THE international break provided reasonable entertainment all things considered but attention now turns to the resumption of the Premier League, FA Cup and continental competitions.
April promises to be a decisive month in the world of Dream Team with fixtures coming thick and fast in the coming weeks.
And Gaffers intent on banking plentiful points would do well to put their faith in the Manchester clubs for the foreseeable future.
Arsenal may be deserving favourites for the league title and the fact they’re no longer active in any other competition may help them focus on their primary objective but Dream Team bosses should always be looking to squeeze the schedule for all it’s worth.
For example, whereas the Gunners have six league games to fulfil in April, Manchester United will be in action NINE times throughout the course of the month.
The Red Devils’ meeting with Brighton at Wembley and a two-legged Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla ensure their most-popular assets will be incredibly busy.
Bruno Fernandes (£6.5m), Luke Shaw (£4.6m), David de Gea (£4.1m), Lisandro Martinez (£4.5m) and Marcus Rashford (£6.5m) all look to be excellent options after the international break – the latter’s injury is not thought to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
It’s not that Erik ten Hag’s side have a massively favourable run of match-ups, it’s just the sheer volume of fixtures that should put gaffers on alert.
Fernandes and Rashford actually combined to outscore the trio of Mohamed Salah (£8.7m), Darwin Nunez (£5.7m) and Cody Gakpo (£3.7m) in March despite the month starting with that 7-0 result at Anfield.
Man United’s extra games and Liverpool’s comparatively relaxed schedule meant the former’s two best attacking assets registered a net gain over their rivals’ first-choice front three in March despite the Reds’ forwards getting a massive head start.
The lesson: squeeze the schedule.
United aren’t the only Manchester club with an FA Cup semi-final and a European quarter-final in the diary.
Pep Guardiola’s troops will be desperate to get past Bayern Munich, now with Thomas Tuchel at the helm, in the Champions League last eight to once again put themselves in serious contention to win the trophy they desire most.
Manchester City were also handed a favourable FA Cup draw in the form of Sheffield United, who will be prioritising automatic promotion from the Championship and may name a second-string XI, as they did against Spurs – though of course they won that game.
The defending English champions have eight games to fulfil in April and while half of them are likely to be tough tests – Liverpool, Bayern (x2), Arsenal – there’s rarely a bad time to back City players.
Phil Foden’s (£5.1m) owners will have to find a replacement while the England international recovers from having his appendix removed – some players have returned a fortnight later from similar surgery while others have been sidelined for almost two months.
Both Jack Grealish (£4.1m) and Riyad Mahrez (£6.1m) should get plenty of minutes next month.
Hypothetically, if a Dream Team gaffers were to transfer five Arsenal/Tottenham players for five City/United assets right now they’d potentially gain 15-20 appearances across April – that’s a huge swing!
The volume of fixtures isn’t everything of course, it wouldn’t be wholly surprising if Manchester-based defenders suffered minus points in multiple given the match-ups, but it’s generally something gaffers should take into account when devising their strategy.