Last week saw the final Fantasy Premier League break due to the FA Cup (there will be one more international break towards the end of March).
As a result, we now know who will be appearing in the FA Cup quarterfinals rather than in the Premier League's Gameweek 31 (except in the case of Spurs, who still have to overcome Rochdale in a replay).
From this point, then, we can begin planning our tactics for the remaining weeks of the season: how best to utilise our chips, our remaining free transfers and whether any hits will be necessary.
In this article, I will walk through what is going to happen in Blank Gameweek 31, what could happen in Blank Gameweek 35 (the weekend of the FA Cup semi-finals) and what the Double Gameweeks will probably look like.
I will make some basic assumptions (which will almost certainly turn out to be wrong): first, that Spurs will beat Rochdale in their replay; second, that the favourites will win their quarter-finals (Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs and Southampton); and finally that the postponed fixtures from Gameweek 31 will be moved to Gameweek 34 and the postponed fixtures from Gameweek 35 will be moved to Gameweek 37.
The dates of the postponed fixtures are likely to be in Gameweeks 34 or 37 due to the dates of the Champions League/Europa League rounds, and the Premier League will be fined if they play fixtures on the same night as European competition.
European competition will also play a significant role in the strategy you employ as English teams who go into the later rounds of Champions/Europa League will probably employ heavy rotation, especially if they have already secured the title or a top-four spot.
- Bournemouth vs West Brom
- Huddersfield vs Crystal Palace
- Stoke vs Everton
- Liverpool vs Watford
- Arsenal vs West Ham
- Everton vs Newcastle
- Man City vs Swansea (this could be a blank if Swansea beat Sheffield Wednesday in their replay and Spurs/Rochdale in the QF)
- Stoke vs Burnley
- Watford vs Crystal Palace
- West Brom vs Liverpool
Double Gameweek 34 (all other teams will still play once in GW34)
- Arsenal – Newcastle (a) & Leicester (a)
- Brighton – Crystal Palace (a) & Man City (a)
- Burnley – Leicester (h) & Chelsea (h)
- Chelsea – Southampton (a) & Burnley (a)
- Leicester – Burnley (a) & Arsenal (h)
- Man City – Spurs (a) & Brighton (h)
- Man United – West Brom (h) & West Ham (a)
- Newcastle – Spurs (a) & Arsenal (h)
- Southampton – Chelsea (h) & Swansea (a)
- Spurs – Newcastle (h) & Man City (h)
- Swansea – Everton (h) & Southampton (h)
- West Ham – Stoke (h) & Man United (h)
Of these, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United really stand out as teams to focus on, while Newcastle should be totally avoided.
Double Gameweek 37 (all other teams will still play one game in Gameweek 37)
- Bournemouth – Man United (h) & Swansea (h)
- Brighton – Spurs (h) & Man United (h)
- Chelsea – Huddersfield (h) & Liverpool (h)
- Huddersfield – Chelsea (a) & Man City (a)
- Leicester – Southampton (h) & West Ham (h)
- Man United – Bournemouth (a) & Brighton (a)
- Southampton – Leicester (a) & Everton (a)
- Spurs – Brighton (a) & West Brom (a)
Note Swansea could have a double against Manchester City (a) and Bournemouth (a) if they beat Sheffield Wednesday and Spurs/Rochdale.
Leicester, Manchester United, Southampton and Spurs should be the focus of this Double Gameweek, while Huddersfield and Brighton should certainly be ignored.
The way you approach the fixture shenanigans depends entirely on how many chips you still have left in your back pocket. Some managers will have squirrelled them away for exactly this time of the season, while others will have splurged some or even all of them in earlier weeks.
As we go into this period, it’s crucial to remember that you cannot play two chips at the same time, including the wildcard. Therefore, if you want to wildcard and then play the Bench Boost/Triple Captain in a Double Gameweek, you have to play the wildcard before Gameweek 33 or in Gameweeks 35 or 36.
I would recommend playing Bench Boost in Double Gameweek 34 if you still have it, because more teams with a Double Gameweek allows for a bigger pool of players to build your squad of 15, or 14 plus Mohamed Salah.
At this point, I should also point out that you should not abandon the best players with a single Gameweek in favour of others with Double Gameweeks.
In recent years, players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli have punished managers who sold them in favour of Double Gameweek players. So, you should think twice before selling Salah for Raheem Sterling or Alexis Sanchez.
The Triple Captain chip would be better in Double Gameweek 37: there will plenty of suitable candidates such as Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez or Romelu Lukaku.
Hopefully Spurs or Man United will still be fighting for something in the league, and its unlikely they will both still be in the Champions League.
Free Hit & Wildcard intact
The chips are best saved for the Double Gameweeks and, if you’ve got this far with all of them, then you’re doing extremely well.
In this case, my favoured strategy would be to ‘dead end’ your team into Gameweek 31 (this means to load up on players with only a short-term focus), using those teams who have a fixture in Gameweek 31.
You can then hit the wildcard before Gameweek 32 or 33. This allows you to load up on players who will have a Double Gameweek coming up in the following week. You will also know the exact fixtures of Blank Gameweek 35 and, therefore, have a good idea what Double Gameweek 37 will look like.
After Double Gameweek 34, play the Free Hit for Blank Gameweek 35, as this allows you to keep as many Double Gameweek 37 players as possible and still field a full team.
You could alternatively start loading up on Double Gameweek 34 players now and play your Free Hit in Gameweek 31. There are limited transfers between now and the Double Gameweek, so its unlikely you will manage a full team of Double Gameweek players by then.
However, you are then in a tricky situation with Blank Gameweek 35 and Double Gameweek 37, as the teams blanking in Gameweek 35 will be the same teams with Double Gameweek's in week 34 and 37.
You could either wildcard for the Blank Gameweek 35 to ensure a full team or in Gameweek 36 to fill up with Double Gameweek 37 players but it’s not as smooth as the recommendation above.
This also could waste the Free Hit chip as Blank Gameweek 35 is likely to be a very low scoring week and using the Free Hit to score an extra 5 or 10 points over a rival will not be as effective as a strong Double Gameweek 34, Blank Gameweek 35 and Double Gameweek 37.
Just the Wildcard Remaining
In this scenario, I would follow the first recommendation above, except you will need to ride out a tough Blank Gameweek 35.
If you can carry a free transfer through Gameweek 34 then you could perform some minor surgery on your team to get 9 or 10 players out, while keeping a strong contingent of Double Gameweek 37 players.
There are enough teams with a Double Gameweek 34 and a fixture in Gameweek 35 that you could make this work.
Just the Free Hit Remaining
If you have hit the wildcard out of rage (there are many people in this position), then you are going to have a difficult time in the coming weeks. My recommendation would be to focus on transferring in Double Gameweek players and accept that one of the Blank Gameweeks is not going to go well!
As above, I think that Blank Gameweek 35 is a better candidate for the Free Hit chip because after Blank Gameweek 31 you can start transferring in as many Double Gameweek players as possible and still field a full squad in Blank Gameweek 35.
Also, as discussed, Blank Gameweek 31 is going to be a terrible week and having a slightly less terrible week than everyone else will not have as much of an impact on your ranking.
No Wildcard or Free Hit
If you’re going into the Blanks and Doubles without either the Wildcard or the Free Hit, then you’re going to need a lot of luck and some meticulous planning.
I would recommend focussing your transfers on Double Gameweek players as much as possible while ensuring you have at least seven or eight players appearing in Blank Gameweek 31.
You should have Salah and you could bring in the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Theo Walcott/Gylfi Sigurdsson and Callum Wilson to lessen the impact of the blank weeks. But overall, a strong showing in the Double Gameweeks should lead to a bigger rise than the fall due to a particularly poor Blank Gameweek.
Fantasy Premier League managers can focus too heavily on teams with fixtures in Blank Gameweeks to their detriment.
If you start loading up on players who are not blanking, that is a very small pool from teams lower in the league and you could do more damage to your team in the weeks leading up to the Blank Gameweek.
Let us know your strategy or ask for advice from our FPL team in the comments section below.