The cup distraction provided Fantasy Premier League managers with a welcome break after the hectic festive periods. It also provided them ample time to plan for what is set to be a crucial period in the season.

Gameweek 18 will be the season’s first big blank gameweek and only six matches will be played during it. It will be followed by double gameweek 19 where 12 teams will play twice.

Adding to the complexity of planning the uncertainty surrounding certain fixtures. Tottenham who were due to face Aston Villa in GW 18 will now player Fulham instead as there has been a Covid-19 outbreak at Villa.

As things stand, no other GW 18 fixture is under threat but there are doubts looming over certain matches in GW 19.

But it’s always better to tackle the problem in front of you and not look too far ahead. Gameweek 18 with 12 teams involved will be a tricky one and bring with it its own challenges. However, on the fixture front, some of the big teams have attractive fixtures making a big haul in this gameweek a possibility if you play it right.

Fixture Difficulty

The blank and double gameweeks in GW 18 and 19 respectively mean it’s not just the fixture difficulty index but also the number of fixtures a team is playing from GWs 18-19 that has to be taken into account by managers. This will help you decide how you want to use your chips in GW 18 and 19.

Teams with three games in GW 18 and 19: Fulham, Burnley, Manchester City and Manchester United.

These are the teams to pick most players from as they not only play in GW 18 but also play twice in GW 19. Among these teams, Man City have the best fixtures followed by United.

Teams not playing in GW 18: Chelsea, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Southampton, West Ham and West Brom.

These teams don’t play in GW 18 and hence players from these teams will have no match in GW 18.

Teams with two games in GW 18 and 19: Brighton, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Everton, Newcastle United, Sheffield United, Tottenham, Wolves.

These teams have fixtures as they are during normal gameweeks. The two north-London clubs have stand-out games during the next few weeks and should be considered by FPL managers.

Fixture difficulty ratings

Team *Combined Difficulty rating for GW 18-20 GW 18 opponent(Jan 12) GW19 opponent GW20 opponent
Arsenal 8 (3, 2, 3) CRY(H) NEW(H) SOU(A)
Aston Villa 10 (0, 3,5, 2) NA EVE(H), MCI (A) BUR(A)
Brighton 10 (5, 3, 2) MCI(A) LEE(A) FUL(H)
Burnley 15 (4, 3,5, 3) MUN(H) WHU(A), LIV (A) AVL(H)
Chelsea 9 (0, 2,4, 3) NA FUL(A), LEI (A) WOL(H)
Crystal Palace 11 (3, 5, 3) ARS(A) MCI(A) WHU(H)
Everton 10 (3, 3, 4) WOL(A) AVL(A) LEI(H)
Fulham 9 (4, 4, 4, 2) TOT(A) CHE(H), MUN(H) BHA(A)
Leeds 8 (0, 2,3, 3) NA SOU(H), BHA(H) NEW(A)
Leicester 10 (0, 3, 4, 3) NA SOU(H), CHE(H) EVE(A)
Liverpool 10 (0, 4, 2, 4) NA MUN(H), BUR(H) TOT(A)
Man City 10 (2, 3, 3, 2) BHA(H) CRY(H), AVL(H) WBA(A)
Man Utd 10 (2, 5, 2, 2) BUR(A) LIV(A), FUL(A) SHU(H)
Newcastle 7 (2, 3, 2) SHU(A) ARS(A) LEE(H)
Sheffield Utd 10 (2, 4, 4) NEW(H) TOT(H) MUN(A)
Southampton 10 (0, 4,3, 3) NA LEI(H), LEE(H) ARS(H)
Spurs 8 (2, 2, 4) FUL(H) SHU(A) LIV(H)
West Brom 10 (0, 3,3, 4) NA WOL(A), WHU(A) MCI(H)
West Ham 7 (0, 2, 2, 3) NA BUR(H), WHU(H) CRY(A)
Wolves 9 (3, 2, 4) EVE(H) WBA(H) CHE(A)

The big ins and outs

With Manchester City having a tasty run of games and being heavily involved in the next two GWs, it’s no surprise to see Kevin de Bruyne leading the most transferred in charts. Newcastle’s Callum Wilson is also in demand with the Magpies facing out-of-sorts Sheffield United. Players from teams in action in GW 18 is obviously high as FPL managers try to get maximum number of active players ahead of GW 18.

Most transferred (in) players ahead of GW 18

Position Player Club
MID De Bruyne MCI
FWD Wilson NEW
DEF Tierney ARS
MID Fernandes MUN

No fixture, no joy for Mohamed Salah who was surprisingly the most transferred out player. His poor recent form may also have played a part but with a double home fixture in GW 19, it’s surely a risky move. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s absence and recent drop in scoring numbers has prompted FPL managers to trade him for better prospects. Jamie Vardy, who also has a blank week, is on the exit doors of FPL teams.

Most transferred (out) players ahead of GW 18

Position Player Club
FWD Calvert-Lewin EVE
FWD Bamford LEE

Chip Strategy: Free Hit or no Free Hit?

The Free Hit, a chip that allows you to make a fresh team only for one particular GW is the most popular choice of the chip to be used for GW 18 as it had an unusually less amount of matches. If you go by its utility, it’s tailor-made for GWs like these. A Free-Hit chip can give you a big advantage over other FPL managers who may not have a full quota of players to pick from.

However, the downside of using the chip in GW 18 is that there is a limited pool of players available and it’s likely that all FPL managers may end with a fairly similar squad. Also, the Free Hit chip could be better utilised in a gameweek where there’s more potential for big points than GW 18 that could very much be a low-scoring affair.

Ultimately, the decision depends on how your team looks. If you can even field 7-8 players in GW 18, it would be wise to save your Free Hit chip but if you are struggling to even field half the side, it makes sense to go for the Free Hit and take full advantage of it.

Top picks for Gameweek 18

Whether you bring them in through transfers or (luckily enough) have them in your squad already, these are the five hottest selections for GW 18:

Harry Kane (Tottenham): The Spurs frontman has three assists and two goals in his last three home games and against a Fulham team, he could further extend his hot streak. Fulham have conceded five penalties in the league so far (only Leeds and Brighton have conceded more) and with Kane on penalty duties, he’s an important player in GW 18.

Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United): United face relegation-threatened Burnley and with an incentive to go top of the Premier League table, they could be really up for this. Burnley have been good at home lately but have struggled against the Premier League’s big boys. Fernandes almost guarantees you a return and having him in the team for this fixture is a no-brainer.

Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City): City have made their title aspirations clear last week with wins over Chelsea and Manchester United. In both those games, the Belgian got into great attacking positions suggesting he has had a bit more freedom recently. Against a Brighton side that leak plenty of goals against the big teams, KdB is a must-have.

Callum Wilson (Newcastle United): Picking the most promising player from the team that plays Sheffield United has been a good ploy this season. With shortage of striking options, Wilson who’s a proven goalscorer in the PL stands out. With eight goals and four assists under his belt already, he could be a good pick in your front line for GW 18.

Joao Cancelo (Manchester City): Cancelo is a defender and hence will return if City keep a clean sheet, something they have been doing regularly of late. But in recent weeks, he has almost functioned like an attacking midfielder at times and got into really promising positions. He is also a bit of a bonus magnet, thus making him a top player to own this week.

Top differential picks for GW 18:

Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal): The youngster has come from nowhere to nail a starting place in Mikel Arteta’s side. With three assists in as many Premier League games and a goal in the FA Cup to go with, Smith-Rowe is a steal at £4.4 million. Owned by just 2.8% of managers, he can be a difference-maker in your FPL team.

Ben Davies (Tottenham): The left-back has impressed Jose Mourinho and is getting regular minutes at Spurs. Against a goal-shy Fulham, he has a good chance of picking up clean sheet points. He also assisted Spurs’ goal at Wolves recently and also picked up a bonus. With ownership of 1.8%, he has good differential potential and is also a cheap option at £4.6 million.

Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City): The former Dortmund midfielder has always had an eye for goal but playing as a more conservative midfielder in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, he hasn’t been among the goals a lot. But that seems to be changing as the German has three goals in his last four matches as he is taking plenty of attacking positions on the pitch. With 2.5% ownership, he is a top City asset to own.

Captaincy Conundrum

This week the captaincy decision is the hardest with so many good candidates. With most FPL managers unlikely to have a full quota of players playing, getting the captaincy decision right is going to be crucial. Bruno Fernandes, Kevin de Bruyne, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are all attractive options. City are in great form and KdB could get a huge haul if City rack up five or six goals as they do quite often against bottom-half sides at home. However, the consistency of Fernandes, Son and Kane is also hard to ignore.

However, Fernandes just about edges this battle as stats show he has been the best FPL player in the last twelve months. With United chasing top spot, expect him to lead by example and take United to all three points at Turf Moor. He is also a nailed-on starter, something that can’t be said of De Bruyne. Fulham have slightly improved over the last few weeks and thus Spurs may not rack up a cricket score. So, overall Fernandes is the most appealing choice.

FPL Deadline for GW18: 10.00 pm IST, Tuesday, January 12, 2021.