After a week’s vacation, the Premier League is back on Draft Kings with a seven game slate on Saturday.
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Sunderland vs. Burnley: We have two relatively even teams, both just above the relegation zone, meeting at the Stadium of Light on Saturday with some DFS friendly options, especially at forward.
Sunderland’s move to a 3-4-1-2 gives them a bit more attacking verve, especially since their new signing Jermain Defoe ($5,100) cannot play in a lone forward role. Defoe has been scoreless so far in his return to England, and this could be the match that Defoe gets his first for Sunderland. Burnley’s pair of Danny Ings ($7,600) and Ashley Barnes ($6,400) has a bit more consistency than what Sunderland has proven so far this season, as Defoe, Steven Fletcher ($5,500) and Adam Johnson ($5,300) have the ability to disappear from games if Sunderland goes behind in games. Both Defoe and Johnson have their lure on Saturday because of their mid-level salaries, but the thought of a Sunderland mini-stack scares the (bleep) out of me. Johnson’s new role as an attacking midfielder behind Defoe and Fletcher suits Johnson and his skill set well. Using Sunderland players will remain the contrarian option on Saturday, while more players will have Ings in their lineups. Ings has the more consistent production throughout the season, and it’s hard to think any transfer rumors away from Burnley will bother Ings on the field.
Elsewhere, I’ll be avoiding both keepers in this one—even though both sides have below average attacks, there’s enough talent to see both teams scoring and this one could scream a draw after 90 minutes. Add into the mix the salaries for Costel Pantilimon ($5,100) and Tom Heaton ($4,600), and I’ll be shopping elsewhere to roster my keeper. Sebastian Larsson ($5,700) is incredibly goal dependent to match/exceed value, and no one in Burnley’s midfield has enough value and consistency to catch my eye. However, the defenders in this game have some real interest to me because of formation, salary and past performance. Kieran Trippier ($5,300) is a given, but his teammate Ben Mee ($3,300) has hit double digits in two straight league games. Sunderland’s Patrick van Aanholt ($3,600) and Billy Jones ($2,000) are now defacto wingbacks in Sunderland’s formation; their skill sets, especially van Aanholt, are not exactly suited to the position, but both can be used—especially Jones, if he starts, because of his minimum price tag.
Stoke City vs. QPR: First of all, it’s a shame for both Stoke and DFS players that Bojan Krkic is out for the foreseeable future with an ACL tear—he was playing very well and was the needed ingredient for the overall recipe. Krkic made Stoke an actual team to seek out and roster players from, and in his absence it’s tough to see who takes his place as a midfield creator/goalscorer. Charlie Adam ($5,000)? If the game meant you had to run ten yards only at a time, Adam’s left foot would come in handy. Since that isn’t the case, the immobile Adam isn’t capable of filling Krkic’s shoes. Stephen Ireland ($3,000)? His minimum price tag, if Ireland starts, will be awfully tempting to use. He’s a better fit than Adam, but Ireland’s best days are well past him.
This is a great matchup for Stoke, don’t get me wrong. I’ll be all over Asmir Begovic ($4,800) in my lineups because of his mid-level salary, a home start and the favorable matchup. Victor Moses ($5,500) will be in the reckoning at midfield, especially with the matchup in play. Contrarian play Jonathan Walters ($5,300) could be a winning play, especially if he gets the start behind lead striker Peter Crouch ($6,800). Crouch is the easiest way, other than Begovic, to roster a Stoke player. He’s really boom or bust, and I’d rather save money by going with a lower priced option like Defoe, Didier Drogba, or just going higher or lower in cost.
There’s one thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking about rostering QPR’s Charlie Austin ($9,200) in this one. If Harry Redknapp sits striker Bobby Zamora, who is a complimentary option to Austin while not having much direct DFS relevance, with Mauro Zarate ($5,400—still listed as West Ham), Austin’s value for me dips a bit. Zarate won’t sublimate to Austin in the pecking order like Zamora does, and lessens the chances Austin will get on the day.
Manchester United vs. Leicester City: Let’s face it; United is struggling a great deal and needs three points desperately in this one in order to keep pace in the race for a Champions League spot next season. Trying to determine who Louis van Gaal will start in this one is a crapshoot, so get ready to move from one player to the next if you want to use Red Devil options from this match against last place Leicester.
One of the few certainties for van Gaal is keeper David de Gea ($5,600); the highest priced option in the slate for good reasons, de Gea should see heavy usage for those spending up for their keeper. It’s hard to talk someone off using the Spaniard unless you want to save money for other positions. For me, it’s either Begovic or de Gea.
I can’t see using Leicester options in this one. Don’t get me wrong—Leicester could come from this match with a point or three, but overall it’s hard not to see Nigel Pearson defending in numbers and try and frustrate United at home. In theory, Luke Shaw ($4,300) should be a nice play but the left back hasn’t put up any production, consistently—either as a left back or a wingback. So no matter what the formation, I’d be avoiding United defenders. Angel Di Maria ($9,900) has seen his price dip, and for good reason—he could have a big day, be it as a striker or a winger, but at that price tag it’s really hard to cash unless he scores and gets 20+ points. It looks like Juan Mata will start on the bench even with the absence of Michael Carrick, and Maroune Fellaini ($4,700) is incredibly goal dependent. If I’m going to use any midfielder for United, it’ll be Ander Herrera ($5,500)—if he starts, and it’s not a given he will. He can score if given the chance, and with Carrick out he should see a lot of the ball—and if Daley Blind starts as a midfielder Herrera should be used in a more advanced role.
It’s a crapshoot to determine who van Gaal will use in attack—Wayne Rooney ($10,700) is most likely a starter in his current attacking midfield role behind two strikers. Rooney is the highest price option overall on Saturday, and he hasn’t scored since Boxing Day. He should be rested after not playing in the FA Cup last weekend, and Rooney could have a big day—and with that price tag, you’ll need it. I think I’ll be spending down a bit at forward, using a more balanced approach. The matchup is there for Rooney and whomever starts up top—be it Di Maria, Robin van Persie ($10,000), Radamel Falcao ($8,500) or James Wilson ($4,500).
Those wanting to go fully contrarian can go with Leicester attackers—I really can’t see using Robert Green in goal, any defender or midfielder from the visitors—Leonardo Ulloa ($5,800), Jeff Schlupp ($5,500) and Andrej Kramaric ($5,000) will be low owned and could hit United on the break. However, chances will be few and far between. If you feel brave, here’s your way to go.
Crystal Palace vs. Everton: Palace is starting an uptick with Alan Pardew at the help, while Everton is very poor as of late. It’s not time to put the Toffees and Roberto Martinez under relegation watch, but a loss at Selhurst Park will only increase the negative momentum Everton has—it’s getting close to a clear freefall.
Julian Speroni ($4,500) is an option in goal, but using him will require you to buy into that Everton will continue to struggle in attack and not wake from its collective slumber. It’s a home start and normally that’s a positive for use of a keeper, but I like the aforementioned options in place of Speroni. Palace doesn’t have defender options to use, but Everton’s pairing of Leighton Baines ($5,500) and Seamus Coleman ($4,700) are in play with their dependable floor (from crosses and fouls drawn) and high ceiling (assists and goals).
Lots of players on Saturday will be on Palace’s front four due to their relative value when it comes to salary and the matchup against a questionable Evertonian defense. Jason Puncheon ($5,500) did not see his salary rise greatly despite back-to-back 21 point displays, while Wilfried Zaha ($4,000) is a strong play at that salary if he starts. At forward, you have Yaya Sanogo ($5,300) the likely lead forward with Dwight Gayle ($4,500) and/or Maroune Chamakh ($4,500) alongside Puncheon. Zaha is much more DFS friendly an option than Chamakh.
As for Everton’s midfield and forward options, it’s hard to put much trust in them collectively despite the talent level in the mix. Ross Barkley ($6,600) continues to be overpriced and goal dependent, while Aiden McGeady ($4,500) hasn’t scored since September. Steven Naismith ($5,600) perhaps is the best option overall packaging price and past output, while Romelu Lukaku ($7,400) is ice cold. He’s going to explode sometime, as Everton should in general—question is, when? Penalty scapegoat Kevin Mirallas ($6,000) has a hamstring injury, and might not start even if passed fit. If he does start, a lot of people with recency bias will overlook the Belgian—can you forgive and forget?
Liverpool vs. West Ham United: This could be the track meet match of the weekend, as the Hammers come calling to Anfield—there’s a lot of options to choose from in this one. Let’s start in goal—both Simon Mignolet ($5,400) and Adrian ($4,400) have produced on a pretty consistent basis (save the former’s poor stretch late last year), but this isn’t the matchup to use either. Mignolet’s price tag is high, to boot.
But then, things start flowing. You have West Ham’s pair of Aaron Cresswell ($4,600) and Carl Jenkinson ($4,400)—although Jenkinson is in doubt but should start. Both defenders are useable even if a clean sheet likely isn’t in play; the same with Alberto Moreno ($3,700) and perhaps Glen Johnson ($4,600)—although Johnson is only useable if he plays as a wingback and not a central defender in Liverpool’s back three. At midfield, you have the usual suspects on both sides—Raheem Sterling ($8,200) is likely to remain Liverpool’s lead attacker and could use his speed to counterattack West Ham’s size in the back, while Phillipe Coutinho ($6,500) and Stewart Downing ($6,300) are underpriced and are strong plays in their own right.
Steven Gerrard ($6,200) could be rested after going 120 minutes midweek for Liverpool, while Adam Lallana ($5,900) should start and could go underowned in comparison to others in this match, as should Jordan Henderson ($5,000).
At forward, it looks like West Ham should have Andy Carroll ($8,000) and Diafra Sakho ($7,500) up top—Carroll has the narrative as a Liverpool castoff, while Sakho can create and score. Both are viable options, while Liverpool should have Daniel Sturridge ($6,700) back after long term injury—but only as a substitute unless Brendan Rogers springs a huge surprise. If, and it’s a big IF, Lazar Markovic ($3,800) starts as one of the front three and not a wingback, he’s a ready-made flex option to save salary. As a wing back, Markovic’s upside is severely limited.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs are slight favorites on the road; for DFS purposes, there’s not much to consider on West Brom’s side of things. Ben Foster ($4,200) in goal with a home start against an in-form Tottenham attack? No thanks, at least in my mind. Saido Berahino ($7,600) is an option only if he’s used as a striker, and not as a wing. Victor Anichebe ($5,000) might be cheap, but he rarely puts away the chances he’s given.
At first glance, Tottenham might have strong options—but keep this in mind. Spurs have relatively struggled as of late when it comes to their attack. Add into things that Spurs have been playing a rather packed schedule; West Brom has defended well since Tony Pulis took over and guys could be hitting their figurative wall. I’m looking at you, Harry Kane ($10,000). Don’t be surprised if Mauricio Pochettino shuffles the deck a bit in his starting 11. Kane and Christian Eriksen ($7,500) went the full 90 in the League Cup midweek—fair warning, people. Both are consistent options, while Nacer Chadli ($6,700), Erik Lamela ($5,500), Andros Townsend ($5,400) should see healthy ownership numbers if they start. If Kane does not start, you then have either Emmanuel Adebayor or Roberto Soldado ($6,000) starting up top in the lone striker role. There’s positive and negatives to that—using either frees up salary elsewhere, but both have no come near the production Kane has this season.
At defense, both Danny Rose ($4,000) and Kyle Walker ($3,800) are strong options because of their salaries and Spurs’ willingness to get their outside backs into the attack on a regular basis. West Brom will likely look to frustrate Spurs going forward in numbers, so Rose and Walker could a) see a lot of crosses if Spurs try to attack through the flanks, and b) have a chance at a clean sheet because of a combination of West Brom’s inconsistent attack and defensive tendency. It’s a lot easier, in my mind, to use Rose and/or Walker than Hugo Lloris ($5,000)—the away start and the lessened chance of a win bonus limits his ceiling. I’d rather spend up for de Gea or go lower, but Lloris is a better option than Mignolet because of the matchup involved.
Chelsea vs. Manchester City: The heavyweight matchup of the day clearly is at Stamford Bridge, where first place Chelsea host second place City. The matchup DFS wise was dimmed a bit after Diego Costa was suspended midweek, leaving Chelsea without its lead striker. Keep an eye on the start lineup for Chelsea from Jose Mourinho; with Costa out and Cesc Fabregas very doubtful, Chelsea could sit back and look to limit City’s chances and try to win on the break via counterattacks. Chelsea have the five point advantage in the standings—if anyone needs to win this match, it’s City.
In goal, you have both Thibaut Courtois ($5,000) and Joe Hart ($4,600) as viable options because of the likely nature of this match. Neither team is likely to win the league outright on Saturday afternoon, but a loss by Chelsea brings City within two points while City losing puts them eight points behind. A draw leaves things as the status quo, and could be the best options for both sides. Chelsea also played 120 minutes midweek and might be a bit gassed as well. This all speaks to a possible low scoring match.
Branislav Ivanovic ($5,100) is also a doubt as well, so check his inclusion in the lineup before using the Serbian. Ivanovic is playing really well as of late, and is a strong play even with the high salary. Pablo Zabaleta ($4,600) and Gael Clichy ($4,300) have not produced well as of late, so I’ll be looking elsewhere—if the matchup was better, those salaries are a decent level for usage. With Fabregas likely out, Ramires ($5,500) should start in his place alongside Nemanja Matic in defensive midfield—but Ramires goes forward a bit more than Fabregas. He, however, does not have the set piece responsibilities than Fabregas does. Of course, the top shelf options are in play; Edin Hazard ($9,300) and David Silva ($8,800) should be highly owned.
Up top, you have Drogba ($6,200) likely starting in the place of Costa—he’s started two league games this season, and has scored in each (versus Spurs and United). At that price, he’ll be used in pretty healthy numbers on Saturday. For City, Sergio Aguero ($10,300) has been relatively quiet since returning from injury and Chelsea’s defense doesn’t give up big days on a regular basis.