gabriel Jesus (£8.6m). Jesus came off the bench against Man Utd and if he does manage to eat into Agüero’s playing time, then any investment in either player would be difficult moving forward with doubt over who will be playing each week. This may be a good time to back a City midfielder instead. Over the last 12 games, Sterling (£7.5m), De Bruyne (£10.4m) and Sane (£7.6m) have contributed to 8, 7 and 6 goals respectively. Going on price Sterling looks like the best value but—if your budget allows it—I would still favor De Bruyne as he’s just a better player.
Southampton vs Hull
Markovic finally got off the mark for Hull in their 2-0 victory over Watford but may struggle to build on this as they take on Southampton at St Mary’s. Hull have won only once on the road this season, with 9 goals scored. In their last 5 away games, they’ve conceded an average of 3 goals per game.
Southampton’s Gabbiadini (£6.4m) got an assist last week in his 2nd game back after injury, as Southampton lost 4-2 to Chelsea, and he could take advantage of this generous Hull defense. He could be a cheeky captain pick this week, however—given the small sample period for his talent in FPL—this is quite a risky option. I also expect a return to form from Dusan Tadic (£6.9m). Tadic has suffered most of the season from the lack of a strong attacking presence ahead of him. Last season he created 13 goals whereas this season he only has 7 assists. With 4 assists coming in the last 8 games, he may feel the benefit of Gabbiadini up front. The final games of the season will show whether these players can be a worthy investment for next year.
Stoke vs West Ham
Stoke’s impressive form stalled against Swansea as they lost 2-0. Fielding a 4-4-2, Shaqiri and Arnautovic were deployed in deeper roles, which limited their attacking threat. If Stoke return to playing these 2 behind a lone striker, they will have more potential for point hauls.
West Ham haven’t been great defensively and could give Stoke opportunities, however, they’ll also be looking to improve after a dull 0-0 draw last week with Everton.
Sunderland vs Bournemouth
As with Middlesbrough, there’s not much to get excited about in the Sunderland team, although they do have better fixtures over the next 3 weeks, including a double gameweek in 37. Pickford is a popular option in goals at his budget price of £4.1m, but expectations should be managed this week against a Bournemouth team with some momentum on their side.
Josh King got on the scoresheet again as Bournemouth hammered Middlesbrough 4-0. King (£6.1m) has turned into fantasy gold this season, scoring at least 7 points in 8 of the last 11 games. Enjoy his cut-priced midfield position while you can. Next season he will no doubt be reclassified as a striker, at a more expensive premium than what he currently commands. Benik Afobe also helped himself to a goal and has now notched a goal or assist in 5 of the last 7 games. Priced at £5.5m, Afobe is a nice cheap differential up front given Bournemouth’s favorable end-of-season run-in.
Tottenham vs Arsenal
Spurs head into the North London derby 4 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup may put Spurs at a psychological disadvantage, but they should still have enough to overcome Arsenal. See previous articles regarding importance of Kane, Alli, et al.
After breaking his dry streak against Middlesbrough, Arsenal’s Sanchez (£11.5m) scored the winner against Man City in the FA cup semi-final. He looks to have a bit of confidence about him now and will be well fired up for the match against rivals Spurs. They will however face the best home defense in the league, so a large goal tally from Arsenal looks unlikely.
Watford vs Liverpool
Liverpool’s defeat last week to Crystal Palace saw Coutinho score while midfield teammate Firmino blanked. The problem with this midfield is the variety of talent available. With the lack of a top striker this season, 6 Liverpool midfielders have scored 5 goals or more, with both Firmino (£8.7m) and Coutinho (£8.5m) in double figures. Regardless of the uncertainty over which one may provide the spark week-to-week, either player is a worthy pick in FPL.
West Brom vs Leicester
Leicester’s away form has been horrendous this season with only 1 win from 16 games. This win however did come after Ranieri’s departure and their form since then has greatly improved. After blanking in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal last week, Vardy (£9.9m) will be looking to bounce back and the season on a high note. In midfield, budget option Albrighton (£4.9m) is also a good shout after contributing to 4 Leicester goals in his last 5 games.
For West Brom, the recent return of Matt Phillips (£5.4m) should provide a big boost. Phillips has 9 assists and 4 goals this season and is West Brom’s highest scoring attacking player, despite missing 6 games. To be honest though—based on their remaining fixtures—there’s probably no reason why you need to have any West Brom players in your team just now.