We have a relatively short slate here at Draftkings on Saturday, with five games making up the first of two sessions this weekend with the second a Sunday/Monday two-day affair with four matches making that up. Saturday gives us a pair of favorites that the majority of players will build their team around to be supplemented by a host of mid-range “values” to choose from. The early matchup between Crystal Palace and QPR is not included, just for information’s sake.
The top contest on Saturday’s slate is the Equalizer, where DraftKings is offering a $8,000 prize pool with $2,000 for first place.
Sunderland vs. Aston Villa:
Sunderland: Costel Pantilimon ($4,800), Patrick van Aanholt ($3,800), Seba Larsson ($5,400), Jack Rodwell ($4,600), Ricardo Alvarez ($3,300), Connor Wickham ($6,700), Jermaine Defoe ($6,600)
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan ($4,400), Aly Cissokho ($4,100), Matthew Lowton ($2,400), Scott Sinclair ($5,000), Charles N’Zogbia ($4,200), Gabriel Agbonlahor ($4,900), Christian Benteke ($7,300), Andreas Wiemann ($4,900)
This has all the hallmarks of a very tight, low scoring matchup that neither team wants to drop three points from even though both need everything they can take from a relegation six-pointer. At first glance, two wins over local rivals West Brom could signal the salad days of the Tim Sherwood era are about to begin, but before that Villa dropped a pair under Sherwood. They’re more vital going forward, even without Benteke who missed the last of the two WBA matchups due to injury. Both he and Cissokho are questionable, but Benteke looks the more likely to play. Lowton should see a healthy ownership because of his salary, while Sunderland’s less than stellar attack sees Guzan a healthy play even on the road.
I think Pantilimon is a better way to go, however–especially if Benteke misses out. Sunderland almost have to win this match–at home, against a relegation rival, even without the suspended Lee Cattermole (and the really, really suspended Adam Johnson) in the team. Keep an eye on the starting lineup–van Aanholt could become even a better play if he’s used at left wing with Anthony Reveillere and Santiago Vergini as the outside defenders. Both Larsson and Rodwell will be low owned, but are relatively goal dependent to garner value back for you. That leaves us with Defoe and Wickham, both talented players that together are really struggling for the Black Cats as of late. The pricing on both have risen despite being on a cold streak; if there’s anytime to heat up, Saturday needs to be it.
Leicester City vs. Hull City:
Leicester: Mark Schwarzer ($4,100), Danny Robertson ($2,700), Riyad Mahrez ($5,700), Matty James ($2,800), Andrej Kramaric ($5,000), Jeff Schlupp ($5,500)
Hull: Allan McGregor ($4,100), Andrew Robertson ($4,800), Ahmed Elmohamady ($6,200), Tom Huddlestone ($3,700), David Meyler ($3,700), Dame N’Doye ($6,400), Nikica Jelavic ($6,000)
This is another relegation scrap between Hull (15th in the Premiership) and Leicester (DFL), a game that screams a scoreless match, 1-0 or a 1-1 draw. Hosts Leicester are a relatively unfriendly DFS side, but there is a small handful of options, especially if you’re looking to find value to bring on salaries. Schwarzer has the home start against a Hull side that can be held at arms’ length, especially if you can keep the front two of N’Doye and Jelavic of any decent service. Both clubs use wingbacks (Leicester has a 5-4-1, while Hull use a 3-5-2), but Leicester’s pair of outside defenders do have pretty decent pricing to them. Simpson is the much more offensively skilled option. Schlupp and Mahrez have decent floors, especially the latter, whose midfield positioning gives him a bit more use than Schlupp. Kramaric is the lone striker, and will be limited in his chances by a Hull defense that hasn’t given up more than one goal in each of its last five matches.
The visitors’ best options are left wingback Robertson in the position that best suits his DFS ceiling; Elmohamady, who can hit double digits through crosses but has not picked up a goal or assist his last eight league matches; and the front two of N’Doye and Jelavic, who when played together have done really well and are still relatively value plays against a Leicester defense that has been very porous. Both could be in line to score, but N’Doye is the more talented, more physical of the pair.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City
WBA: Ben Foster ($4,700), Craig Dawson ($3,000), Callum McManaman ($4,000), Craig Gardner ($5,200), Saido Berahino ($8,300), Brown Ideye ($6,000)
Stoke: Asmir Begovic ($4,500), Erik Pieters ($3,200), Phil Bardsley ($3,300), Victor Moses ($6,700), Charlie Adam ($4,700), Peter Crouch ($5,700), Jonathan Walters ($6,100), Mame Diouf ($5,300)
Usually 40 points from a season keeps you in the Premiership; Stoke has that already, while West Brom only has 30 points. In this fact, you see the basic overriding inspiration that is involved in this match, as the hosts need this one much more than Stoke. But Stoke has a rich recent history against their opponents in this one, winning their last five at the Hawthorns and keeping a clean sheet in five of their last seven overall against West Brom. Stoke have won their last three league matches in a row as well, and I really like Begovic in this one despite being on the road. With a strong defense combined with both Ideye and Berahino carrying injuries into this match, Begovic could have a similar match to his last against Everton–a win, clean sheet with a handful of saves.
Pieters and Bardsley have a limited ceiling, but both hit double digits against Everton and while I can’t see Bardsley repeating an 18 point performance, both could be around 8-12 points if a clean sheet is kept. Moses is the best midfield play of the bunch outside of the City and Arsenal corps; the Nigerian is not overly goal dependent but has scored two goals over his last three matches. Crouch was awfully quiet in his last start and could sit with either Diouf or Walters up top; whomever is the lead striker is a valid target, and Walters has those games where he grabs multiple goals after being utterly silent over his last few games. He isn’t the safest play, but if you have multiple lineups Walters is a strong choice if starting up top. Adam has real value as the attacking midfielder, but keep an eye on Mark Hughes’ starting 11–he has a real zig when you expect him to zag kind of quality to him.
The Brommies are coming off two straight losses to Villa, and it certainly seems both Berahino and Ideye are not at 100% physically. Perhaps the full week between matches have given one or both the chance to get right, but even if Ideye starts I can’t see using him when options like Defoe, N’Doye, Danny Ings, Walters, Jelavic and others are within a few hundred on either side. Berahino is the fourth most costly forward on the slate, easily the most expensive non-City/Gunner option. He’s $1,100 more than West Ham’s Diafra Sakho, and I see both having equal chances to score–it could be argued that Stoke can be stingier defensively than Arsenal is at times. I won’t be using Berahino much this weekend, and it’s a combination of both his price and the matchup. Dawson and (if he starts) Mcmanaman have value in their use, while Foster does have a home start at a relatively lowered price.
Arsenal vs. West Ham United
Arsenal: David Ospina ($5,200), Hector Bellerin ($4,500), Kieran Gibbs ($4,000), Nacho Monreal ($4,300), Santi Cazorla ($8,200), Mesut Ozil ($8,100), Tomas Rosicky ($4,200), Alexis Sanchez ($10,200), Olivier Giroud ($9,400), Danny Welbeck ($7,900), Theo Walcott ($6,600)
West Ham: Adrian ($3,500), Aaron Cresswell ($4,300), Stewart Downing ($5,800), Alex Song ($4,200), Diafra Sakho ($7,200)
In theory, this looks to be a perfect time for Arsene Wenger to rest some regulars in order to get them ready for Tueseday night’s trip to Monaco in the Champions League. With a spot in the Premier League set for next season, it seems that West Ham’s put things into cruise control for the most part. Even with the derby inspiration in this one, West Ham at best have done little against their London neighbors as of late, with Arsenal winning their last nine matches against the Hammers. Pair with that Arsenal winning their last seven league matches at home, and you have a solid foundation for an Arsenal win.
Based on Wenger’s comments in a press conference in Friday, it looks like he will play a full-strength team in this one in order to keep pace for a top four place in this season’s standings. Ospina is a very nice play; you have to pay for he and Hart on this slate, but it’s likely to be very much worth it. There’s a bit of a higher risk using Ospina because of the talent level at West Ham perhaps grabbing a goal, but that could allow the Colombian some saves as well. Whomever starts outside has merit in being chosen; Wenger could choose either Gibbs or Monreal on the left, Chambers or Bellerin on the right.
Welbeck’s goal against Manchester United in the FA Cup proves that a) his best place is at lead forward, and b) he’s not to be chosen if used out wide. So if Giroud comes back into the starting lineup and Welbeck is out on the right, the latter is out of play in my book. With a decimated backline for West Ham, whomever starts up top will be a very popular play. Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla as per usual top options, with likely high ownership numbers on Saturday. There’s the chance either/or between Rosicky and Walcott start if Wenger rests players, and both have value if given a chance from the beginning of this one. There is the inherent risk of guys getting subbed off earlier than usual if Arsenal have this one in their back pocket.
For the Hammers, you have a limited number of viable options to use in this one. Adrian has had a really strong season in goal, but with Winston Reid and James Tompkins likely out due to injuries and Carl Jenkinson ineligible to play (on loan from Arsenal) there is a distinct B team feel going into this one. Midfielder Ckeikhou Kouyate is likely to play at center back, and he’s done well this season when needed in defense, but this is rather large disadvantage. Song has the narrative going for him as a former Arsenal player, but he will likely have a lot of defensive duties in midfield, especially if Kouyate is in defense. Downing and Sakho have been consistent producers for DFS purposes, but the latter will be on his own as a lone striker with Ennger Valencia likely out with a bizarre tea cup injury that cut his foot and Andy Carroll out long-term. Downing might be your best bet for anyone in a West Ham uni getting double digits, but even at his depressed price I’d rather use Milner/Navas from City, or Mahrez, all of which are in the same neighborhood price wise.
Burnley vs. Manchester City
Man City: Joe Hart ($5,400), Alex Kolarov ($4,700), Pablo Zabaleta ($4,600), Gael Clichy ($3,800), Bacary Sagna ($3,700), David Silva ($8,700), Yaya Toure ($7,200), James Milner ($6,000), Jesus Navas ($6,000), Sergio Aguero ($10,100), Edin Dzeko ($8,300), Wilfried Bony ($8,200)
Burnley: Kieran Trippier ($4,900), Danny Ings ($6,300)
For our DFS purposes, this match carries both promise and risk when it comes to the visitors. Overwhelming favorites with a midweek Champions League match in Barcelona that they’ll need to win in order to advance, Manuel Pellegrini could sit some guys in order to rest them–and if you have guys like Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Silva, Aguero and the like, you’ll have their replacements in the City lineup to pivot to–but so will everyone else. So there’s that trap, but whomever starts are really strong plays. Burnley drew 2-2 at City earlier in the season.
City now travel to Burnley knowing first place is likely out of the question because of Chelsea’s lead (and game in hand), but a top four spot isn’t totally secure with several clubs within hailing distance. Hart or Willy Caballero are strong plays in goal, especially with Ings at less than 100% due to an injury. On the outside, any of the possible choices for City are useable. Kolarov and Zabaleta have the higher ceilings, but Clichy and Sagna have more inherent value because of their lesser salaries. If I’m spending up at goal and in the back, I’d prefer Arsenal options over City’s.
Samir Nasri is not traveling with the rest of the team and is out, so it looks like Silva will be used out on the left (but will see a lot of time cutting towards the center of the field) with Toure and either Fernando or Fernandinho centrally) and Navas or Milner on the right. Navas is the much better DFS option between the two, and if he starts he’ll be in several of my lineups at that price tag. Toure and Silva will be in the mix as well, but I prefer Toure because of his more central position and the ability to cheat forward with the more defensive leaning partner between the aforementioned Brazilians. Up top, you’re likely to see Aguero start up top with either Bony or Dzeko. Any of the three are excellent choices, but at their prices you need them to score to return value, especially Aguero. He was frustrated by Leicester in City’s last game, but he is in the right matchup to bounce back.
Don’t shy away from using Ings and Trippier because of their matchup in this one, however. By far the best two options for Burnley this season, Ings could capitalize on what has been an inconsistent defense for City and while Burnley are a longshot to win, they may get on the scoresheet, and Ings would likely be the man to do it. His price tag makes him usable as a second forward or a flex. Trippier is the DFS metronome, even with “just” five points from Burnley’s last match at Liverpool. Hitting his ceiling will depend on the shaky nature of scoring crosses, but
on this slate he remains the best chance for a defender hitting double digits, especially without a clean sheet coming into play. Also keep in mind that he’ll be opposite Silva, and with the latter moving consistently to the middle, that could allow Trippier more room going forward–when Burnley have the chance to do so.