With the Premier League fixture computer finally solving the Gameweek 29 bug, our regular look at the fixtures returns to assess the strength of schedule ahead for the coming month.
While a double Gameweek somewhat warps the picture, there’s a clear division between the Manchester clubs and a new source of budget talent to consider.
This is a critical period in the season for the Trotters. Owen Coyle will be well aware that, with favourable home fixtures against QPR, Blackburn and Fulham in the next five Gameweeks, his side have the opportunity to drag themselves to relative safety going into the final month. With away trips to Villa and Wolves around those Reebok clashes, Fantasy managers should be on alert to the budget wares on offer.
Adam Bogdan in goal and David Wheater are perhaps the most viable defensive assets, while Ryo Miyaichi has the potential and the price tag to warrant investment during this spell.
United’s win at Spurs was hugely significant, with Sir Alex Ferguson likely to be of the opinion that his side have the edge when it comes to the run-in, given the fixtures in front of them. While City’s next five gameweeks look decidedly tricky, United will enjoy home comforts against West Brom, Fulham and QPR, with trips to Wolves and Blackburn also looking favourable. In truth, it’s hard to see anything but five wins from those games, with goals and clean sheets surely on the way.
That could trigger a shift in points away from City’s assets to the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Nani, while we’ll also be watchful for the return of Antonio Valencia and the situation involving Rooney’s partner up front. Both Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are competing for that role, with neither able to cement their place and offer an established Fantasy option. At the back, Jonny Evans settled in Ferguson’s back four and with returns beckoning, with Phil Jones and David de Gea looking as nailed on starters.
The setback against United shouldn’t distract from the fact that there is still plenty of offer from Harry Redknapp’s squad. While Gareth Bale will likely remain in his fantasy line-up, Emmanuel Adebayor could yet find a route back into the points, given the obliging run of opponents in front of him. Unlucky to have a goal chalked off against United, the on-loan forward will surely come back into our thoughts once the double Gameweek has cleared for the third striker spot.
Indeed, with clean sheets hard to come by outside of Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs, we could also see Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker pick up more suitors as Spurs welcome the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Norwich to the Lane in their next three home games.
The appeal of the double fixture is obvious but, even beyond Gameweek 28, Liverpool have a run of games in front of them that begs for investment. It’s highly likely that we’ll be holding our defensive assets for several weeks, then, as Liverpool come off the double to face QPR and Wigan in successive Gameweeks. The fixtures continue to treat them kindly right to the end of the season, with a trip to Newcastle and a home clash against Chelsea in the penultimate gameweek of the campaign, presenting the stiffest challenges ahead.
Potentially Luis Suarez has a platform on which to boost his goal tally and reinstate himself as a Fantasy favourite. Transferred in by many for the double fixture, if he can deliver over the next few weeks, he could stick around in some squads right to the season climax.
With Man City parking up at the Liberty this weekend, Swansea will be looking to build on their win at Wigan and avenge the early season 4-0 mauling at the Etihad. Following that, trips to Fulham and Spurs beckon, while Everton are the next team due in Wales. That’s a tough run of games that may well see a dip in form for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Danny Graham, whilst casting doubt on the merits of starting or even holding Michel Vorm and his budget defence. Barring the Everton clash, clean sheets certainly look unlikely over the next month.
Luckily for Brendan Rodgers, things cheer up considerably from Gameweek 32, with a run of games that will likely see the Swans cling comfortably to the Premier League status and Sigurdsson and company kick on once more.
Rescued by Shola Ameobi’s equaliser at the death against Sunderland, Alan Pardew takes his side to the Emirates next, in a bid to get their tilt at the top four back on the rails. With a home clash against Liverpool and a trip to form side West Brom in the next four, this is a cluster of testing fixtures for the Magpies which could limit their Fantasy output at both ends of the pitch.
With no clean sheet in the last four, confidence in the back line is beginning to wilt, whilst Demba Ba has returned just a single goal in the four matches since making his way back to Tyneside from the African Cup of Nations.
Consecutive matches against three of the top six, with away games at Chelsea and Spurs amongst them, look tricky. Stoke may have rid themselves of Europa League diversions, but Tony Pulis will have his work cut out to continue their recent ascent up the league table.
It’s unlikely we’ll see too many points from Jonathan Walters in the forthcoming spell, while those Fantasy managers who have recently benefited from Ryan Shawcross’ points will be eyeing up the fixture list with some concern. Clean sheets look a big stretch, at least until the trip to Wigan in Gameweek 31.