Fixture Focus: Strong run of Liverpool matches halted by GW27 blank

There are many factors to consider for Liverpool assets right now. Firstly, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) final pits Mohamed Salah‘s Egypt against Sadio Mane‘s Senegal four days before the Reds face Leicester in Gameweek 24 (GW24). Certainly for the winner, it will be a push to say whether they’ll even be included in Jurgen Klopp’s squad, considering the celebrations that will take place.

Many managers either held onto Salah, thinking he’d only be gone for two Gameweeks, or have planned on buying him back for GW24. Sticking to these plans has been complicated by AFCON and the addition of a Double Gameweek 25 for Man United’s premium players Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Secondly, what does Luis Diaz‘s arrival mean for Diogo Jota in this run? We at FFCommunity did an article covering this in more depth on Wednesday but, essentially, there are four players now competing for the two forward positions alongside Salah. Perhaps Diaz is more of a threat to Sadio Mane on the left but Jota’s minutes will still be impacted by the return to fitness of Roberto Firmino.

With Salah, Mane and Jota right at the top of expected goals (xG) and expected goal involvement (xGI), there’s always a chance that Klopp will play a front four but this can’t be relied upon. Jota is now a rotation threat.

And then we come to the fixtures themselves, which immediately follow the feast of a Double Gameweek 26 with the famine of a Blank Gameweek 27 due to their EFL Cup final against Chelsea. The prospect of having Salah as triple captain for the double against Norwich and Leeds is too obvious to pass up, meaning those who wait until re-purchasing him won’t be doing so for long. Although it can be added that Leicester and Burnley are two of only three sides that Salah has blanked against this season.

Including the match against West Ham in Gameweek 28, Liverpool’s next five opponents are in the worst six defences for shots conceded. But the subsequent blank will force many Free Hit chips to be used in Gameweek 27, as Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester assets also miss out.

Whilst the Hammers and Brighton are rated higher on the game’s Fixture Difficulty Rating, FPL managers will not be worried about Salah’s returns. The more interesting question is whether Trent Alexander-Arnold can be joined in a defensive double-up.

Alexander-Arnold ranks second out of defenders for goal attempts (34) and touches in the final third (726). We already know how essential he is in this game, already being on ten assists for this campaign, but it’s remarkable that – amongst all positions – he has created the most chances (58), made the most crosses (173) and has the league’s highest expected assists (xA) tally of 8.78.

These 58 chances are far ahead of all defenders, with team mate Andrew Robertson second with 32. The left-back is the defender with most touches in the opposition penalty area and, like Alexander-Arnold, has brilliant FPL pedigree. He’s in great form too, with a goal and four assists from his last three appearances. These 32 points are more than what Jota has accumulated over his last seven games, so there is definitely logic to opting for Robertson as the third Liverpool man instead.

Problem is, do you buy Liverpool assets for the double knowing you’ve bought another blank for Gameweek 27?

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