We’re closing in on the half-way point of the Premier League season and Leicester City are still on for a Champions League place and Chelsea looking at a relegation down to the Championship. With a full slate of eight games, there’s plenty of scope for variation in line-ups meaning you can fit all kinds of different players around record breaker Jamie Vardy.
Stoke v Manchester City
Stoke are in red hot form and will be relishing the visit of Man City, especially if the title favourites are still without commander in chief Vincent Kompany. The Potters have already beaten Chelsea at home this season and reached a first League Cup semi final since the 1970s in midweek. Stoke will be defensive whilst at the same time enjoying spells of attacking intent and the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri can be leant on. City come into the game off a big midweek win, albeit also against Championship opposition in Hull City, and it was the first time that David Silva started in yonks. It’s hard to advise against picking Mr Reliable, Kevin de Bruyne, every week right now and another brace in midweek does nothing to affect that. There’s value to be had if Pablo Zabaleta returns to the team yet from a clean sheet point of view most of the potential rests on the big Belgian, Kompany. Stoke’s home form has actually been quite poor so far this season thus playing up to the assertion that the new dainty Stoke don’t fancy it at Fortress Britannia in the wind and rain of the North. As a side note, City’s away form has been almost exemplary this season and the Citizens haven’t lost a league game at Stoke since 2009.
Who to pick?
Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City ($4,400)
Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City ($4,000)
Kevin de Bruyne, Man City ($7,700)
Pablo Zabaleta, Man City ($2,800)
Arsenal v Sunderland
As most people expected, Sam Allardyce is starting to turn Sunderland into a defensive powerhouse and Arsenal will struggle to break down the Black Cats. Arsenal’s week has been dominated by injury problems and they are without a whole host of attacking threats for this one. The bad news for Big Sam is that Mesut Özil is yet to see a dip in the form and already has 11 assists. Top of the list when it comes to assist-to-goal combinations is the Özil-to-Olivier Giroud tandem that has produced five goals. Both are among the small number that are still fit. Where Sunderland could have some joy is through the middle of the pitch. Arsenal are looking very flimsy since the injury to Francis Coquelin and the strength of Yann M’Vila and Lee Cattermole represents a real problem for Wenger. Sunderland haven’t won any of their last six games at the Emirates, though three of them have been 0-0 draws and it would be no surprise were that run to continue.
Who to pick?
Mesut Özil, Arsenal ($7,400)
Olivier Giroud, Arsenal ($6,700)
Yann M’Vila, Sunderland ($3,400)
Patrick van Aanholt, Sunderland ($2,600)
Manchester United v West Ham United
If there was ever a game for United boss Louis van Gaal to take off the shackles and free his charges to attack, attack, attack, then this is it. United haven’t lost to at home to West Ham since the infamous Carlos Tevez winner that kept the Hammers up on the final day of the season. Current form would suggest that Anthony Martial will enjoy himself. Who knows, Wayne Rooney might even get a shot on target. On the West Ham side of things, since Dimitri Payet went down injured last month they have hit an awful slump. Slaven Bilic can still call on an impressive group of attacking midfielders including Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses and Mauro Zarate to supply Andy Carroll up front. Cutting out the defensive mistakes will be key to getting anything here for Bilic’s side.
Who to pick?
Anthony Martial, Manchester United ($6,000)
David de Gea, Manchester United ($4,200)
Mauro Zarate, West Ham ($3,700)
Manuel Lanzini, West Ham ($4,300)
Southampton v Aston Villa
There’s nothing better than playing Aston Villa right now and Southampton are ready fill their boots. Graziano Pelle returns from suspension for this one and gets to resume his fruitful threesome with Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic. The Italian loves playing at St Mary’s and four of his six strikes have come on the South Coast this season. You can also throw a returning Ryan Bertrand into the bargain plus pick any of the home side’s defenders and almost guarantee a clean sheet. It’s hard to know where to start with Villa. The arrival of manager Remi Garde has given them a small boost but you get the feeling they’re still sleepwalking into the Championship and the loss of Jordan Amavi has hit them hard. That’s before you consider how annoyed daily fantasy players are that he is out for the season. Jordan Ayew has started scoring with some consistency but the 24-year-old doesn’t look like the kind of striker to go on a tear and drag them out of this mess. The main question now is whether they will beat Derby’s record low of 11 points. Watch this space.
Who to pick?
Graziano Pelle, Southampton ($6,800)
Sadio Mane, Southampton ($7,200)
Alan Hutton, Aston Villa ($3,500)
Jordan Ayew, Aston Villa ($4,100)
Swansea City v Leicester City
Very few teams have been worse than Swansea in recent weeks and a visit from Leicester City is not what the doctor ordered. In all honesty, Garry Monk’s side were a bit unlucky last weekend away at Liverpool but, in all honesty, Monk is lucky to be hanging onto this job. Bafetimbi Gomis has now been dropped to the bench following a horrific run of form and not even Andre Ayew is making the regular contributions we became used to in August and September. As for Leicester, things couldn’t be more different. Jamie Vardy continues to score goals for fun and will expect to make it 12-in-a-row in South Wales. The supporting cast of Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Marc Albrighton et al show no signs of letting him down and Champions League football is ONLY 24 games away. Imagine that for a second or 10…
Who to pick?
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City ($5,300)
Andre Ayew, Swansea City ($5,600)
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City ($8,000)
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City ($8,100)
Watford v Norwich City
Two of last season’s promoted sides take part in what will determine which is the best shade of yellow: canary or normal plain-old. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo are forging a partnership that is up there with the best the Premier League has to offer right now and of the 15 goals Watford have scored, 12 have come from those two. The Hornets realistically need just 21 more points to be assured of safety and have a good shot at making that magic number 18 once Saturday is over. If you discount the 6-2 loss to Newcastle, Norwich have been impressive in defence this season and will set themselves up to frustrate Watford before trying to knick a goal. They also have a win and two draws in six away matches, which is hardly relegation form. Without a recognised number one striker, check the lineups just prior to kick off before deciding on one of Dieumerci Mbokani, Cameron Jerome or Lewis Grabban. You don’t even need to take any of them as the chance of a goal is slim. Although you can expect Robbie Brady to continue to float in crosses and with one of the two big men in there, goals will come.
Who to pick?
Troy Deeney, Watford ($4,900)
Odion Ighalo, Watford ($5,700)
Robbie Brady, Norwich City ($5,700)
Dieumerci Mbokani, Norwich City ($3,200)
West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham bring an impressive unbeaten run to The Hawthorn’s to face an organised West Brom. The home team always has a plan to suffocate the opposition and it will be no different here. Tony Pulis has plenty of attacking weapons at his disposal and nine of their 13 goals have come in their seven home games so far this season. West Brom’s wingers offer some good low level options for fantasy managers and goalkeeper Boaz Myhill will, once again, make plenty of saves. On the Spurs side, it’s all about Harry Kane. The England man is in a rich vein of form that was only stunted by a stout Chelsea defence last time out. Dele Alli’s return to the side will provide that bit of extra oomph going forward and the unbeaten should stretch to 14 games for Spurs.
Who to pick?
James McClean, West Brom ($3,600)
Boaz Myhill, West Brom ($2,900)
Harry Kane, Tottenham ($7,700)
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham ($6,700)
Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth
If there was ever a chance for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea to thump an opponent, then this is it. Eden Hazard has been showing signs of an uplift in form and is still up there in fifth place for key passes per game in the Premier League. The only trouble is that no one is finishing off the chances, something that will be remedied should Hazard continue as a false nine. Bournemouth have performed manfully despite a huge injury list and when you compare them to Villa, there is plenty of fight left in the tank. Matt Ritchie loves nothing more than to pepper the box with crosses and he will find it very difficult to break through a Chelsea defence that looks far stronger than it did a few weeks back.
Who to pick?
Eden Hazard, Chelsea ($6,800)
Oscar, Chelsea ($5,100)
Matt Ritchie, Bournemouth ($6,000)
Junior Stanislas, Bournemouth ($4,000)