The first slate of 2015 in DFS belongs to the English Premier League, as New Year’s Day is rung in with a full schedule on Draft Kings on Thursday.
Only the Manchester United/Stoke City early match is off the slate, leaving nine matches to choose from. Coming off a “whopping” four days of rest from their last matches (or three, if you’re Liverpool and Swansea), managers will be keeping one eye on rotation and the other on getting the results needed, especially with the recent turnover in managers. With the Premiership teams coming into the FA Cup this weekend (Saturday/Sunday), individual managers will weigh who they want to start in these matches perhaps based on their cup opponents. The lower the opponents are in the English “pyramid”, the more of a chance for a “A” lineup instead of rotation. Of course, keep your eyes peeled for starting lineups come the morning—get the coffee ready.
Southampton vs. Arsenal: Arsenal’s a slight road favorite, but both teams have used the holiday period positively to remain in the hunt for European spots next season. Neither have title hopes, but the lure of the Champions League for next season looms large—Arsenal needs it in order to keep things at an even keel and not lose its best players, while Southampton simply need to strike while the iron is hot. They may never have the first half of the season they’ve accomplished, and a win at home over Arsenal would keep their hopes alive.
For Southampton, look to whom Ronald Koeman starts to determine what kind of gameplan he’ll have in this one. If Shane Long ($5,300) starts over midfielder Sean Davis or James Ward-Prowse ($5,400), it’s likely that Southampton will be hunting three points in this one. Koeman is set to lose two regulars to both the African Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup (both regional championships), he may put all of his figurative cards on the table at let it ride. It’s the last match before Sadio Mane ($7,100) leaves for duty with Senegal, so he should start alongside Graziano Pelle ($9,300) and Dusan Tadic ($9,000) in Southampton’s front four. Back to Long; if he starts in that front four, either Davis (a more traditional defensive midfielder) or Ward-Prowse (more attacking, creative player) is on the bench—and there you have the mindset.
If Ward-Prowse starts, he could provide excellent value. In his last start, Ward-Prowse had a pair of assists in a win over Crystal Palace. Both he and Tadic are left-sided players; if both start, Tadic is likely to be central behind Pelle. Ward-Prowse would likely be in the bank of two behind the front four alongside Victor Wanyama ($5,600). Tadic finally returned to the land of double digit point production Sunday with an assist, and remains the third-highest costing midfielder on the slate behind Eden Hazard and David Silva. If given the choice amongst the top tier of midfielders in this slate, the top nine—Tadic maybe is in the bottom third with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Christian Eriksen. If you’re going to spend up in midfield, I’d be aiming for others.
The rest of Southampton is to be avoided; at his price tag, Fraser Forster ($5,100) is a no-go against a strong Arsenal attack. Nathaniel Clyne is out, and Ryan Bertrand ($4,900) will have his hands full with no clean sheet in sight. I’d avoid Wojciech Szczesny ($4,600) in net for Arsenal as well; while Arsenal might get a win on the road, a clean sheet isn’t in the cards. Of Arsenal’s defenders, the only one I’d suggest getting anywhere near one of your lineups on Thursday is Mathieu Debuchy ($4,000). Used at his preferred right back position, Debuchy could see some time going forward in direct competition with Bertrand.
For the Gunners, there may be some additional turnover due to injury. With Olivier Giroud already suspended, Danny Welbeck ($9,900) with a thigh injury. Yaya Sanogo is also a doubt, so in the absence of both Giroud and Welbeck it looks that Alexis Sanchez ($9,900) would start in his place. If Sanchez is given the opportunity to play up top for Arsenal, it’s hard to exclude the Chilean from your roster in any format. Despite a heavy workload, Sanchez has been dependable and dynamic in equal amounts. Also a strong play is midfielder Santi Cazorla ($8,800), at the highest price of the season for the Spanish national teamer. With Giroud and Mikel Arteta out, he’s taking penalties for the Gunners now and a Cazorla-Sanchez pairing will be the foundation for many teams this weekend.
In addition, interesting GPP plays for Arsenal come in the shape of both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ($5,200) and potentially, if starting, Theo Walcott ($6,500). If Welbeck misses out, either Tomas Rosicky ($4,500) will get the start, or Arsene Wenger may just think it’s time to roll out the oft-injured English winger Walcott out and see if he can stay in one piece for an extended amount of time. Walcott is a talented player, and can be a nice point producer if he sees playing time.
Newcastle United vs. Burnley: Never a dull moment around St. James Park, as Newcastle has their monthly upheaval just in time for the New Year to be rung in. Alan Pardew is off to take over at Crystal Palace, who fired Neil Warnock, and interim skipper John Carver gets to pick up the pieces in a real lull for the Magpies. After a torrid October and November, Newcastle lost four in a row before last weekend’s home win versus Everton. But even with Pardew off and Papiss Cisse suspended three games (and off to play for Senegal, anyways), Newcastle remains a strong favorite against 19th (out of 20 teams) place Burnley.
If it’s any time for Burnley to come visiting, you might think it’s now. There should not be a lot of change for Carver’s starting lineup. Set to remain in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Ayoze Perez ($7,500) will lead the attack for those in black and white in this one. For Newcastle, Perez has had most of his best showings as the lead striker despite not being a physical player. With the matchup against Burnley, Newcastle has several viable options over all positions on Thursday. Yoan Gouffran ($4,600) may take Cisse’s starting spot in the front four for Newcastle; it’s likely down to him or Sammy Ameobi ($5,600), but the latter is carrying an injury and might not be used. Remy Cabella ($4,900) and Moussa Sissoko ($4,600), classified as midfielders at Draft Kings, will make up the rest of the Newcastle attack. All but Perez are GPP options, capable of scoring and exceeding value because of their low salaries or flaming out.
Jak Alnwick ($4,700) could be some lineups contrarian option at goalkeeper; while Newcastle could take the win at home, a clean sheet has lesser odds and those wanting a more secure situation should look elsewhere in goal. Perhaps, aside from Perez, the most solid option in Newcastle colors is right back Daryl Janmaat ($4,000). Janmaat will get forward and get points from crosses; he could hit double digits from that alone—but the Dutch defender could also rack up an assist or clean sheet bonus. At that salary, he’s easily affordable unless you go low for your defenders.
For Burnley, your options really are easy as one (Tom Heaton, $4,200), two (Kieran Trippier, $4,800) and three (Danny Ings, $6,600). If you believe Heaton and Burnley can steal a win/clean sheet against a Newcastle side that’s in flux, he definitely has GPP lure. Trippier is a constant positive for a really poor team, hitting double digits in points from crosses alone on a consistent basis. Lastly, Ings is the team’s lead striker and the individual who sees the most chances fall to, as few as they may be. At that salary, it’s hard to find a better value vs. salary option at forward than Ings.
Aston Villa vs. Crystal Palace: Speaking of Palace, it seems unlikely but Pardew may be in charge at Villa Park on Thursday. Regardless, Palace travels to the Midlands of England in what is an important match for both teams—neither is anywhere near safety from relegation. Palace lost captain Mile Jedinak to national team duty with Australia, and Yannick Bolasie ($5,900) set to follow for ANC play—and Bolasie isn’t a certain inclusion for this one, because his wife has not given birth to their child yet and like Sunday the winger may miss out if she goes into labor. Bolasie is a nice option if he does start, but keep a pivot ready if you include him in a placeholder lineup.
Palace’s attack has been woeful as of late, with two goals in their last six matches (three losses, three draws). The lack of a real, consistent finisher up top seems to be the main issue. Either Frazier Campbell ($5,000) or Dwight Gayle ($4,300) should start against Villa, but both remain total GPP shots in the dark. I wouldn’t go near either, despite their low cost. Both Jason Puncheon ($5,800) and Wilfred Zaha ($4,000) have the ability to hit double digits if they start; Zaha from wing play and crosses, while Puncheon will shoot on sight given the chance. Otherwise, Palace is a near wasteland of DFS options. Keeper Julian Speroni ($4,300) has some potential, but it’s razor thin—you really need him to stand on his head and combine a win/clean sheet for him to make any value for his inclusion. One interesting throw of the dice, however—if you’re going bargain basement at defender, Adrian Marippa ($2,000) is set to start at right back at a minimum value. He has seven and nine points in his last two games, and there’s a lot of “ifs” included, but at that price…
Villa isn’t far from Palace when it comes to DFS options, but there are a few that make sense. Since Paul Lambert went to a 3-5-2, the value of wingbacks Aly Cissokho ($4,400) and Alan Hutton ($4,300) has increased. Both hit double digits last game against Sunderland, and if you believe Villa’s backline—including keeper Brad Guzan ($5,200) can keep a clean sheet—a repeat performance could be in play. Guzan, because of the favorable matchup, is third costliest at keeper on the slate. If a bit too high for me, even with the matchup; if you’re spending up, go with Joe Hart, or go lower with a few options I’ll discuss later.
The hosts have no viable midfield options to use, really—are you going to trust Leandro Bacuna ($3,700) as your lottery ticket? That leaves you the pair of Christian Benteke ($8,600) and Gabby Agbonlahor ($5,200) up top. Agbonlahor had his red card suspension overturned, so he is eligible to play in this one, while Benteke keeps his main man status for Villa—but I have little trust that he’ll return value, especially at that salary. Palace, when not playing the big boys, have a decent defense and it’s hard to see them giving up multiple goals.
Hull City vs. Everton: Despite having lost three straight games, Everton is favored at Hull in this one. Roberto Martinez has multiple injury issues in this one, and despite the level of talent it is tough to put much trust in the Toffees at this point. Hull aren’t fairing much better, winnings just once in their last six and despite a 3-1 win on Boxing Day against Sunderland only are out of the bottom three on goal difference.
Everton remains the more DFS friendly of these two teams; you can count on one hand the Hull options. As wingbacks, defender Liam Rosenior ($2,700) and midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady ($5,900) do have the potential to get points from crosses. Rosenior, because of his low salary, does have a bit more potential to return value, especially if Hull keep Everton at bay defensively. However, the last two weeks Elmohamady has 12 and 14 points respectively—he’s on the same level as Bolasie in their ability to get points from secondary sources. It looks like Steve Bruce will start both Nikica Jelavic ($5,300) and Abel Hernandez ($5,200) up top. For those who like narratives, Jelavic faces his former club while Hernandez, has the more dynamic skill set of the pair. However, the Uruguayan hasn’t found the back of the net since October 18th in league play.
For the visitors, with Tim Howard out and the defense leaking goals like a sieve, it’s tough to put any stock in Joel Robles ($4,100) at keeper. Both Leighton Baines ($5,600) and Seamus Coleman ($4,600) hit double digits on Sunday and are amongst the highest of ceilings when it comes to defenders, but it’s hard to see either getting points from clean sheets in this one. That makes them dependent on crosses and getting assists/goals; Baines has been scoreless since November 9th.
Everton, when on their game, can provide a lot of value from their front four—is Thursday the time they get back into gear? It looks like Romelu Lukaku ($7,500) should be back in the lineup against Hull, and that salary is awfully tempting. The three behind Lukaku are likely to be from Kevin Mirallas ($7,000), Steven Naismith ($5,500), Ross Barkley ($7,200) and Aiden McGeady ($4,500). All have value if they find a goal from this match, but in the form Everton are collectively in it’s hard to put trust in them. An Everton stack is perhaps the most explosive option you have on this slate; will they blow up on the scoresheet, or in your face?
Leicester City vs. Liverpool: If Liverpool has any hope of returning to the Champions League next season through finishing in the top four, the drive needs to continue at home against a bottom of the table Leicester side. Pure and simple, right? Liverpool have won their last two, with Monday’s 4-1 thrashing of Swansea at Liverpool starting to light the flame of Anfield’s finest.
Perhaps the pick of the litter when it comes to defenders this weekend are the Liverpool pair of Alberto Moreno ($3,900) and Javi Manquillo ($3,700). On paper, everything looks to be in line for a big day for the wingback duo. Excellent matchup in their favor? Check. Wingbacks to get their fill of crosses? Check. Salaries under $4k? Check. Liverpool has an excellent shot of shutting out Leicester at home, which makes their ceiling even that higher. But my trust in Liverpool on Thursday stops with Simon Mignolet ($5,500) in goal, if only for that salary. The matchup is great, but one goal and the ceiling for Mignolet is gone, and likely with it any chance for double digits. It’s hard to see Leicester getting multiple chances on net, so save bonuses are unlikely. It’s win/clean sheet, or bust—and with Mignolet this season, it’s been a lot of the latter.
Otherwise, it’s open season on Liverpool options in this one. In midfield, Raheem Sterling ($8.900) has hit double digits in his last six league games despite one goal, and will be used again as the forward player in Brendan Rogers’ lineup. Adam Lallana ($6,400) should be on one side of Sterling in the front three for Liverpool, and perhaps the best of the lot in this one is Phillipe Coutinho ($6,000). For that salary, it’s hard not to use the Brazilian playing like he is. Steven Gerrard ($6,200) was rested in the win over Swansea, and if he starts is another option because of his free kick and penalty duties.
Leicester? Hoo, boy. Leonardo Ulloa is likely out with an injury. If you’re feeling really froggy, David Nugent ($4,800) is set to start as Leicester’s lone striker. It’s park the bus time in all probability, and even Riyad Mahrez ($5,500), at that salary and coming off 20 and 21 point performances, is tough to put confidence in. It’s tough getting points without possession, and Leicester is unlikely to see a lot. You can’t completely fade Mahrez from your decision making, but unless you’re making multiple lineups the Egyptian (set for ANC duty as well) probably won’t be in yours.
Manchester City vs. Sunderland: There’s a slight chance Manuel Pellegrini rotate a few players from his strikerless starting lineup, but with Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup and Chelsea only three points ahead in the league, it’s all hands on deck in this one.
In all seriousness, it’s common sense to shoehorn as much light blue you can into your lineup on Thursday. This could get U-G-L-Y, especially after City gave up two goals to Leicester on Sunday to only draw. I won’t list all the options, but here the headlines: on the high end of things, David Silva ($9,200) and Yaya Toure ($8,100) are goalscorers from the midfield. Whomever starts up top, either James Milner ($7,600) or fit-again Stevan Jovetic ($7,500), should have multiple chances. If cleared to play, Frank Lampard ($4,100) at that price-c’mon. The starters at outside back are near the top of the list at defender on this slate, despite the high price. And Joe Hart ($5,700) in net, a huge favorite at home to get a win and perhaps a clean sheet. The less said, the better. Is there a chance Sunderland return to their voodoo curse over City in this one? Sure, but it’s really, really small.
For Sunderland, you can go with the revenge narrative of Costel Pantilimon ($3,400) at that salary playing the game of his life against his former club. Same with Adam Johnson ($5,200). Connor Wickham ($5,800) has hit double digits in this last three. Good luck with those, if you dare. Godspeed.
QPR vs. Swansea City: So, after taking a hiding at Anfield against Liverpool Monday, Swansea will look to reverse course and shake it off against an uneven QPR side. Swansea are slight favorites in this one, and this has the chance of being a relatively high scoring matchup. If you go with either keeper, Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski ($4,600) is the better play despite a QPR attack that does feature the in-form Charlie Austin ($9,500). Austin will look to get back on the scoresheet after not finding the back of the net against Palace, and it’s tough not to see Austin versus Swansea striker Wilfried Bony ($8,400) as the main attraction in this one. Austin has 12 goals to Bony’s eight this season, and Bony hasn’t found the net in his last two games. There’s a good chance both could score on Thursday.
Otherwise, keep your choices limited to the midfielders on each team. Neither team has much attacking impetus from its outside backs, and are easily excluded. For QPR, Leroy Fer ($5,100) is a contrarian option who knows how to score—he just doesn’t do it enough. Swansea has the more DFS friendly set up, with the aforementioned Sigurdsson ($8,200) joined by Wayne Routledge ($5,300) and Nathan Dyer ($4,900) as potential plays. The price tag Sigurdsson carries means you need a goal from him to meet value; I liked it better when he was in the $7k range.
West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion: With two straight losses, albeit against top shelf sides, West Ham have hit a blip in what has been a really successful season. They host WBA in what should be a really positive matchup for the Hammers based on their home record and West Brom’s play as of late. A West Ham stack might not have the lure Liverpool, City or Chelsea might carry into New Years Day, but it could turn out to be rather nice option to go with. There really is no option to go with anyone on West Brom on Thursday, unless you want to be ultra-contrarian. It’s up there with the Leicesters and Sunderlands.
In goal, Adrian ($4,900) is the cheapest of the top shelf on the slate and has a superior matchup with a poor WBA attack. Outside backs Aaron Cresswell ($5,000) and Carl Jenkinson ($4,900) have the same, but their pricing in my book will have me looking elsewhere to Liverpool and City’s defenders, along with Janmaat. Stewart Downing ($7,400) is at a pretty good price level, and should have a pretty successful day. Both Morgan Amalfitano ($5,300) and Kevin Nolan ($4,500) are lower priced options that can find the back of the net and will have low ownership numbers.
Up top, it’ll be two from Diafra Sakho ($7,900), Enner Valencia ($7,700) and Andy Carroll ($8,300). Don’t be surprised if Sam Allardyce, with Sakho off to the ANC after this one, sits Carroll and uses the more mobile pair of Sakho and Valencia. Valencia has not scored since November 1st, so it’s Sahko between those two players.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea (12:30p): The late game Thursday has Chelsea visiting White Hart Lane, where Chelsea have been pretty successful in the Roman Abramovich era, especially with Jose Mourinho at the helm. Spurs are in form unbeaten in their last five but haven’t beaten their London rivals in their last six head to head.
The main issue with Mourinho’s starting lineup is whether Oscar ($7,300) will be fit enough to start. He missed out on Chelsea’s draw Sunday against Southampton, and if he does not start look for Cesc Fabregas ($8,000) or Andre Schurrle ($5,400) to be played his attacking midfield spot. Otherwise, your normal options for Chelsea are in play, from the back to the front: Thibaut Courtois ($5,000), Branislav Ivanovic ($4,800) and either Flilipe Luis ($4,100) or Cesar Azpilicueta ($4,200) at defender, midfield ace Eden Hazard ($9,700) and forward Diego Costa ($10,600). Hazard and Costa are the more consistent plays, and it’s unlikely Courtois keeps a clean sheet in this one—but that price tag and Chelsea’s winning ways will have Courtois in a few of my lineups. Even wild card Willian ($5,600) is in play as a joker Flex option.
For Spurs, my focus is purely on the front four—Hugo Lloris ($4,700) isn’t going to keep a clean sheet in this one, and the likelihood of Spurs winning is low. Spurs’ outside backs should be pinned back for the most part, and Mauricio Pochettino could use a more defensive back four that would exclude Ben Davies and/or Kyle Walker. Harry Kane ($8,700) has been on fire as of late, but was rather quiet against Manchester United on Sunday and it’s a much more difficult matchup against Chelsea’s defense in this one. It’s the same reasoning to not include midfielders like Eriksen ($8,000), Nacer Chadli ($6,500) and Erik Lamela ($5,800) because of the matchup involved. All four are excellent players and can score, but I won’t be rostering any. If I’d go with any, I would go with the upside and speed of Chadli—Eriksen is likely to see a lot of Nemanja Matic, and that rarely goes well for those marked by the superb Serbian central midfielder. Chadli perhaps could exploit Ivanovic once or twice during a counterattack.