By AVI CREDITOR
Wow. Where do we start? With 15(!) fixtures during Week 31, 10 of the 20 teams in the Barclays Premier League will play two games apiece. Goodbye low-scoring weeks, hello fantasy points.
The double matchweek makes more players than normal viable, not just the high scorers from the top teams. If you still have your wildcard transfer, this is the week to use it. If you didn't make any transfers last week in anticipation of this week, well played. If you don't fall into either of those categories, don't worry. You shouldn't be afraid to make more than one transfer to ensure that you have multiple players playing in multiple games on your squad.
Remember, the four points deducted for a second transfer should at worst-case be reciprocated by that second player playing at least 120 minutes (In simpler terms, 2+2=4). There's marginal-to-no risk in taking the four- or even eight-point (or more…) hit to add potential big-week players to your team.
Onto the picks:
CAPTAIN OF THE WEEK
Frank Lampard, Chelsea, £13.1
It's a tough call, and there are plenty of other options, but I've got a feeling that Lampard's in for a huge week. His matchups are great, as he'll face a Paul Robinson-less Blackburn and last-place Portsmouth. Chelsea needs to win the Premier League to validate its season now that the team has crashed out of the Champions League, and who better to rely on than the steady English midfielder?
He's scored more than the standard two "thanks for playing" points in all but four matches, meaning even if he doesn't star, he likely won't be a dud (By comparison, Wayne Rooney has scored either 1 or 2 fantasy points in 10 of his 28 matches). Lampard has 12 goals and 11 assists on the season, and his 26 bonus points rank behind only Rooney and the injured Cesc Fabregas among all players.
If you don't have Lampard on your team, don't rush to pick him up. He's the most expensive player in the game, and he's owned by nearly a quarter of all fantasy managers. You'll likely handcuff yourself and hurt other areas of your team by devoting so much of your resources into adding him. If you do have Lampard, though, feel confident giving him the captain's arm band.
Other candidates: Chelsea's Didier Drogba, Aston Villa's James Milner (vs. Wolves, vs. Sunderland), Manchester City's Carlos Tevez (at Fulham, vs. Everton), Everton's Mikel Arteta (vs. Bolton, at Manchester City), Sunderland's Darren Bent (vs. Birmingham, at Aston Villa).
BEST TRANSFER BUYS (owned by less than 10 percent of managers)
Marcus Hahnemann, Wolves, £4.0 (3.3 percent owned)
Two games, including one against West Ham, is enough to convince me that the U.S. World Cup-roster probable is a solid play this week. In addition to his low cost, he's a saves machine as of late (nine in his last game).
Leighton Baines, Everton, £6.1 (7 percent owned)
In addition to the favorable two-game schedule, Baines gets involved in the offense on the left flank and is one of Everton's set-piece takers. His six assists are the most among Premier League defenders.
Stephen Warnock, Aston Villa, £4.8 (4 percent owned)
Fantasy managers have caught on to the brilliance of owning Aston Villa defenders, but Warnock is one still flying a bit under the radar. Home matches against Wolves and Sunderland provide potential for at least one clean sheet and another successful fantasy week for the Villa back line.
James Collins, Aston Villa £4.6 (9.1 percent owned)
The least expensive member of the that back line is finally starting to get his due and for good reason. I've said it before and I'll say it again: He missed eight games in the middle of the season, and his overall point total suffers because of it. He's a great alternative/addition to Richard Dunne, Carlos Cuellar and Warnock.
Titus Bramble, Wigan, £4.1 (7.6 percent owned)
After Wigan's defensive performance against Bolton last week, nobody would fault you for passing on all Latics. With Burnley coming to DW Stadium you don't have to be afraid to show a little confidence, though. Bramble comes at a great price, especially if you're looking to make significant moves elsewhere on your roster.
Florent Malouda, Chelsea, £7.9 (5.5 percent owned)
If his 16-point outburst against West Ham didn't convince you that he's worth owning, maybe Chelsea's schedule this week will put you over the top. A forgotten man under past regimes, Malouda is flourishing with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, and he's even a borderline candidate to be a captain this week.
Clint Dempsey, Fulham, £6.6 (4.9 percent owned)
Deuce's cost and popularity have plummeted because of the time he missed, but he's back in Roy Hodgson's lineup with a goal of returning to the form that had him one of the fantasy game's most productive midfielders. He has already scored this season against his opponent, Manchester City, a team that has yielded at least one goal in five consecutive road matches.
Steven Pienaar, Everton, £6.4 (7.2 percent owned)
The schedule matches up well with the South African midfielder, as he'll see Bolton followed by Manchester City, a team he torched for a 10-point fantasy day in January.
Jamie O'Hara, Portsmouth, £4.6 (6.2 percent owned)
Believe it or not, Portsmouth players have fantasy worth. O'Hara's adeptness at securing bonus points has been documented before, and with two home games, including one against Hull, it wouldn't surprise to see the cost-effective player tally some more.
Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea, £9.4 (5.1 percent owned)
Anelka's been silent for a while, as he hasn't scored in his last six Premier League matches. Expect that to change this week. With fixtures against Blackburn and Portsmouth, it wouldn't be a surprise to see multiple goals for the French striker.
Cameron Jerome, Birmingham, £4.7 (7.1 percent owned)
Ride the Jerome train while it's going full speed. One of the more streakier strikers in the player pool, Jerome has scored three goals in his last two matches and has games at Sunderland and Blackburn.
SLEEPERS (owned by less than 5 percent of managers)
Craig Gordon, Sunderland, £4.4 (0.5 percent owned)
Coming off an eight-save performance against Manchester City, Gordon has two matches this week and could provide points in goal at a pretty low cost. Other keepers with one game this week have better matchups, but Gordon should be a useful play, especially in the Black Cats' home game against Birmingham.
John Heitinga, Everton, £6.5 (0.3 percent owned)
The Dutch centerback is on
ly useful if Everton can come up with a clean sheet. The Toffees' first match of the week, at Goodison Park against Bolton, is a golden opportunity for said task. The Wanderers have been shut out in five of their last six road contests.
Alex Song, Arsenal, £5.3, (1.9 percent owned)
Perhaps forgotten about because of his recent yellow-card-accumulation suspension, Song returns to the lineup with a home match against West Ham. Considering he actually plays in the midfield but is listed as a defender, Song can provide maximum clean-sheet points while also being heavily involved in the offense.
Scott Dann, Birmingham, £4.1 (3.4 percent owned)
Two road games aren't ideal, but the Blues face two teams that have had scoring issues this season in Sunderland and Blackburn. Taking a bit of a gamble on Birmingham's defense could pay off.
Christophe Berra, Wolves, £3.9 (1.7 percent owned)
Feeling lucky? Take a chance on Berra if you're strapped for cash because of Wolves' two-game slate. He costs next to nothing, has four assists on the season and could net some unexpected points.
Tim Cahill, Everton, £7.9 (4 percent owned)
The Aussie international has returned from injury to the Toffees' lineup to assume playmaking duties, and he's looking at a favorable week ahead, especially with a home fixture against Bolton.
Morten Gamst Pedersen, Blackburn, £5.9 (1.2 percent owned)
It's been a while since a Blackburn outfield player has gotten some love in this space, but with two home fixtures this week seems like the right time. Pedersen has been the Rovers' most adept playmaker and can add to his three-goal, four-assist campaign this week.
Steed Malbranque, Sunderland, £5.5, (1.4 percent owned)
Aside from having an all-star name, the Black Cats' midfielder is in good form and has managed to lock down a starting gig after some spotty playing time. With games against Birmingham and Aston Villa, he'll have chances to add to his recent run.
Jimmy Bullard, Hull City, £5.4 (0.4 percent owned)
Considering he's only played in seven league games this season and has three goals and two assists, the Tigers' reliable playmaker makes for a truly sneaky play. Looking even deeper into the numbers, in the four games he's played 90 minutes, he has three goals and an assist. Hull only has one game this week, but the team is in must-win mode at relegation-bound Portsmouth. Bullard can help you.
Roman Pavlyuchenko, Tottenham, £6.5 (1.6 percent owned)
The Russian is out to prove his worth to Harry Redknapp with five goals in his last three games. He's gone at least 80 minutes in the last two league matches and should be at it again as Spurs travel to Stoke to try to keep a grasp on fourth place.
Frederic Piquionne, Portsmouth, £4.8 (1 percent owned)
The on-loan striker has fit in well as of late at Fratton Park, with two goals and an assist in his last four matches. With home games against drop-zone-mates Hull City and title contenders Chelsea, Piquionne will see both sides of the spectrum this week. It would appear that his best chance to score would be against Hull, but he's already tallied a goal against Chelsea this season.
LAST WEEK'S PICKS
Milner (12×2=24 points)
KEEP IN MIND: Next week, things revert back to normalcy with 10 games. The team with a double gameweek this week that has the best matchup next week? Manchester City, which hosts Wigan. Everton also has a great matchup next week at Wolves. Remember this if you are giving your whole roster a facelift this week.
Soccer By Ives standings (Top 10)
1. AC Vols……………………….1805 pts
2. the unholy passion……..1795
3. Maple Gooners…………..1783
4. AdiosAde, HolaSlvwr…..1782
5. The Jackson 4…………….1782
6. Big Apple FC……………….1773
9. Sporting Club Delica…..1747
10. aston villains…………….1746
Who will you choose to be your captain this week? What's your lineup looking like? Have any last-minute questions?
Share your thoughts and questions below.