Entering the Red Zone

Fixture vulnerability – an added ingredient in the contest selection process

When Louis van Gaal mentioned the red zone in a recent press conference you could easily have been mistaken into thinking that he was referring to Amsterdam’s infamous red light district. The Dutchman was in fact discussing the number of games that his players have played recently and their upcoming schedule. It was a clear indication that he plans to remove one or two from the firing line by giving them a well-earned rest.

However, this is arguably one of the most important periods of the season with qualification to the knock-out stages of the Champions League on the line for not only Manchester United but also Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. All of the English sides have vital fixtures scheduled next week that are likely to prove pivotal in their attempts to reach the lucrative stages of the competition. Historically bookmakers recognise the vulnerability of the sides involved when this situation occurs and tend to show their astuteness by taking aggressive positions against them in the preceding English Premier League matches. They know that managers will be looking to protect their star players for the more important fixture to come and may do so by starting them on the bench or taking them off early in an attempt to keep them fresh and to avoid injury.

Louis van Gaal

 This is significant for the fantasy manager and should be reflected in terms of contest choice. If you select to play in a tournament that includes the Chelsea vs Liverpool fixture which kicks-off first you could be vulnerable to non-starters in later fixtures so bear this in mind if ‘late swap’ is not permitted. We always like to emphasise the significance of keeping that scoreboard ticking so even if you select players from the Big 4 in the later games that do start their respective matches they may be susceptible to being removed from the fold earlier than usual.

We suggest you tread carefully this weekend. Arsene Wenger may well look to protect Alexis Sánchez, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil, especially in the light of fresh injuries to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain while Manual Pellegrini will surely want Yaya Touré and Kevin de Bruyne firing on all cylinders for their trip to Seville. In a recent WhoScored article Ben McAleer argues that Louis van Gaal’s patience with an under-performing Wayne Rooney will surely wear thin sooner rather than later so maybe this is the perfect opportunity to give him a breather ahead of the CSKA Moscow Champions League tie.

If you factor in this thinking when completing your fantasy football line-ups for the upcoming weekend it might just give you a small edge over your rival managers!