FPL Gameweek 26 preview

With a double gameweek to contend with in GW26, we thought we’d take a slightly different approach to this week’s preview. Instead of looking at each fixture, we’ve picked out six players who we think could be potentially inspired picks for what is a key week in the FPL season.

Some on the list are obvious and some are differentials – but all have a good chance of returning hauls for those who put faith in them this week. First up is a certain forgotten Welshman…

 

Gareth Bale vs Burnley (H) and Fulham (A)

Gareth Bale’s inclusion in this list is perhaps borne out of blind sentimentality, romantically harking back to the 2012-13 season when he scored 21 goals. The significant majority would probably subscribe to the school of thought that the Welshman has declined since those heady days. But there is some logic behind his presence in this article.

There has been a definite upturn in Bale’s performance levels when he has been on the pitch of late. His 45-minute cameo against West Ham in gameweek 25 highlighted why he could yet prove to be a valuable FPL asset this season. His corner provided the assist for Spurs’ only goal of the game, and Bale’s first return since GW7. But he was also deeply unfortunate not to score, as his rasping shot from just outside the box left Lukasz Fabianski for dead, with only the crossbar denying the ex-Real Madrid man. A well-taken goal off the bench in the Europa League on Thursday night reaffirmed the suspicion that Bale is potentially on the cusp of a turning point in his second coming at Tottenham.

Spurs fans are desperate to see an attacking quartet of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Heung Min Son and Bale – Jose Mourinho remained coy on the chances of this in his press conference, but it seems likely that the Welshman will be handed the chance to impress from the start against Burnley. The Clarets were very fortunate not to concede against a wasteful West Brom side and a repeat performance could signal a comfortable win for Tottenham on Saturday. If Bale plays well, the chances are that he will be rewarded with another start at Fulham.

Kane and Son are of course the safe options. Both are nailed to start and have proven over the course of the season that they are fantastic FPL options. But could Bale benefit from the opposition’s focus being on those two? With just a 0.4% ownership it is certainly very tempting to take the punt. Could Bale rollback the years in DGW26? If he does, he will handsomely reward the few who were brave enough to put faith in him.

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Southampton (H) and West Brom (A)

Unlike some of the others on this list, there is absolutely no risk attached to selecting Dominic Calvert-Lewin for DGW26. The Everton no9 has scored 13 goals in just 22 games this season and he looks set for a recall to the starting line-up after a slight injury consigned him to the bench for Everton’s morale-boosting win at Anfield last week.

That win alone is reason enough to justify putting your faith in Calvert-Lewin going forward. Everton are just five points off a top-four spot, with a game in hand. With the vastly experienced Carlo Ancelotti in charge, the Toffees will be targeting a strong end to the season in order to claim one of the European spots – and DCL will be key to their chances of achieving that goal.

Everton’s opposition in DGW26 means that the target man is also a prime option for the captaincy. Southampton have conceded two or more goals in six of their last eight Premier League games, while West Brom have lost by a margin of three goals in six of their 12 home fixtures this season. The Saints will also be without their most natural defensive midfielder, Oriol Romeu, with the Spaniard set to miss the rest of the season due to injury.

While most managers will put their armband on ‘big name’ players such as Bruno Fernandes and Mo Salah, Calvert-Lewin could very well reward those few who trust him with the captaincy. Currently the second most-transferred player in behind Harvey Barnes this week, it would be wise to look to bring in the Everton forward should he fit into your squad setup.

 

Kevin De Bruyne vs West Ham (H) and Wolves (H)

With Pep roulette likely to be in full swing over the coming weeks, any Manchester City player is prone to rotation. Kevin De Bruyne’s presence on the bench against Gladbach should come as a relief then to the 11.9% of managers who currently own the Belgian midfielder. Guardiola confirmed in his press conference on Friday that De Bruyne will be a key component in his side in the closing stages of the season – hence his rest in midweek.

Several Manchester City players are fine options for DGW26, but it seems like De Bruyne is the most likely of those to start both games. With a relatively low ownership, this gameweek lends us a rare example when the Belgian is actually a huge differential for those looking to make up the ground in the overall rankings.

Manchester City host West Ham and Wolves in the double gameweek, who both come to the Etihad as the heavy underdogs. Guardiola’s men have averaged over two goals a game on home turf so far this season and it would be no surprise to see a few more go in across the gameweek. De Bruyne is also likely to be handed penalty-taking responsibility, which further boosts his attacking potential.

De Bruyne’s xA is bettered only by Jack Grealish and Bruno Fernandes so far this season, both of whom have enjoyed more gametime than the Belgian playmaker. Indeed, KDB far outstrips Mo Salah and teammate Raheem Sterling on this metric, again, despite playing far fewer minutes. With Manchester City now firmly playing at their peak, it would be no surprise to see a haul from their main man in DGW26.

 

 

Ricardo Pereira vs Arsenal (H) and Burnley (A)

A long-term injury to James Justin was a cruel blow for the youngster, whose performances have justifiably led to some speculating that he may have been involved in the England squad at this summer’s Euros. However, his fitness woes have opened the door to another man who knows all too well what it is like to suffer a major knee injury – Ricardo Pereira.

Justin’s imperious form this season has glossed over just how important a player the Portuguese wing-back was to Leicester’s system prior to his extended lay-off. Eight assists and two goals in 2018/19 is testament to how prolific Pereira was as an attacking asset, even from a full-back position.

These numbers make his recent positional switch all the more intriguing. With the emergence of Luke Thomas at left-back, and with Timothy Castagne a more-than-capable option at right-back, Pereira started on the right wing in Leicester’s recent 2-0 win against Aston Villa. With the Foxes needing a goal against Sparta Prague in midweek, he was introduced off the bench in a number 10 role.

Don’t expect him to start behind the striker any time soon in the Premier League, but it is entirely plausible that attacking returns are not far away. Joel Veltman, Liam Cooper and Jannick Vestegaard were the only defenders to take more shots than the Leicester player in GW25. The latter two played twice in that gameweek.

Defensively too there are returns to be had for Leicester in DGW26. A trip to Turf Moor represents a fantastic opportunity for the Foxes to record a clean sheet, with both Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood injury doubts ahead of kick-off. Burnley looked completely flat against West Brom last time out without their key men up-front.

Brendan Rodgers has indicated that he will be looking to manage Pereira’s minutes in the closing stages of this season, having only recently returned to regular action following his major knee injury. He was only used off the bench on Thursday night in the Europa League though, so the signs seem to suggest that he has a good chance of starting in both fixtures in this double gameweek.

The main drawback is of course his price. At 5.9m he certainly is not a budget option. But the fact that he is owned by just 1.0% of FPL managers, coupled with his increased attacking potential, makes Pereira a fantastic differential pick for DGW26.

 

 

 

Bertrand Traore vs Leeds (A) and Sheffield United (A)

Bertrand Traore seems to have been overlooked as an FPL asset all season, despite posting some seriously impressive numbers in that time. The ex-Chelsea winger has five goals and two assists in his last 11 – a huge return for a player valued at just 5.9m. For midfielders priced at 7.0m or less, only Ilkay Gundogan, Harvey Barnes, Raphinha and Bukayo Saka have returned more points since GW14. Not bad at all for someone enjoying their first season of regular Premier League football.

Aston Villa’s fixture against Leeds is what makes Traore stand out in particular in DGW26. Jamie Vardy, Mo Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all hauled against Marcelo Bielsa’s side already this season. An abundance of pace is what those three have in common, something that Traore also possesses in his locker – making him a sure-fire threat to a leaky Leeds backline.

Ezgjan Alioski could return at left-back for Leeds, after Stuart Dallas impressed when pushed into midfield late on against Southampton on Tuesday night. Alioski is rash at times to say the least and if he is the man chosen to shackle Traore, there is likely to only be one winner in that duel.

One potential drawback is the ongoing injury situation regarding Villa captain Jack Grealish. No player has more assists than the England international this season and his absence could have an effect on the attacking potential of his attacking colleagues – including Traore. With two plush fixtures though and just a 1.0% FPL ownership, the inside forward could prove to be an inspired pick in DGW26 and beyond, with a possible double gameweek for Villa in GW28.

 

 

 

Ainsley Maitland-Niles vs Brighton (H) and Everton (H)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has the potential to be the next John Lundstram. That is a compliment for those of you who are new to FPL this season. Lundstram epitomised the potential of defenders who play out-of-position in 2019-20, becoming a must-own for those who wanted an effective budget option.

There is a reasonable chance that Maitland-Niles could find himself in a front three for Sam Allardyce’s West Brom side going forward. The Arsenal loanee left the Gunners to prove why he should be a candidate to start in Mikel Arteta’s side, and he will be desperate to leave his mark in the remaining games of the season for the relegation-threatened Baggies.

Two home games in DGW26 marks a prime opportunity for Maitland-Niles to do just that. Classed as a defender in FPL, the Brighton match in particular could also mean clean sheet points, should the Seagulls be as wasteful as they were against Crystal Palace on Monday night. With games against Newcastle and Palace to come after this gameweek, the fixtures remain attractive for those looking to take a punt on the youngster.

Priced at just 4.6m and with an ownership of 0.9%, Maitland-Niles joins Traore, Bale and Pereira as risky but fun picks for what should be an action-packed double gameweek over the next six days.

 

Best of luck for DGW26 FPL managers!

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