With a large prize pool for this Friday’s EPL Boxing Day special we wanted to get the breakdown out nice and early. This week is very tricky for the DKFC slate of EPL games. Most teams will have a fixture on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and then turn around and play either Sunday or Monday again, so it is an absolute must that you follow the starting XIs when they are released to make sure your guys are playing. I will outline some swerves on each team as well in case your stars get the day off. Be mindful of who sits and who plays as some insanely cheap value plays will be popping up on both slates of games due to the two fixtures in three days time frame.
Aston Villa @ Swansea City
Villa has somehow managed to stay mid table despite scoring the least amount of goals in the entire Premier League so far this season with only 11 in 17 games. They do play a very defensive minded brand of soccer and have only allowed 21 so far in this campaign. After a rough start to the season they have not allowed two goals in one game in almost two months. The English bookmakers see the most likely outcome here being a Swansea City win at either 1-0 or 2-0. With a few injuries and no real talented attacking players I would think no one expect maybe Christian Benteke is in play. The Villa frontman is not cheap either at $8200 so this would strictly be a flyer in GPPs. Another Flyer I think is more of a sneaky play is taking the GK and backline from Villa. While they are are not a top play on the day, the style of football they play could lend itself to a 0-0 draw, which would be a solid return on the low prices of GK Brad Guzan and Defenders like Ciaran Clark and Aly Cissohko. That’s about all I see from a weak Villa side in a probable low scoring fixture.
Swansea is a little more interesting. They are expected to get the win and score 1-2 goals. As I stated already, Villa is very stingy on defense and tends to stay in their shell. It affects their ability to score, but also makes it tougher to crack that defense. Swansea is not in line for a huge breakout performance today, but they do have a few guys who could produce nice stat lines. Starting at the back GK Lukasz Fabianski is a good option for the Win and a Clean Sheet. Villa’s offense has only managed to muster 48 Shots on Goal in 17 fixtures so far which gives me some pause in using him. If he does not get a Win or a CS bonus then he likely will not see many shots to save which will translate to a low score. While he is one of the heaviest favorites for both bonuses, he does not have a lot of upside. None of the defenders are really great plays either as they score very few DK points outside of the CS bonus and I would not recommend using them. This is also a knock for Fabianski as it is tough to stack with him as many like to do. Gylfi Sigurdsson is the main cog in midfield for Swansea, but he picked up a foot injury last weekend. If he is not able to go then I would look to a guy like Nathan Dyer to have a bigger role. Dyer is only $4900 on DK and could pay that off without scoring a goal. If he gets one or picks up an assist then he should provide really nice value for you. The most likely scorer for Swansea is usually Wilfred Bony, but at $9800 in a game against a very defensive minded team you would almost need two goals from him to make that work. With two games in three days there is also a chance he will sit and that would then make Bafetimi Gomis a great play. The back up striker could get the start Friday and at $6900 makes more sense to me then trying to get a big game from Bony. This is not expected to be a high scoring affair so I would tread carefully if I was using either team.
Hull City @ Sunderland
Two teams at the bottom of the table with identical marks of 15 goals for and 24 against. Hull has a league low 44 Shots on Goal this season and that offense is really struggling. Sunderland is a slight favorite, but this game could be 1-0 either way or 2-1 at most. I do not see a goals explosion coming from here and the English bookmakers all agree. With that in mind I do think Sunderland GK Costel Pantilimon is in play. Sunderland has been playing much better and he has three straight double digit scoring games including a monster score of 24 DK points last out. He has been making his way onto some top rosters in recent weeks and deserves a look as a highly probable Win and CS candidate. He is no longer really cheap, but $4900 is not expensive. If you did want to use him then I could also see going with Defenders in front of him like John O’Shea and Sebastian Coates. Coates is min price and O’Shea is $1000 more, which means you can pair them for $5000 and have a GK/Defender stack that cost only $9900 that has a high likelihood of a Win and Clean Sheet. I do not like the options to score for Hull like Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic, so it makes sense to roll out this stack.
On the attacking side for Sunderland, Conor Wickham picked up an injury and is questionable. If he misses then Steven Fletcher at $5700 and American Jozy Altidore at $4700 become interesting GPP options. Whoever does lead this Sunderland attack has a chance to net a goal and at those prices a goal would return excellent value. Adam Johnson and Sebastian Larsson are both relatively cheap in the $5500 range and could make excellent handcuffs with either of the strikers. I prefer Johnson who is cheaper and has the higher ceiling for a GPP, but both are decent options. Again though this is not expected to be a higher scoring affair on the slate, so the value offered at these low prices is really the only reason to look towards this game. If I was so inclined to use players here I would stick to the Sunderland guys as I expect them to get the win at home and find the net at least once.
Liverpool @ Burnley
Now we finally get to a game worth discusssing here. Burnley is tied for last in the league on goal Differential and has given up the fifth most goals so far. Liverpool was struggling earlier in the season and still has not really found their rhythm. With Sturridge still out, I think the start up front against a porous defense goes to Mario Balotelli. You might not see a more physically gifted footballer in your lifetime, but his laziness and ability to disappear have not endeared him to the Anfield faithful. His price is more than $1000 below where he was being recommended earlier in the year and he should get a start coming off his one game suspension. If he is held out I would still shy away from Ricky Lambert, but if Lazar Marovic gets a start at $3900 he would be interesting. Liverpool has a strong midfield which is where most of the scoring and assisting comes from. Raheem Sterling is a consistent stud who always scores 11-15 points a game. Due to the bad finishing and just overall lack of attacking quality on this team he rarely smashes through his ceiling, but if anyone on this squad was capable of a 30 DK point game it would be him. My problem is his price remains elevated enough where you kind of need a performance like that to pay him off. There’s four other options for Liverpool which all could be decent plays at square prices. Those include Steven Gerard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, and Phillipe Cortinho. I think Courtinho and Gerard have the highest ceilings, but all four of these guys have a decent floor. Check Friday morning to see who starts and who they rest for the second fixture on Sunday.
I do not like either GK in this one as Liverpool struggles on defense and has a few regulars with injuries. That could make it a tougher day for whichever keeper they start. The Sneaky play would be to go against the conventional thinking and hope Burnley can play good defense and keep Liverpool off the board. Tom Heaton would be the likely starter and pairing him with Kieran Trippier has worked in recent works. Trippier is a crossing machine and those points really make up for his lack of CS bonuses to date. I think a high upside GPP play would be stacking them both and hoping for a scoreless Liverpool side. If they can do that then Trippier will finish with 15+ points from his defender spot and I would assume Liverpool gets a few shots off so the CS bonus and Win for Heaton would probably include a decent number of saves and make him a higher scoring GK on the day then some of the guys we expect to get those bonuses without facing much pressure. It is risky, but that would probably be the best plays I see on Burnley. Burnley front man Danny Ings at $6400 is the only other one I would consider. He has had some monster games in the last month or so and his price tag is still cheap enough to make him a good salary relief option. Liverpool has been leaky in the back, especially if guys like Glenn Johnson are still out with injuries.
Manchester City @ West Brom
Man City is a heavy favorite here despite having a load of injured forwards. Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, and Stefan Jovetic are all out for Friday’s match. That means we should see some value from that Man City side expected to put up multiple goals this weekend. With the three strikers all down it is going to mean some midfielders for Man City playing forward more to help with the attack. The two I like most to do so are Samir Nasri and David Silva. Yaya Toure, James Milner, and Frank Lampard are also going to be options in the attack and frankly I think all of them are worth a look. Nasri and Milner tend to play outside more, but Silva is the focal point in the middle. I think he is easily the best bet to pick up the scoring slack from his central location, but I can see all four of the other guys paying off their prices on the back of shots, crosses, and fouls drawn. I expect Man City to win and keep in striking distance of the top of the table, so you have to think someone here scores for them. I don’t foresee a busy day in the back for either Joe Hart or Willy Caballero in goal, but whoever starts has a good chance for a CS and a Win. They also make a nice stack with Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, or Gael Clichy depending on who gets the start in defense.
For West Brom i can not recommend any of the GK or defense options as I think they allow at least one goal if not a few. Man City is favored by over a goal at some bookmakers, so I am not going to try and buck the odds here. I also do not have much faith in the attack so I will be completely fading almost all of them. The one guy worth a flyer to me is Silvestre Varela at $4800. He has 30 DK points in his last two games and looks to be in the best form of all the attacking options for West Browich Albion. It’s still not a high probability play so more a GPP flyer than anything else, but he is the one guy I would consider and he definitely helps with salary relief.
Newcastle United @ Manchester United
Man U is one of the biggest favorites on the day with a -1.5 spread and an expected 3 goals total. Newcastle has been pretty solid, but I do not think they have enough for a surging Man U team. With Tim Krul out, NCU’s Rob Elliot will likely get the start in goal. I know he played well against Chelsea last out, but I feel this is a day with multiple goals coming for Man U. After being leaky early in the campaign, the Man U defense has been stout and I could see them winning this 2-0, 3-0, or 3-1. In any event I like De Gea if he gets the nod in net. Stacking him with point scoring defenders like Rafael and Chris Smalling (Expected back from injury Friday) is pricey but has a high floor. While I think a CS is out of the question for Newcastle, defender Daryl Janmaat could be a sneaky play. He is one of those guys who gets points through crosses and shots, so a CS bonus is only gravy to him. He is not cheap and the chance for a CS is slim, but he is worth a look in this one.
For Man U there is no shortage of guys who can score goals and rack up fantasy points. My two favorite up front are Van Persie and Rooney. Both are over $10K and probably need multiple goals. Both are also very capable of doing so and have done it before. Angel Di Maria is arguably the best Mid in the whole Premier League and despite his recent subpar performances a quick scroll down of his game log shows you why. Other guys like Falcao and Juan Mata are good options, but they are pricey. My favorite value on Man U is Ashley Young if he gets another start. At $4900 the English international is an absolute steal. He tends to play out wide and racks up the crosses in the process. I expect Man U to score a few here and it would not surprise me if RVP or Rooney direct in one of his crosses. If he and/or Antonio Valencia ($5400) are in I would try to fit them on my rosters to link with RVP or Rooney for some upside and salary relief out of this game.
Southampton @ Crystal Palace
Southampton has been the surprise team of the season as they currently are in the Europa spot and knocking on the door of sneaking into the Champions League four. Crystal Palace has played better lately and finally are out of the relegation zone, although only barely. Southampton’s +15 Goal differential is third highest in the league and the 13 goals allowed tie them with Chelsea for the stingiest defense. CP is going to have their work cut out for them if they want to stay above the relegation line and take any points from this one. Bookmakers expect the most likely outcome to be a 1-0 or 2-0 win for Southampton here and I am inclined to agree with them. That means that GK Frasor Foster and his normal handcuffed defenders in Nataniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand are back in play again. That trio has sat at the back of a few winning rosters in big field DKFC events already, so they are always in play for a tournament. CP GK Julian Speroni has allowed at least 1 goal in every game but one and I expect that to continue here. In fact the only guy I really would use on CP is midfielder Yannick Bolasie. What I really like about him is that his score is never goal or assist dependent as he rarely racks up any of them. Instead he has a high number of crosses per game, draws multiple fouls, and fires off a few shots. His price has risen to a level I am a little uncomfortable with, but if I love him and have pause then I know others will not be taking the plunge. That makes him a good contrarian play with upside for a GPP.
If I am taking any attackers in this one it is going to be on the Southampton side. I got an early Xmas present today when I saw that Midfielder Dusan Tadic trained in full and is expected to start Friday. I rostered him weekly early in the season and handcuffed him with striker Graziano Pelle. The prices on both have risen dramatically since then, but it’s still a very high upside play to me against a weak Crystal Palace back line. I will definitely be rolling out a Boxing Day team with those two if they are both in. The only other guy I kind of like is Shane Long if he gets a start upfront. With two games on the weekend I could see them resting Mane and going with Long. If so I would assume they also let him get a full 90 minutes and I would be more concerned they pull a Tadic or Pelle early which is the only drawback of those two.
Stoke City @ Everton
I am fully expecting this game to see a lot of goals despite the low 2.5 total the books are looking for. Stoke has played much better thanks to two guys upfront hitting their stride. Those two are Bojan Krkic and Peter Crouch who are priced at $5800 and $5700 respectively. Everton’s defense and GK have been leaky all season and I would not put it past these two to get a goal or more on Friday. The only other flyer I would take on that Stoke attack is midfielder Wilson Palacios at min price if he gets a start. I will not be using Tim “Captain America” Howard and despite our love of country I would not recommend you doing it either. The one piece of that Everton defense that is always in play for me is Leighton Baines. When you can find a defender who takes penalties and free kicks for his side than you have to consider him. Baines picked up an injury a few weeks back and has not looked or scored the same since. He is always an upside play, but his form is not good at the moment and I would shy away from using him outside of GPPs.
Everton is also a side I think can hang a few goals on Stoke which is why I am hoping this game turns into a shootout. The main guy I will target is Romelu Lukaku. The up front man for Everton is their most talented goal scorer and against a Stoke defense that has been improved yet still weak I think he can get multiple goals on the day. At $8300 I think he is one of the more enticing options on this slate. Guys like Ross Barkley and Aiden McGeady make nice handcuffs with him, but I like taking him with Baines and hoping he heads in one of the crosses or free kicks from the defender. I think you can use him as a stand alone up front if you choose, because other than Barkley you rarely see a Everton mid get double digits. Most of them are cheap so if you hit on one you will be rewarded, but Lukaku has 22% of all Everton Shots and 20% of the goals, so he is the main man for them.
Tottenham @ Leicester
This game is tough for me. I usually like targeting teams and players against a very weak and porous defense like Leicester City has. My problem here is that Tottenham is not exactly an offensive Juggernaut. Furthermore the guys who make the most sense to use are really pricey and I like other options better. That does make them a contrarian GPP play, but neither I nor the bookmakers expect them to explode. A 1-0 or 1-1 tie seems to be the consensus here over a 2-1 or 2-0 game. What that does tell me is that keeper Hugo Lloris is in play. He is one of the top handful of guys in the Premier League and gets a plum match up that he should be able to turn into a CS Win. Pairing him with defenders like Dier, Rose, Walker, or Davies make a strong start to a roster. I am off all the players on Leister City’s backline so I will skip talking about them.
On the attacking side I think Harry Kane of Tottenham is worth talking about. He is the man for them upfront and is coming off back to back games of 19 and 22 DK points. My problem is his salary has risen to $9300 and I would probably prefer to save on some guys mentioned or come up to a Man U striker for a few hundred more. I do like two midfield options on Tottenham. Cristian Eriksen has the better floor, but is also pricier at $8400. The more upside for me is Nacer Chadli at $6800. He has gone over 3 times his value threshold already this campaign and his good game last week has me believing he is in good form. I’m not sure if they sit one or the other Friday but I could see using them both on a roster or two in a great match up.
Queens Park @ Arsenal
It is fitting that this is the last game listed, because it is the one everyone is going to be targeting. Arsenal are a heavy -1.5 favorite with money still coming in on them even giving a goal and a half. The total is up to 3.5 goals and not many are giving QPR a shot to score more then one if they even get that. Using anyone in Goal or on defense for QPR is not advised so we can skip through that right now. I think Wojciech Szczesny is a valid option in goal for Arsenal and especially if you pair him with Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs. There’s some rumblings about Chambers being overused, so if he sits I think Nacho Monreal is in play as well for Arsenal’s defense. Up front for QPR the red hot Charlie Austin and salary friendly Eduardo Vargas are options to consider as Arsenal has given up 21 goals on the season. I still think they lack extreme upside though, especially Austin at his price.
The Attacking options to target seem to be on the Arsenal side and we have quite a few to consider. Alexis Sanchez is the main person to talk about and if you wonder why then scroll down his game log. He had a sub par performance in his last game which was his lowest score since a 9 DK point performance a few weeks earlier. He has scored double digit points in 9 of his last 11 and is one of the best players in the Premier league this season. Danny Welbeck has been a beast since coming over to Arsenal and he looks to be recovered from a knock he picked up last weekend. I’m not sure if they start him and/or Olivier Giroud who I also love. Either or both of these options are good ones to consider in what should be a game that sees multiple goals. The one other stud on Arsenal recently has been Serie A transplant Santi Carzola. His price has starting climbing to match his stat lines which include 6 straight games of double digit DK points. 3 of those were over 20 and another one was a 30 spot. His ability to draw fouls, pick out crosses, and take a few shots has really helped balance the Arsenal attack which is firing on all cylinders with Giroud and Welbeck up front and Sanchez retreating a little to a more CAM role. If they decide to rest some guys you have to consider forwards Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain if they are in. With all the midfield injuries I could even give a go to a low priced Mathieu Flamini at $4600 if he is in the starting XI.
With two games for all these teams in such close proximity it is a must you monitor the starting XIs as they are released. Keep in mind as well that guys coming off injuries are very likely to be substituted here, especially if they are key pieces the manager expects to play in both games. The list I provided above is only a starting point for your rosters as guys will be in or out come Friday that will open up some great value opportunities. Good luck to all those trying to take down the big prize on Friday. It’s very rare we get a chance to play for a prize pool this large in the DKFC, so take advantage of it.