In Frisking the Fixtures, we take a look at the teams and players with the strongest runs of matches over the medium term.
An overview of the clubs with less appealing matches will follow later.
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We’ve not covered Luton Town and Burnley in this piece, as beyond their Gameweek 7 doubles lie some tougher tests. Quantity, rather than quality, is the main reason why they ride high on our Season Ticker at present.
We’ll also be covering the Hatters and the Clarets in another article, looking at potential targets for the upcoming Gameweek.
SEASON TICKER OVERVIEW
Aston Villa are sitting pretty in sixth at present, and they may be in an even loftier position by the time we reach the November international break.
Home matches against Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United won’t be straightforward by any stretch but if you’re an owner of Ollie Watkins (£7.9m) or Moussa Diaby (£6.6m), then there’s encouragement to be found in the fact that neither of these two teams has kept a clean sheet in 2023/24.
Villa have been flat-track bullies so far this season, demolished by Newcastle United and Liverpool on the road but scoring 10 goals in wins over Everton, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
Picking on teams not their own size is exactly what we want to hear ahead of the upcoming run, and the underlying numbers in these previous fixtures bode well, too:
|xG||xGC||Actual score (Villa first)|
|v Everton (GW2)||3.00||0.63||4-0|
|v Burnley (GW3)||2.70||0.73||3-1|
|v Crystal Palace (GW5)||3.21||1.17||3-1|
Villa do have European commitments to think about but the good news is that there is not much travelling involved in the next six Gameweeks.
Two of their next three UEFA Europa Conference League matches are at home, while the other involves a short hop over to the Netherlands.
And even better, the three matches that follow these continental clashes, in Gameweeks 8, 10 and 12, are all in the West Midlands: one at Molineux, two at Villa Park.
Once this weekend’s Liverpool fixture is out of the way, Tottenham Hotspur have a very nice five-match run against sides currently sitting 10th or below in the Premier League table.
Not that the clash with the high-flying Reds need hold any fear, as a daring Spurs have scored twice in fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal already this season.
Ange Postecoglou said last Friday that the Lilywhites wouldn’t compromise their principles even when coming up against the so-called elite.
“There are always tweaks that happen because the opposition will force you to adjust certain parts of your game, but the underlying principles of the kind of team we want to be, no I will not shy away from it now because we’re facing a good team. We have to go out there and challenge ourselves to play the football we have so far against one of the teams that will be challenging for the title.” – Ange Postecoglou, speaking ahead of Gameweek 6
Postecoglou was true to his word at the Emirates, as the visitors racked up four big chances en route to a 2-2 draw.
Beyond Gameweek 7, upcoming opponents Luton Town, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers all sit in the bottom six for expected goals conceded (xGC) this season.
And when it comes to Spurs’ clean sheet prospects, those three teams plus Crystal Palace are all ranked 13th or below for expected goals (xG).
Above image from @Legomane
One major advantage is that Postecoglou’s troops have no domestic or European cup commitments over the coming weeks, allowing for a full week’s rest in between league matches.
There’s still time to catch the Newcastle bandwagon if you’re a fixtures-first FPL manager.
At least four of the Magpies’ next six matches are probably what you’d call ‘favourable’, punctuated by trickier clashes with West Ham and Arsenal.
Then again, the Hammers still haven’t kept a shut-out in 2023/24 and Eddie Howe’s side ran out 5-1 winners in east London last season.
Newcastle are on a run of three consecutive clean sheets at home and abroad, and the prospect of more defensive returns for Kieran Trippier (£6.6m) and co. bode well.
Burnley, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Bournemouth all rank 14th or below for xG this season. None of them are scoring at a rate in excess of one goal a game.
Last weekend’s win over Sheffield United was a dream scenario for Trippier owners, with not only a huge haul banked but also an early withdrawal allowing him a well-earned rest. Should Howe blood some fringe players as expected in Wednesday’s EFL Cup with Manchester City, then there’s scant reason why Trippier – and several other regulars, like Sven Botman (£4.7m) – won’t start Gameweeks 7 and 8 as well as the PSG tie in between.
Above image from @Legomane
The match with Wolves in Gameweek 10 represents the quickest turnaround between games, with less than 72 hours separating the visit of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League from the trip to Molineux.
The Magpies will, at least, have either a free midweek or another EFL Cup tie immediately after that Wolves match, allowing for rests then.
Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) is haemorrhaging owners this week, suffering over 200,000 sales already in the run-up to Gameweek 7.
It’s understandable after some middling returns in 2023/24 and plenty of competition for midfield places in FPL squads.
Manchester United’s upcoming fixtures aren’t the worst, with two newly promoted clubs and the team ranked 19th for xGC (Fulham) to come either side of the Manchester derby.
Then again, they’ve flattered to deceive in previous easy-on-paper fixtures, eking out narrow and arguably undeserved wins over Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Burnley.
Erik ten Hag is slowly welcoming some key players back from injury, such as Raphael Varane (£5.0m), Sofyan Amrabat (£5.0m) and Mason Mount (£6.8m), which will hopefully help solidify a defence that has looked ropey in the extreme this season.
Rashford, meanwhile, is top among all FPL midfielders for shots in the box, suggesting the goal shortage won’t drag on for much longer: he’s exceeded his xG in each of the previous three seasons.
But we’re digging deep to find the positives, with plenty of other teams looking more convincing at this very early stage of the campaign.
Liverpool have two tough-ish upcoming away trips before their excellent run really kicks in.
But while it may be tricky to call the results in north London and at the Amex, Liverpool’s propensity to score goals isn’t in question.
They’re top for big chances this season and second for xG, despite a so-so opening run of matches in which they’ve faced new pretenders like West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle. All of these teams were despatched, with seven goals scored in the process.
So there are no real question marks over Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) beyond the usual debate over value but any punts on Liverpool defenders can probably wait till Gameweek 9, with Spurs and Brighton among the highest scorers this season.
West Ham United have a stop-start run of favourable matches, meanwhile.
A Sheffield United side walloped 8-0 by Newcastle on Sunday are up first, so it’s no surprise that Jarrod Bowen (£7.1m) and James Ward-Prowse (£6.2m) are rapidly gaining owners.
Newcastle and Aston Villa follow on either side of the October international break, however.
Gameweek 10-17 is the real draw, with the Hammers avoiding any side that finished higher than eighth in the Premier League last season.