In between a pair of Champions League set of games, we have this weekend in the English Premier League with games on both Saturday and Sunday. This will concentrate on Saturday’s group of matches.
The top contest on the docket is the Equalizer, where Draft Kings are offering a $10,000 prize pool with $2,000 for first place
We are looking at a seven game slate Saturday with six kicking off at 10am, followed by the “late” Manchester City/Newcastle United match to finish things up. It’s a nice mix of an overwhelming favorite(Chelsea), road tests for good clubs (Arsenal, Manchester United), a possible road bump while looking ahead (the aforementioned City) and the remainder being pretty even matches. Let’s get started…
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal
This intra-London matchup has some really interesting factors going into Saturday, beyond the tendency of DFS goodness that the Gunners bring to the table on a pretty regular basis. Palace hosts the Gunners at Selhurst Park not having a lot of recent success against Arsenal, losing four of their last five league encounters with one draw as the positive. Arsenal are healthy favorites, but not overwhelming—there is the chance Arsenal will have one eye on Monaco and the Champions League midweek.
With that in mind, Arsene Wenger may make some changes to his starting lineup—I don’t expect wholesale changes, but there might be a player or two rested, especially in the front four for the Gunners. It looks like both Aaron Ramey and Jack Wilshire won’t be risked from the start in this one, so Santi Cazorla ($8,100) looks to be used again in a deep midfield role instead of his more productive spot behind the lead striker. Cazorla remains both the primary penalty and free kick taker for Arsenal, but from the run of play by sheer positioning alone his chances are limited. If Arsenal go full strength, it looks that the front four will have Olivier Giroud ($9,100) up top with Alexis Sanchez ($9,500), Mesut Ozil ($8,000) and Theo Walcott ($6,800) behind the Frenchman. Giroud scored a pair of goals in Arsenal’s FA Cup win last weekend, and his salary cost is just sixth overall on the slate. Sanchez perhaps has the best chance of being rested after Wenger commented that the Chilean may be showing signs of fatigue; Ozil and Walcott, on the surface, are better plays because of their lower salaries and similar chances going forward for Arsenal that Sanchez would have. Sanchez hasn’t gone 90 in his last four matches, a possible sign a subs role could be in play come Saturday. If so, look for either Danny Welbeck ($8,200) or Tomas Rosicky ($4,200) could get the start in his place.
At the back, there’s a slight chance Laurent Koscielny could be rested, but in the spots that count it looks like Nacho Monreal ($3,500) and Hector Bellerin ($4,500) will remain in the starting 11 for Wenger, as the outside backs in front of David Ospina ($5,100), As positive as I am about using whomever is in the front four for Arsenal, there’s a desire to fade Arsenal from my back three this weekend. The ceiling is limited due to the relative lack of a clean sheet (Palace does have talent in attack, it’s a road game, etc) and Arsenal’s usual desire to build through the middle and eschew attacks down the wings. Putting aside Bellerin’s goal scoring, 22 point effort against Aston Villa on the first of this month, the right back’s been in single digits. Ospina’s the most solid play of the bunch, but at that salary, if you’re spending up for a keeper this weekend, you’re going Chelsea.
For Palace, Yaya Sanogo is ineligible to play (he’s on loan from Arsenal); Alan Pardew can either change formation and go to a straight 4-4-2, or pair Maroune Chamakh ($4,500) with either Frazier Campbell ($4,600) or Dwight Gayle ($5,000) up top, using the former against his old club as a second striker behind the latter, both much more mobile than Chamakh. Chamakh is a non-factor when it comes to DFS, while the choice between Campbell or Gayle may come down to Campbell’s goals in his last two games and Pardew wanting to ride the “hot” hand.
Beyond that, the most reliable options for Palace remain their wingers. Yannick Bolasie ($5,900) and Jason Puncheon ($5,300) both have acceptable salaries paired with six to eight point floors—neither will kill your lineup, and there’s something to be said about that level of reliability. However, short of goals or assists, they are unlikely to win you a GPP, either. Otherwise, it’s hard to suggest starting anyone for Palace, but there’s two value and/or contrarian plays. At home, Julian Speroni ($3,900) could have a huge day in goal for Palace—or end up in the negative. And if you need a cheap defender, new signing Pape Souare ($2,800) is likely to make his Premiership debut at left back for Palace. His attacking skill set is a positive, but the matchup is not that favorable.
Chelsea vs. Burnley
Like lambs to the figurative slaughter, Burnley comes calling to Stamford Bridge and face league leaders Chelsea. Chelsea are huge favorites, and it’s not hard to see Jose Mourinho resting a couple of starters on the back of his postgame comments about a tired, not 100% fit team he had to put out against PSG in the Champions League.
Then again, it’s Mourinho, and facts on the surface are…facts. There’s not be a lot of squad rotation short of outright injuries so far this season for Chelsea, and despite grinding out results at face value this could be the day for some bench players to get starts. The chalk play of the weekend in goal is whomever starts for Chelsea, be it Thibaut Courtois ($5,800) or Petr Cech ($5,700). Keep an eye on the starting lineup, etc, etc. You’d think Branislav Ivanovic ($5,100) could be likely, if Mourinho is going to rest guys, would perhaps get a day off, but the Serbian rarely does—and he remains a top option at defender. Lesser value comes in the form of Cesar Azpilicueta ($4,400) or Filipe Luis ($4,200) at left back, but I’m perhaps inclined to take a central defender—be it John Terry ($3,800), Gary Cahill ($3,700) or Kurt Zouma ($4,100) depending on what combo Mourinho uses. A highly possible clean sheet sees all floors rise for Chelsea defenders, and as we saw midweek, their defenders do have the ability to score with aerial chances.
At midfield and attack, we really have to get pivots ready to see which way Mourinho will zig and zag. Diego Costa ($10,200) was pretty poor in the draw at PSG, and there’s two trains of thought: Mourinho can let him shake the rust off further by playing him, or letting Loic Remy ($7,300) or Didier Drogba ($6,500) start and allow Costa a substitute role. My guess is that Costa will start and Mourinho will chop and change in midfield, but using the striker in your lineup at that pricetag, even with the matchup, is a risky proposition. There’s the real chance Costa could have a really nice day and grab or goal or two before Chelsea shut up shop, or he could remain in single digits points wise and kill your lineup because of the cost involved.
In midfield, it looks like both Cesc Fabregas ($7,800) and Willian ($5,500) could see themselves out of the starting lineup (Fabregas with a combination of injury and the flu, Willian because of poor play) with Oscar ($7,400) and Juan Cuadrado ($6,400) in their places. Add the likely use of Eden Hazard ($9,300) alongside, and my personal belief is using the three attacking midfielders in some combination is the way to go when it comes to Chelsea on Saturday. All three can score and play provider, and have solid floors when it comes to point production. Any of the front four from Chelsea are very playable, but I’ll be looking to avoid the more costly Costa in favor of overall balance throughout the lineup.
For Burnley, you have the ultra-contrarian option of Tom Heaton ($3,300) in goal in addition to the standbys of Kieran Trippier ($4,900) and Danny Ings ($6,000). The rest of Burnley’s 11 really do not come into play when you start to lessen your options for Saturday’s slate. Heaton I won’t touch, but he will have really low ownership and “you never know” possible outcomes of a scoreless draw with save after save. I can’t bank on that, however. Ings does pretty well and hits double digits consistently regardless of who Burnley plays, but it’s Chelsea, and their defense, and I think Ings falls short on Saturday. Trippier, on the other hand, only needs crosses. Cross, after cross, after cross. The matchup may scare some off, and it’s unlikely you’ll see a goals allowed bonus to his name after 90 minutes, but the point production is almost always there for Trippier.
Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Next, we head to Wales—Swans versus Red Devils, cat and dogs together, total anarchy.
United’s a solid but not overriding favorite as these top half of the table denizens meet at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea has struggled as of late, but the returns of Sung-Yeung Ki from the Asian Cup and Gylfi Sigurdsson ($7,100) from suspension further solidifies what had been a decent team from the first half of the season. But what remains missing from the equation is who will score for Swansea—with Wilfried Bony sold and off to Man City, Bafetimbi Gomis ($6,600) has been really poor before and after Bony’s departure. Gomis has one goal in 21 league appearances this season, and really lacking an alternative the ship will sail or sink with Gomis as the bow. Sigurdsson’s been solid this season, and always is a threat from set pieces—however, the rust from just under a full month off of game action should be there.
Whomever starts on the wing for Swansea—be it Wayne Routledge ($5,100), Nathan Dyer ($4,500) or Jefferson Montero ($4,200)—will be low owned for a reason. At best, they’ll hit double digits through a goal or an assist, but their collective floors are awfully low—and who’s going to finish off the chances they could potentially create? The Jonjo Shelvey ($5,500) train is likely to be retired quickly with Sigurdsson’s return to the lineup, as Shelvey moves back to a deeper position in the midfield alongside Ki. Swansea’s defenders and Lukasz Fabianski ($4,000) are really off the board, even with a home start, because of the matchup and a lack of attacking possibilities from the back four.
As for the visitors, David de Gea ($5,200) doesn’t hold a lot of lustre for me this weekend. The chance for a win is there, but de Gea is unlikely to see a lot of shots and that limits his ceiling. Again, if you’re paying up, there’s Chelsea and a much higher chance of those bonuses. United’s defenders remain off the board because of poor point production. In midfield, it looks like Angel Di Maria ($8,700) has returned to potential high-end production if used as an outside midfielder and not behind the front two strikers for Louis van Gaal. Keep an eye on the starting lineup, and if both Maroune Felliani ($4,700) and Ander Herrera ($5,000) start Di Maria should remain in an outside role. Herrera and especially Felliani would be attractive value plays, the latter likely in that attacking midfield role behind Wayne Rooney ($10,000) and either Robin van Persie ($9,500) or Radamel Falcao ($8,400). Juan Mata seems to be on the outside looking in at this point, while Adnan Januzaj ($4,500) could start of either Herrera or Felliani are not included, putting Di Maria back into the “hole” that he struggles in behind the two strikers. Rooney has been very poor as of late, and that price tag requires high end production to justify his usage. I’d only use Rooney if you’re going with a straight United attacking stack of unknown number, but in a “mixed” lineup of best options I’d go elsewhere if spending up for a striker. After missing the FA Cup win this past Monday, van Persie is likely fit and if so should start with Rooney up top, putting the highly inconsistent Falcao on the pine.
Hull City vs. QPR
At first glance, this matchup has two clubs just outside the relegation zone facing off against each other, and it doesn’t have a lot of headline attraction to it—but look a bit further, and this match at the KC Stadium could win someone a GPP because of the value and the likely open nature of both clubs (read, poor defense).
Hull has a draw and win in its last two league matches, and are solid favorites at home. Both teams did not have FA Cup duty this past weekend and should be highly rested and ready to go. The only viable DFS option from both clubs to miss out is QPR’s Leroy Fer due to injury. With a 3-5-2 formation from Steve Bruce and no defenders in those outside positions, only Hull keeper Alan McGregor ($4,600) comes into reckoning when building your team from the back forwards. I can’t put a lot of faith in McGregor, but when he has had success in the past, it’s been at home—22 points against Villa at home last week, 16 against Everton on New Year’s Day. Sandwiched between those two was a minus-2 in a loss at home to Newcastle. QPR does have attacking potential, so if I’m going mid or lower tier at keeper, it’s not here. Same with Robert Green ($4,100) for QPR, and he’s the road keeper in this one.
At midfield, each team has one option worth your consideration. QPR started Matt Phillips ($4,000) in their last two league games, and the left winger’s produced 9 and 16 points respectively. Phillips isn’t likely to repeat his two-assist showing against Sunderland from QPR’s last match, but there is the possibility of double digits from crosses alone in this one. At that pricetag, it’s value returned. For Hull, you have Ahmed Elmohamady ($6,200). The Egyptian has struggled as of late, not hitting DPS double digits since January 10th. It’s a pretty nice matchup for Elmohamady, who could break out of his slump—but that ceiling is limited due to a lack of direct goalscoring opportunities.
Charlie Austin ($8,400) clearly struggled even prior to being sat in QPR’s last league match against Southampton, and while his foot wasn’t broken, it still might not be 100%. It’ll be a full two weeks since Austin played, and the striker hasn’t scored from open play since December 20th—only two penalties since then. If healthy, he’s a dangerous finisher that doesn’t need a lot of chances to capitalize upon. Hull’s defense is relatively strong at home, and that price tag isn’t exactly cheap. But the overall view of forwards on Saturday is that everyone has a question to their ledger to some extent, be it a pricetag, lack of form, etc.
For Hull, Dame N’Doye ($4,800) could have the highest ownership rate of any forward this weekend—at least, he should have. For that salary, the Senegalese striker is incredibly flexible to fit into any lineup, and his two-goal performance in the win over Villa is hard to ignore, as is QPR’s tendencies to give up goals. It’s all down to Hull creating the chances, and N’Doye or Nikica Jelavic ($5,800) putting them away. Perhaps the weekend’s best minimum play is Robbie Brady ($3,000), who gets some free kick chances and a likely third straight start on the left for Hull. If you’re going stars and scrubs, Brady is almost unavoidable.
Aston Villa vs. Stoke City
With Tim Sherwood’s debut for Villa at home, will the hosts in this one see any kind of bump in their overall performance? Villa are the slightest of favorites in this one, a virtual pick ’em, which isn’t seen much in Premiership matches. After a FA Cup win under interim management, Villa will look to snap a five-game losing streak in league play against a Stoke side that has the tendency to play up (or in this case, down) to its opponents. Add into the mix Stoke has several injury absences and/or doubts.
This should be a relatively low scoring affair, which brings both Brad Guzan ($4,700) and Asmir Begovic ($4,400) into play. I have a better feeling about Begovic than Guzan, simply due to the fact Begovic in theory should see more attempts on goal despite Stoke having the edge in talent and form when it comes to their attackers. The defense corps for both sides are not exactly DFS friendly, but Villa’s Aly Cissokho ($4,000) and Alan Hutton ($3,700) hold an edge over Stoke’s pair of Phil Bardsley and Erik Pieters.
The midfield options for both teams are awfully thin. Carles Gil ($5.400) is coming off an injury and is likely less than 100%, while Victor Moses ($6,100) has the highest floor of anyone between the two teams does not have a very high ceiling to justify that pricetag. I can’t see myself going with guys like Scott Sinclair ($4,700). Most of Stoke’s front four are classified as strikers; with Johnathan Walters ($5,600) coming off a knee injury but healthy enough to possibly start, it looks like one of Peter Crouch ($5,900), Mame Diouf ($4,700) or Marko Arnautovic ($4,000) could make way. It may be Diouf, who hasn’t produced much statistically, but Mark Hughes may want to keep him in the lineup for his pace and hustle. Crouch has been the most consistent of Stoke’s strikers, but if Walters starts there is the chance Crouch could be a substitute. I do like whomever starts up top for Stoke, and if both Crouch and Walters are there from the start, it’s not a bad mini-stack to use in a lineup if you’re putting several together. I will remain unable to use Christian Benteke ($7,100) going forward, even if that salary drops. He’s very talented, but who will provide the chances for Benteke to capitalize upon? It’s hard seeing anyone outside Gil doing so, and the Spanish midfielder is a relatively unknown quantity in the Premiership.
Sunderland vs. West Bromwich Albion
There’s not a lot of prettiness in either of these two teams, both hovering over the relegation zone with West Brom on a new coach (Tony Pulis) while Sunderland’s Gus Poyet isn’t likely long for the job if current results stay as is. This is another near pick ‘em, with again the hosts a very slim favorite. Sunderland was without several players last weekend in a FA Cup loss, and could be without Jermaine Defoe ($6,000) in attack although the veteran striker should start. Both he and WBA’s Brown Ideye ($5,600) are in form, with Ideye scoring in his past two league starts after a terrible first half to his opening Premiership season. Those two, plus Connor Wickham ($6,200) and Saido Berahino ($7,400), are all in play because of their cost. West Brom, since Pulis’ hiring, has improved defensively.
The two keepers in this one are in play as mid-tier options, with Costel Pantilimon ($4,500) having the home start, albeit behind a struggling Sunderland side, and Ben Foster ($4,000) faces said strugglers. It’s tough putting any confidence behind either; they’re just as apt to get you zero as they are double digits. I’d lean towards Pantilimon, albeit not strongly, because of the home start. Neither side has any real attractive defenders to use, but with Anthony Reveillere likely out Billy Jones ($2,000) should start at right back and he’s a minimum play. Midfielders Stephane Sessegnon ($6,200), Sebastian Larsson ($5,400), Adam Johnson ($5,100) all have attractive salaries, but with that have very low point floors that could scuttle your lineup.
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United
Like Arsenal, City has a much more important match on the horizon—Barca-something—in the Champions League next week. With the Premiership title perhaps out of reach with Chelsea seven points up and a third of the season to go, there might be some leaning towards resting players despite City not having a FA Cup match this past weekend. At the very best, some guys like Sergio Aguero ($10,300) or David Silva ($8,400) could see an early exit if things are settled at the Etihad.
City are strong favorites at home, and Newcastle per usual have a very long injury list that currently includes Remy Cabella and Paul Dummett. City will be without James Milner due to injury. Potential City options begin in the back with Joe Hart ($5,500), Gael Clichy ($4,300) and either Pablo Zabaleta ($4,600) or Bacary Sagna ($3,700) at right back. Hart is a strong option, but again, if you’re paying up in goal, why not just go with Chelsea’s better matchup? In midfield, Silva and returnee Yaya Toure ($7,600) are the best options, with Jesus Navas ($6,300) taking Milner’s place and to a degree not wholly dependent on goals to return value. Silva’s form has dipped in Toure’s absence because teams could focus on the playmaker, but this could be a nice bump to Silva’s value despite Toure’s likeliness to shoot on site. Toure scored in three straight games before leaving for the ANC, and it might take time for him to mesh back into things—but this matchup is a pretty nice one to reacclimatize himself.
Aguero seems to be the top option at forward, both in cost and potential output. He found the back of the net twice against Stoke in City’s last game, and likely should start in this one. If you choose to go with Aguero, it’s in the hope of a carbon copy—a pair of goals prior to a second-half substitution off. In that case, his likely replacement will be new signing Bony ($7,900), whose usefulness for your lineup is very much limited if he’s a sub, regardless of the matchup.
For the visitors, there’s a limited few possible ways to go. Magpies you can consider are Tim Krul ($3,600) as another contrarian option in goal against a clear favorite on the road, Daryl Janmaat ($4,000) at defender as a consistent, albeit low ceiling option, Moussa Sissoko ($4,600) in midfield and both Papiss Cisse ($7,000) and Ayoze Perez ($6,600) likely starters at forward. Cisse and Sissoko are intriguing ways to go in my mind; Cisse seems to play best against the big teams (see his brace against Chelsea earlier in the season) while Sissoko could see this match as an advertisement of his ability to play for a bigger team in the pyramid that is European soccer/football. Both are likely to be low owned, as should Yoan Gouffran ($4,900).