Amid the flurry of doubles and blanks, we return to the bread and butter of a ten-match gameweek this weekend before another bumper set of fixtures in Gameweek 37.
Saturday 28th April
Liverpool vs Stoke (12:30)
Burnley vs Brighton (15:00)
Crystal Palace vs Leicester (15:00)
Huddersfield vs Everton (15:00)
Newcastle vs West Brom (15:00)
Southampton vs Bournemouth (15:00)
Swansea vs Chelsea (17:30)
Sunday 29th April
West Ham vs Man City (14:15)
Man Utd vs Arsenal (16:30)
Monday 30th April
Spurs vs Watford (20:00)
Navigating these last half-dozen or so gameweeks has thrown up myriad challenges for the majority of FPL managers and though we return to a standard full fixture schedule this weekend, Gameweek 36 poses its own problems. The considerable number of FPL managers who deployed their free hit chip ahead of the GW35 deadline will be brought back down to earth with a bump as they set eyes upon their humdrum squads once again, while the looming double gameweek means that any transfers made this week will surely have to factor in the upcoming 16-match GW37 to maximise any points returns.
On top of all this, there are ongoing rotation worries concerning Liverpool and Arsenal, and questions about motivation for the ever-growing number of teams with precious little left to fight for in the league – Monday night’s dreary televised game at Goodison Park seemed to validate those worries.
One side with ostensibly very little to play for – having won the league already – are Manchester City. As Sunday’s demolition of Swansea showed though, Pep Guardiola’s title winners appear to have no desire to ease off in the home straight. As luck would have it, the Citizens also have the most favourable run of fixtures between now and the season’s end. Their trip to West Ham this weekend precedes a double header at the Etihad against Huddersfield and Brighton in Gameweek 37, so those briefly unfashionable City assets are once again back in high demand. Having all found the back of the net against the struggling Swans last weekend, Raheem Sterling (£9.0m), David Silva (£8.2m) and Gabriel Jesus (£10.3m) are among the most bought players in FPL leading up to GW36.
Jesus in particular is fast approaching must-own status; while the bulk of Guardiola’s squad is at the mercy of his late-season tinkering, the season-curtailing injury to Sergio Aguero appears to offer Jesus a free run in the team for the rest of the campaign. With Jesus scoring a mean of 7.05 points per 90 minutes played, the potentially season-defining GW37 captaincy choice is now perhaps not quite as cut-and-dry as originally thought.
Sterling and Silva are two of three City assets among the five players with the highest average number of FPL points per appearance, with teammate Kevin De Bruyne (£10.3m) lurking just outside of this quintet.
With GW37 very much in mind, De Bruyne is one of several City regulars who score more heavily on home soil. The Belgian midfielder has racked up 63.6% of his FPL total at Eastlands, while Sterling, Leroy Sane (£8.6m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.2m) have all posted more than 57% of their points at the Etihad. Silva and Jesus, conversely, have greater returns on their travels this season.
While Everton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth enjoy kind-looking run-ins, all three are drifting towards ‘dead rubber’ territory and none enjoy a ‘double’ in Gameweek 37. Tottenham however do have two fixtures in GW37, as well as favourable ones around that. Three of Spurs’ remaining four games are at home to mid-table fodder, starting with Watford’s visit to Wembley on Monday night. A trip to West Brom in GW37, who could well be relegated by that point, is Tottenham’s sole remaining away game, and FPL managers are moving swiftly to snap up Spurs assets. The most purchased player of the week so far is, unsurprisingly, Harry Kane (£12.8m).
Kane’s patchy run of one goal in six league games, as well as a fairly anonymous showing in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday, is nevertheless a cause for concern, and the emergence of genuine armband alternatives this week and next is leading scores of FPL managers to reconsider his ‘essential’ tag for the season’s climax.
On any other given gameweek, there would be no dispute over which player to captain. Liverpool’s home fixture against Stoke City, who possess the Premier League’s worst away record, is ripe for a Mohamed Salah (£10.5m) mega-points haul. The question is, of course; will he play? Sandwiched in between the Reds’ Champions League semi-final double header against Roma, the visit of Paul Lambert’s strugglers to Anfield looks ready made for rotation. With Liverpool 5-0 up on Tuesday evening, Salah was even afforded the luxury of a 15-minute rest as Jurgen Klopp sent on Danny Ings in his place, but two late goals from I Giallorossi leaves Liverpool plenty to do in their second leg at the Stadio Olimpico next Wednesday.
There seems little sense in risking the PFA Player of the Year this weekend, though Salah did surprisingly get an 83-minute run-out at the Hawthorns last weekend. Owners of Salah, Roberto Firmino (£9.6m), Sadio Mane (£9.5m), Virgil van Dijk (£5.7m), Andrew Robertson (£5.1m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£4.4m) will be paying particular attention to the usual social media outlets ahead of this Saturday’s 11.30am deadline.
Benched for Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham at the Emirates, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) will almost certainly return to the Arsenal line-up this weekend as the Gunners head to Old Trafford. While Arsene Wenger last weekend saw fit to give his Europa League first XI an extended run-out at the expense of his £55m record signing, his side’s semi-final first leg against Atletico Madrid takes place less than three days before the trip to Manchester and rotation is a near-certainty once again. Averaging 6.00 points per appearance, and with two fixtures in GW37 to follow, Aubameyang is yet another premium frontline option to take into account for the season run-in.
The Stats Zone’s GW36 coverage continues over the coming days – stay tuned to these pages for our regular projections and predicted line-ups features.