The only match not included in any DraftKings slate is Sunday’s early start between Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
Because of that, we’re going to breakdown every match this weekend to give all of the Playbook’s readers the best foundation for your teambuilding this weekend. Good to everybody, and let’s get started.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal:
The North London derby will be without Alexis Sanchez, who misses out again for Arsenal with a hamstring strain. It’s not like the Gunners needed the Chilean as they dismantled Aston Villa this past Sunday, right? Arsene Wenger does get back Danny Welbeck, but it’s hard to see Arsenal shuffle the deck too much in advance of this one as they travel to White Hart Lane. Both teams have a lot of DFS options, so if you’re playing the full Saturday slate it’s hard to fade this game—it might mean your money and you will be parted, and quickly.
DraftKings’ pricing has made it a bit difficult you to completely rule out the keepers in this one; Hugo Lloris ($4,800) and David Ospina ($4,300) have been solid point producers, the latter of which has come to pass in the past few weeks after Wojciech Szczesny was sent to the bench for either a) getting caught smoking or b) a poor performance last month against Southampton. It’s really hard to see a clean sheet for either club in this one, so I’m suggesting to head elsewhere for a keeper. However, if you want to go contrarian and not feel incredibly dirty while doing so, load up Lloris at home, or Ospina for a favored club.
Putting aside their collective showings last weekend, it’s hard in the same vein to highly endorse any of the outside backs in this one because of the lowered chance of anyone getting a clean sheet from this match. All four outside backs in this one are affordable and have the skill sets to provide double digits if they hit their ceiling, clean sheet or not—it’s just hard putting your chips to the middle of the table based on that alone. Hector Bellerin ($4,400) isn’t likely to score again, much less in injury time, and is the least attractive of the foursome. Nacho Monreal ($3,500) is the cheapest, but his production in the past shows he needs a clean sheet to get to 10+ points. Kyle Walker ($3,700) has been solid for Spurs, but hasn’t produced as his attacking skill set should, honestly. The best option is Danny Rose ($3,900) is consistent and priced nicely, and for those who love narratives, Rose has had a nice history against the Gunners.
Familiar names line the midfield and forward options in this one on both sides; let’s break down Spurs first. Keep an eye on whom Mauricio Pochettino starts in his front four, especially who starts behind Harry Kane ($10,400). Pochettino lately is going with Moussa Dembele ($3,700) as the central attacking midfielder instead of on-fire Christian Eriksen ($7,700). First of all, being put out on the “wing” hasn’t hurt Eriksen in the least production wise, and if Dembele gets the start again that salary is incredibly tempting if you chose to “punt” one player in your lineup. Dembele hit seven points last weekend, and while that isn’t going to win any GPP’s, that opportunity as an attacking midfield in a potent (at times) Spurs lineup could pay off very nicely. If Dembele is used again, Nacer Chadli ($6,500) and Andros Townsend ($5,400) will see their more DFS-friendly games on the bench unless Pochettino uses one instead of Erik Lamela ($5,500). Both Lamela and Dembele are not wingers, in any way, shape or form—neither is Eriksen—and this lineup will see Spurs’ attack narrow to the middle of the field, lessening chances from crosses. As a group, they’ll look to cut inside and either build up an attack through short passing or shoot from distance. That makes everyone very goal dependent for scoring. Again, in the form they’re in, fading Kane and Eriksen is foolhardy—but if you’re building multiple lineups, you will need variance away from them.
Arsenal showed real dynamism in their spanking of Villa, even without Sanchez in the lineup. It’s good to know, at least from a Gunners fan POV (not mine), that the team can succeed in his absence when it was clear for the first half of the season the diminutive attacker carried Arsenal. It’s really unlikely Wenger makes any chances to his front four; there’s a small chance Tomas Rosicky ($4,400) could replace Theo Walcott ($6,000), but it’s very small. Walcott’s 15 point showing against Villa was a nice grab for the many that stacked Arsenal options on last Sunday’s short slate, and he continues to be a nice option as a Flex this Saturday’s wider slate. Santi Cazorla ($8,500) is keeping the returned Mesut Ozil ($8,200) out of his preferred #10 slot for good reason. The Spanish midfielder is in a really superb stretch of play, and is the best midfield option regardless of price on Saturday. Ozil’s in the top tier as well, but Cazorla’s role as a penalty taker gives him that additional value going into things. Oliver Giroud ($9,100) is the tip of the spear for Arsenal, and he’s scored in his last two league games. Giroud has this group of incredibly talented midfielders behind him, but keep this in mind—with Welbeck back from injury, there’s an increased chance he does not play the full 90 minutes, regardless of what’s on the scoreboard. He remains an awfully strong play, just behind Kane for me, ahead of the “struggling” recent performances of Sergio Aguero.
Aston Villa vs. Chelsea:
Doesn’t get any easier for Villa, does it? At least they’re at home, and Chelsea will continue to be without Diego Costa in this one. It’s really hard to think that Villa will have a repeat performance and get blown out again, unless they’re completely checked out on Paul Lambert and are (un)consciously trying to get the Villa manager canned. Chelsea are huge road favorites in this one.
It’s easy to see why Thibaut Courtois ($5,700) will be the highest owned keeper this weekend; he’s the equivalent to Clayton Kershaw in this matchup. Villa’s attack is incredibly anemic, and it’s hard not to see Courtois getting a win bonus paired with a clean sheet. That would start production at ten points; the question is how much Villa can get going forward in order to see Courtois get saves under his belt. The margin for error is very thing, but if you’re going to trust any Premiership club to lock up defensively and keep Villa off the scoreboard, it’s Chelsea.
Branislav Ivanovic ($5,100) is Courtois’ equivalent at defender this weekend; incredibly chalk, but for good reason. Incredibly consistent, Ivanovic’s blip last weekend is the outlier. He should see a lot of time going forward—even if Chelsea call off the dogs in the second half, there’s a good chance on the way Ivanovic picked up an assist, a few crosses and fouls drawn on the way, and the clean sheet bonus is the lovely icing on the top. Cesar Azpilicueta ($4,000) isn’t an alluring target as Ivanovic is in this one, despite being in line for the same clean sheet—Azpilicueta simply does not get involved going forward. It might be easy to stack Courtois and the two Chelsea defenders, but leave Azpilicueta out this Saturday unless you want to stick with blue as the overriding color of the day.
Jose Mourinho is likely to make one change to his midfield from last weekend’s draw against Manchester City. Cesc Fabregas ($7,400) returns from injury and is fit to start, per Mourinho on Friday, and will be used in his normal deep lying playmaking role. He’s relatively cheap against prior salary cost, and can add to his assist totals this season in this one. Otherwise, it should be the same midfield five Mourinho has used—new signing Juan Cuadrado ($6,000) probably will not start in place of Willian ($5,500) unless Mourinho was bluffing on Friday that the former needed “time to settle” into things. Cuadrado is a lot more DFS friendly than Willian, and that salary is pretty tempting.
Oscar ($7,300) and Eden Hazard ($9,100) remain strong options, but Hazard has seen his production slow a great deal in January—but keep in mind Hazard does take penalties for Chelsea. The price tag makes it difficult to justify including Hazard in your lineup unless he hits 15+ points. Oscar remains very goal dependent in order to hit value, but the chances should be there on Saturday for the Brazilian. Loic Remy ($7,400) remains the striker in the absence of Costa, and regardless of his salary increase Remy is a very strong option to use on Saturday—his ownership numbers should be very strong.
You simply cannot put any Villa player in your “A” lineup to be used in 50/50s, Triple Ups or the like. Even a GPP play for Carles Gil ($5,000) or the incredibly cold Christian Benteke ($7,000) is a long stretch to try and validate. Fade Villa unless you want to be incredibly contrarian to the degree of giving your money away.
Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace:
A lot of lineups (and hearts) were broken last weekend when Palace were just down at home against Everton; who amongst you will be brave enough to use those low to mid-level options on the road against Leicester Saturday?
Both keepers are very contrarian options if you believe either will keep a clean sheet in this one; Julian Speroni ($4,500) and Ben Hamer ($4,000) are usable, but in my mind Hamer is the better option of the two if you want to go low at keeper. He’s got the home start, and Palace’s might have cooled a bit after two strong wins earlier in January. If Leicester wants to stay up, these are the kind of matches they need to win. I’m not in the same mindset when it comes to the defenders in this one; the chances any of them hitting double digits are high. Joel Ward ($3,000) is the best of a weak, albeit inexpensive, bunch.
Interest in this match comes at midfield and forward, where there is value for several players under $6,000. For Leicester, it comes through their wingers—Jeff Schlupp ($5,500) is somewhat contrarian because of his inconsistency, but Riyad Mahrez ($5,600) returns from international duty and despite a couple days of training back with Leicester should start immediately. Mahrez played in four matches for Algeria in just over two weeks (three starts, one sub), and there’s a chance he does not start—but after press conference quotes from Nigel Pearson stating Mahrez’s importance, it’s hard to see that happening. Mahrez has shown he isn’t goal dependent, so using him comes down to a question of whether you think his recent workload will lessen his ability to produce. It’s really doubtful Mahrez goes 90 for Leicester, no matter what’s on the scoreboard. I can’t see using Leonardo Ulloa ($5,800) in this one; he’s ice cold and Palace are pretty sturdy defensively.
For Palace, Mile Jedinak is back from Australia’s winning Asian Cup team, but he is out with an ankle injury. I’m interested to see whether Alan Pardew shuffles the deck a bit when it comes to his front four attackers. In league play, Yaya Sanogo ($5,600) has been quiet in his two starts and might make way up top for Dwight Gayle ($5,000). Gayle has hit double digits in his last three games, and at that price tag is very hard to fade—and if he starts up top, that potential value skyrockets. Maroune Chamakh ($4,500) broke his nose in the loss to Everton, but unfortunately that isn’t enough to see him miss out. He’s a non-entity when it comes to DFS, and he’s keeping Wilfried Zaha ($4,000) on the bench. Jason Puncheon ($5,500) remains a really strong play in midfield. Stacking options like Puncheon, Gayle and Mahrez from this match in your lineup isn’t unthinkable, and it leaves you the ability to spend elsewhere to include options from Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool. Speaking of which…
Manchester City vs. Hull City:
Man City’s draw at Chelsea keeps them five points behind in the standings, and Hull providers them the chance of keeping pace with the league leaders as both are overwhelming favorites. City is even more a favorite than Chelsea on Saturday; they’re at home, and Hull has been pretty poor—at least Villa, putting last weekend aside, have been stout defensively.
Let’s start with Hull—don’t go there. Just don’t. Their defense is horrible. Their attack is anemic and is ill-suited to do much against Manchester City. Ahmed Elmohamady ($5,400) is Hull’s most consistent point producer, but I can’t see him hitting double digits, and you’re likely not going to win much with 4-8 points. It’s just a wasteland to begin with, and the matchup is terrible.
Alright, your options for City—does Manuel Pellegrini make any changes to his starting 11, especially with a midweek trip to Stoke and the Champions League looming week after next? On the face of things, it doesn’t look like Pellegrini will make any changes beyond one or two in the back—but keep an eye on things come 9:00ish Saturday morning.
Joe Hart ($5,600) is up there with Courtois both in price and likelihood of a clean sheet/win pair. Could come down to who get forward more between Villa and Hull to boost save numbers. Gael Clichy ($4,300) has seen his point production consistently in the single digits save New Year’s Day, and probably is not worth using. Bacary Sagna ($3,700) started in the place of Pablo Zabaleta ($4,600) against Chelsea, but did little to a) keep the spot and b) influence you to use him in yours. Zabaleta had a strong December, but as of late has been in single digit land. This should be the matchup that sees Zabaleta thrive, and he should be under the radar ownership wise a bit.
Whoever starts for City in their front four should have a number of chances to capitalize upon, and Alan McGregor has been terrible in goal for Hull. However, none of City’s attackers are in really positive form, so despite the matchup there’s some risk involved. Aguero ($10,300) and his price tag requires for value for the Argentinean to find the back of the net, which he hasn’t since December 3rd. If there’s a matchup to see him get hot, it’s this one.
The three attacking midfielders behind Aguero are likely to be David Silva ($8,800), Jesus Navas ($6,600) and James Milner ($7,100). Milner’s price tag is heavily inflated and I can’t see using him in one of my lineups when Navas is cheaper and much more consistent. Neither is a goalscorer, but Navas racks up crosses and fouls drawn, and is much more likely to get an assist. Like Aguero, Silva’s price requires a goal, and I’d rather spend a little less and go with options from Spurs/Arsenal. The matchup is there for Silva, so I can’t fault using Silva at all. There’s a small chance Samir Nasri or Frank Lampard could be used from the start in place of one of those three. If you want to go cheap and contrarian, you can go with defensive midfielder Fernandinho ($4,400) and hope for a goal.
QPR vs. Southampton:
A bit under the radar, Southampton is another strong favorite—not on the level of City or Chelsea—despite the road game in London at Loftus Road. QPR is an utter mess after Harry Redknapp resigned (jumped ship) from the relegation zone club that’s in a lot of debt. His decision reeks of internal club turmoil and wanting out when he didn’t get his way.
So, on that note—QPR hosts a Southampton team that’s in fourth only through goal differential, with Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool nipping at their (and Manchester United’s) heels for a Champions League spot next season. Southampton needs to win in this one, especially after they lost at home to Swansea last weekend. The options for the hosts are few and far between; you have the usual suspect of Charlie Austin ($8,800), who’s in a mini cold streak. Again, Austin is a lot better with Bobby Zamora as a partner up top. Zamora isn’t rosterable, but he and Austin play well together. If Zamora starts, you have a better chance to hit value. Otherwise, your choices are the Leroy Fers and Robert Greens of the world…and you don’t want much to do with them this weekend.
Southampton gives you a lot better set of options, albeit in the same price ranges as the other favorites on Saturday. Fraser Forster ($4,900) is not as expensive as Courtois and Hart, but the matchup (albeit on the road) is a better one than Lloris, Ospina and Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet at the same price range. A little bit of a red flag is the absence of suspended left back Ryan Bertrand, but Matthew Targett ($3,300) could be an en vogue, low cost defender on Saturday as his replacement. In a start against Chelsea, Targett garnered six points. The 19 year old is another off the production line that is Southampton’s youth system, and is an attacking defender. He and Nathaniel Clyne ($4,100) could see a lot of time in the attacking third against QPR.
Dusan Tadic ($8,500) had a peripheral-filled 15 point showing in the loss to Swansea, and his price is the lowest it has been since the start of the season. He should be in the front three with Eljero Elia ($5,700) flanking Graziano Pelle ($8,700) in attack. Pelle hasn’t scored in league play since December 20th; Pelle is likely to be low owned, and it’s a positive matchup for the Italian striker to get back on track. But using Pelle will be a leap of faith, and I personally would rather spend up for Kane or Giroud, or go lower for a more balanced approach over three strikers. Elia currently is keeping Sadio Mane ($6,000) out of the starting 11. If Mane was to get the call instead of Elia or if Tadic was pushed back into the midfield, Mane is an excellent play for that cost. Southampton is getting back Victor Wanyama ($5,000) and Morgan Schneiderlin ($4,000) from injury; while those two are not all that DFS relevant (if you’re going with them, you’re praying for goals) they do allow the front three more offensive focus. Their return may push James Ward-Prowse ($5,400) to the bench. Ward-Prowse is a pretty talented playmaker that has hit double digits in three of his last five starts.
Swansea City vs. Sunderland:
Swansea’s upset over Southampton belied what happened on the field; Southampton had the better of the match from most viewpoints and Swansea’s goal from Jonjo Shelvey ($5,400) gave the visitors a kind of unjust result. The Swans welcome Sunderland to Wales Saturday morning to attempt a second straight win and put to bed, short of a complete collapse, any chance they could get sucked into a relegation fight. Sunderland’s in that grouping right above the bottom three, and the Black Cats are healthy underdogs in this one.
Both teams have injury questions, which dulls some options for this one—especially in midfield. Sunderland’s Adam Johnson ($5,300) and Swansea’s Jefferson Montero ($4,200) may miss out on this one. Both are interesting choices, especially Johnson if used as a roaming attacking midfielder behind lead striker Jermaine Defoe ($5,900). Defoe remains underpriced at that amount, despite the road start—if Gus Poyet uses two wingers (Johnson and Ricky Alvarez ($3,300), for example) with Defoe as a lone striker, that boosts Defoe that much more. If Defoe has a second out-and-out striker in the lineup alongside of him (Steven Fletcher ($5,500), it’s lessened somewhat.
The absence of Johnson and Connor Wickham makes Sunderland a bit less dangerous offensively. Seb Larsson ($5,600) remains Sunderland’s playmaker/dead ball specialist, but he’s incredibly hit-and-miss and is a very risky play. Defenders Anthony Reveillere ($3,500) and Patrick van Aanholt ($3,400) both got assists on top of clean sheets in a win over Burnley last weekend; I can’t see that repeating, but are low priced and won’t be owned by many. There are worse ways to go on Saturday. Castel Pantilimon ($4,400) took down 20 points in the same win, and at the very least should see a lot of action on Saturday. Pantilimon could be a sneaky way to go because of Swansea’s lineup, as I’ll explain next.
If Montero starts for the hosts, Swansea regains balance in its formation with a pair of wingers (he and Nathan Dyer ($4,500)). Bafetimbi Gomis ($6,800) again will be the lead striker for Swansea up top, but the French striker is ice cold and the Swans remain without Gylfi Sigurdsson due to suspension. Shelvey is playing in place of Sigurdsson in the formation, but Shelvey simply isn’t the same kind of playmaker. To win, Swansea a) needs to create chances for b) Gomis to actually capitalize on.
Lukasz Fabianski ($5,000) had a really good game in the win over Southampton, and consider this: Fabianski has nine wins this season—and nine clean sheets. That’s pretty impressive, as inconsistent Swansea has been this season—and it’s likely only to be rougher in the post-Wilfred Bony era. Kyle Naughton ($3,700) is an interesting option in that he’s what Swansea has been lacking as of late. Naughton brings some ability to attack from a defender, something Swansea has been without this season.
Everton vs. Liverpool (12:30pm Saturday):
Ah…the Merseyside derby. Two teams, one city, long standing, contentious rivalry. After a series of poor performances in November and an uneven December, Liverpool is really playing well, especially in the Premiership. Five wins in their last six matches (albeit none against the top six clubs), the Reds take the short trip to Goodison Park and are favorites in this one.
Focusing on goalkeeper first, Joel Robles ($4,300) has played better than expected, especially as of late—but as good as Liverpool is playing in attack, it’s hard to trust him as your keeper, even in a home start. His opposite Simon Mignolet ($4,900) is a much better option, but as noted previously I’d rather spend up on a keeper this week for the sure thing or go with Forster. It’s hard to fault using Mignolet, who has 12, 19 and 15 points from his last three league matches. For defenders, you have the tried-and-true Everton pair of Leighton Baines ($5,600) and Seamus Coleman ($4,800), while Liverpool’s 3-4-3 current formation only will likely allow Alberto Moreno ($3,700) as a useable option. All three have their positives and negatives to them—Baines’ salary really requires him to hit 12-15+ points to outweigh spending that much on the left back, and he hasn’t scored via free kick or penalty in a while. Coleman’s price tag is too high for two double-digit games in his last ten, while Moreno’s ceiling is not as high as either of the Evertonian options but his salary has that going for him.
So who plays for Liverpool from the start, and where, depends on whether Daniel Sturridge ($8,100) is used from the start in this one. If Sturridge starts, he takes the lead striker role from Raheem Sterling ($8,500), who would flank Sterling alongside Phillipe Coutinho ($6,200) in the front three. Adding to that, if Sturridge starts, that would likely see one of Lucas Leiva or Lazar Markovic out of the 11 and see Steven Gerrard ($6,200) in central midfield in perhaps his last derby for Liverpool. All of those four are excellent options; Gerrard has a bit of a low floor when he does not score, but his free kick and penalty responsibilities can offset that. Jordan Henderson ($5,000) would then be used as Gerrard’s central mid partner or right wingback, depending on who Brendan Rodgers wants to go with.
For Everton, it looks like the same front four that started in the win over Palace will keep their places. Romelu Lukaku ($7,900) finally scored, but this matchup isn’t great for the Belgian striker. He’s likely to see a lot of attention from Liverpool’s back three, which helps the cause of Kevin Mirallas ($5,900) and Steven Naismith ($5,700) hitting value as attacking midfielders. On paper, Mirallas is the better play because of his more all-around game, but since his well-known penalty miss has struggled. Naismith is heavily goal dependent. Ross Barkley remains overpriced.
Newcastle United vs. Stoke City:
The first of the two game slate on Sunday has Stoke City visiting Newcastle, with the both the Potters and Magpies coming off wins last weekend. Kudos to those of you that saw with Peter Crouch ($6,400) sitting, Johnathan Walters ($6,200) was Stoke’s lead striker—and he paid off nicely if you included him in your lineups. But keep an eye on the lineup Mark Hughes puts out on Sunday—Walters has been limited in training and he could sit out, or be put into an attacking midfield role of Hughes wants Crouch to lead the line.
This matchup could be pretty offensive in nature, especially with questions in defense (Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross will miss out with a back injury). Tim Krul ($4,600) and Asmir Begovic ($4,500) both have had pretty strong seasons so far this season, but with no clear favorite and David de Gea in the other match on the slate, both should see lower numbers in ownership. This could end up 1-1, 2-2 or a win for either side—so a clean sheet is really hard to see in this one. Daryl Janmaat ($3,900) is a really nice fit on this short slate to have that third team in your lineup, especially if you’re fading West Ham in the second match.
There are three options in this one to fill midfield slots—Victor Moses ($5,800), Remy Cabella ($5,500) and Moussa Sissoko ($4,600). On a larger slate, I wouldn’t bring up Sissoko, but if you want to spend in other places on Sunday, you will need guys around that price around them. Cabella is a really strong play, with three strong weeks in a row. Your punt play is Stephen Ireland ($3,000), who despite two assists and 17 points is still a minimum play.
At forward, you have Crouch, Walters, Ayoze Perez ($6,900), Sammy Ameobi ($5,700) and Yoan Gouffran ($5,000). Perez has cooled off a great deal, but is likely going to be the lead striker (Papiss Cisse ($7,300) is the other option) for Newcastle. Ameobi and Gouffran both scored last weekend, and the latter has scored in two straight.
Manchester United vs. West Ham United:
Manchester United is a strong road favorite against West Ham in the last game of the weekend; West Ham is coming off a rough loss to Liverpool, but has been very strong at home at Upton Park. However, Manchester United has won 12 of their last 15 matches against West Ham—ergo, strong favorite.
Trying to figure out Louis van Gaal’s starting lineup is time wasted; if you’re building up a Sunday lineup and want to building it around a “red core”, save room salary wise and pivot if necessary. It looks like Robin van Persie ($9,900) and Radamel Falcao ($8,800) up top, with either Angel di Maria ($9,600) or Juan Mata ($7,000) behind the front two. This leaves Wayne Rooney ($10,200) out on the left, a bit out of position and not in the place you’d want him if on your roster. At that price, you need goals from Rooney and it’s a tough fit for that to happen. Adnan Januzaj ($4,500) or Ander Herrera ($5,200) could be a cheaper way into the United lineup if they start—Daley Blind ($3,500) hit double digits in the win over Leicester, but in his defensive midfield role the chances of that repeating are low. There really isn’t a defender option to go with from United, so see David de Gea ($5,400) in net and forget it.
For West Ham, options are limited to a small few—Adrian ($3,900) is the biggest contrarian option on the slate in goal, and all four regular starters in defense having injury concerns. If Aaron Cresswell ($4,200) and/or Carl Jenkinson ($4,100) start, they could see opportunities on the counterattack, but the chances of racking up crosses won’t likely be there. That means hoping they’d grab an assist. Stewart Downing ($6,100) is a steady performer, but he’s likely to see a lot of Blind and might be shut out. If West Ham wins, it’s going to be Downing as the driving force on the break to help set up Diafra Sakho ($7,300) and Enner Valencia ($6,900). Both are speedy forwards that should do well in theory on in a counterattacking strategy, and will be nice contrarian plays to those rostering Manchester United forwards.