Saturday 24th February
Leicester vs Stoke (12:30)
Bournemouth vs Newcastle (15:00)
Brighton vs Swansea (15:00)
Burnley vs Southampton (15:00)
Liverpool vs West Ham (15:00)
West Brom vs Huddersfield (15:00)
Watford vs Everton (17:30)
Sunday 25th February
Crystal Palace vs Spurs (12:00)
Man Utd vs Chelsea (14:05)
Thursday 1st March
Arsenal vs Man City (19:45)
This weekend’s games are the reverse fixtures of the ones contested in early November last year. Gameweek 11 was a binary enthusiast’s utopia in which six 1-0 wins were recorded, including all four Saturday 3pm kick-offs – spare a thought for Jeff Stelling and co as they presided over that mind-numbing afternoon of action. For those FPL managers seeking omens ahead of Gameweek 28, this was GW11’s somewhat defensive-minded ‘Dream Team’:
Top-scoring in GW11 was, along with Bournemouth’s Steve Cook (£4.6m), a certain Mohamed Salah (£10.4m). The Microsoft Word thesaurus has been exhausted of fresh superlatives to describe the Egyptian forward, who scored twice and secured three bonus points in Liverpool’s 4-1 win at this weekend’s opponents West Ham. Salah posted his 12th double-digit haul of a remarkable season against Southampton in Gameweek 27 and hasn’t gone more than two Premier League matches in 2017-18 without finding the back of the net.
With two assists in that same game at the London Stadium, Sadio Mane (£9.3m) hit double figures for the first time in 2017-18. It is strange to think that Mane was £0.5m more expensive than Salah at the start of the season given their respective costs now, but the former Southampton man’s price will surely only surge in the coming weeks. Interest in the Senegalese winger has increased since last Wednesday’s hat-trick at Porto in the UEFA Champions League, not least because Liverpool are one of only eight teams guaranteed to play in GW31 – more on that decimated round of matches later.
Only Stoke (32) have conceded more away goals than West Ham (29) this campaign, so the prospects are sunny for a Liverpool side undefeated at Anfield in the league this season.
Cesar Azpilicueta (£7.0m) was the stand-out asset in Chelsea’s previous meeting with Manchester United, while Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.2m) registered a goal and an assist in Stoke’s last tussle with Leicester. Oumar Niasse (£4.9m), who appears to have cemented a starting spot at Everton and who is also blessed with a fixture in GW31, was Gameweek 11’s top-scoring striker.
Just three run-of-the-mill gameweeks remain before the FPL community is faced with a blitz of blanks and doubles. Taking these three forthcoming sets of matches on their own merit and disregarding said carnage, Leicester and Swansea emerge with the most attractive sequences of games. Jamie Vardy (£8.6m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.6m) and Harry Maguire (£5.5m) are assets to consider ahead of the Foxes’ next three (STO, BOU, wba), while the likes of Lukasz Fabianski (£4.6m), Kyle Naughton (£4.6m) and Jordan Ayew (£5.4m) are among the budget buys potentially benefitting from Swansea’s kind fixture list (bri, WHA, hud) - as well as the inspirational/bewildering words from the thinking man’s Ian Holloway.
Meanwhile, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City face a stiff run of games – some involving each other – over the next three gameweeks and it is no surprise that the likes of Nicolas Otamendi (£6.4m), Marcos Alonso (£7.2m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.1m) have all dropped in price already this week, though of course indifferent form and worries over rotation have accounted for a large chunk of those sales.
Back-to-back away games in Manchester for Chelsea will cause concern for owners of the in-form Eden Hazard (£10.7m), though it should be noted that over 60% of the Belgian’s points this season have come on the road.
It is also worthy of mention just how much Manchester City players enjoy their home comforts, given that four of the champions elect’s next six Premier League games are away from the Etihad – Kevin De Bruyne (£10.4m), Sergio Aguero (£12.0m), Leroy Sane (£8.3m) and Raheem Sterling (£9.0m) have all scored more than 60% of their FPL points at Eastlands this season.
Lastly, the much-discussed GW31 is finally taking shape following last weekend’s FA Cup 5th Round games.
Only four matches are certain to take place, with Tottenham v Newcastle likely to go the way of the five already postponed Premier League fixtures originally scheduled – assuming of course Spurs get past Rochdale at Wembley next week. Liverpool’s home fixture against Watford is the stand-out game, with FPL managers surely set to triple up on Reds’ assets in preparation for the Hornets’ visit. Salah and Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) are already owned by 58.7% and 39.9% of FPL managers respectively, but some careful consideration will have to be given to that third Liverpool slot following Mane’s sudden return to form and Virgil van Dijk (£5.5m)’s arrival on Merseyside. Gallivanting full-back Andrew Robertson (£4.8m) is another, cheaper way into a defence that has conceded only nine goals in 13 league games at Anfield.
More will of course follow on these pages in the coming weeks regarding blanks and doubles as we approach the game-changing final quarter of the season.