This Saturday slate looks like it’s going to be tricky, perhaps the most difficult to put a lineup together since Draft Kings started offering EPL gaming. You have overwhelming favorites at home (Arsenal, Chelsea) who will be difficult to outright stack because of salaries. There is the chance that one of the big boys might struggle, albeit a small one, making buying in fully a difficult decision. The dual choices of whom to stack and what value choices to fill in the holes after the stack looms large.
The Sunday/Monday games have the Manchester derby to pick and choose from, the enigma that Spurs continue to be forever and ever as they face Aston Villa, and Monday night’s clash of titans: Palace and Sunderland.
Arsenal vs. Burnley: Let’s start with who will or may not suit up for the Gunners: Jack Wilshire is out, a short term addition to the long list of Arsenal options not available to Arsene Wenger. Kieran Gibbs ($4,400) might be out as well due to a hip injury, which would further jumble Arsenal’s backline. Despite the opposition, that instability makes it hard to full endorse a back three stack in red and white. Wojciech Szczesny ($5,500) is the most expensive keeper on the Saturday slate, and him getting a win bonus is almost a certainty, and it is hard to see Arsenal give up more than one goal against Burnley. Arsenal has one clean sheet in the month of October, and if you’re looking for a sure clean sheet, I’d look elsewhere in London (to come).
If despite that, you want to go forward in making Arsenal the spine for your lineup-you’ll go with Szczesny and his outside backs: Gibbs or Nacho Monreal ($3,300) on the left, Calum Chambers ($4,100) or Hector Bellerin ($3,600) on the right. For salary’s sake, it would be best if Gibbs misses out so the cheaper Monreal and Bellerin slot in. Midfield wise, you have Santi Cazorla ($6,300) and not much else in the way of upside. I’ll be avoiding Arsenal for other options-except for their forwards. Your best option for the Gunners continues to be Alexis Sanchez ($10,800); his floor is higher than Danny Welbeck ($10,400), and the ceiling is just below Welbeck’s. Welbeck has just scored once in his last four league games. Sanchez just gives you that much more in secondary point contributions; crosses, fouls drawn and shots on goal. It doesn’t look like Theo Walcott ($8.500) will be given a chance to start by Wenger at this point, and despite consistent playing time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ($6.000) has done little as of late. Chamberlain is rosterable in GPP formats in order to get more Arsenal shares into your lineup, but I can’t trust him in cash lineups.
Burnley? A plucky bunch. Defender Kieran Trippier ($3,700) has been one of the league’s most consistent defenders in points earned, and if Burnley was opposing a different club I’d suggest he start for you if you were looking to save from the top tier of defenders. If you are looking for value and contrarian options, the forward duo of Danny Ings ($5,000) and Lucas Jutkiewicz ($5,300) should be on your list. But Burnley will likely be without the ball for a good part of this game, and will be defending in numbers. Chances for both Ings and Jutkiewicz will be few and far between, and their value will be tied tightly in taking those opportunities.
Chelsea vs. QPR: QPR is a bit more difficult of an opponent than Burnley, but to be honest-especially after Chelsea struggling midweek in domestic cup play-Chelsea are better than Arsenal overall, especially in defense, and Jose Mourinho is likely to wield the whip in this one.
Diego Costa ($13,000) will start for Chelsea as their sole forward at home against QPR. Rostering Costa has its positives and negatives. The latter: Costa could re-injure himself, Mourinho could use a quick hook if Chelsea goes up in this one in order to preserve the Spanish international, or Costa’s efficiency could struggle in his first game back. The positives? Chelsea should rule this match with an iron fist, and so far this season only Angel Di Maria and a couple of others have offered the kind of productivity points wise Costa has given.
Otherwise, it should be a similar lineup that drew at Manchester United last weekend. Thibaut Courtois ($5,200) is cheaper than Szczesny, and the outside back pairing of Branislav Ivanovic ($4,500) and Filipe Luis ($4,300) has much more upside than whatever Arsenal will put out. Those three are the chalk stack in the back this week, and for good reason. Chelsea are huge favorites, and should keep QPR until their thumbs in this one.
Rostering from Chelsea’s midfield provides the same questions as most of this season has. You can buy high shelf options like Cesc Fabregas ($9,800) or Eden Hazard ($9,500)-Hazard has the ability to score twice and give you large ROI, or be in the low single digits. Cesc lives in that 10-17 point range comfortably. Then you have the Brazilian value play duo of Willian ($6,200) and Oscar ($7,300)-both have really nice matchups in this one and allow you entry into the Chelsea midfield. The floor on both, however is low-they may be a GPP route only.
QPR is rightfully an afterthought in this one. Charlie Austin ($5,300) or Eduardo Vargas ($5,300) as a contrarian option at your Flex in a GPP? Both will certainly have low ownership numbers. Robert Green ($3,000) at keeper if you think Chelsea only gets one and Green makes several saves? You’re a braver player than I. Otherwise, they’re cheap for a reason people. Not much visible upside in rostering here.
Hull City vs. Southampton: This is a real interesting matchup. The darlings of the DFS EPL so far this season travel to Hull to face a side that’s drawn at Arsenal and Liverpool the past two weeks and has played rather well under Steve Bruce, especially since going to a 3-5-2 formation.
Southampton is set to remain unchanged from its usual starting lineup, so you know the names-now you have to decide the value in their increasing salaries. Fraser Forster ($4,400) is much more affordable than Szczesny or Courtois, and he combined with defenders Ryan Bertrand ($4,600) and Nathaniel Clyne ($4,100) remains an easily adaptable trio to use in any format. However, Clyne has only hit double digits once in his last eight league games and may be replaceable with another defender that is a bit cheaper. With Hull’s formation, the outside backs of Southampton may not have the ability to go forward as much as Ronald Koeman would like them to. I can’t see going with any of Hull’s players at keeper or defender; Andrew Robertson ($4,300) is coming off a knee injury and even if the wingback does start, his selection is a bit dicey.
Remember the question of value versus salary? We may be approaching the point of asking that question of Dusan Tadic ($9,900). However, Tadic remains the closest thing to a must play on Saturday, be it cash or GPP. At worst, short of an injury or an early sending off Tadic should return points in the mid-teens. In real life, the matchup between Hull’s Mohammed Diame ($5,200) and Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin ($5,000) might decide the midfield on Saturday-but for DFS worth either would need to score to return investment. Of the two, I prefer Diame since he seems to have more chances going forward. Want a long shot? Hatem Ben Arfa ($5,000) is going to utterly explode one game-either by scoring twice and looking all world, or getting himself sent off after a really stupid tackle or decision. He has been playing as a withdrawn striker for Hull.
At forward, you have the headliner (Graziano Pelle, $9,800), the understudy (Abel Hernandez, $6,000), and the longshot (Shane Long, $5,000). For Long, Sadio Mane ($8,100) was rested midweek with an injury. If Mane does not play, Long gives you the chance to get another Southampton attacker in alongside Tadic or Pelle for a decent price. Hernandez is your classic boom or bust forward DFS wise; he is Hull’s only out-and-out striker with Nikica Jelavic out and should see chances and a full 90 minutes. If he does not score, that floor is low.
Everton vs. Swansea City: This one is rather interesting; there are stalwart must plays, trusted options, boom or bust decisions to be made, and a couple of values depending on lineup choices. Let’s start in goal; Tim Howard’s ($4,800) salary is still very prohibitive to selection against a pretty solid Swansea side despite improvement in Everton’s defense. I personally would save a few hundred dollars and go with Forster, but Howard is a GPP option. I just can’t see Everton keeping a clean sheet in this one; a win bonus combined with a one-goal kicker is more likely. Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski ($3,700) has been a really solid option, and he’s well priced. However, it’s just the wrong matchup against a thriving Everton attack.
Defenders in this one are a simple concept: either pay up for Leighton Baines ($5,600) and/or Seamus Coleman ($4,700), or look elsewhere. It’s hard to bring on both unless you go cheap for most of the rest of your lineup, that that precludes the aforementioned Arsenal duo/Chelsea top options/Southampton attackers. Baines remains the must have of the two, and you’ll likely pair him with a cheap defensive option from another team and hope for the best.
The midfield on both sides has options to choose from, but it is hard to determine on which one or two will strike gold at Goodison Park. Jefferson Montero ($4,300) and Leon Osman ($4,000) are both intriguing if they start and you’re looking to save in order to spend elsewhere. Wayne Routledge ($5,400) is another way to go, with perhaps a higher floor than teammate Montero, albeit not by much. On the upper tier in this one, you have Ross Barkley ($8,200), who may not start but does have a high ceiling, and Gylfi Sigurdsson ($7,400), who has a groin injury and may not be ready for Saturday. Even if he does play, Everton’s duo of defensively attuned midfielders (Gareth Barry, James McCarthy) may limit his upside.
Forward gives you one strong contender on both sides. Romelu Lukaku ($10,000) is the fourth costliest option up top on Saturday, but the Belgian has scored in each of his last two league games. If Samuel Eto’o ($6,000) also starts, they will be a popular mini-stack. I’ll be rostering Lukaku or Sanchez over Costa or Welbeck, especially with the savings any of the other options gives you over Costa, despite his matchup against Burnley. Swansea’s Wilfred Bony ($8,000) is a contrarian option at forward on Saturday, but he’s scored four goals in his last three league appearances. He could pay off nicely if Everton gives up opportunities like they were earlier in the season. Steven Naismith ($6.400) could be a nice pivot if Eto’o does not start, but does not have the ceiling the Cameroonian vet has.
Leicester City vs. West Bromwich Albion: The least sexy of Saturday’s matches has West Brom visiting Leicester. The hosts will be desperate to stop a steady diet of losses, while West Brom have hitched their hopes on forward Saido Berahino ($8,900) who outwardly is the most useable player in this game. With five goals in West Brom’s last four, Berahino is in fine form. But like most strikers Berahino is dependent on finding the back of the net. Leicester is a slight favorite in this one, and their main strategy defensively will look to limit Berahino’s chances. West Brom operates as a pretty efficient counterattacking team, but Leicester may limit that by not throwing everything into attack. I’d look elsewhere if paying in the neighborhood Berahino costs by spending up to Pelle or Lukaku, or lower to Mane/Bony/Hernandez or a West Ham option.
Leicester’s attackers are ice cold; it is hard to trust anyone out of Leonardo Ulloa ($7,100), Jamie Vardy ($6,400) or David Nugent ($5,000)/Jeff Schlupp ($4,000). If he starts, Schlupp might have some value but is tough to give credence to his inclusion in cash games. It looks like Riyad Mahrez ($6,000) may not start, so Leicester options for your midfield DFS are pretty much nonexistent. West Brom has a high upside player in Stephane Sessegnon ($5,600), but there are better options in the same neighborhood price wise. I’d surely rather go with Chris Brunt ($4,500) than Sessegnon in all formats.
Because of the lack of offensive firepower in this one, my focus is on the affordable goalkeepers and outside backs. If you feel strongly about one of these teams, you can afford to spend in your midfield and forward spots based on the inexpensive stack. West Brom’s trio of Ben Foster ($3,500), Sebastien Pocognoli ($3,500) and Andre Wisdom ($2,400) is a viable choice. There is not a high ceiling, but a best case scenario sees a clean sheet win, and that is in play. Leicester’s combo of Kasper Schmeichel ($4,100), Ritchie de Laet ($3,400) and Paul Konchesky ($3,000) is pricier and is not as attractive.
Stoke City vs. West Ham United: Last on Saturday, we have the Hammers facing the Potters in the Gardening Bowl. West Ham are on a figurative bubble they hope will not burst at the Britannia, fourth place in the Premiership against an offensively challenged Stoke side in 12th. This probably will not be the prettiest of encounters, but both teams have put aside long ball tendencies for the most part this season.
There are values in this match; but again the road side has a pretty strong argument for a stack based on price tags and opportunity. Adrian ($3,500), Aaron Cresswell ($2,600) and Carl Jenkinson ($2,000) are a pretty attractive trio and should see high ownership numbers for those wanting to spend elsewhere banking on a possible West Ham win/clean sheet. The ceiling just is not there, but it’s an alternative option to spending up on guys like Baines, Coleman, Ivanovic, Bertrand, etc. Stoke’s Eric Pieters ($2,300) is not a bad option either if you want to err on the cheaper side of things.
The surest thing in midfield on either side is Stewart Downing ($6,300); the ceiling is not sky high, but Downing could see a lot of ability to go forward in this one if West Ham gets the upper hand. Otherwise, options like Charlie Adam ($6,300) or Victor Moses ($5,500) are clearly GPP plays at best.
Up top, Diafra Sakho is expected to be out due to a shoulder injury-he’s carried the Hammers as of late and Sam Allardyce will likely have to look elsewhere in attack. Enner Valencia ($7.300) might thrive as the main striker up top in Sakho’s absence, but the Ecuadorian has played well this season. Perhaps the best value of the day will lie in who starts with Valencia. Either Carlton Cole or Andy Carroll (both $3,000) should start in Sakho’s place and immediately become Flex, money saving options. It’s tricky to use them in cash lineups, but for GPPs whoever starts should see a healthy ownership rate.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United: These next few days are a really tricky time for City. As much as they want to crush any ascendency their red neighbors have started, City needs a win on Wednesday in the Champions League. A loss or a draw against CSKA Moscow would be a crushing blow for a club that desperately wants credibility in Europe. So with David Silva out with a knee injury and YaYa Toure ($6,600) a doubt due to a tender groin, City is in an awkward holding place. They host United early Sunday with a lot on the line, but one thing is clear-City is almost unbeatable at home in the Premiership. 21 wins out of 23 in league play gives the blue side of Manchester a distinct advantage.
I just cannot see going with either goalkeeper in this one. Both Joe Hart and David De Gea are good keepers, above average on their best days. It just looks like defense might be of a premium in this one. As for defenders, I’d give the green light to use Rafael ($4,200) and Pablo Zabaleta ($4,000) at will, while perhaps the best option might not even start. If Aleksander Kolarov ($4,500) starts in the place of Gael Clichy, he becomes the best defender of the slate with the highest upside. However, all signs point to Manuel Pellegrini going with the more well-rounded Clichy. Cheaper options in this one are Clichy and Luke Shaw ($3,200); Shaw has the bigger upside of the two but has not played well as of late.
Who will not include Angel Di Maria ($13,000) in their lineup? Thousands more than any other midfielder in the available player pool, the Argentine is almost a must use even at that salary. Elsewhere, James Milner ($5,900) is a pretty solid option while Maroune Fellaini at the same price gives you a higher goal scoring ceiling, especially if he plays behind the two strikers. Value comes into play with United’s Ander Herrera ($5,100) and whomever starts on the right of City’s midfield-Jesus Navas ($4,900) or Samir Nasri ($4,200). I doubt Louis van Gaal starts Adnan Januzaj ($3,900) in place of Fellaini, but if that takes place that extra cash might come in handy.
At forward, you have three certain ways to go and two potential plays. Sergio Aguero ($12,600) is the league’s hottest striker at the moment, and United’s defense is leaky. I think despite Di Maria’s certain output, if you have to choose one or the other I’d go Aguero. If Pellegrini partners Aguero with Edin Dzeko ($9,000), he’s a fine option but the cost involved makes the Bosnian a tough play to roster. He’s a GPP at best, and putting both Aguero and Dzeko in your lineup leaves you little flexibility elsewhere. Most cost prohibitive would be Stevan Jovetic ($6,500), who would start on the left for City in a five-man midfield behind Aguero. There’s upside and it is must easier to place him and/or Nasri/Navas in your lineup.
For United, Wayne Rooney ($9,800) returns from suspension to partner Robin van Persie ($9,400) in attack. These two haven’t played well in the past together at times, and it is hard to put a lot of trust in either-Rooney because he hasn’t played as of late, and van Persie might not be totally on the top of his game. At their price tags, it’s difficult to include them instead of just paying up for Aguero or going with Dzeko (if he starts).
Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Coming off terrible losses to City and a home defeat against Newcastle, Spurs should bounce back against Villa-right? Hugo Lloris ($4,500) faces a poor attack for Villa, but do you put much trust in him and Spurs at this point? Danny Rose ($4,100) is the only standout option in defense for either side, while Spurs’ midfield trio of Nacer Chadli ($6,900), Christian Eriksen ($7,400) and Erik Lamela ($7,000) offset a totally toothless set of Villa options.
At forward, the options are better. Emmanuel Adebayor ($8,200) finally found the back of the net last weekend, but he might get sat in place of Harry Kane ($5,400) in attack. If that takes place, Kane will be heavily owned.
Villa has Brad Guzan ($3,300) in net as a cheap contrarian play and not much else. Are you going to pay up for Gabby Agbonlahor or Christian Benteke at their salary price points at this time? Tough to see when you can go with Adebayor, one of the City/United forwards or a player from Monday night at a cheaper cost.
Crystal Palace vs. Sunderland: If you combine price and the potential for a clean sheet, the play of the Sunday/Monday night slate in goal is Palace’s Julian Speroni ($3,900). He has the best combination of price and opponent. I’d avoid any defender from this game; perhaps Martin Kelly ($2,900), but why not go with Shaw or Clichy for nearly the same price?
In midfield, you have Palace’s trio of Jason Puncheon ($5,000), Yannick Bolasie ($5,400) and Wilfred Zaha ($4,500). Depending on who starts in that group, there is upside, especially in Zaha. Sunderland’s Adam Johnson ($5,300) is another play, but I’d rather go with one of the aforementioned players from Palace. At forward, Steven Fletcher might not play so Connor Wickham ($4,900) might be a good cost saving option as a Flex, but the best of the forward bunch in this one is Palace’s Frazier Campbell ($5,100).