By AVI CREDITOR
Fulham and Stoke City pulled a fast one on Fantasy Premier League managers by postponing their match this week until later in the season. It makes sense, because Fulham already had Thursday's Europa League match in addition to a Premier League tie at Liverpool. But for fantasy managers who already went heavy on buying Fulham and Stoke players because of the double gameweek, the news may be a bit unpleasant.
Add that to the complications for Chelsea, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Portsmouth (FA Cup matches on the weekend, league games early next week), and player selection could be a bit of a headscratcher in Matchweek 34.
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of fantasy points to be scored. Here are this week's picks:
CAPTAIN OF THE WEEK
Frank Lampard, Chelsea, £13.3
After Chelsea's FA Cup semifinal bout with Aston Villa, the Blues will return home three days later to welcome a Bolton side that's just five points clear of the drop zone. Chelsea has scored at least two goals in all but one of its 16 home games thus far. Couple that with Bolton's less-than-stellar defense, and Lampard could be in for a monster week.
He notched a goal and an assist at Reebok Stadium earlier in the season, and his recent form is a big reason why Chelsea has reappeared at the top of the table.
Expecting another four-goal outburst from the English midfielder may be a bit much, but it's reasonable to think that Lampard, the most expensive player in the game, can at least replicate his Oct. 31 performance against Bolton.
Other candidates: Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda, Liverpool's Fernando Torres (vs. Fulham), Manchester City's Carlos Tevez (vs. Birmingham).
BEST TRANSFER BUYS (owned by less than 10 percent of managers)
Boaz Myhill, Hull City, £4.0 (5.1 percent owned)
Myhill gets the pleasure of facing a Burnley side that was (putting it gently) abysmal against Manchester City last week. Though Hull is no Man. City, the Tigers will be hosting the contest and have a great shot at keeping a clean sheet, regardless of the relegation implications.
Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United, £7.8 (5.1 percent owned)
In order to keep pace with Chelsea, the Red Devils will have to travel to Blackburn and hope for a result. The team has shut out four of its last six opponents, and with only the league title left to play for, Sir Alex Ferguson's lineup will be ultra-focused on the task at hand. That includes the steady Serbian centerback.
Glen Johnson, Liverpool, £7.5 (7.1 percent owned)
Aside from Johnson's offensive capabilities, he and the Reds have a good matchup with potential Europa League final opponent Fulham. The Cottagers haven't scored in their last six league games away from Craven Cottage, and they'll be hard-pressed to break that streak at Anfield.
Abdoulaye Faye, Stoke City, £4.5 (6.7 percent owned)
Stoke's matchup at Wolves is favorable, and he won't cost much to give you a potential-filled option on your back line.
Titus Bramble, Wigan Athletic, £4.1 (7.4 percent owned)
Wigan's best work comes at DW Stadium, and that'll be the scene for next Wednesday's tilt against last-place Portsmouth.
Tim Cahill, Everton, £8.0 (5.3 percent owned)
The Toffees can creep within a point of Aston Villa with a victory at Villa Park. Considering the Villans will have just played Chelsea days prior to their meeting with Everton, fresh playmakers like Cahill could have the advantage in the important clash.
Ryan Giggs, Manchester United, £7.0 (5.1 percent owned)
Would you believe that Giggs has 12 assists this season? That's good for third most behind Cesc Fabregas and Lampard, respectively. Granted, with Wayne Rooney finishing at his astronomical rate that eases things up for the midfield. Even with Rooney expected to miss the Red Devils' clash with Blackburn, Giggs can still have a nice game for a team that generally recovers from setbacks quickly.
Charles N'Zogbia, Wigan Athletic, £6.1 (9.6 percent owned)
He has cooled considerably since his midseason point explosion, but his matchup with Portsmouth can't be ignored, and he offers plenty of potential at an affordable price.
Jamie O'Hara, Portsmouth, £4.7 (6.2 percent owned)
He's ineligible to play in the FA Cup semifinal against Tottenham because of his loan deal, so he's a safe bet to crack Avram Grant's lineup against Wigan on Wednesday. He's good to own because he's effective even if he doesn't score. With at least two bonus points in six of his last 10 matches, O'Hara is an inexpensive, viable weekly play.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Manchester City, £9.4 (3.4 percent owned)
Still owned by far too few managers, especially with Rooney being injured. He's an amazing replacement, and he looked like his old self in the Citizens' thrashing of Burnley last week. Birmingham's defense is considerably better than Burnley's, but City will be at home with the tandem of Tevez and Adebayor trying to lead the quest for fourth place.
Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea, £9.4 (4.8 percent owned)
When will the streak end? Anelka has gone nine matches without scoring a goal. With all of the attention that Lampard, Drogba and Malouda will receive from the weary Bolton defense, the French striker could break through at Stamford Bridge this week.
SLEEPERS (owned by less than 5 percent of managers)
Chris Kirkland, Wigan Athletic, £4.4 (1.7 percent owned)
Step 1: Identify keeper playing Porstmouth, preferably at home. Step 2: Plug into lineup.
Yuri Zhirkov, Chelsea, £7.1 (0.5 percent owned)
His cost is considerably high, but he's done well over his last three matches while settling into his starting role. Chelsea's matchup is great, and Zhirkov's ability to get involved in the attack makes him an attractive option.
Paul Scharner, Wigan Athletic, £4.6 (4.0 percent owned)
The Latics must have some payback in store for Pompey after being embarassed at Fratton Park earlier this season 4-0. But Portsmouth's status was a lot different back in October, and Wigan needs some breathing room to stay clear of the drop zone. I like Wigan's chances in this one.
Robert Huth, Stoke City, £4.6 (2.1 percent owned)
With three clean sheets in its last four matches, Stoke's defense has done well, and Huth has been a large part of that (and even has three goals this season). A matchup at Wolves is reason enough to feel confident adding him to your back line.
Steven Mouyokolo, Hull City, £3.8 (0.3 percent owned)
We're digging pretty deep here, but the Tigers have shutout potential, and if you can secure that at such a low cost, it's worth taking a flyer.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal, £7.7 (1.5 percent owned)
Walcott has stepped up in Fabregas' absence, as evidenced by his man-of-the-match performance in the Gunners' last league game. This week's game at Tottenham won't be easy, but with Arsenal still having an eye on the Premier League title, Walcott will be at the center of the team's attack.
Adam Johnson, Manchester City, £6.0 (2.0 percent owned)
It appears that the Citizens are peaking at the right time with nine goals in their last two matches, and Johnson has as much to with that as any of his higher-priced teammates. His 14-point performance was tops among all players last week, yet he's still very under-owned.
Jimmy Bullard, Hull City, £5.5 (1.4 percent owned)
The matchup is too good not to exploit, and Bullard has two goals in his last four games. Low-cost, high-reward potential here.
Patrick Vieira, Manchester City, £4.8 (0.4 percent owned)
The old-timer still has some left in the tank after all. Vieira, 33, looked rather spry against Burnley last week and has a favorable home fixture on his slate. With an outside shot at the French roster for the World Cup, Vieira will do his best to catch Raymond Domenech's eye.
Carlton Cole, West Ham, £6.1 (3.2 percent owned)
Like Anelka, Cole is also mired in a slump (no goals in last seven matches). The Hammers host Sunderland, a team that is vastly worse on the road than it is at home. Cole scored on the Black Cats earlier this season, and it wouldn't surprise to see him end his drought this weekend in a match his team desperately needs to win to stay up.
Craig Fagan, Hull City, £4.8 (0.1 percent owned)
It'd take some serious stones to put Fagan in your lineup, but he seems to be the only one that's secured a regular spot atop the Tigers' formation and has a goal and an assist in his last three games, not to mention a dream matchup with Burnley's swiss-cheese defense.
LAST WEEK'S PICKS
Mikel Arteta (DNP – injured; Second suggestion, Tevez – 12X2=24 points)
KEEP IN MIND: If you jumped off the Aston Villa bandwagon, you might want to consider returning. Next week Villa gets Hull City AND Portsmouth (both on the road).
Soccer By Ives standings (Top 10)
1. the unholy passion……………..2025
2. The Jackson 4………………….2019
3. AC Vols…………………………2017
5. Preening Narcissists…………..2007
6. Big Apple FC…………………..2004
7. Maple Gooners………………..1986
8. Sporting Club Delica…………..1980
10. Tick Tick Boom!……………..1977
Who will you make your captain this week? What is your lineup looking like?
Share your thoughts and questions below.