Welcome to the 14th weekend of EPL action, and another MatchDay Breakdown where I provide a comprehensive look at the entire slate and provide you with some of my favorite players for each format.
This weekend is filled with stars and scrubs. While it is a City and United slate, neither team have been as perfect as we would have come to expect, but the real issue will be their ownership as it should still be astronomical. Frankly, there are too many funky, low skilled match ups to be overly excited about this weekend. If you enjoy taking a Newcastle/Huddersfield stack, then oh boy this is the slate for you (you sick, sick, thrill seeking fool).
As always if you have any questions get at me on twitter, but more importantly jump on over to RotoPros.com, sign up for a subscription, and come learn how to build your bankroll in a healthy light to serve you through seasons of numerous sports. #cashisking
Best of luck everyone, enjoy your weekend, and see you at the top!
Burnley @ Crystal Palace
In the first match of the slate we have two of of the best definitions of the scrubs I was mentioning; Burnley making the trip down south into London to face off against Crystal Palace. What a load of garbage.
There’s a couple rattling notions we have to consider before anything else, and that’s how bad Burnley has been when taking the trip to London. They’ve lost three straight of such away games and conceded at least 4 in each of those three games. No EPL side has lost four straight London trips while allowing four goals each since Leicester in 1965. Considering Palace’s form, Burnley shouldn’t be too concerned about going 4 for four. However, even more concerning, if that’s possible, Burnley hasn’t won an EPL away game in the month of December since 1969. Since then they have failed on 21 December EPL away games, losing 14 and drawing seven. Needless to say they have little to no love coming into this one, and that’s even before we mention how poor they’ve been on their own. Burnley also hasn’t won in six straight EPL occasions. They’ve lost four of their past eight and four of their past seven away games. What’s even worse, again, if that’s possible, is Burnley’s ceiling vs. Palace is generally a draw. Burnley has won only once vs. Palace in their past 12 EPL games as most of their success has come outside the domestic league. If Burnley does have one thing going for them it’s Palace may be even worse than the Clarets. Palace and Burnley are tied on league points, with Burnley ahead on a goal differential tie-breaker. Palace has’t won an EPL game since the early days of September and they’ve also yet to win a home game this season. Of their past eight EPL games, Palace has lost five, drawn three, and of those eight games Palace has been shut out five times. Palace has also lost four of their past six home games, so things aren’t any better with a home field advantage. Palace has lost three of their past four games vs. Burnley (all competitions), and Palace has also fallen in five of their previous 12 home game against the Clarets. By no means is this an easy click and play, Palace isn’t exactly justifying it’s expensive home salaries. This is the third time in club history that Palace has started a season winless at home for six straight; in both of the previous two occasions Palace were eventually relegated. So, unless Palace can survive the opening minutes of the game this could be over quickly for the Eagles. This fixture produced one of the league’s quickest goals ever; a Sam Vokes goal after only one minute and 18 seconds of play. In fact, six of the previous eight goals scored by Burnley on Palace have taken place within the first 20min of gameplay. As I said, if Palace can survive the opening moments they have a chance, but it’s a fleeting one at best.
While this game doesn’t satisfy our desire for skilled football, it isn’t without it’s format relevant options. Wayne Hennessey’s salary is borderline laughable; on either site. I get that Burnley are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league but any script where Hennessey pays off from his salary will be a GPP one at best. If Burnley weren’t #bad and downright atrocious away from home we could consider someone like Joe Hart for some salary relief, but it carries too much risk to be worthwhile. Burnley is going to cross the ball a thousand times, the key issue would be conversion (serious issue) and keeping the ball out of their own net (critical issue). My big fear with this game is none of the players are necessarily great format options. Zaha isn’t cash relevant for a plethora of reasons, but at the same time isn’t for GPP neither due to Palace’s lack of ceiling. JBG and Brady are decent cash options, but the only way they really pay off would be a stack, and that’s too GPPish, which they have no ceiling for (see: Burnley being one of the lowest scoring teams in the league). It’s tough to look for them in either format because they work better in the other format in which they don’t belong.
A lot of people’s cash cards will be decided on Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady. If it’s just Brady fire him into your cash cards. If it’s both take care, or, take no care while taking both. I don’t necessarily see Burnley winning, but I don’t see them losing neither. Palace has lacked every lethal, killer instinct imaginable. Especially if Zaha isn’t up for it, for whatever the reason, as they don’t come off as slate breakers. If Burnley wasn’t so poor, the notion of Joe Hart nagging at the back of my mind wouldn’t be so annoying. He makes sense if you think Burnley can keep a 0-0 draw, but in many ways that goes against any kind of cash upside you may have been looking for from either Brady/JBG. I really, honestly, truly like the idea of Burnley winning the game, but I can’t see it happening. They shouldn’t let in 3 goals, but they shouldn’t walk away with three points either.
Across the board Palace’s salaries are too much, and while I get Burnley are bad, Palace has done nothing to suggest they are anything to the otherwise. I guess when you combine Burnley being bad and Zaha being all Palace possessing for success scripts, it only make sense Zaha cashes in this weekend. It’s not like he, nor Palace, deserve this sudden jump in salary, outside it being Burnley. One of my go to meta rules for sports is a bad offense will always beat a bad defense, so this might be the get well spot Zaha that we’ve been looking for. His salary on FD is begging for it. Palace manager Roy Hodgson has only only victory from his past 10 EPL games vs. other English born managers, so this has draw written all over it. I like Zaha way more on FD as his salary and ownership should be more accessible over there.
1-1/0-0 Draw, maybe 1-0 either way. If Zaha has a good game Palace could score a couple times.
Brighton & Hove Albion @ Huddersfield Town
In the second match of the slate we have another battle of the scrubs where the league’s worst away team leaves home to take on equally unsuccessful-at-winning Huddersfield Town. If you made popcorn for this one it’s probably going to waste. What? You put Reese's Pieces AND Skittles mixed in? No way! Well, eat it anyway. It’s going to be the runaway, undisputed, more enjoyable experience.
As mentioned, Brighton are by far the league’s worst away team and it’s not even close. Not only are Brighton this season’s worst away team, but they were by far the worst last season as well. So, this isn’t some random stat we are generating, leaving home is a serious issue for Brighton, not only that they have an incredible home record, so it’s rather by default that they would be so bad away from home. Since promotion last season, Brighton has won only three of their 26 away games, drawing six and losing 17. This season Brighton has only one win in seven EPL away games, losing five, conceding 12 goals and failing to find the net in three games. Brighton hasn’t won in three straight EPL games, losing two of the three. While Brighton has only one win in 10 previous trips to Huddersfield, they have scored in six straight EPL away games this season. However, since it’s Brighton, they have failed to score more than once in eight straight EPL away games as well. Now, three weeks ago I would have been writing the exact same statements for Huddersfield, but they have completely changed face going three straight undefeated and winning two of the three. Huddersfield is scoring with some unfounded consistency as well, having not scored in three straight EPL home games for almost a full calendar year. By default Huddersfield seem primed for another home victory, however given both teams are failing and weak, it’s tough to pick a winner from the ineptitude that is this matchup.
These Huddersfield salaries hit like a ton of bricks. I had to sit back and think that DK is actually asking me to pay 5.1k for Hadergjong, a guy who has never gone over 4.5k in his EPL career (I’ve played DFS for every bit of it), or Aaron Mooy, who up until last weekend had the league’s worth conversion rate. We know Brighton is bad away from home, OK, message sent, but 8k on FD for Hogg is equally bizzaro. I know this is a weird slate and some home teams are going to get priced up. I also don’t even question their validity as home favs (OK, maybe Palace I do) but to pay +7k for some of these names isn’t something I’m in the business of. No matter the slate their general floor won’t be relative to the slate when guys at 4k do it just as well. We can’t risk anything on Brighton away and we can’t justify 7k for Huddersfield, ever, under any circumstances. It’s scary, because there should be goals, but a ceiling isn’t something I’m looking for from neither team.
No EPL player has scored more of his share of the club’s goals than Glenn Murray on Brighton. He’s scored 19 of Brighton’s 48 EPL goals and that stands as the highest share in league history (small sample size, but still). If there is literally anything to trust, it’s Murray scoring 50% of Brighton’s goals.
These two teams are still pretty fresh in terms of history and Huddersfield has only scored 3 EPL goals vs. Brighton. However, all three of these goals were scored by the same person; forward Steve Mounie. Only two people have ever scored their team’s first 4 EPL goals vs. a club, the record being five by the legendary Ian Rush with Liverpool vs. ManCity. Much like Murray, if there’s one thing we can count on; if Huddersfield are scoring on Brighton it’s been a one-man show so far. I don’t necessarily see a massive ceiling from either side, but at the same time I don’t think Mounie’s salary or potential minutes issues are much to fear in GPP. I also don’t mind Lossi as a home fav play because his salary on both sites, especially FD, is borderline cash viable (despite the low shots).
2-0/2-1 Huddersfield. Huddersfield win, Brighton probably scores.
Watford @ Leicester City
In the third match of the slate we have two sides that are forever flirting with scrubdum, Watford making the quick trip from London into Leicester to face the Foxes.
What can be said is we have an excellent matchup between one of the league’s better home sides and one of the league’s better away sides. Leicester has lost only two EPL home games this season, while Watford in turn has lost only two EPL away games. What can be said about this matchup is Watford should score and Leicester will need to not only reply, but keep the Hornets under a goal. Watford has scored in four of their six away games this season, and Leicester has conceded in four of their six home games as well. While Leicester’s ability to reply in bunches will be called into question, Watford has kept only one away clean sheet in their previous 12 away games, and Leicester has only kept two home clean sheets (vs. two of the league’s three lowest scoring teams, Burnley and Wolves). Leicester should reply, and this game almost guarantees goals. While Leicester are undefeated in four straight they managed only one win from the four. In their previous six straight Leicester hasn’t scored more than one goal in a game, giving them only one win over those six games. Watford is also coming into this on a poor run of form, finding no victories from three straight EPL games. However, eerily similar to Burnley, Watford has won only once in their previous 13 December EPL away games. So, while Watford has had an excellent away record, for a couple seasons now they always tend to cool off around this time of the year, which also coincided with the former Hornet now Evertonian Richarlison losing his scoring touch. And again, much like Huddersfield, a lot of this will come down to Leicester surviving the opening quarter of the game; Leicester has conceded 17 goals this season and 11 have come in the first half, including five in the first 15min of a game. Both stats are a league run-away leader, so as mentioned the longer Leicester go without conceding the better.
By all definition this game should have goals. The issue is both teams love to use subs on the main role players. So, ownership beware, when James Maddison doesn’t play 90min and you’re forced to sit and watch everyone else leapfrog you for 15min, dno’t say I didn’t warn you. One of the things that made Leicester such an exciting DFS side was the consistent minutes. Now with everyone fully fit and healthy Vardy, Maddison, Gray, Pereira, whoever it may be all stand to either not start or come off the field. It’s no better on Watford, especially without a healthy Holebas, they have nobody even remotely close, let alone in the league, who possesses his cross counts. It’s another case of goals inbound, but probably subs, so if you end up fading this one I wouldn’t be overly concerned.
Watford and the DFS community need Holebas back in the lineup. Holebas has six points so far this season and a cross count that would make the entire Burnley team jealous. What concerns me most about Watford (outside of Holebas) is their complete lack of DFS relevance. Pereyra should be a cash option except for his non-existent floor, and honestly either Burnley guy does it miles better. Deeney and Will Hughes have season long production number most effective players put out in a single slate. Again, outside of Holebas nobody shoots, nobody crosses, and even worse barely anybody can tackle without taking a foul. There’s a ton of -EV risk on Watford and a lack of +EV scripts on Leicester. This shouldn’t be a fun game. The longer this game goes the less likely Watford will get it done, so if you jump on board your fate will be sealed within 15min, so there’s that I guess.
Leicester isn’t necessarily a team that will get you into trouble. Outside the odd red card they aren’t a team that constantly brings you -fpts like Watford’s fouls and cards. However, where there is darkness there’s still no light as Leicester fail to do anything positive as well. Any player that could be in anyway relevant to DFS stands to come off the field. Even worse, Leicester seem to be lesser of a home side than away. This is defined by Vardy failing to score in three straight home games. They are flat, boring, however still productive through Marc Albrighton. While he is strictly a DK play (due to none of his 800 crosses amounting to anything) if he manages to crack the starting XI I do like the idea of him in cash , but 7k+ for someone who could just as easily play 60min is way too much of an ask for me.
1-1 draw, both teams’ goals scored by subs. Maybe 2-1 Leicester.
Bournemouth @ Manchester City
In the fourth match of the slate we have our first exposure to real, legitimate stars with southsiders Bournemouth making the trip northwest to Manchester for a battle against the Blue side of town.
With the extra time Aguero equalizer in their midweek game vs. Lyon, ManCity qualified for the next stage of UCL. They have five straight EPL wins and they have scored 19 goals over those five wins. Despite being one of the world’s best teams, this weekend City also has the chance to simply exist themselves to a victory. City has won every meeting vs. Bournemouth. Literally, any time these two have met in a professional, domestic league regular season game City has won. This spans over six EPL games and in their history Bournemouth was only able to salvage two draws out of 12 total league meetings; both took place outside the EPL and outside relevant modern history. Bournemouth is also coming into this on a three straight losing streak, having lost each game 2-1. While Bournemouth has scored a massive 22 goals in their 13 games this season (scoring in 10 of 13 games), they have also conceded in 10 of 13 as well. ManCity has also had some concerns around their defensive abilities, but in particular their defense at home. While City has only conceded 5 goals in their 13 games, 4/5 goals have taken place at home. Given they allowed Newcastle, Southampton, and even lowly Huddersfield to score speaks volumes to their home issues and conceding. This is the third occasion ManCity has gone 20+ EPL games without defeat. Only ManUtd with seven and Arsenal with four have done it more frequently. Once again, this is another situation where if Bournemouth can survive the opening half without conceding they are most likely walking away with a point. Only twice this season ManCity hasn’t scored in the first half, and on both occasions ManCity has failed to win. On top of this, one of my favorite stats of the weekend is Bournemouth has never, not once, never lost an EPL game to the league’s reigning champion. Now, Bournemouth isn’t exactly dazzled in history, however two seasons ago they held the previous season’s champ Leicester City for two draws, and last season Bournemouth defeated Chelsea on both occasions. I think we can all agree it is City, but this ins’t the same City of the past. The City of the past was without blemish, this City is already tarnished numerous chances this season. However, to give you an idea of City’s scoring prowess, since Bournemouth got into the league back in 2016 they’ve scored 122 goals in every competitive game they have played; cup, league, etc. Since taking over City only months following Bournemouth’s entrance into the EPL, City under Pep has scored 125 EPL ONLY goals during his tenure. There’s no question both teams can score, but if Bournemouth can survive the first half this could turn into a very interesting weekend.
Part of me has written off Bournemouth from the start of the season, the other part of me is convinced they can do really this. ManCity hasn’t looked great recently and in the midweek showcased how bad they are vs. capable counter teams…which Bournemouth now is. This is the third slate in as many months where Callum Wilson has been a league leader in scoring and cost 6.9k. I really don’t want to get burned again but he is coming off of an England call up, so he should be absolutely buzzing. ManCity are dealing with issues throughout, which was more than evident given their midweek result vs. Lyon. I think one of the biggest indicators for me this slate is the insane ownership coming City’s way. Look at the list of games, Huddersfield, Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, nobody will be looking to own these teams in any kind of force, and I don’t blame them. However, this is going to create a massive ownership edge where we should take Bournemouth just on the notion the will be consistently 5% owned and not dead in the water. Bournemouth has tons of outs for this one, will them come through? Unlikely, but with these ownerships it’s worth consideration.
I simply cannot justify playing Ryan Fraser at that salary on DK vs. one of the best teams in the world, GPP or not, it makes zero sense to me. Of this whole side Josh King is the only one I’m considering. Stanislas isn’t playing enough minutes, Fraser costs too much, and Wilson has me burned from 6.9k to the point I’m half convinced it’s a red flag salary. I wouldn’t talk you out of Fraser in GPP on FD, but on DK that salary vs. ManCity is a tough pill to swallow, no matter how susceptible City is to the counter.
No player in EPL history has scored in his first six games vs. an opponent, Sterling is looking to do that this weekend. He has 7 goals and two apples this season, but he’s avg nearly .5 a goal/assist every 50min of play. He’s scored in all five games vs. Bournemouth and is always hard to turn down no matter the history. If Jesus is out again Aguero is a must play in all formats. While I do expect Jesus to be back, Aguero has scored 7 of his 8 goals at home this season and had a foot in 23 goals in his past 14 home games, so when starting at home he’s always worth a shake .
1-1 Draw, 2-1 Bournemouth. Nah, let’s be real, 4-1 ManCity.
West Ham United @ Newcastle United
In the fifth match of the slate we have West Ham United taking the trip from London waaayyy up north to face Newcastle United in what should be an overly scrappy United derby game. In terms of sample size there are few teams with an EPL history like West Ham and Newcastle, so while they aren’t overly quality-packed sides at the moment, they do have serious history.
It’s never easy making the trip to Newcastle, and West Ham has won only once in their previous 14 trips. The Magpies have won three straight EPL games along with previously beating West Ham in three straight EPL home games as well. In fact, West Ham last tasted victory at St. James Park back in 2012, so these trips have always been a thorn in the side of the Hammers. West Ham are also on a dreadful run of form finding only one win in their previous six EPL games. They’ve won only three times this season and have lost seven of their 13. West Ham has only one away win this season, so even before we consider where they are going, it’s probably not going to go well. Against teams based from the NE of England, West Ham has conceded in eight straight, last keeping an EPL clean sheet vs. Sunderland in 2013. West Ham has only the one clean sheet as well this season, slightly better than Fulham’s complete lack thereof. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has never lost a home game to West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini, winning six of their seven meetings on Benitiez’s home field (to consider, he did manage Chelsea and Liverpool). While Manuel Pellegrini was the previous to Pep at ManCity, he won only one of his opening six EPL away games with City, and is running the same stat once more with West Ham, however at City he lost once more, compared to a draw at West Ham. But, this isn’t City, it’s Newcastle, and needless to say West Ham are up against it against a high flying Newcastle, which is still really hard to say.
Unlike some of these other home favorites, Newcastle present themselves as decent options. As I have been drubbing on for a month now, Dubravka has been sneaky #good all season and is in large part the reason for Newcastle’s success. West Ham are entering their busiest span of the season and it couldn’t come at a worse time. However, interestingly enough the one guy who isn’t currently a walking medkit is former Newcastle, Liverpool, and England international Andy Carroll. The big man is looking to return after a massive lay off with injury (nothing new from him) and with the Hammers scraping for quality numbers he may find his way right into the mix; only adding to the Hammers unpredictability. I’m not saying the Hammers can’t, but given they’ve been so poor to mediocre, and Newcastle’s ownership should still be too low it’s hard to look past one of the week’s only half reliable home favorites.
Much like Holebas, West Ham and the DFS industry need Cresswell back into form. His 15 crosses a game were a welcome addition to any cash card, and without him West Ham aren’t the same team going forward. I’m still far from interested, but just making sure you know we need it too. If there was anybody other than Andy Carroll, I’d consider Felipe Anderson. I don’t think his goal scoring is sustainable, but at the same time I don’t know what else the Hammers can drum up at this point. Maybe Andy Carroll, maybe FA, but probably the other side of the field instead. My biggest concern around Carroll is his lack of success against former clubs, though I think that can also be added up to the fact he played for some great, world class teams.
Matt Ritchie is going to be my go to guy this weekend. He’s playing at home against a poor, inferior opponent, he has an incredible floor, his salary is right on spot, and his ownership should be decent to low. Another guy I like (that would probably play in place of Ritchie, not with) is Christian Atsu. While Atsu hasn’t played loads of minutes this season he was massively important in last season’s Newcastle vs. West Ham fixtures. If he starts he would be an incredible GPP dart, though I’m far more interested in Ritchie. I also expect Dubravka to be one of the better keeper options of the slate. As a home favorite he already checks the boxes, but considering the Hammers have been dull and he’s been great all season, you can feel more than comfortable with Dubravka on either site in either format.
2-0 Newcastle, West Ham fans lose their sh*t when Newcastle wins four in a row.
Manchester United @ Southampton
In the final game of the slate we have one of the ugliest, low key, but hopefully fufilling late hammer games in recent memory; Manchester United make the trip down south to Southampton for what should be, hopefully, finally, be Jose Mourinho’s last EPL game as the manager of United.
While United has all but achieved progression in the UCL, no, they have, but it couldn’t have been more United if they wanted to be. Up against a far inferior opponent, United didn’t look to press the game nor capitalize on their chances (Rashford). It took until the final moments from a set piece where a freshly shaven, super sub Fellani (so there’s no debate he scored it and not his hair) to salvage the victory. We were literally a haircut away from potentially seeing the exodus a few days early, but like all good things that come to those who wait, I think we’ve probably been waiting too long for a Mourinho exit.
United has won only three of their previous eight EPL games. Of all the teams in the top half of the table United has conceded the most goals; 21 in 13 games. In fact, for such a stellar defense of the past, United has kept only one clean sheet so far this season. However, Southampton hasn’t won since early September, and they haven’t beaten United in the EPL since 2003. Southampton is another EPL squad who have yet to win at home this season, and carrying into last season Southampton has only one home win in 17 games. Of their 13 games this season, Southampton has lost 7, so they are far from a star team and easily quite scrubbish. However, Southampton has scored in three straight EPL games. Given United’s shabby defensive record this season we should be able to expect one Southampton goal, at least. Southampton has lost more points this season (10) than any other EPL side, and of the five games they’ve had the lead this season they have gone on to win only one of those. On top of this, ManUtd has come from behind to beat Southampton not only a club record, but league record 8 times.
So, you may be asking how on earth will Mourinho get fired after this weekend? Well, two reasons; firstly, in the 2018 calendar year (which Mourinho has oversaw) ManUtd has lost six away games. Only once in club history has United lost that many away games in a calendar year, and the manager of that year was the oft-unspoken from shear embarrassment Louis van Gaal, when you come to think of it Van Gaal had come in with the same hype and long term club vision that Mourinho was touting. So, I’m not sitting here telling you that United will lose, but in fact I believe we are in store for a draw. Since Mourinho became United’s manager only Southampton with 15 has drawn more games than United’s 10. If United fail to win this game, but in fact produce another draw (probably late salvaged), I strongly believe that will be the final acts as Mourinho’s United.
Not many players have scored a lot of goals at Southampton. To give you an idea, the two most ever have been Giroud and Van Persie, both with five each and can thank numerous Arsenal blowouts for their cause. Second in the goal count is United’s Lukaku, with four. If Lukaku had been showing us even a remote hint of form than maybe we could consider this. However, since he doesn’t take any kind of set pieces and United will be ultra-lucky to ever score more than twice against anybody, he simply isn’t a viable option. Let the ownership come, and fade it. Of United’s previous 5 away goals, 4 were scored by Martial. Only Kane and Aubameyang have more this season, with 5 each. I’d definitely prefer Martial of the pair, though I can confidently say without both goals coming to him his salary will be nothing more than a deterrent than a help. There’s also rumors that Sanchez is hurt and will be missing time, so a slight uptick to the wingers’ minutes, but until Lukaku starts playing again I’m not interested. You’d have to give me salary back to start trusting his form this weekend.
Two words; Charlie Austin. I was a week early last slate, nothing new, but with no Danny Ings we can potentially see a 90min Austin in one of his better GPP roles of the season. This isn’t so much a form decision as it is a process. Austin has been nothing short of poor, and not even as of late, but a long time. However, given the only other forward sub and starter is out, there’s not exactly a lot of people of Austin’s caliber left in the league, let alone on Southampton. Cash? No way, already made that mistake, his role doesn’t offset, unfortunately. But, for GPP I think Charlie Austin makes for one of the more interesting plays of the slate. Matt Target’s salary has taken off, so I’m not as keen anymore, but from his salary you can keep using Hojbjerg on DK in either format. Late hammer Hojbjerg, I like the ring to that.
1-1, ManUtd tie is very late, again, maybe 2-1 either way, hopefully Southampton, right?