The Premier League schedule always gets messy around this time of year, and the next two game-weeks will be crazier than usual. When some gw-33 matches were rescheduled for midweek, Official FPL pulled them into gw-32, but Fantrax didn’t, and that means (besides FPL getting first DGWs and then blanks) that our two main fantasy formats will be on divergent schedules for GW32 & GW33.
Fantrax NMA leagues’ schedules:
GW32: 10 games, all 20 teams [March 26 – April 1]
GW34-38: Same schedules for Fantrax NMA leagues and Official FPL
We decided to leave the gw-32 and 33 Fantrax schedule as is for a number of reasons. For starters, the Official FPL schedule for Weeks 32 & 33 did not change until after gw-31 ended, and after Fantrax prices had changed. Many Fantrax managers make decisions in the barn-door period, and we didn’t want to penalize those who’d done so based on the existing schedule. Jeff also didn’t think that playing some matches earlier in the week should move them into a different scoring period to create a raft of DGWs followed immediately by a bunch of new blanks. (We Fantrax managers with our 10-match and 11-match game-weeks should feel sorry for FPL managers who must cope with a 15 & 6 whipsaw).
Hopefully, the schedule for the rest of the season has already been finalized. However, if there are any further changes to the Official FPL schedule for the run-in, then the Fantrax standard NMA league will follow suit no matter when the Official FPL change occurs.
The Fantrax NMA + Bench league will march to its own drummer (whose name is Jeff). He says he’ll accommodate what changes he can but avoid unnecessary blanks. Importantly, the +Bench league deadline for the final Sunday’s simultaneous start is sacrosanct so that the 20 pre-deadline confirmed line-ups (and our final pre-deadline chat) will not be disrupted if some make-up match suddenly appears in the week before.
Apologies for any confusion or unease that this messy schedule situation may have caused, especially any for relatively new Fantrax NMA league managers who may have expected Fantrax’s schedule to mirror Official FPL. (Seasoned fantasy managers from the Yahoo days have seen far worse over the decades and probably wonder what the fuss is about, eh?).
Next season we will make a clear, simple policy for the Fantrax standard league to mirror Official FPL.
[Note: Player prices listed below are for the NMA standard league; YMMV.]
Let’s take a look at the fixture list for GW32:
Crystal Palace v. Huddersfield
Cardiff v. Chelsea
Arsenal v. Newcastle
And without further ado, on with the player picks! To start with, I see two teams that you will want to stock up on.
Fly Like an Eagle
Crystal Palace has been a frustrating team this season. After losing their last league match at Selhurst Park 2-1 to meager Brighton, it’s tempting to stay away. But how can you avoid a talented (if too often underachieving) team at home against last-place Huddersfield, which has scored only 11 times while allowing 33 goals in 15 road games? You can’t!
Let’s start in the back with keeper Vicente Guaita ($3.73) or Wayne Hennessey ($2.93). Guaita has returned negative scores in his past two games, and there’s always the possibility that Roy Hodgson will turn to Hennessey. Whoever plays will be a good bet to more than return value relative to his low price, so keep an eye on team news as the deadline approaches.
In defense, I recently highlighted the appeal of Jeffrey Schlupp ($6.89) in Official FPL. Schlupp’s averaging 9.5 ppg over the past half-dozen games since he began his run in the XI, with three double-digit efforts in that span, and he has a DGW next week. Schlupp also may not get you any clean-sheet bonus due to his positioning as an attacking midfielder, but he should bring more than enough offensive joy to offset that.
If you’re looking for a cheaper way into the Palace defense, Scott Dann ($1.00) is your man; he has only averaged 1.0 ppg in two tries since cracking the starting line-up with Mamadou Sakho out injured, but Dann has averaged at least 3.8 ppg in each of the past five seasons, and he brings a good shot at getting a CS add-on. Just be sure to keep an ear for any chatter regarding Pape Souare, who returns from long-term injury and could prompt a re-shuffle in the Palace defense.
Seven of the nine goals that midfielder Luka Milivojevic ($17.25) has scored this season have come in his past 16 games. Not coincidentally, he has delivered 15+ points six times in that span. An in-form player at home against a bad team? Beam me up, Scotty!
Further up in attack, forward Wilfried Zaha ($14.81) has five goals in six games, but is a doubt due to injury. New-ish strike partner Michy Batshuayi ($2.62) is averaging 7.17 ppg since his January transfer, boasting three double digit efforts in six tries.
Citizens on Patrol
With a daunting schedule across all fronts over the next month+, Pep Guardiola may rotate against this week’s weak opposition. But whatever XI he rolls out, you won’t mind because City’s match at Fulham helpfully comes close enough to the Fantrax deadline that we should see the confirmed lineups in the count-down hour. Just to make sure, did I mention that the high-octane Sky Blues are visiting the 19th place Cottagers? You know, the relegation-destined team that has conceded a whopping 70 times in 31 games overall, and isn’t much better at home, having shipped 30 scores in 15 affairs? Be here and be ready to pounce.
You will want to load up on the usual City suspects who end up cracking the XI. First and foremost, you will hope to see forward Sergio Aguero ($18.96) and F/M Raheem Sterling ($20.91); most of their damage comes at the Etihad, but if they start, it’s impossible to believe that the rampaging duo won’t get in on the fun at Craven Cottage. Midfielder David Silva ($12.07) and F/M Bernardo Silva ($10.91) do not have extreme home/away splits, and thus may be more reliable, albeit not as explosive. You get what you pay for!
On the other side of the pitch, keeper Ederson ($12.62) and defender Aymeric Laporte ($8.35) are near-locks for the CS bonus as a nice base for plenty of points.
But be on your toes for are any surprises to Pep’s line-up. If you see forward Gabriel Jesus ($8.53), M/F Riyad Mahrez ($9.53), midfielder Ilkay Gundogan ($7.98), D/M Oleksandr Zinchenko ($3.78), defender Danilo ($3.54), or anybody else who tempts, don’t be shy about adding any or all of them in, too!
The Best of the Rest
If you do load up on Palace and City, there may not be too much room elsewhere, but there are plenty of good options to round out your squads.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were a bit shy about Liverpool M/F Sadio Mane ($19.50) given the tough opponent in Tottenham. But I really wouldn’t hold it against you if you kept rolling with him, given his unbelievable form — 20+ points in three of his past four appearances — and the Anfield locale.
With four double-digit returns in his past five games, Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette ($15.73) has been the in-form Gunners striker ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, plus he is cheaper to boot.
Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy ($12.86) was a bust in Week 31, giving fantasy managers a paltry 5 points at Burnley. But he still has five goals and an assist in the past six games, and the Cherries are woeful on the road, so the British blur should respond with a make-up performance.
Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku ($11.40) has roared back to life with four goals in the past three games. If he can recover from injury, he could pay off nicely at home against a Watford squad that he netted against in the reverse fixture, a 2-1 win.
Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal ($6.28) has scored 6+ points in each of his last five games, with two straight double digit efforts. The locale and opposition are fairly advantageous, so he can keep that streak going.
Chelsea forward Gonzalo Higuain ($3.66) has been extremely active and effective against low-level competition so far, scoring three goals from twelve shots in two games against Fulham and Huddersfield. Now Cardiff is on the docket, and a DGW is coming next week.
Newcastle midfielder Miguel Almiron ($2.93) has averaged 9.0 ppg in his five starts, never crashing below 4 points. Traveling to the Emirates will not be easy, but the Gunners’ defense is not exactly lockdown.
If you don’t want to pay up for a goalie, but also want to avoid the Crystal Palace uncertainty, Southampton keeper Angus Gunn ($2.86) is an excellent choice. Since replacing Alex McCarthy, the Saints’ net-minder has averaged a whopping 9.4 ppg while making 20 saves and allowing only six goals, and Brighton’s offense will certainly not have him quaking in his boots.
Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans ($2.68) is averaging 7.33 ppg so far with a goal plus two assists in his half-dozen games, and as mentioned, the Foxes enjoy a favorable match-up at home against Bournemouth.
Which players are you going with in this oddly normal Fantrax game-week? How many spots are you saving aside from Citizens and Eagles? What international break injury concerns have you sweating the most? Have you started acquiring Chelsea and Palace players with an eye toward their DGW in Fantrax GW-33? Please let us know in the comments!