Double gameweek alert: We finally have our first real double gameweek of the season, the first of two. This week the Premier League will feature three teams with two matches: Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Manchester United. To go along with the theme of the week, all of the picks below will have a chance at double the points.
But with that also comes a warning. Oftentimes, fantasy Premier League managers tend to go all out when it comes to double gameweeks, loading up their squads with just about any player who has a double gameweek. This is not the week to do that (see Gameweek 37). Rather, find a handful of productive players, like those below, where you won’t sacrifice the quality of your squad just for the sake of having double-gameweek players. But that especially goes for Fantrax leagues.
Luckily I have expert readers out there like smileyrob68, who reminds us all that in Fantrax leagues there is not double gameweek until next week. Rather, there are clubs who don't play in Gameweek 34 since they only have a midweek match due to the FA Cup semifinals So Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester City, Sunderland and Leicester will see their matches attached to Gameweek 35 rather than this weekend.
Hull City’s Andrea Ranocchia was the only one of my picks to produce from last week with an assist in a 3-1 loss to Stoke City. However, recent picks Phil Jagielka, Vincent Janssen and Yohan Cabaye each scored over the weekend.
We’ve filled up most of our Fantrax draft leagues, but it’s never too late to join or start up your own league with Fantrax. You can find them all here under “Rotoworld Draft League”. If they are all filled up, let us know on Twitter and we’ll add more leagues. For obvious reasons, we’re capping leagues at 10 users in order to encourage a higher level of competition. And if you’re bored of the attacking-based FPL.com or Perfect XI formats, our salary cap league on Fantrax (Rotoworld Salary Cap) mirrors the old Yahoo format that includes advanced statistics and defensive metrics. It’s not for the casual FPL.com player, and that’s why we love it.
Without further delay, here are the bargains for Gameweek 34. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
One-week Pick (OWP) - When a regular is suspended for a match, ineligible to face his parent club as a loanee, or his fill-in looks to deputize for only a week while the regular nurses a minor injury, this is where to find some replacements. They should only be looked at when you really need help at a position that week alone, and not looked at as long term plays. Best for salary cap leagues with unlimited transactions.
Short-term Pick (STP) - When a regular faces a multi-game suspension, an injury layoff lasting 2-5 weeks, international commitment, etc., this is where you look for players that can offer more beyond one week but do have a limited shelf life in most cases. Worth using a waiver claim or spending a bit more of your free agent budget (FAAB) than the One Week Buys. Can be useful in salary-cap format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks.
Long-term Picks (LTP) - When a regular is either facing a month or more out or has lost his spot seemingly to someone better, these are the players that emerge as potential long-term investments and are therefore the most valuable of the group and worth paying up. Great for any format, but especially valuable in the FPL.com game or draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Victor Valdes (Middlesbrough)
In salary-cap leagues, Valdes seems like the most popular pick ahead of the upcoming double gameweek. For one, goalkeepers are difficult to come by; but mostly, Middlesbrough defenders are going to be in demand up against both Bournemouth and Sunderland in the next week. With Middlesbrough in the middle of a relegation race, these are two must-win matches, and interim manager Steve Agnew’s top priority has been to revitalize the club’s defense in the final months.
Earlier this season, I recommended Valdes for a favorable stretch in the schedule where the Teessiders underperformed massively before Aitor Karanka’s dismissal. Now, Valdes has recorded two clean sheets in his last three league matches and looks a promising selection in Fantrax draft leagues since he is available as a free agent in more than half (54 percent) of all leagues. Valdes should be considered more of a short-term pick, considering Boro’s tough schedule to end the year, but his prospects during the double gameweek are bright. Just keep an eye on the team news: Valdes missed the Arsenal match due to a minor rib injury but is expected to recover for the weekend.
DEF – Bernardo Espinosa (Middlesbrough)
The Riverside train continues with Bernardo Espinosa, a defender who has quietly been a major part of the last two months of Premier League action for Middlesbrough. The versatile defender has started 11 of the last 12 Premier League matches for a defense that has seen Calum Chambers and George Friend struggle with injury. Chambers looks to be back fit (he didn’t play against Arsenal due to loan restrictions, not injury) which means he would also be a great selection for the double gameweek. In fact, I would recommend him over Bernardo, considering Bernardo didn’t start against Arsenal, if I didn’t already select him as a pick a few weeks back.
But Bernardo also looks like a promising pick who is more readily available in 96 percent of Fantrax draft leagues. Like Valdes, he shouldn’t be considered for too much longer than the double gameweek. And at the risk of ignoring the warning I laid out earlier, I wouldn’t recommend Bernardo unless you are confident in your defense for the rest of the season and can afford a bench spot. But the potential for points against Bournemouth and Sunderland is enough to entice. Check Chambers’ availability first, then consider Bernardo.
MID – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
Herrera has been in excellent form lately, earning him a rare spot in Jose Mourinho’s favor. The way he marked and shut down Eden Hazard in the club’s 2-0 win against Chelsea on Sunday has been praised across the league, and now Herrera looks like a staple in Mourinho’s resurgence. Against Chelsea, the Spaniard contributed to both goals with a goal and assist. And last week against Sunderland, Herrera recorded an assist on one of the club’s three goals.
The only problem is Herrera is available in just 25 percent of Fantrax draft leagues, which is still a good figure considering he is one of the main playmakers of a top-five side. In their double gameweek, the Red Devils will line up against Burnley and Manchester City in a pair of away matches where Herrera and Paul Pogba are expected to dominate the midfield. With the club back in form and a Champions League spot on the line, Manchester United will surely look to this week to make some moves on the top four.
MID– Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
Now Milivojevic is not my top pick from the Crystal Palace midfield. Rather, I still prefer my recent picks in Andros Townsend and Yohan Cabaye, not to mention Wilfried Zaha if he is somehow available in your Fantrax draft league. But Milivojevic gives you another option at the double gameweek in case these other options are taken. The winter signing likely won’t be taken as he is available in 84 percent of leagues.
This week, the Eagles will line up against Liverpool and Spurs. It’s obviously not the easiest of weeks, which is why I didn’t recommend any defenders. However, Palace proved against Arsenal that it can keep up with the top sides in a stunning 3-0 victory. In that win over the Gunners, Milivojevic proved himself as one of the club’s penalty takers, if not the main penalty taker, and that could prove vital during a double gameweek.
FWD/MID– Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough)
A part of me is still holding out hope that the Stewart Downing from 2014, who came out of hiding with six goals and eight assists for West Ham, will soon surprise me again. While we might not get that much production from Downing, these next couple weeks will be his best/last chance to show a bit of magic. Most managers are going to look to Alvaro Negredo for the double gameweek, but his availability on the waiver wire is scarce. Meanwhile, Downing picked up an assist against Arsenal on Monday but will continue to go under the radar of fantasy managers in draft leagues.
The midfielder has started each of the five Premier League matches down the left wing after nearly leaving the club in the winter, when he was in Karanka’s doghouse. But under Agnew, Downing has reemerged as a go-to figure given his Premier League experience, just like he helped the club back into the Premier League last season. Downing has excellent value since he is taken in just 26 percent of Fantrax draft leagues. We know the assists and playmaking ability is there, and now Downing has the minutes to give him the chance. And I like his chances against Bournemouth and Sunderland.