Welcome to a big weekend in DFS for us who play with the round ball at our feet here at DraftKings. We have a seven game slate to choose from on Saturday, with Southampton/Newcastle occupying the late kickoff. It’s an interesting mix that does leave out the Sunday Manchester City/Arsenal weekend marquee game, but you will have a definite mix of roster building opportunities to select from. There are no big favorites in any of the games Saturday, with the big guns on the road and some even matchups elsewhere.
The top contest on Saturday’s slate is the Clean Sheet, where Draft Kings are offering a $25,000 prize pool with $5,000 for first place
Swansea City vs. Chelsea
Our first road big dog is dressed in blue, as top of the table Chelsea heads north to Wales to face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. A solid but not overwhelming favorite, Chelsea will look to keep the league lead against recent form—having won just one of their last five league away games. On the other side of things, Chelsea versus Swansea? The blue side has won five of their last seven against the Swans.
There’s a couple of minor questions about who Chelsea starts on Saturday, but it’s likely Jose Mourinho won’t change things too drastically, going with the tried and true lineup he has used throughout the season. Mourinho Friday mentioned Thibaut Courtois ($5,000) is available for use against Swansea; either he or Petr Cech ($4,900) is a strong play because of the defensive prowess Chelsea constantly brings to the table. Putting aside the blip that was New Year’s Day against Spurs, Chelsea is a strong defensive unit and even on the road either Cech or Courtois is a strong option. In the overall scheme of things, you are either going top shelf with Hugo Lloris in a home start, the upper middle class with guys like Courtois/Cech, David de Gea or others in that 5k range or going very low with a contrarian, low cost option that carries a lot of risk. Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski ($4,600) is not an option, even at home—Chelsea, win, lose or draw, rarely go scoreless.
Branislav Ivanovic ($5,300) has helpers in two straight, and both he and Filipe Luis ($4,100) are solid options on the day. The midfield cast remains the same—both Eden Hazard ($9,900) and Cesc Fabregas ($7,800) saw their prices both dip $400, while Oscar ($7,400) saw his go up after a 20 point performance. Last weekend’s win over Newcastle saw Oscar take the usual role Hazard has, but overall Hazard remains the best play of the three because of his responsibilities on dead balls and penalties. If it’s Cesc versus Oscar, the latter has the better place in the formation but Cesc is the more even play—both have the same amount of goals on the season over all formations. Up top, Diego Costa ($10,300) is the third most expensive option at forward behind Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane—amongst the three, Kane has the best matchup and is most in form, with Costa close behind and Rooney third in the group. We’ll get into the other two later, but Costa is the lead dog against a strong but exploitable Swansea backline. A goal in his last two matches puts Costa in a strong play position. He’s very goal dependent, but Costa is near the top when it comes to those able to put 20-plus points on Saturday.
Swansea’s options on the day are few and far between. Bafetimbi Gomis ($6,700) is at the right price and place in Swansea’s lineup, but, again—Chelsea rarely give up big days against lead strikers. At the very least, Gomis shoots on sight—so he won’t lay a complete egg. Gomis should see a low ownership rate as should Gylfi Sigurdsson ($8,100)—but Gomis’ price tag is a lot easier to stomach. Like Gomis, Sigurdsson rarely turns down a chance to shoot. I can’t see either of Swansea’s wingers, Nathan Dyer or Wayne Routledge, having any success in this one. They do have the speed to exploit a defense on the counterattack in theory, but Chelsea rarely gives up these types of goals—for every poor match, like losses at Newcastle or Spurs, there are five positives.
Burnley vs. Crystal Palace
Both teams have had a decent run of form as of late in the league, but Burnley’s played a couple of extra games due to the FA Cup over the past two to three weeks. The home start should overcome any issues, as both clubs look to avoid relegation in this one. A draw isn’t out of the realm of possibility in the least, and when it comes to DFS, there are options on both sides you can use that are relatively affordable.
In the relative scheme of things, perhaps the most expensive player in this one is Burnley keeper Tom Heaton ($5,400); more expensive than any keeper other than Lloris overall, Heaton’s price tag is based heavily on the home start and Palace’s iffy attack. Palace scored twice at home to beat Spurs last weekend in Alan Pardew’s debut, but a road start could see Palace back to their struggles to find the back of the net. Perhaps a contrarian, low owned option at keeper is Julian Speroni ($4,200); at that price, Palace’s keeper is awfully affordable and Burnley is not an offensive dynamo. Speroni has 11 and 13 points in his last two games; the gambit has its risks but could pay off.
Heaton teammate Kieran Trippier ($5,600) is somewhat in the same vein when it comes to salary, but the right back is not overly tied to how many goals Burnley do or do not give up in this one. Aside from any statistical scoring issues, Trippier is heavily used going forward and under normal circumstances gets points consistently from crosses alone. While he should see additional defensive responsibilities because Palace uses orthodox wingers, Trippier should have his chances of his own to get into the Burnley attack, especially at home. More affordable options in this one include Ben Mee ($3,400) and Palace’s Joel Ward ($3,000); in what should be a low scoring game, both have the ability to hit double digits with a clean sheet and a handful of crosses and are real value at that price.
The aforementioned wingers are amongst the options in midfield in this one; with no out-and-out playmakers on either club, you have lower to middle cost players like Wilfried Zaha ($4,000) and Jason Puncheon ($5,400) to go with if you choose to spend elsewhere. Puncheon scored last weekend, but is able to contribute through crosses and shots on goal and with Yannick Bolasie on international duty has a bigger role in Palace’s attack. I’m a broken record about him, but if Zaha starts he could have a huge day on crosses alone. Keep an eye on who starts for Pardew—if Dwight Gayle ($4,500) plays up top instead of the wing, Zaha should get the call and opens up your lineup to spend up elsewhere.
Burnley’s Scott Arfield ($5,200) hit double digits last weekend, but is extremely goal dependent—avoid unless you’re really looking to go contrarian. Better options, by far, are the front two for the hosts—Danny Ings ($8.000) and Ashley Barnes ($6,600). Ings is easily the fulcrum of Burnley’s attack, and the price tag remains affordable for use in any type of pairing at forward, be it spending up or a more balanced approach. Like Arfield, George Boyd ($6,300) is very goal dependent and would be a flex option at best.
Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
Liverpool travel to the Midlands to face Villa, and are starting to turn things around in their chase for a top four spot. While there’s ground to make up—they’re got to regret giving up a two-goal lead at home to Leicester on New Year’s Day—Liverpool are getting positive results and should have enough to break down Villa at home. There’s a lot of unrest at Villa at the present time, and this could in theory get ugly if Liverpool grab an early goal.
Let’s take the hosts first—there really are only four players in claret and blue you can go with on this slate, and even that group will be high contrarian with little upside. You have Brad Guzan ($4,300) in goal—if anything, Villa defend in numbers and it’s a home start. Liverpool does have dynamic attackers and using Guzan has the potential upside of a number of saves, putting aside the result. Villa outside backs Aly Cissokho ($4,100) and Alan Hutton ($3,800) have been strong plays as of late, but this might not be the matchup for you to use them. With Liverpool’s 3-4-3 formation, both players may not see a lot of opportunities to go forward, even if Villa go behind on the scoreboard. And Christian Benteke ($7,900) simply does not have an offensive playmaker to get him the ball in order to score goals—new buy Carles Gill might be that individual, but it’s hard to put a forward or flex spot towards Benteke at this point.
For Liverpool, it’ll be interesting to see who Brendan Rogers starts in this one—the starting lineup will go a long way towards who has value. Look to who starts in the front three for Liverpool—if he starts, Raheem Sterling ($8,500) is a very strong option, especially if Lazar Markovic ($3,800) also does and Steven Gerrard ($6,400) does not. If Gerrard misses out with a hamstring injury, there’s a strong possibility Sterling would have increased free kick responsibilities, and perhaps take penalties as well. If he starts, Markovic is extremely underpriced for where he plays and should be heavily owned as a cost-saving Flex opportunity. Add into the mix Phillipe Coutinho ($6,300), and across the board whomever starts up top for Liverpool is an option—even Fabio Borini ($4,800), who would likely start in place of Markovic or if Rogers determines Sterling should be reintroduced gradually via the substitutes bench.
Jordan Henderson ($5,000) has seen his value dip with a role as defacto wingback; Alberto Moreno ($3,700), on the other hand, is a strong play at defender because of the wingback play plus any clean sheet bonus that may happen. Moreno does not rack up crosses, but gets forward a decent amount.
QPR vs. Manchester United
United’s forward momentum has really dissipated over the last three matches, with the loss at home to Southampton the whipped cream gone bad on a week old cake. The medicine to their collective ills could be a trip to London and Loftus Road, where next-to-last place QPR await. This match is a lot like United’s New Year’s Day trip to Stoke, without Stoke’s collective strong defense-it could be tricky for United, and likely won’t be a multi-goal win. Pair that with the collective high prices for Red Devils options, and going with Manchester United player could seem relatively contrarian on Saturday.
First of all, QPR options are few and far between. Really, there’s only two; QPR “wingers” Eduardo Vargas ($5,400) and Leroy Fer ($5,300) in theory could have a lot of opportunities on the counterattack, but only really Vargas has the speed to take advantage of United’s defense—though while thought of as weakened, has only given up four goals in their last six matches. In reality, you have Charlie Austin ($9,600) up top and Robert Green ($3,500) in goal. Green, like Guzan, should see a lot of action; it’s really hard to see United not get shots on goal like they failed to do against Southampton. Ings and Austin are very similar; their teams’ attack solely goals through them and both should see chances—but Ings has the lower salary and the better matchup.
The visitors will likely be without Robin van Persie, so even through Louis van Gaal would have likely made changes anyway to his starting lineup, injuries will make it a certainty. Dealing with the givens, David de Gea ($5,100) won’t be on my radar simply due to the fact QPR will likely not get a lot of chances on goal, and the margin of error is razor thin if United does not keep a clean sheet. For the same price, I’d rather go with whoever starts in goal for Chelsea. If United remains with three in the back, it’s hard to trust any United defender in your lineup—even Luke Shaw ($4,000) or Rafael ($4,900), playing as a wingback, simply do not garner crosses because of United’s style of play.
Angel Di Maria ($10,500) is on my to-be fade list for Saturday; if I go with anyone on United, it’s likely to be with Rooney ($10,600), Radamel Falcao ($8,700), and, if he starts, James Wilson ($4,500) than the Argentinean. Since returning from injury, Di Maria has seemed out of sorts trying to re-integrate himself back into United’s attack. With QPR likely to play defensively in numbers, Di Maria is likely to find himself in more of a midfield role and his speed should be somewhat diminished in the run of play. I’d rather spend elsewhere. Di Maria could hit 20+ points, but the rest of the lineup will have to suffer the consequences of you using him. Falcao isn’t a certainty to start after van Gaal failed to really compliment him on Friday during a press conference, but perhaps it was a move to light a fire under the Colombian. Juan Mata probably will not start in this one; Maroune Felliani ($5,000) and Ander Herrera ($5,700) could be interesting plays but are very goal dependent in order to return value.
Leicester City vs. Stoke City
Stoke visits Leicester; the former usually plays to the level of their opponents. Leicester are dead last—read into that what you will. This game should be hard fought with little dividing the two teams, mirrored in Leicester being a slight favorite despite their place in the standings.
There’s no way I could touch Ben Hamer ($4,700) in goal at all; much, much better is Asmir Begovic ($4,400), who when not playing the better sides can hit double digits with a strong Stoke defense. Without Leicester wingers Jeff Schlupp and Riyad Mahrez due to international commitments, replacements Anthony Knockaert ($3,200) and Marc Albrighton ($4,000) both hit double digits from crosses alone against Villa in a 1-0 win. Leicester could generate enough chances going forward to keep Begovic busy, but able to give Stoke the win and perhaps a clean sheet.
On the other side of things, it’s hard to get a lot of enthusiasm toward anyone in Stoke’s attack, even with the positive matchup. Anyone from Stoke’s front four will be affordable, but can provide a really low floor if they do not find the back of the net. Peter Crouch ($6,400), Bojan Krkic ($5,900), Jonathan Walters ($5,300) and Marko Arnautovic ($4,000) all could provide value if they score—but choosing the right one is the trick. In the end, go with the out-and-out striker (Crouch) or the most talented option (Krkic).
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland
As you’ve noticed, new Sunderland signing Jermaine Defoe is not included because his acquisition did not take place prior to the games being created, so for what it’s worth, Sunderland’s most rosterable option is not available. Following up on that, it’s hard to suggest any Sunderland player for DFS rosters Saturday. Costel Pantilimon ($3,300) is cheap, but unless he makes five to ten saves to offset whatever goals he gives up, I’m not going near him. Connor Wickham ($5,700) up top with Defoe? Maybe, but if anyone is going to score, it’ll be Defoe. My best suggestion would be Adam Johnson ($5,000) because of his price tag and his ability to get points that are not dependent on goals, but it’s an awfully dicey situation.
Ownership rates should be a lot higher for those suiting up for the hosts. Spurs could get multiple goals. Keep an eye on if Mauricio Pochettino shuffles the deck a bit, especially at outside back and at winger in the front four. Whoever starts there are strong options, alongside Lloris ($5,700), Christian Eriksen ($7.900) and Kane ($10,500). Kane is the highest priced option across the board for a reason; six goals in his last six, added to the fact he’s not overtly goal dependent for a forward and a really good matchup for a striker? Sign me up. You’ll have to go for bargains elsewhere, but there’s enough to build around Kane. Eriksen has struggled point production wise over his past two games, but remains a strong play because of the matchup and his place at the heart of Tottenham’s attack.
I remain a big fan of Nacer Chadli ($7,000), more than Andros Townsend ($5,400). Chadli is more likely to score plus provide crosses. Both can be used, unless Pochettino goes with other options like Aaron Lennon or a central midfielder outside. Defenders Danny Rose ($4,300) and Kyle Walker ($4,200) have high ceilings, but do not garner a lot of crosses to their names. However, the chances of a clean sheet plus the ability in this matchup to get forward could see Rose/Walker hit double digits.
Newcastle United vs. Southampton
At first glance, for me, it’s hard not to think that Southampton might be in place for a letdown after winning against Manchester United this past Sunday. The matchup is a positive, despite being on the road, they’re solid favorites—but stranger things have happened, and Newcastle played Chelsea pretty hard in their loss last weekend.
For Southampton, I really like the midfield pair of James Ward-Prowse ($5,200) and Dusan Tadic ($9,200). Both are likely to start in Southampton’s front four with Graziano Pelle ($9,300) and either Shane Long ($5,000) or Eljero Elia ($4,000); Elia’s classification at midfield at DraftKings holds more interest, but in what would be his second start with the team might be a tough choice as he’s still integrating himself into the lineup.
Add into the mix the easily stackable threesome of Fraser Forster ($4,700), Ryan Bertrand ($4,800) and Nathaniel Clyne ($4,400) and there are a host of positive options for Southampton. Bertrand and Clyne have had a little hiccup production wise as of late, but this should be the match that has the ability to change that and get them into double digits again.
However, a clean sheet is not a certainty because of the ability in Newcastle’s attackers and their strong play at home. Southampton hasn’t won in their last nine trips to Newcastle, and perhaps a draw is in the making. Newcastle’s Tim Krul ($4,200) should see some decent action, and falls in the lower half salary/contrarian group that is made up of Pantilimon, Green, Guzan, etc. Because of Southampton’s ability to go forward, it’s hard to roster Krul or any defender like Daryl Janmaat ($3,600). Target Newcastle’s front four attackers instead. Remy Cabella ($5,000) and Moussa Sissoko ($4,600) are talented attackers who work well with lead striker Ayoze Perez ($6,800). Southampton frustrated Manchester United on Sunday, and it could be repeated at St. James Park—but Newcastle has the ability to get on the board and could pull the upset.