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Fantasy football tips: Is it time to play your Free Hit chip?

If you still have faith and you’ve still got a Free Hit chip then this could be the week to play it.

Manchester United are one of seven teams with two fixtures in gameweek 33 – the others are Arsenal, Brighton, Burnley, Leicester, Newcastle and Southampton – while Aston Villa, Leeds and Wolves don’t have a fixture.

There is definitely a chance to steal a march on the non-Free Hitters by loading up on the double gameweek players, particularly as that doesn’t include the popular premium assets from Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, but that is also the risk with it because you’ll be backing against the big guns.

My ideal team this week, regardless of any other considerations, would include at least one of Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson, one of Joao Cancelo or Aymeric Laporte, Mo Salah, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane but you’re not going to be able to gain a huge advantage on the field if you go with five single gameweek players who are already highly owned.

So if you’re going to go for it I think you can only pick a couple of them – I would go for Salah and one of Son or Kane – and then you’ve got to use your managerial nous to find the gems among the rest.

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That will almost certainly include one of Bruno Fernandes or Cristiano Ronaldo, or maybe even both for Manchester United’s games against Norwich and Liverpool.

I appreciate that’s not an easy selection to make given United’s recent showing against Everton, their wildly inconsistent form this season and the fact they got trounced 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford back in October but if the Free Hit’s really going to work this week then you probably need one of those two to step up and deliver the goods.

The other issue in trying to come up with a team you’re happy with is that Arsenal suddenly seem to have lost form after injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey and Brendan Rodgers will continue to rotate his Leicester squad after their game against PSV in the Europa Conference League this week.

Kasper Schmeichel will remain a constant though and he could be the man to go for between the sticks for away games at Newcastle and Everton although I think I would plump for Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka.

Dubravka is £0.5m cheaper and has home fixtures against Schmeichel’s Leicester and Crystal Palace, with the Foxes coming off the back of that European trip and Palace having gone through the emotion and exertion of an FA Cup semi-final.

I would probably double up on the Newcastle defence as well so take your pick from Matt Targett, Dan Burn or Fabian Schar, who’s been one of the most popular signings this week due to the fact he’s also managed to bag himself a couple of goals recently against Brighton and Tottenham.

There aren’t really any defensive options that are hugely convincing so let’s go for a back three this week and I would consider a couple of the following: Gabriel or Ben White for Arsenal, Alex Telles, who’s probably the best bet for Manchester United, Burnley’s Charlie Taylor or James Tarkowski, or maybe Kyle Walker-Peters who might provide you with an attacking return even if Southampton don’t manage to keep a clean sheet.

Bruno Fernandes or Cristiano Ronaldo in gameweek 33? Or both?!
Bruno Fernandes or Cristiano Ronaldo in gameweek 33? Or both?!

We’ll put Mo Salah alongside Bruno Fernandes in the midfield and I would add James Maddison or Harvey Barnes, or possibly even both despite the obvious risk of rotation there. I would also go for Bukayo Saka for Arsenal’s double against Southampton and Chelsea although Gabriel Martinelli or Martin Odegaard would be the more differential picks.

Other midfield options would include James Ward-Prowse and also Bruno Guimaraes, who costs just £4.9m and has impressed recently for Newcastle.

You’ll need either two or three strikers depending on whether you play 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 – in this team I’m going for Kane but you could equally opt for Ronaldo up top and swap Son for Fernandes if you want the Tottenham coverage in your team.

Chris Wood is probably a safer pick than Allan Saint-Maximin if you fancy a Newcastle forward, plus the fact that he’s now on penalties, and then I would either go for a Southampton striker, Che Adams or Armando Broja, or Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho.

Looking at that squad you may well feel you can gain a bigger advantage by playing the Free Hit in gameweek 36 or 37 so you might just want to hold fire this week but remember if you’ve got both Free Hit chips still available then you can’t play them in back-to-back gameweeks.

Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast alongside former Premier League winner Chris Sutton and Statman Dave. The latest episode is available now on the BBC Sounds app.

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