Well, after the busy holiday schedule we return to the usual routine as far as EPL games go. The first Saturday slate in a couple of weeks looks like a good one. 7 games, 6 at 10am ET and Tottenham visiting Crystal Palace in the late (12.30pm ET) kickoff.

The busy schedule over Christmas made managers a little more prone to rotate their lineups in recent weeks. However, most big teams rested players in need during the FA Cup 3rd round last week, so we should see most lineups returning to full strength. One thing to note though is that some teams played their cup ties as recently as Everton vs West Ham on Tuesday, so some teams may be a little more tired than others. Also worth noting is that many significant players have now left to play in the African Cup of Nations and will be unavailable for selection. Be sure to check this when building rosters as not only does it eliminate some prominent players from consideration but it may open up significant value in their replacements.

With all that said lets get on to some picks. As always, i’ll go position by position and give you some high upside plays for the day’s GPPs.

Goalkeeper

Thibaut Courtois $5,500 – The most goalkeeper on the slate, but I really think Chelsea are your safest bet for a win this weekend. They were shockingly put to the sword 5-3 in the London derby last time out against Tottenham and are now tied with Man City atop the EPL. Mourinho is not the type of coach to take kindly to that type of result and will demand better from his players this weekend and I see them coming out and making a statement. Combine that with the fact that Newcastle are currently without a manager (more on that in a moment) this is the perfect spot for Chelsea and Courtois to bounce back.

Hugo Lloris $5,200 – For those who may have missed the news Alan Pardew has left Newcastle to return to Crystal Palace as manager where he is a legend from his time there as a player. What that does to this team I really don’t know. Narratives say the team will be up for this game to try and get their new manager a win in his first game in charge. Reality, however, tells me that they may struggle against a Spurs team who are really finding form and in Harry Kane have a clinical goalscorer in the form of his life. This pick makes me nervous but there is no ‘lock’ in goal this week in my opinion and I really believe Lloris and Spurs go in and ruin Pardew’s homecoming.

Others I like: Joe Hart $5,400 and Robert Green $4,000.

Defenders

Kieran Trippier $5,100 – If you read my write ups regularly, you may be bored of this guy. But if you’ve been playing him, you won’t mind. This is a defender who plays for Burnley, not the most consistent team defensively, so don’t expect clean sheets, however over his last seven games, this he has not scored less than 9 points without any assists or goals. That is a ridiculous floor for a defender to be able to plug into your lineup before you add the potential upside of a clean sheet, assist or goal. He has a friendly matchup on paper this weekend at home to QPR and will be a lock in a large amount of my lineups.

Alan Hutton $4,000 – Here is a little more of a sneaky play. Playing for Aston Villa who, similarly to Burnley, you aren’t exactly relying on for regular clean sheets. Hutton has been putting up some very strong numbers, not below 7 fantasy points in his last eight games. In a friendly matchup against a misfiring Leicester squad this week, the potential is there for a clean sheet but I like Hutton for an under owned and relatively safe play on Saturday.

Others I like: *Branislav Ivanovic $5,300, Aleksander Kolorov $5,200, Aaron Cresswell $4,800, Carl Jenkinson $4,700, Kyle Walker $4,200, Danny Rose $4,000.

Midfielders

Christian Eriksen $8,100 – I feel like Eriksen is a little under priced this week. He is the playmaker behind Spurs recent success and has been a relatively consistent performer. What particularly draws me to him is the fact that the on fire Harry Kane’s price has really caught up to his spectacular production to the point where i’m really struggling to pay for him. Eriksen may be a nice compromise and way of getting exposure to Spurs and Kane. He takes a lot of set pieces, his assist numbers don’t reflect the chances he has been creating for his side, I expect there are going to be plenty of assists from him in the second half of the season. Also, Eriksen has goals in each of Spurs last two road games for those of you who believe that these things come in threes…

Ahmed Elmohamady $5,800 – Heres another guy, similar to Hutton who i’ve been using a little recently. Hull have been playing well and Elmohamady has been a big part of it. He’s always under owned playing for one of the less ‘sexy’ teams on the board but loves to cross the ball at any opportunity. This gives him a really nice floor given his role in the current system. He has popped up with both a goal and an assist in the last few games and the matchup gives him a nice opportunity for another good outing on Saturday. His price is quite friendly too if you are looking to pay up elsewhere.

Others I like: Cesc Fabregas $8,300, Oscar $7,100, Stewart Downing $6,900, Jesus Navas $6,800, Andros Townsend $5,500 (if starting).

Note: I give a slight bump to Navas if Man City do indeed have Edin Dzeko back as is being reported this weekend. I like playing the City wide man when he has a target man like Dzeko to aim his crosses at rather than a smaller forward. He’s much more likely to toss the ball into the box at any opportunity with Dzeko in the side.

Forwards

Diego Costa $10,500 – His price drop makes Costa VERY attractive this weekend. I also believe he will be very popular just because it is the first time his price has been close to other forwards. I’ll be very interested to see the ownership % of Costa vs Kane tomorrow. Kane is in stunning form and I will certainly have shares, but my gut tells me Costa may be the play this weekend. I already said earlier that I believe Mourinho will demand a big performance from his team and the potent front man has as much if not more upside than anyone on the slate.

Charlie Austin $9,200 – I think Austin has been one of the biggest surprises of this season. Almost single handedly giving QPR a chance to avoid relegation he has been racking up the goals. He has shown he has hat-trick upside already and has a solid matchup against Burnley in a must win game for both sides. He has been very popular recently, with good reason, but I think he may go overlooked this weekend. With Costa and Kane within reach people may lose him in the middle ground between star and value strikers. This makes him a superb GPP play.

Others I like: Harry Kane $10,200, Edin Dzeko $8,000 (if starting and Aguero is not back), Christian Benteke $8,000, Romelu Lukaku $6,900 (under owned high upside GPP flier against Man City).

That wraps things up! If you have any questions hit me up on twitter @cjhopkins07 and I’ll be tweeting out lineups as they are released tomorrow morning for your convenience. Good luck everyone!