By AVI CREDITOR
With all the non-league soccer games involving Premier League players that have happened this week, I preach one thing. Wait.
Nothing's worse than using up your transfers on players who won't play. Injuries, whether minor or major, are a part of the game, and unfortunately they occur in friendlies. Wait until Friday to make your moves, and check all injury reports before doing so. If you couldn't wait to pull the trigger and made moves before any mid-week games, you're living a bit on the fantasy edge.
With only 14 teams in action in Matchweek 29, the pool of players to choose from is rather small to begin with. Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Fulham and Blackburn are all either preoccupied with the FA Cup or off. Fortunately, there are three fixtures that have blowout potential. Get ready to see a lot of red in this week's picks.
CAPTAIN OF THE WEEK
Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal, £12.1
Yes, again. As I advised reader BrianK last week, Fabregas is a better bet than strikers like Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres because of the additional points a midfielder can get. Goals are worth a point more for a midfielder than they are for a forward, and midfielders are eligible for a clean-sheet point.
When dealing with dynamic, high-scoring players who all have good matchups, I tend to favor the midfielder because of those reasons. That, and because more of the play flows through the midfield, meaning more chances to create and more likelihood to add bonus points.
Fabregas, Rooney and Torres all have excellent matchups, with the Spanish midfielder the lone one playing at home – against lowly Burnley. Fabregas came through with a goal and two assists last week against Stoke City, securing three bonus points for the 12th time in 24 games (50 percent of the time!). And yet he costs £0.3 less than Steven Gerard. If you're among the 40 percent of fantasy players who own Fabregas, give him the captain's armband.
Other candidates: Manchester United's Rooney and Antonio Valencia (at Wolverhampton), Liverpool's Torres (at Wigan). UPDATE 3/5: Rooney is listed as doubtful with his lingering knee injury, and Sir Alex Ferguson has hinted he might rest his star striker so he can be fresh for the Champions League second-leg match with AC Milan on Wednesday. Wait until lineups are released Saturday before proceeding. First kick is set for 12:30 p.m. EST.
BEST TRANSFER BUYS
Joe Hart, Birmingham, £4.7
Hart has had a fantastic 2009-2010 campaign, earning the fourth-most fantasy points among keepers. The Blues looked strong in the back against Wigan last week, and there's no reason to think they can't do the same against Portsmouth. Hart blanked Pompey back in their August meeting.
Leighton Baines, Everton, £6.0
With a favorable home matchup against a Hull City side that has been blanked in its last two games, Baines should be a solid Week 29 performer.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Liverpool, £5.8
The Greek international returns from a red-card suspension at the right time. Martin Skrtel, Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger have picked up injuries, leaving Rafa Benitez shorthanded in the back. Before receiving the red card, Kyrgiakos had fantasy outputs of 11,8,9 and 8, earning at least two bonus points in all four games.
Wes Brown, Manchester United, £5.6
Granted the Red Devils are playing on the road, but I just can't see Wolves finding the net against them aside from earning a penalty. Take your chances and roll with one of United's steadier defensive options.
Roger Johnson, Birmingham, £4.9
Playing against Portsmouth is usually fantasy gold for defenders, and Johnson finds himself in said position. Worth a look if you're looking to replace Arsenal's yellow-card-suspended Alex Song.
Yossi Benayoun, Liverpool, £7.5
He's gaining more popularity after his five-point performance last week, but there's still time to jump on the Benayoun bandwagon before it's too late. He's a productive, scrappy player who has a knack for being in the right place in the attacking third, and he can definitely help you with his matchup against Wigan.
Nani, Manchester United, £6.4
The Portuguese winger returns at a time when United is starved for midfield depth, and in the three games before picking up the red card he had reached solid form, recording four assists and four bonus points.
Abou Diaby, Arsenal, £5.7
Word is that Diaby will return to the lineup against Burnley, which will provide a much-needed midfield boost for fantasy owners (and Arsene Wenger, too). UPDATE 3/5: Wenger has now confirmed that Diaby will be in the squad against Burnley. Owners can breathe easier.
Chung-Yong Lee, Bolton, £5.2
With four goals and four assists on the season, Lee is one of Bolton's more productive offensive players. He has two games during the week, including one with West Ham, a team he has already scored against this season.
Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United, £9.4
A game against an inferior opponent such as Wolves is exactly when Sir Alex Ferguson would deploy Berbatov for the full 90, with Rooney perhaps needing a bit of a break and Michael Owen out injured. Berbatov, though pricey, is owned by less than two percent of fantasy players, meaning he could be a difference maker in your table.
Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal, £6.0
Bendtner has found his scoring touch, finding the back of the net in each of the last two games. The starting spot is his, and Arsenal's schedule is highly favorable for the remainder of the season. He'll get his share of chances in the attacking zone.
Craig Gordon, Sunderland, £4.4
The Black Cats have allowed just one goal in their last three games at the Stadium of Light. They host goal-starved Bolton, who will be playing its second match of the week. Gordon's got better than a puncher's chance at securing his second consecutive clean sheet.
Scott Dann, Birmingham, £4.1
Just like Johnson in terms of the fantasy output he can offer with his matchup this week, yet he comes at a £0.8 discount.
James Tompkins, West Ham, £4.1
Believe it or not, the Hammers haven't yielded a goal in their last four home games. They welcome Bolton, a team with goal-scoring issues of its own, and Tompkins represents a more affordable alternative to Matthew Upson (£5.4), who also makes for a good play this week.
Samuel Ricketts, Bolton, £3.9
Because the price is right, and because Bolton has two matches against non-powerhouse teams. The Wanderers have quietly put together four clean sheets in their last seven games – though three of those shutouts have come at home, and they are on the road for both matches this week.
Andy Wilkinson, Stoke City, £3.9
Ryan Shawcross' absence will undoubtedly hurt the Stoke defense, but a home fixture with Burnley represents a shot at a shutout, and Wilkinson comes at the cheapest of prices.
Chris Eagles, Burnley, £5.1
Because Burnley has a two-match week, Eagles becomes relevant. It's unclear where he stands in manager Brian Laws' pecking order, but what is clear is that Eagles represents fantasy potential. He had a nine-game stretch in December and January where he claimed bonus points in eight out of nine matches. If he can see the pitch for anywhere close to 180 minutes, he's capable of a decent showing.
Julien Faubert, West Ham, £5.1
Faubert's been a stud at home recently, securing four clean-sheet points, two bonus points, a goal and two assists in his last four games at Upton Park.
Barry Ferguson, Birmingham, £4.9
The matchup with Portsmouth is golden, and Ferguson is surprisingly adept at picking up bonus points, doing so in three of his last five games. He's tied for the third most (23) among midfielders with James Milner and Charles N'Zogbia.
Jack Wilshere, Bolton, £4.3
I was going to recommend Stuart Holden, considering his two-game week (including one against former outfit Sunderland), but Nigel de Jong rendered that a bit moot with his awful challenge in Wednesday's friendly. Instead, try Holden's less-costly, on-loan teammate, who figures to get a shot in his absence.
Landon Donovan, Everton, £6.0
In what is supposed to be Donovan's final home game with the Toffees before returning to MLS, the American star should be given every opportunity to give a proper sendoff to the Goodison Park faithful. It doesn't hurt that he has a great matchup with Hull City's generous defense.
Steven Fletcher, Burnley, £5.4
Yes, he's playing with a broken hand. But two matches during the week means plenty of chances for a player in decent form (two goals, assist in his last three games).
LAST WEEK'S PICKS
Fabregas (16X2=32 points)
KEEP IN MIND: The schedule determines a lot. While last week and this week have featured less than the full slate of games, that just means the last few weeks will feature teams that have multiple games. In Week 38 for example, seven teams(!) are scheduled for two matches apiece. You've been warned.
Soccer By Ives standings (Top 10)
1. AC Vols………………………..1690
2. the unholy passion………1689
3. The Jackson 4……………..1686
4. AdiosAde, HolaSlvrwr…..1678
6. Big Apple FC………………..1654
7. Maple Gooners…………….1648
8. aston villains………………..1640
9. Grassington AFC………….1637
10. Sporting Club Delica….1636
What's your lineup looking like for Week 29? Who would you make your captain?
Share your thoughts below.