Which FPL players step up against the big boys?

When assessing your upcoming FPL team, it can often be useful to know which players work best in which situations.

Is your side full of flat-track bullies? Or are they better suited to the big occasions?

The FPL categorises a team’s fixtures with its own Fixture Difficulty Rating (FDR) system, with a rating of two indicating a theoretically ‘easy’ game, while a five indicates a theoretically very difficult game.

By analysing a player’s performance against certain opposition, we can see who performs best against weaker opposition, and who rises to the challenge when the big boys come knocking.

The giant slayers

A graphic showing footballers who perform well in terms of FPL points against 'tougher' opposition

These players won’t hide when a big fixture lands on their door – in fact, they appear to thrive on such occasions.

Marcus Rashford is one such player, the Manchester United forward scoring at 9.50 FPL points per appearance in games with an FDR rating of four or five.

The England man has recorded goals against Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Leicester this season already, as well as assists against Arsenal and Wolves.

With a return fixture against the Gunners due on New Year’s Day, he could be one to watch out for.

Elsewhere, Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki might have endured a goal drought earlier in the season, but it left his record against the big clubs largely unaffected.

Pukki scored against Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea at the start of the season, before going on a goal drought of eight games in which he only played against one of last season’s top six sides (Man United).

Norwich City v Arsenal – Premier League – Carrow Road
(Adam Davy/PA)

He has since scored against Arsenal and Leicester, and at just £6.6m can justifiably call himself a giant slayer. Spurs on December 28th could be another chance to prove that status.

Finally, while many consider him a titan of the game himself, Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne is perfectly comfortable slaying giants of his own stature.

KDB has recorded two double-figures points returns against clubs from last season’s top six (Arsenal and Tottenham) and registered attacking returns against Chelsea and Leicester too.

The Belgian is also the first player this season to reach an accumulated Creativity score of 1000 on the FPL’s ICT index, recording some of his highest scores in top six battles.

The flat-track bullies

A graphic showing footballers who perform well in terms of FPL points against 'weaker' opposition

Scoring in tough games is all well and good, but players earn just as many points for steamrolling the weaker opposition – so which flat-track bullies are your best bet?

Jamie Vardy seems to score against just about everyone at the moment, but he certainly does punish the weaker opposition, scoring at 10.11 FPL points per appearance in matches rated FDR two.

Five of Vardy’s six double figures returns this season have come against teams from outside last season’s top six (Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and Southampton) while the 32-year-old struggled to score against the league’s big boys at the start of the season.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane meanwhile has earned a reputation as one of the finest players on the planet, but so far this season he has largely done that with big performances against sides Reds fans might expect to beat.

Liverpool v Newcastle United – Premier League – Anfield
(Nigel French/PA)

The Senegalese has earned just 19 of his 115 FPL points in the 2019/20 season against teams who finished in the top six last season, equating to one goal and one assist, but has more than made up for it against weaker opposition.

In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s side will enjoy five FDR two rated games in a row from the start of February, so make sure to have Mane in your side then.

Last but not least, Tottenham’s Dele Alli has enjoyed something of a purple patch since Jose Mourinho became Tottenham boss, and the England midfielder performs well in the less challenging fixtures too.

Alli has earned 36 FPL points across four FDR two games this season, putting him third on our FPL bullies list.

With three games with an FDR two rating to come after Christmas, he could be the perfect present for your side.