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21 Feb 2019 by Colm Hayes

FPL Blank Gameweek 27 – The Fixtures: Blanks, doubles, chips and transfer targets

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With the schedule for blank Gameweek 31 confirmed, we assess favourable runs for clubs with and without full fixture complements over the next five gameweeks. Manchester City assets are a particular conundrum, though Liverpool’s sustained run of games can ease the transfer-planning pain somewhat. As planning the deployment of different chips has become paramount for FPL managers, we have also curated some of the many helpful discussions on chip strategy that the community has produced this week.

BGW27 FIXTURES

Friday 22nd February

Cardiff vs Watford (19:45)

West Ham vs Fulham (19:45)

Saturday 23rd February

Burnley vs Spurs (12:30)

Bournemouth vs Wolves (15:00)

Newcastle vs Huddersfield (15:00)

Leicester vs Crystal Palace (17:30)

Sunday 24th February

Arsenal vs Southampton (14:05)

Man Utd vs Liverpool (14:05)

POOL OF PLAYERS

Liverpool play Manchester United (a), Watford (H), Everton (a), Burnley (H) and Fulham (a) over the next five gameweeks. With a guaranteed fixture in all three upcoming blanks (GW27, GW31 and GW33), owning at least two Reds assets looks sensible while many FPL bosses will be tripling up on Jurgen Klopp’s side by BGW31.

Mohamed Salah (£13.6m) will be looking to improve on his record against the top six at Old Trafford on Sunday. A 12-point haul at home to Arsenal in GW20 was the only time the Liverpool star scored or assisted against one of the ‘bigger’ clubs this campaign. Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) recovered from illness to play 76 minutes in the Reds’ 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich on Tuesday. The return leg of that last-16 Champions League clash is in the week between GW30 and GW31. Sadio Mane (£9.6m) has scored in each of Liverpool’s previous four league games and represents the most attractive route into a Reds’ attacking double-up.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.2m) made his first start since injury against the German club and offers a valuable option for those looking to invest in or double up on the Liverpool defence. Andy Robertson (£6.8m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) remain the go-to targets in Klopp’s backline, though TAA has the potential to match the returns of both given similar pitch time. Alisson (£6.0m) offers a complete security of starts for managers seeking a set-and-forget goalkeeper option during the blank gameweeks.

POWER SERG

Despite having just three fixtures in the next five gameweeks, Man City assets cannot be overlooked for a trio of games against West Ham (H), Bournemouth (a) and Watford (H) between GW28 and GW30. The last two gameweeks have been a story of the Sergio Aguero (£11.5m) haves and have-nots. Two Etihad hat-tricks in the space of seven days saw heavy rank fluctuations as the Argentine generously rewarded investors while fluttering his eyelids seductively in the direction of non-owners. With 36 points over DGW25 and GW26, Aguero has already shown the damage he can do over three fixtures. Gabriel Jesus (£10.0m) was ruled out of City’s Champions League trip this week with a “hamstring problem”, something which could further solidify Aguero’s minutes in the short term. The Argentine netted again in the Citizens’ 3-2 win against Schalke, with Leroy Sane (£9.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.3m) also on the scoresheet.

Sterling was not far off Aguero over the past two gameweeks, notching 29 points over three games. Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) appears to be first-choice for Pep Guardiola on the right-wing at present, with Sterling operating from the left of City’s front three. On Bernardo, the City boss said this week: “He’s one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen, he can play three of four positions. He knows when he doesn’t play good it doesn’t matter, he runs the most. You cannot play every three games at the top level but you can run and run. Maybe this season he’s one of the two, three best players in the Premier League.”

That leaves Leroy Sane (£9.5m) as the odd man out right now, though FPL bosses will be well aware that Guardiola’s line-up is an unpredictable beast. The German winger inspired City’s midweek comeback with a stunning free-kick to level the game following his introduction from the bench. After this weekend’s blank, Guardiola’s side play in the league on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon so Sane could earn some minutes despite his recent demotion from the first XI.

MANCS BLANKS

After the visit of Liverpool on Sunday, Manchester United face Crystal Palace (a), Southampton (H) and Arsenal (a) before a blank GW31. Monday’s 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win against Chelsea and subsequent quarter-final pairing with Wolves means United will also definitely blank in Gameweek 33.

While Paul Pogba (£8.8m) – who assisted and scored against Maurizio Sarri’s side – and Marcus Rashford (£7.7m) still represent excellent investments, the Red Devils’ schedule requires significant planning for current and potential owners. As with all FPL strategies, the final decision will rest in the hands of each manager and depend on the availability of chips and free transfers along with myriad other factors.

Both Anthony Martial (£7.2m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.7m) were seemingly ruled out of action for GW27 by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though reports suggest the pair could make a quicker return than expected. The interim United boss should provide an update at his Friday presser. Last Friday, Solskjaer said: “I don't think we will see them in the next two games. Let's hope they heal quickly, but it looks like they might be out for two or three weeks.” With United potentially missing two players that have been a key part of the club’s attacking resurgence, FPL bosses that have doubled up on the Liverpool defence may be more confident ahead of this weekend’s clash at Old Trafford.

EUROPA-DOPE

Arsenal come up against Southampton (H), Bournemouth (H), Spurs (a) and Man Utd (H) before blanking in GW31. A red card for Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) in the Gunners’ 1-0 loss to BATE Borisov last Thursday meant Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) played the full 90 minutes in the second leg.

The Gabon striker is set to be one of GW27’s most-selected captains, though owners will be wary of his UEL exertions. Auba started every league game for Arsenal between GW10 and GW25, before succumbing to illness for the north London outfit’s trip to Huddersfield in GW26. 13 of his 15 goals this season have been scored against non-top-six sides, while his points-per-match at home to ‘lesser’ opposition this season stands at 7.11. He has scored at least five points in each of Arsenal’s last four home games against lower-table teams, twice notching maximum bonus points. The Gabon forward also has penalty-taking duties to add to his appeal.

FPL bosses on the wrong side of the Aubameyang/Aguero hokey-cokey will be hoping this is the weekend when their faith is repayed, though the City striker could tempt Auba owners ahead of Gameweek 28. Apart from Auba and Laca, Arsenal options are thin on the ground. Sead Kolasinac (£5.1m) owners could well profit over the next couple of gameweeks, though two top-six clashes followed by a blank mean investing in the left wing-back is a risky option.

HURRI-KANE

Harry Kane (£12.4m) has returned to Spurs training well ahead of schedule and is set to be in contention for the clash at Burnley on Saturday.

After travelling to Turf Moor, Tottenham play Chelsea (a), Arsenal (H) and Southampton (a) before a GW31 blank. Heung-Min Son (£8.8m) appears worthy of armband consideration this weekend, while Man City’s destruction of both the Blues and the Gunners will have Spurs attackers licking their lips going into those two London derbies.

The South Korean left it late to bag a third goal in three fixtures back in GW26, racing through Leicester’s half to finish in the 91st minute as Spurs won 3-1. A goal in the north London side’s 3-0 win at home to Borussia Dortmund last Wednesday means Son has now scored in all four Tottenham appearances since returning from Asian Cup duty. Son’s last blank when named in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting XI came in Gameweek 8. In 12 starts since GW13, the attacker has scored 11 goals and provided six assists.

Spurs’ BGW33 fate depends on Brighton’s FA Cup quarter-final result against Millwall, a game which takes place the same weekend as BGW31. As with Man City and Man Utd assets, investment will require future transfer-out planning but it is probably too early to let the blanks put managers off players with high scoring potential in the next three to four gameweeks.

PLAY THAT TOON

Newcastle take on Huddersfield (H), Burnley (H), West Ham (a), Everton (H) and Bournemouth (a) over the next five gameweeks. Rafa Benitez’s budget busters could prove viable assets around the blanks, though a GW33 fixture is not yet confirmed. Salomon Rondon (£5.8m) has recorded two consecutive away blanks but scored against Man City at St James’ Park in GW24 and provided an assist at home to Cardiff in GW23. The striker has fired off ten shots (three on target) over the past four gameweeks, while supplying six key passes. He also scored in Newcastle’s 1-1 friendly draw against CSKA Moscow last Saturday. The striker is our differential captaincy pick for BGW27, while the Magpies’ upcoming fixture list should give Rondon the chance to beef up his tally of six goals and three assists. New signing Miguel Almiron (£6.0m) is probably one for the watchlist ahead of this gameweek.

DeAndre Yedlin (£4.5m) provided the assist for Rondon’s goal in that friendly and the wing-back has been a virtual ever-present under Benitez this season. Jamaal Lascelles (£4.6m) has started every fixture since GW15 and is the Newcastle central-defensive asset of choice considering Fabian Schar (£4.6m) is just two yellow cards away from a suspension.

FOXES HAVE FULL-BACKING

Finally emerging from a torrid run of games, Leicester assets are set to be in demand with a five-gamweek schedule that reads Crystal Palace (H), Brighton (H), Watford (a), Fulham (H) and Burnley (a). Ricardo Pereira (£5.4m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) are likely to be heavily bought, with both full-backs given license to attack in Claude Puel’s system. Pereira has the edge on Chilwell this week after Claude Puel revealed the left-back and James Maddison (£6.6m) require late fitness tests ahead of GW27.

The Portuguese has three assists in the last six gameweeks, with Chilwell lagging behind on one. Since Jonny Evans’ (£4.8m) introduction at centre-back following the Foxes’ 4-3 defeat away to Wolves in GW23, Leicester have conceded five times – one each to both Liverpool and Man Utd before shipping three against Spurs in GW26.

Further up the field, Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) could represent an intriguing differential if he keeps his place. The young winger missed two big chances at Wembley after getting into some excellent scoring positons. Puel has been rotating heavily in midfield and attack, however, with Maddison, Demarai Gray (£5.4m) and even Jamie Vardy (£8.8m) all subject to benchings and reduced minutes in recent weeks. With Leicester also playing in blank Gameweek 33, further pitch-time information on their attackers could be worth waiting for before taking the plunge while defensive assets look like valuable pick-ups this week.

MATT FINISH

Wolves face Bournemouth (a), Huddersfield (a), Cardiff (H) and Chelsea (a) to GW30, with two blanks (and a probable DGW32) in the following three gameweeks. Matt Doherty (£5.4m) was in the FA Cup attacking returns again with an assist for Wolves’ winner against Bristol City last weekend. The Irishman did pick up a knock towards the end of that tie, with an update on the wing-back expected from Nuno at Friday's press conference. Diogo Jota (£6.1m) was absent for the cup clash as the Wolves boss manages the attacker’s fitness.

Jonny (£4.3m), Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) and Raul Jimenez (£6.8m) are further Wolves assets that should be profitable to own over the next four gameweeks, though investment again comes with the issue of owning players with definite blanks.

BEST OF THE UN-BLANKING REST

BURNLEY

Next five gameweeks: Spurs (H), Newcastle (a), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (a), Leicester (H)

Potential transfer targetsTom Heaton (£4.8m), Dwight McNeil (£4.4m), Ashley Barnes (£5.6m)

WEST HAM

Next five gameweeks: Fulham (H), Man City (a), Newcastle (H), Cardiff (a), Huddersfield (H)

Potential transfer targetsLukasz Fabianski (£4.7m), Declan Rice (£4.4m), Felipe Anderson (£7.1m)

SAUCE FOR YOUR CHIPS?

Chip-strategy discussion has taken over the FPL community this week as the blank and double gameweeks begin to take shape. Below are just some of the many excellent resources produced by the community While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, these discussions should help managers whose brains are fried attempting to select a chip strategy.

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