After the unwelcome lull of the international break, games are coming thick and fast again as Fantasy Premier League managers brace themselves for three rounds of fixtures in the space of just 10 days.
As is often the case, they face a very different landscape than the one they left behind.
After serving real-world and fantasy managers alike so well, Seamus Coleman’s shocking injury against Wales forced many into early transfers.
News of injuries to Michail Antonio, Funes Mori, Petr Cech and Manolo Gabbiadini only added to the frustration.
With recent transfer gymnastics of GW27 and 28 still fresh in the memory, the attention of FPL managers is already turning to those upcoming Double Gameweeks.
Time to bring in Double Gameweek players?
At the moment, all eyes are on Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Man United, who all have two confirmed fixtures in GW34.
Gameweek 34 is set
3 teams will have a DGW:
Crystal Palace (liv,TOT)
Man United (bur,MCI)
West Brom will have a Blank pic.twitter.com/03i1IDDJ50— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) March 20, 2017
Canny FPL managers will also be factoring in that Southampton V Arsenal fixture, which will be played sometime before GW37.
"The remaining postponed matches are to be confirmed on or around Friday 7 April 2017."
The Gameweek 32 deadline is on Saturday 8 April.— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) March 20, 2017
As we’ve learned from bitter experience, all that glitters is not gold when it comes to these Double Gameweeks. How often have we seen an in-form player with one fixture comfortably outscore a much-hyped player with two?
When you add the lack of player choice offered by the DGW34 teams at the moment, coupled with some less-than-ideal GW30 fixtures, it should at least see FPL managers pause for thought before rushing headlong into snapping them up.
Let’s take a look…
CRYSTAL PALACE (V Chelsea)
Palace's end-of-season fixture list could hardly be much worse, and those DGW34 ties against Spurs and Liverpool offer little potential at either end of the pitch, especially without the ineligible Mamadou Sakho (CRY, 4.7) for the latter.
Despite their recent defensive resilience, a brave punt on the in-form Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 5.6) is the only realistic prospect of big points here.
MAN UNITED (v West Brom)
The outlook is somewhat better at United, where Antonio Valencia (MUN, 5.9) has provided an obvious replacement for the injured Seamus Coleman.
This points to a wider problem with buying Man United assets however - outside of Valencia, an expensive David de Gea (MUN, 5.4) and the GW31 return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (MUN 11.4), there are simply no United players we can rely on for regular starts, never mind big points hauls.
Valencia has been the only nailed on option in D. Mourinho absolutely loves him. He will start every game he's fit for.
Valencia has been the only nailed on option in D. Mourinho absolutely loves him. He will start every game he's fit for.— Luke (@FPLThunshot) March 28, 2017
Those who can recall Liverpool’s heavy rotation during the final stages of their Europa League campaign last year know all too well how it can derail an FPL season - we could well see the same happen this time around at Old Trafford.
ARSENAL (V Man City)
The idea of spending that precious transfer kitty on players from an Arsenal side who have lost four of their last five league matches is about as appealing as that overdue root canal.
Realistically the options at The Emirates begin and end at FPL’s top scorer Alexis Sánchez (ARS, 11.6).
The Chilean be looking to impress his future paymasters at Stamford Bridge and is a ready-made Triple Captain candidate when those DGWs are finally confirmed.
SOUTHAMPTON (v Bournemouth)
With five home matches in their next seven (when you include that Arsenal fixture), on the face of it, now looks like an optimum time to acquire some Southampton assets.
However, the absence of Fonte and van Dijk has seen them ship goals aplenty, so any FPL investment in their rearguard should probably be kept to the budget level.
The temptation of attacking potential offered by Bertrand and Cedric may appeal to some, but cut-price options like Maya Yoshida (SOU, 4.5) and Jack Stephens (SOU, 4.0) are easily rotated and can help free up cash elsewhere.
Interest in Nathan Redmond (5.8) and Dusan Tadic (7.0) has begun to gather momentum, but both have flattered to deceive this season, and without Gabbiadini to convert their output into FPL points, it could be too early to get the most from them.
Claude Puel says Dusan Tadic has been'dealt with internally' after moaning about being sustituted in games #saintsfc— Alex Crook (@alex_crook) March 30, 2017
MIDDLESBROUGH (v Swansea)
Another DGW34 team relatively free of player rotation and “on the beach” syndrome is Middlesbrough, but picking up a Boro players now brings all kinds of risk with it.
FPL managers have had just one game to assess how caretaker boss Steve Agnew will set up, and that was against Man United.
Should he abandon the cautious approach which failed to keep his predecessor in a job, the already fragile value offered by their defenders could plummet.
Fantasy managers who recruit ever-present Ben Gibson (MID, 4.9) now could be paying a premium for their impatience should the likes of Calum Chambers (MID, 4.3) and George Friend (MID, 4.3) return from injury before GW34.
A more attacking approach (which, let's face it, would be pretty much anything else!) could see Gaston Ramirez (MID, 6.2) and Álvaro Negredo (MID, 6.1) start to look more appealing. A regular berth for forgotten man Stewart Downing (MID, 4.9) could be interesting, and we could even see Rudy Gestede (MID, 4.7) or Cristhian Stuani (MID, 4.7) emerge as a cut-price candidate for a third-striker berth.
Moves for Ramirez, Marten de Roon (MID, 4.4) and Adam Clayton (MID, 4.3) right now could prove disastrous, given the prospect of a two-match suspension if they hit 10 yellow cards by the end of GW32.
All indications point to holding out at least another week before investing in Boro, by which time they’re due to face Hull and Burnley.
Stick or twist on that GW30 transfer?
As can often be the case with FPL, it’s more about the players who aren’t available than those who are.
A rested Zlatan is ready to pounce, and it’s also worth noting that Harry Kane (TOT, 11.4) could be back in contention for the GW33 clash against Bournemouth (although waiting until after he plays the subsequent FA Cup semi against Chelsea would surely be the smart play here).
The prospect of a sooner-than-expected return for Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.2) is another potential disastrous pitfall/wonderful opportunity.
Eden Hazard was involved in elements of training with the main group yesterday as the #CFC star targets a return against Palace this weekend— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) March 29, 2017
It depends on individual teams of course, but those planning to play their wildcard just before DGW34 have the luxury of being able to take short-term punts on players who can be easily taken out with the rest of the trash later on if needed.
In-form Jamie Vardy (LEI, 9.8) is a standout candidate, thanks to Leicester’s two plum home ties against Stoke and Sunderland.
Jamie Vardy's last seven games for club & country:
GoalMarch 26, 2017
Despite last week's own goal, you would expect Troy Deeney (WAT, 6.9) to get on the scoresheet when Watford welcome Sunderland and West Brom.
Troy Deeney a doubt for Watford v Sunderland tomorrow with a sickness bug 😷— Keith Downie (@SkySports_Keith) March 31, 2017
Manuel Lanzini (WHU, 6.4) has established himself as the standout figure in the West Ham attack as the Hammers prepare to visit Hull and Arsenal. He’s fired 17 goal attempts in six matches, and enjoyed three double-figure returns in his last five (albeit all of them coming at home).
Makes me happy,
Plays the West Ham way! pic.twitter.com/5wrT6meQ3p— Irons News (@IronsNews) March 18, 2017
Marko Arnautovic (STO, 7.1) scored twice for Austria over the international break following his brace against Boro in GW27 and could be worth a cheeky punt.
For the rest of us, don't be afraid to hold tight.
By saving that free transfer now and making a double transfer on Tuesday afternoon, you’d have more information and flexibility to potentially catch your less eagle-eyed mini-league rivals on the hop.
You don’t necessarily have to play your Bench Boost chip for the bumper DGW37 - or any Double Gameweek for that matter.
Unless you’re planning to wildcard in GW36, you’ll likely need to avoid Bournemouth, Burnley, Swansea, West Ham, Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Hull, Everton and Palace to have any chance of all four of your bench players playing twice that week - and that’s even before you factor in rotation and injury.
The exception to this may end up being your reserve goalkeeper, who could play twice - but if you can look at your squad, with tears of pride welling in your eyes, and believe that all 15 are likely to play 90 minutes, it’s probably time to use that Bench Boost.
With Tottenham’s Danny Rose facing an extended period on the sidelines, it finally looks safe to bring in his understudy Ben Davies (TOT, 4.8).
Pochettino fears Danny Rose is still weeks away from a return. #COYS— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) March 30, 2017
The Welsh left back has been playing 90 minutes every week since GW24, during which time he’s actually outperformed his high-priced teammate Kyle Walker (TOT, 6.4).
Although his recent club form has been unspectacular, the motivation of an England place and the prospect of a more win-focused approach from relegation-threatened Sunderland could reward early moves for Jermain Defoe (SUN, 7.8).
67% - Jermain Defoe has had a hand in a higher share of his team’s league goals this term than any player in Europe’s big 5 leagues. Value. pic.twitter.com/66Lu2Cm4NB— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 27, 2017
Never highly owned in the first place, it’s surely time to banish any lasting hope of a clean sheet from West Ham defenders.
The arrival of Jose Fonte hasn’t produced the desired result, and the Hammers have conceded 16 goals in their last seven league outings, with their last clean sheet coming way back in GW21.
Top of the League
A massive 92-point haul in GW29 saw Brian Haugh and his Hauzinho's Harriers side extend their lead at the top of the 600-strong Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616). His backline of Heaton, Baines, Mee and Coleman all brought home the points, along with 32 for captain Lukaku. With a wildcard and Bench Boost still in his back pocket, can anyone catch him?
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