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FPL transfer targets and captain choices assessed ahead of double Gameweek 34

SoccerBy Colm Hayes
Will Ibrahimovic regain his starting berth ahead of Marcus Rashford for United's DGW?
Will Ibrahimovic regain his starting berth ahead of Marcus Rashford for United's DGW?

With the first of two double gameweeks on the horizon, we assess the top transfer targets and the captaincy condundrum ahead of GW34.

Players from the three double gameweek teams find themselves in high demand ahead of Saturday's 2.00pm deadline, though a few single gameweekers make a compelling case for the armband.

DGW assets

With Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough playing twice in a gameweek that stretches out until Thursday week, it's understandable that players from those teams top the transfers-in column even though all three sides provide their own issues in fantasy terms.

Man Utd (Ed note: This was written before Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to be injured in Thursday night's Europa League game)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.4m) is clearly the standout FPL option at Old Trafford. However, Sunday's benching as Marcus Rashford (£6.5m) took centre stage against Chelsea means there is a big question mark looming over the Swede's minutes ahead of trips to Burnley and Manchester City.

Fantasy managers will keep a keen eye on Jose Mourinho's teamsheet tonight as the Red Devils play Anderlecht in the second leg of a Europa League quarter-final. If United are knocked out, owners will breathe easier while non-owners will scramble to acquire the 35-year-old but if Mourinho's men advance the situation will remain murky.

The United manager has already admitted that winning Europe's second-tier competition will become the club's priority if attaining a top-four place becomes unrealistic. However, beating Chelsea 2-0 put the Manchester outfit right back in the mix as Mourinho attempts to use a sizeable squad to his advantage.

Ibrahimovic seems likely to get one start over the double gameweek (barring any injuries) considering his importance to the team and goalscoring prowess, particularly away from home.

Rashford also represents a tempting option for those looking for a differential option ahead of GW34, with his performance against Antonio Conte's side likely to guarantee him some Premier League minutes over the next week. Whether those will be gained as the central striker or from a wide position is anybody's guess.

It would appear that Ibrahimovic's power and presence might be more suited against a Burnley backline that will attempt to soak up pressure against United, while Rashford's pace could trouble a City defence liable to leave space in behind. However, attempting to guess how real-life managers will pick their teams is a folly for their fantasy counterparts.

United's defence also represents an attractive investment, with just two goals conceded in the club's last five league games. If comments made by Mourinho before the Chelsea clash are to be believed, Marcos Rojo (£5.2m) and Eric Bailly (£5.4m) are nailed on:

Despite playing there regularly during his United career, the Portuguese coach doesn't seem to rate Daley blind as a centre half. David de Gea (£5.4m) also provides another route into the United defence, while Antonio Valencia (£6.0m) would be the standout option if his pitch time, like Ibrahimovic's, wasn't in doubt.

The Ecuadorian missed the two fixtures following the last international break, as Mourinho's options at full-back deem Valencia a rotation risk.

In midfield, all United options are realistically punts. Paul Pogba (£8.2m) should feature in both league fixtures but has not posted an attacking return since GW19. Henrikh Mkhitaryan offers the greatest points potential but has only started two of the last four, though did net in the 3-1 win away to Sunderland.

Jesse Lingard (£5.6m) has started United's last five, scoring away to Boro in GW29, and offers a cheaper option with the likelihood of minutes in at least one fixture over the double gameweek.

Crystal Palace

The Eagles present the form vs fixtures debate for GW34, as Sam Allardyce's travel to Liverpool before a home clash against Tottenham Hotspur. Palace have recent form for upsetting the big teams, with wins against Chelsea and Arsenal since GW30.

With Mamadou Sakho (£4.8m) ineligible to play against parent club Liverpool, any hope of clean sheets in GW34 seems lost for Palace considering the current ferocity of Spurs' attack. However, Wayne Hennessey (£4.3m) should rack up the save points against two of the league's most attacking outfits.

Wilfried Zaha (£6.0m) and Andros Townsend (£5.8m) are fighting for fantasy attention in midfield. The Ivory Coast winger has two goals and three assists across the last six fixtures, as does his teammate. Townsend, however, racked up maximum bonus points in three of those six fixtures, while Zaha received just three bonus points over the same period.

The latter is integral to Palace's gameplan, however, with Townsend likelier to succumb to rotation if Big Sam decides to begin managing minutes over the double. Yohan Cabaye (£5.6m), meanwhile, has two assists and two goals over the club's previous six games, with his two strikes coming in GW32 and GW33.

Up front, Christian Benteke (£7.2m) is nailed-on having scored three times and assisted once since GW27. The Belgian is no longer Palace's designated penalty taker, though owners might be happier with this considering Benteke's toils from the spot. The striker's former club are also facing a potential injury crisis in defence ahead of Sunday's clash at Anfield:

GW35 is also a point in favour of Benteke and his teammates as the Eagles welcome a Burnley side with no away Premier League wins to Selhurst Park.

Boro

Languishing in 19th position in the league table, the Riverside outfit face two huge fixtures in GW34. A midweek home game against fellow basement-dwellers Sunderland is preceded by a trip to Bournemouth.

A defence that has conceded just 39 times so far this campaign will be weakened by the absence of first-choice keeper Victor Valdes for the Vitality Stadium clash:

If Valdes does return to face David Moyes' Black Cats, Ben Gibson's chances of a clean sheet should vastly improve. The £5.0m-defender is the standout option in the Boro defence, having played every minute of the season so far. Gibson has also collected four bonus points since GW30, just under a third of his total (13) for the campaign.

Gaston Ramirez (£5.2m) and Adama Traore (£4.8m) are extremely risky picks but the only members of the Boro midfield that might offer attacking returns. With a paltry 23 goals scored over 32 fixtures, however, Steve Agnew's men are not likely to light up the double gameweek scoreboard.

Despite this, Alvaro Negredo's strike against Arsenal on Monday night has seen almost 60,000 managers plump for the Spaniard. Negredo did lose his starting berth to Rudy Gestede (£4.7m) in GW32 for Burnley's visit to the Riverside but a minor heel injury should confine the Aston Villa striker to a bench role on Saturday at least.

The general consensus is that these two fixtures are do-or-die for Boro, meaning goals are required. However, unfortunately for teams playing under the threat of relegation, that does not mean they will magically start hitting the back of the net.

Negredo has scored three times since GW23 - in those ten fixtures, Boro have netted five times in total. The club's post-GW34 fixtures also make for grim reading:

As with any transfers made for the upcoming double, those still holding the second wildcard have much more flexibility than those without.

All the single captains

The temptation to captain a player with two GW34 fixtures is likely to be irresistible for most FPL managers, with the likes of Ibra, Benteke and Negredo all set to attract the armband in droves.

However, two single gameweek players offer serious captaincy potential this week. The pair just happen to be the league's current top scorers - Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane.

The Everton striker travels to play a West Ham side that he has previous with:

While Kane's full return from injury saw the England man rack up 12 points, thanks to a goal and an assist, as a red-hot Spurs side put four past Eddie Howe's Bournemouth side. Mauricio Pochettino's team are the opponents for DGW side Palace next Wednesday after an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea this weekend.

The PFA Team of the Year strikeforce could potentially plunder the points in GW34 but should represent differential captain picks considering both play just once.