FPL Blank Gameweek 18 – The Fixtures

2021 has gotten off to a very tricky start for FPL managers as they try to navigate their way through sea of COVID-19 related postponements and player absentees. Gameweek 17 saw Burnley vs Fulham the latest fixture not to take place due to an outbreak within the Fulham camp but all other scheduled fixtures took place. Despite a number of players unavailable due to the virus, Man City were able to defeat Chelsea 1-3 in a masterful performance at Stamford Bridge led by midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m). Playing as a false nine, the Belgian registered both a goal and an assist as did fellow midfielder Phil Foden (£6.2m). Also on the winning side were their neighbours Man Utd, who defeated Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford. Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m) continued to remind everyone why he is one of the must-own FPL players this season, scoring his 11th goal of the season and once again it came from the penalty spot!

Liverpool's poor recent form continued in Gameweek 17 as they fell to a 1-0 defeat away at Southampton, with an early Danny Ings (£8.3m) goal turning out to be the winner for Ralph Hasenhuttl's side. The Reds have now taken just two points from their last three Premier League matches, scoring just one goal courtesy of Sadio Mane (£11.9m) against West Brom. This is proving a concern for owners of Mo Salah (£12.6m) in particular. Owners of key Spurs assets however were very pleased with what they saw, after both Heung-Min Son (£9.8m) and Harry Kane (£11.0m) each accrued both a goal and an assist in their side's 3-0 win over Leeds. FPL managers who own both will have been delighted with their return of 13 and 12 points respectively.

BLANK GAMEWEEK 18 FIXTURES

Tuesday 12th January

Sheffield Utd v Newcastle (18:00)

Burnley v Man Utd (20:15)

Wolves v Everton (20:15)

Wednesday 13th January

Man City v Brighton (18:00)

Aston Villa v Spurs (20:15)

Thursday 14th January

Arsenal v Crystal Palace (20:00)

COVID CARNAGE!

Following an extremely worrying rise in COVID-19 cases that has emerged in the UK following Christmas, along with the news of a 70% more transmissable strain, the country has been put into lockdown. Whilst elite sport such as the Premier League has been permitted to continue, clubs have been struck down by positive cases which has led to training grounds being shut and matches postponed. Here is a current update on the Premier League clubs that have been hit directly by COVID-19.

Aston Villa - The Villains have been forced to shut the club's Bodymoor Heath training ground after "a large number" of first team players and staff tested positive in the week leading up to their FA Cup third round clash vs Liverpool. That match will go ahead with Aston Villa forced to field a side consisting of under-23s and under-18 players. However, their Blank Gameweek 18 fixture vs Spurs (H) must now be considered in serious jeopardy, with their Double Gameweek 19 fixture vs Man City (a) also expected to be under threat.

Burnley - Manager Sean Dyche has reported that his side have been affected by COVID-19 following " a couple of cases". As of now they have more than 14 available players and with their FA Cup third round tie at home to MK Dons set to go ahead, as of now their Blank Gameweek 18 fixture vs Man Utd is not in any doubt.

Fulham - After Fulham's last two Premier League matches against Spurs (a) and Burnley (a) were postponed due to a "significant number" of positive tests within the side, manager Scott Parker revealed that Fulham have had no further positive cases in the last two rounds of testing and a sufficient number of players have returned to training, with their FA Cup third round match away at QPR expected to go ahead. Whilst the Whites are not scheduled to play in Blank Gameweek 18, it is possible that their postponed fixture against Spurs (a) could be moved to that gameweek should the match between Aston Villa and Spurs be postponed within a sufficient timeframe.

Man City - After a number a positive cases within the Man City first team forced their Gameweek 16 fixture against Everton (a) to be postponed, Pep Guardiola's men were able to return to action in Gameweek 17. Whilst their match against Brighton (H) in Gameweek 18 will go ahead, a number of key players may not be available due to self isolation rules.

Newcastle - The Magpies have come out the other side of a COVID-19 outbreak after shutting their training ground back in November when more than ten individuals at the club tested positive for the virus. Certain players however, are still feeling the after-effects of the virus with the likes of Jamal Lascelles (£4.2m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.1m) having not featured since testing positive. Such absentees have surely proven a key factor in Newcastle's recent slump, having not won in their last five Premier League games.

Spurs - Whilst Spurs themselves have not been affected by an outbreak within their camp, their Gameweek 16 fixture vs Fulham (H) was postponed after the Whites suffered a significant number of positive tests and now their Blank Gameweek 18 match against Aston Villa (a) appears in serious jeopardy, due to a "large number" of first team players and staff at the Villains having tested positive for the virus. Owners of Spurs assets such as Son and Kane now must reassess the value of keeping them in the squad, in the knowledge that they could be due a number of double gameweeks down the line. It could also force a large number of FPL managers to play a chip such as the Free Hit, earlier than they may have originally wanted to.

DE BRUYNE TO DESTROY?

With Man City set to be in action against Brighton (H) in Gameweek ahead of a Gameweek 19 double header against Crystal Palace (H) and Aston Villa (H), these fixtures could prove the ideal platform for De Bruyne to really ram home his stellar FPL credentials. Due to COVID-19 rendering a number of Man City first team players unavailable in Gameweek 17, De Bruyne was deployed as a free roaming false nine and the Belgian shone in the attacking role. A goal along with an assist saw him acquire 13 FPL points as Man City comfortably dispatched Chelsea 1-3 at Stamford Bridge.

A similar role for De Bruyne against Brighton in Blank Gameweek 18 could see him rack up another huge FPL score. With penalties also in his possession, FPL managers will see him as perfect captaincy material, with Brighton having conceded six goals in their last three league games. Also worth considering is City midfielder Raheem Sterling (£11.4m), who has picked up six attacking returns in his last six Premier League matches.

LACAZETTE GUNNING FOR THE EAGLES!

After what has been an awful season for Arsenal, Mikel Arteta and his side have finally shown signs in recent gameweeks that all may be clicking into place. The Gunners have won their last three Premier League matches, scoring eight goals and conceding just once in the process. A key piece in the jigsaw has been the form of French forward Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m), who has scored four goals over the last three gameweeks.

Arsenal play Crystal Palace (H) in Blank Gameweek 18 and for many managers who activate their free hit chip, Lacazette must be considered a great option up top. The Eagles have conceded 11 goals in their last four league matches and an in-form Arsenal will hoping to cash in. If you're looking for a Gunners defender to go with Lacazette then consider Kieran Tierney (£5.4m), with the former Celtic left-back having racked up 28 FPL points in the last three gameweeks, including an 18-point haul against West Brom. Given license to roam forward under Arteta, Tierney provides the potential for returns in both defence and attack and like Lacazette may prove the perfect pick up on a Free Hit.

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