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Fantasy Premier League has had a little break after Gameweek 26 and managers would’ve needed the time to work out their moves for the next round.
Blank GW27 will see Manchester City, Chelsea, Brighton and Everton miss out while it only gets trickier moving forward.
With Manchester United and Liverpool facing each other in the Premier League’s big game this weekend, there are few appealing fixtures for FPL managers to target for big returns while also keeping in mind a viable chip strategy when making transfers.
Here are a few tips ahead of GW27.
CAPTAIN – SON HEUNG-MIN | TOTTENHAM | 9.0M
Salah was our captain pick for GW26 and while he wasn’t quite as productive as Paul Pogba, he managed a goal and clean sheet to deliver eight points that doubled to 16 with the armband.
With a trip to Old Trafford this time around and following on from a poor display in midweek against Bayern Munich, the Egyptian is hardly a standout candidate. Instead, the armband passes on to another midfielder who has regularly featured in this column over the last few rounds – Son Heung-min.
The South Korean star has only failed to deliver once in his last 12 league starts and that was against United. Over that period, he’s scored 11 goals and bagged six assists. In the absence of Harry Kane – who is now back in training – and Dele Alli, Son has been thrust into the spotlight and he’s risen to the occasion.
Spurs travel to Burnley on Saturday which could be a tricky encounter with the Clarets having improved defensively of late. However, Sean Dyche’s men still concede a lot of shots so Son should still be afforded a few chances.
RAUL JIMENEZ (6.8m) has been one of the more consistent strikers of late. With three goals and an assist in his last four outings, he’s been excellent for Wolves who face a depleted Bournemouth side away.
ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE (9.5m) should be a certain starter for Arsenal at home to Southampton after picking up a red card in the Europa League clash at BATE Borisov. Despite Arsenal’s patchy form, he’s been on a decent run with three goals in four games.
PAUL POGBA (8.8m) has been on a remarkable run of form with six goals and six assists in his last nine games. He even scored away to Chelsea in the FA Cup in midweek. However, Liverpool will be his greatest test since his newfound form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and a big haul from him at Old Trafford would be surprising.
TWO TO WATCH
RICARDO PEREIRA | LEICESTER CITY | 5.3M
Leicester City are one of the teams who don’t blank at all for the rest of the season. The Foxes enjoy a good run of fixtures as well avoiding top six opposition until GW36. While James Maddison and Jamie Vardy have been frustrating of late, Ricardo Pereira has remained consistent. The attacking full-back is just two points behind the celebrated Matt Doherty this season and has provided three assists his last six games, during which time he faced United, Tottenham and Liverpool.
FELIPE ANDERSON | WEST HAM | 7.2M
West Ham also have a good run of games until GW33. With Marko Arnautovic still out of sorts, Felipe Anderson may be the one to pick up as the Hammers host a struggling Fulham side. The Brazilian only has one assist in his last seven but has created 11 chances over the last five GWs which is more than any of his team-mates.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
Naturally, you want to either get rid or bench any players blanking this week. Apart from Chelsea, City, Brighton and Everton assets though, keep an eye on Doherty and Diogo Jota for Wolves as both picked up knocks in midweek while Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are ruled out for United. Jose Holebas, Callum Wilson, David Brooks and Simon Francis are also absentees.
Without going into too much detail, the best course of action may be to hold off for GW27 unless you’re missing half your squad or worse. With only four teams out of action though, that shouldn’t be the case.
Instead, plan to use your chips between GW31 and 35. We already know GW31 will be a blank gameweek with only Chelsea and Liverpool in action from the top six while GW32 will likely be a major double gameweek. GW33 will likely be a blank followed by another double gameweek in GW35 though those fixtures are yet to be confirmed.
A Free Hit chip in GW31 and then a Wildcard ahead of one of the DGWs seems like the way to go but we’ll have to play that by ear. As of now, don’t lose sight of GWs 27-30.
Holders Manchester City play Chelsea in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley. Pep Guardiola’s reigning Premier League champions will go in as favourites, while Maurizio Sarri is looking to pick up his players’ spirits – as well as possibly needing to win to save his job – following their FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of the final.
Serial winner versus late bloomer
Guardiola has won every club honour during his management career, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Sarri, 60, has never won a trophy, belatedly getting his chance at the top level with Empoli, Napoli and now Chelsea.
The pair are friends – Arrigo Sacchi is a shared mentor – and share a similar, possession-based philosophy. Sarri has taken the advice of Guardiola in his first season in England, to concentrate on 14 players.
Predictable, yet totally unpredictable
Chelsea are perhaps the epitome of a cup side. They are recklessly inconsistent, but capable of beating the top teams. Sarri has stuck stubbornly to the 4-3-3 formation he favours, with Jorginho as a central playmaker and N’Golo Kante played out of position in right midfield, despite the Frenchman proving to be the best defensive midfielder in the world.
Results are unpredictable. Chelsea beat City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in December, but lost 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on February 10.
City travel to Germany to face Schalke for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday night, while Chelsea face Malmo in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday night, three days after the 2-0 loss to United in Monday’s FA Cup tie.
Guardiola has a full squad of players he can rely upon; Sarri, going by recent performances, has none. With Sarri focusing his energies on a core group and jettisoning serial achiever Gary Cahill, Premier League-winning midfielder Danny Drinkwater and others, squad strength could determine success in the cup.
Since Swansea beat Bradford 5-0 to win the 2013 League Cup, only once have the competition’s winners finished the season with just the one trophy.
In 2014, City won the League Cup and Premier League title; it was Chelsea who did likewise in 2015; United won the League Cup and Europa League in 2017; and, City won the League Cup and Premier League in 2018. City, under Manuel Pellegrini, were the exception in 2016.
The end? The continuation?
It will take a dramatic turn in fortunes and results for Sarri to continue in his job. The veteran Italian’s seven-month tenure started promisingly, but has featured embarrassing results which mean even victory in the League Cup might not spare him the axe.
A return to the Champions League will be Chelsea’s priority. For City, the League Cup is about sweeping silverware and a staging post en route to further glories domestically and in Europe.
Monday’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup featured chanting against Sarri, whose position is under scrutiny following a series of embarrassing results.
There is no shame in losing to United, but the supporters voiced frustrations over Sarri’s stubborn refusal to compromise on his possession-based style and 4-3-3 formation.
There is no time to dwell on the loss, however, with Malmo visiting in Thursday’s Europa League last-32 second leg before Sunday’s Carabao Cup final with Manchester City.
Chelsea then face Tottenham on February 27 in their first Premier League game since the humiliating 6-0 loss at City on February 10.
“Hopefully we can have a good nine days. It’s the whole season,” Azpilicueta told Chelsea TV.
“Now in three days we will be back at the Bridge against Malmo, to finish the job we started last Thursday, to get through to the next round.
“Then we have two massive games. We know that a trophy in the middle is everything, to bring the fans back to Wembley with the spirit to get the cup.
“Hopefully we can give a bit of happiness to them, to enjoy a bit of joy. Then we know Tottenham at home is something special.”
Chelsea had numerous problems against United, but Azpilicueta highlighted the lack of incision in the final third, something which has been a regular problem for Sarri’s side.
The captain said: “It has been a tough night. We didn’t put Manchester in difficulties even at 2-0 down.
“We were not very good in the final metres, so we paid (for) that. And at the end we couldn’t score.”
Provided by Press Association Sport