EPL MatchDay 22: News and Notes

Hello everyone!
Welcome to the 22nd MatchDay of EPL action and a quick look at the news and notes leading into the weekend slate!

It’s great to be back after a nice post-holiday break. Much of the English professional leagues weren’t as lucky, with both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup drawing attention. With loads of rotation there were numerous upsets, and some players are still missing out due to suspensions or the Asian Cup of Nations. On face value Liverpool and Chelsea slates can be very straight forward, however neither team has been in true form, and the Cup games weren’t kind neither. We are entering the point of the season where the cash players should come as no surprise, and while we are no longer strangers to guys like Tom Heaton or Philip Billing, it’s important to note team form is more telling and important than it’s been all season. Certain teams, for example Liverpool and Chelsea, are hitting a point in their respective seasons where they have played a substantial amounts of minutes against some incredible, world class opponents, and have made many miles in travel. While with modern medicine and the fitness levels of today’s professionals, that schedule may not instantly cause harm, but over time it adds up. I call these points blip points of a season; basically unless they are winning every game of the season, there’s points where they won’t be winning, and those points can usually be looked back on as blips in their radar kind of thing. Anyways, Liverpool and Chelsea should both be though, and in both cases the sides must immediately bounce back, otherwise risk everything in terms of a finishing position.

Hope everyone finds this useful!
Have fun everyone, enjoy, and hopefully see you at the top!

LIVERPOOL

Most Recent Result: Lost a shocker, 2-1 FA Cup to Wolves.
Notables Missing This Midweek: Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovern (D), Virgil Van Dijk (P), Jodan Henderson (P), Adam Lallana (Q), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

For the first visiting team of the slate we have the league leaders Liverpool travelling to the south coast to play Brighton. As mentioned, we are pulling out of the blip point for Liverpool. These next few slates will determine if they will continue to hold their position, like most previous league winners, or in the forever resounding terms of Gerrard, “let it slip”.

On face value this is the kind of game Liverpool will look to rebound with; in the EPL they’ve never suffered defeat to Brighton (three games), and they haven’t lost in five straight all competitions as well, winning four of those five. Liverpool has also crushed on normal timed Saturday games, winning eight straight, with seven of those eight seeing at least three goals. As their blip has caused Liverpool to lose back to back games (all competitions), they haven’t lost back to back EPL games since 2015, or in other terms, it’s yet to occur under Klopp. Another significant factor has been Liverpool’s away form. Whether the UCL standard or conceding in 10 of their 15 away games this season (all competitions), I’m not saying Liverpool are doomed to continue this regression, but it’s probably not as cut and dry as people would like a clean sheet to be.

Liverpool made more changes in their starting XI loss vs. Wolves than my seasonal wardrobe changes, so this weekend we can expect them to come out fully 90min functional. In terms of DFS, what we are ideally looking for is all the usual suspects (Salah, Shaqiri, Mane, Firmino), and not Keita or a less relevant DFS option sitting behind Firmino, relegating Shaqiri to the bench. The big deal with Brighton, as I will go over shortly, is they will force Liverpool to do un-Liverpool things. Unless their service from the midfield (in particular someone like Milner could play a pivotal role) into the channels between the wing backs and CBs is on point, there’s no way Liverpool will beat Brighton, as it’s not coming in the air. Liverpool prefer when teams attack, and then they will look to counter; Brighton will do no such thing. Expect 8-9 Brighton outfield players in or around their box at all times. I really hope Milner starts, because his upside will be tremendous. If not, roll with Salah in GPP, Shaqiri in cash, but chase the penalty shot. I expect Liverpool to try and thread passes through those limited channels, rather than try and out-muscle Duffy, and if Brighton slips up for even a moment they will be caught out in the very area where every foul is either Milner or Salah getting a penalty shot, maybe even twice.

The slate doesn’t line up for a Liverpool takedown, but if someone like James Milner or Salah is lining up as the penalty shooter, I’ve got no issues with either of them in either format. No Milner but Shaqiri? Shaqiri cash, Salah GPP. Take that Willian cross-floor route with Shaqiri, that is if he starts.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Most Recent Result: Won 3-1 @ Bournemouth in the FA Cup.
Notables Missing This Midweek: Mat Ryan and Jahanbakhsh (Asian Cup), Bernardo, Jose Izquierdo (D).

In the first match of the slate Brighton are playing host to the league’s best in Liverpool. It’s important to remember Brighton is still in their sophomore season of EPL life, so while some of their numbers can be a bit skewed, they still stand as a relevant and predictable team.

Unlike the top teams dealing with their blips, Brighton has had no such issues as their European and top-level exposure has been at a domestic minimum, and at home all season they have consistently managed to avoid serious embarrassment. In fact, in their history Brighton has lost only six EPL home games. Five of those six were against Big 6 teams, with the only other loss coming against Burnley. Brighton has scored in every EPL home game this season (10), and including last year they are on a run of scoring in 16 of their previous 17 EPL home games. While this is the first time they are playing host in an EPL game vs. the league’s first place team, they are coming into this without defeat in four straight (all competitions). As I have been going on about for seasons; Brighton has one of the league’s most serious home/away splits. I know this is Liverpool, again, a classic “I’m not saying” that Brighton will win, but there’s a solid chance they will score, and there’s an equally solid chance people will continue to chase Liverpool clean sheets. Mind you, in his career manager Chris Hughton has lost every game he’s had vs. Liverpool (six straight), and it’s still Liverpool afterall. The point is don’t write home about a 4-0 win that we have come accustomed to. In fact, while it could always come from another game, we may not see one this slate at all.

Liverpool play perfectly into the hand of Brighton. When I think of this game; Brighton is a spider, set up with their web waiting for prey, and while Liverpool will get snared they may be more than Bright can chew. Brighton will have everyone “behind the ball”, or, whenever Liverpool has possession, no Brighton player will be behind the line of possession. This will force three actions from Liverpool; crosses, long shots, or threaded passes. Liverpool is not a long shot team, and will fail, giving Button massive ups. Teams generally struggle to cross on Brighton as they have one of the league’s most dominate CB’s in Shane Duffy. Again, Firmino can’t handle that. Finally, Liverpool will be forced to thread balls through the wing backs and CB holes. Brighton can deal with this, but one slip up and it’s game over. They are more than likely to take a foul and concede a penalty than keep a clean sheet, but at the same time Liverpool has shown more than flashes of stubbornness and a refusal to adapt outside trying to draw teams out of position. If you are looking for a solid revenge narrative look no further than Glen Murray. He is a former Red, and has an incredible personal record vs. his former club. It’s tough, Brighton could offer some upside, but overall they are capped by minutes issues, and especially this week vs. an opposition who as a trait to not allow significant floors. The Brighton salaries are at a place where action on a goal could still pay off, especially if in a slate where there are no serious blow outs, Solly March is another name that deserves exploring. I don’t hate the idea of Shane Duffy either, but there’s serious concern for foul/card trouble in a game he will no doubt be forced to take. If Brighton end up going for this watch out, they could get smashed, but the longer they keep the game scoreless the better.

I prefer chasing Liverpool set pieces than Brighton production, but if you think Liverpool is in the process of “letting it slip”, then in GPP this weekend Brighton demand your attention.

FULHAM

Most Recent Result: Embarrassed at home in the FA Cup, 2-1 loss vs. League Two’s Oldham Athletic.
Notables Missing This Weekend: None

In the second game of the slate we have Fulham making the unwanted trip from London, way up north to Burnley. Never fun.

While the trip is daunting, it doesn’t help that Fulham has lost 24 of their previous 29 trips to Burnley. Fulham remain the only team this season without an EPL away victory, losing nine of their 11, conceding a league worst 28 away goals. The Cottagers have won only twice in their previous 10 games (all compeitions), and they haven’t beaten a team that prior to kick off wasn’t a bottom three side (Burnley will be 4th). If it wasn’t for Huddersfield being an absolute crapshoot of results, Fulham would be the league’s worst team. Considering the debacle that is unfolding with their modern day spending, if Fulham fail to turn things around quickly it’s borderline indescribable the levels of uncertainty that club’s future will hold. Fulham is coming into this one in horrid form and Burnley look to have turned things around, there’s not much more to say that that.

Much like most Burnley games, until Heaton stops starting, most slates will be a question as to the league’s undisputed best DFS keeper is the play of the slate or not. More times than not he is, and considering Fulham has one of the league’s worst attacks, this weekend it’s not that bad of a play once more. That being said, Fulham isn’t void of options. If Callum Chambers starts in the midfield he becomes one of the more reliable low salary/low floor cash defensive options for the slate. Fulham has the league’s lowest amount of different scorers (five), so while they may not score a lot, the attack is much easier to target thanks to it’s condensed nature. If you can get past the notion of Heaton being awesome, basically everyone but Mitrovic works. Sure, he’s shooting again, but his salary is the equivalent to teams that are not only half decent, but good, and have a ceiling. To their credit, Fulham is and has none of those things, so there’s no reason to look for something that ins’t there. RSess could be viable for either format, but I prefer to look at his German midfield counterpart Andre Schurrle. Schurrle is drawing massive interest as earlier in the season with the reverse fixture he smashed the slate to bits. I don’t expect another 11 shot/1 goal performance, but his salary is back in a place where we can take risks along with a slightly viable narrative.

It still remains to be said Fulham isn’t a very good team and are making a trip even the Manchester’s struggle with. I’m not overly interested, even for what’s there.

BURNLEY

Most Recent Result: 1-0 FA Cup away win vs. Barnsley.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Phil Bardsley (P), Aaron Lennon, JB Gudmundsson (P), Robbie Brady (Suspension).

In the second game of the slate we have the league’s best shot at the most improved side for the second half of the season; Burnley has completely changed their fortunes and play host to lowly Fulham at Turf Moor.

It feels very odd to use these terms on Burnley, but they are undefeated in three straight all competitions, and back to back EPL games. Their loss to Fulham previously this season is their only loss in their previous 13 vs. prior to kick-off bottom three sides. They also have an incredible record at home vs. Fulham, not losing at home against the Cottagers since 1951, or 29 straight home games. Once more Burnley is showing they have teeth, and what they are lacking in positive statistics they make up for with an excellent future outlook, this is definitely not a team to sleep on this weekend.

A lot of Burnley’s turn around has to do with the aforementioned Tom Heaton. To put it very straight-forwardly, Burnley has always played this style where they have a big forward, a bunch of people to cross to the forward, a defense that has low salaries and floors, and a keeper that is required to make at least 4-6 saves a game. What Burnley has found great success in is having guys like Chris Wood and Sam Vokes (a combined 12.6ft), JB Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady, Charlie Taylor and Matthew Lowtown, and…..Joe Hart? Wait. It should be super obvious as to how Burnleyturned their issues around, Hart wasn’t capable, and it showed. Heaton is more than capable, and it will show. Before his injury he was slated ahead of Pickford on the national team. Heaton isn’t the most expensive (as per usual), the most DFS productive/friendly/highest floor (as per usual), and considering he’s at home playing a garbage team it’s obvious why he’s the top keeper play of the slate, for either format. Charlie Taylor’s salary is getting into a range where he’s not as viable anymore, and even with a clean sheet he will be pushed to reach double digits (needed from his DK salary). JBG will be another key decision this slate, and while it’s not necessarily correlative, getting JBG and Heaton into your cash core is one of the better ways to start the weekend. I also don’t mind the idea of guys like Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, but we may be chasing points for guys who aren’t as solid on minutes as they appear. I’ll continue to monitor Dwight McNeil as well, his salary and production levels are both extremely friendly in a game which should welcome both.

While Burnley possess some of my favorite plays of the weekend, they are far from my favorite team. Maybe I’m still scarred from the absolute disaster that has been their finish to 2018, I would rather take chances on value home field options from Cardiff or Palace, as either of those sides present different, but more upside.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Most Recent Result: A 1-0 FA Cup away loss to the Championship’s midtable Bristol City.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Tommy Smith (D), Abdelhamid Sabiri, Danny Williams, Aaron Mooy.

In the third match of the slate we have what is easily the league’s worst side in Huddersfield, away from home, in Wales, it’s hard to consider this isn’t one already salted.

Huddersfield hasn’t won since November. They’ve lost nine straight in all competitions, and eight straight EPL games. In league history there has been only one side that’s lost more consecutive games than Huddersfield’s current run, it’s getting to the point where these next few slates will determine their future in the league. Huddersfield has only one away win this season, losing seven of their 10. They also haven’t won in 10 straight vs. Cardiff, failing to score in four straight against their Welsh opposition, and failing to win in 13 straight trips to Wales. Huddersfield has a league worst 13 goals this season, and their leading scorer Zanka’s 3 goals (a CB) is a league low for team’s leading scorer. In EPL history, after 21 games no team has avoided relegation with 10 or fewer points, considering this Huddersfield side is showing absolutely no signs of life it’s safe to say history should continue to see out, and we can target Huddersfield for consistent losses, at least until Mooy comes back. One interesting off-shoot stat is Huddersfield has taken a red in consecutive games vs. Cardiff, and while I don’t exactly expect that to continue, it’s fun to mention all the same.

There’s little and less to discuss here. Billing, and to a lesser extent Pritchard will continue to hold cash relevance, but in terms of a ceiling their team has less than none, and without career games they won’t challenge other salary relative options. If you fall on Billing there’s far worse options, but just be warned his upside is limited to double digits, and even that’s a big ask. Their forwards don’t shoot, let alone score. If Lossl was sub 4k on DK I would have something else to say, but for the time being it’s Billing or bust for me.

It’s safer to avoid the lot. Huddersfield is easily the worst team in the league, both statistically and DFS wise. Their complete lack of team ceiling limits their relevance for either format, as even their best options in cash are challenged with ease. There are better options than Huddersfield Town, and until they show the sign of a ceiling (for the first time all season) they’re an absolute must fades in GPP.

CARDIFF CITY

Most Recent Result: A 1-0 FA Cup away loss to the League One’s Gillingham.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Jazz Richards, Kadeem Harris, Danny Ward, Kenneth Zahore (D), Victor Camarasa (Q), Harry Arter (D).

One of my favorite teams to use this slate is found as the home side in the third game, Welsh side Cardiff City is hosting the league’s worst team, and nobody is doing anything salary wise about it.

Come the end of the season don’t be surprised if Cardiff survive. Much like Brighton they make their name on an incredibly heavy home/away split, winning four of their seven EPL home games this season. They’ve also lost only three of their previous six, along with a massive 13 league goals in the second half, don’t discount this Cardiff side, they are capable of finding a result at home. It also helps Cardiff is absolutely deadly vs. Huddersfield. They haven’t lost at home to the Terriers since 2001, winning six straight, including four of their previous five in any location. Since opening their new stadium Cardiff has five home wins vs. Huddersfield, which is the second most successful result for the Welshmen vs. any other club. This one is actually very straight forward; Cardiff is excellent at home and Huddersfield is bad everywhere. Outside of this narrative is the most GPP of GPP stretches, so stay reasonable when it’s available.

This DK slate is entirely reliant on Camarasa not starting. His salary is horridly unusable, and with his absence Ralls will take over set pieces from an almost non-existent salary. Considering they are up against Huddersfield, albeit a slightly more capable defensive side than others, Ralls would become the top play on either site, either format. Cunningham is another guy, who if starting as a wing back, is an excellent play in his own right, but can also be stacked as the only viable option with Etheridge. Paterson has also been far more successful at home than away, so while his numbers may not jump off the page, his salary should draw relevance for GPP. I still prefer some Ralls if Cammy starts, but if there’s no Cammy, all in Ralls.

Cardiff represent some of my favorite options of the slate. They have excellent floors, cheap salaries, low ownerships, are at home, and are playing a team that’s basically already been relegated. Fire up Cardiff in your exposures this weekend, not many others will as well.

WATFORD

Most Recent Result: 2-0 FA Cup win vs. Woking.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Andre Grey (D), Christian Kabasele (D), Sebastian Prodl (D).

In the fourth game of the slate we have this weekend’s resident annoying DFS team in Watford travelling nowhere for a London derby vs. Palace.

The only note to draw from this game is that it should be of the low scoring nature. Watford has lost only once in their previous seven (all competitions), and in seven of their 10 EPL away games this season, the score totaled less than three goals. With no West Ham in the main slate we are forced to deal with Watford and their unreliable ways, and in many ways this is far more of a fade than any kind of play.

Watford is the antithesis of DFS. There is rarely much to speak of because there’s rarely anything to say. By all definition they are bang average; they win as many as they lose, they score as many as they concede, and there’s basically nothing to separate their home and away form. Their cash options are more GPP options, and their GPP options always find a way to be someone that deserved to be in cash. Foster will make nine saves, but let in three to five in the process. Holebas will cost an arm and a leg, take a yellow card, and no longer score double digit crosses. Doucoure has a floor though he shouldn’t, Pereyra has no floor though he should, Deulofeu is an absolute question mark, and Deeney isn’t a viable DFS player, but this season has broken numerous slates. Their minutes are horrid where they need consistency, and their production is virtually non-existent where it should be fruitful. In recent weeks Palace has been playing far better, and while it’s not a Palace victory that concerns me, it’s no victory at all.

On DK Watford is unnecessarily expensive in places where they deserve discounts, lack production where we need options, and posses no real edge outside of Bird Boxing your way to a GPP selection. Feel free to use someone like Pereyra in GPP, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when he comes off early with less than double digits.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Most Recent Result: 1-0 FA Cup win at home vs. Grimbsy Town.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Christian Benteke (D).

To continue the antithesis and annoying nature, we have Palace playing host in the fourth game, and frankly if there was one game I’d like to see off the slate, it’s this one.

For the time being we have to pretend Palace matter, because while they are a sub-standard EPL side, they aren’t lacking relevance. The upside here is Palace’s recent form, winning back to back games (all competitions), and winning three of their previous five EPL games. The downside to Palace, well, this season, has been finding results without the scoring of Zaha. It can be argued that Zaha has been dealing with injuries, but it can’t be argued that everyone else seems incapable of picking up the slack. Palace has played a league worst seven EPL home games without scoring, and totaling scored and conceded, at 45 Palace has the second lowest goal total in the league. So, how is Palace still finding results? Through their defensive record, in particular at home. It’s not so much Palace are clean sheet monsters, which they have been at home (behind Chelsea’s 5 and Liverpool’s 6, with 4), it’s that they keep scores incredibly close, and incredibly low. In 10 of their 11 EPL home games this season, the game total has finished under 3, and in five of their previous six the same scenario takes place. Palace isn’t scoring a lot, but they’ve really tidied up their back end.

It can even be said they are doing their best Burnley/Heaton impression with Vicente Guaita, however, I must stress don’t be fooled. This is by no means the first time Palace has halfway through the season lost faith in Hennessey, last season it was Speroni, the new keeper comes in and wins five games, screws up a couple big ones, and it’s Hennessey’s job again (to which he comes back for a surprise wins against massive clubs to solidify his job). Guaita looks to be far more of a real deal than previous attempts, so while he is acceptable in either format I’d still roll with Heaton, who should see more shots for either site. It’s hard to say which CBs will start for the Eagles, but taking one on either site, especially FD, is suggested in some relevant format. Watford are worth a ton of clearances and interceptions, so for someone like Wan Bissaka as wing back this can only mean good things as well. It’s tough, maybe the Chelsea/Liverpool salaries aren’t the answer this week. Guys like Townsend, who are equally expensive, can’t be ignored, but if used eliminates all sorts of other salary doors. It’s not out of Watford’s nature to take tons of fouls, so getting in Townsend’s salary as an ownership pivot in cash may be a necessary evil. I have no issue missing Zaha’s first big game, he’s always going to draw ownership because he’s Zaha, and it’s been creating an excellent edge all season. Until he is healthy and Palace is scoring, stick with the defensive options, that is, unless Hennessey is playing.

Palace is still a sub standard team. However, at home, in great form, low owned salaries, and against an unpredictable Hornets side make Palace half interesting this weekend, in truth, for either format.

SOUTHAMPTON

Most Recent Result: Classic Southampton, 2-2 FA Cup draw with Derby County.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Ryan Bertrand (D), PE Hojbjerg (Suspension), Stuart Armstrong (D), Danny Ings (D), Michael Obafemi (D).

In the fifth game of the slate we have Southampton making a trip up to Leicester City. Here’s a personal take that I’ve been harboring for years; things may be different, but Southampton has never held up to counter attacking teams. Leicester is most certainly one of those teams.

First it should be noted, Southampton is simply poor. Very bad. They had some flashes against Arsenal and Chelsea (results in back to back EPL away games), and if Angus Gunn (more on him later) continues to start they will always have a chance. However, they are still winless in four straight in all competitions and this season has lost six of their nine EPL away games. They haven’t scored in four straight vs. Leicester (more on that to come), and the Saints have failed to see out a league worst five games from a winning position. Claude Puel is also a former Southampton manager; interesting fact, no EPL club has lost more games to former managers than Southampton’s 18. These guys have been the draw kings for years, absolute gluttons for punishment, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can find a result.

Make no mistake, they can find a result. I’m torn on this game. If you’ve followed my NFL PFEG articles this season, I have a few “meta-plays” or instant clicks in NFL, like pass-catching backs against the Falcons, because it’s consistent, guaranteed points. One of my soccer meta-plays is counter attacking teams against Southampton. The Saints are completely reliant stretching themselves out and getting caught by forwards with speed. It was interesting to see them handle Chelsea in Chelsea, so we have to discount some notion that maybe things are different now under new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl. I’m also willing to wager more money this slate on the notion Angus Gunn not only has one of the coolest names in the game, but is potentially the next big thing in EPL keepers. His pedigree is a mile long (to continue NFL metaphors, imagine Drew Brees’ son was trained his whole life by the Manning Brothers, and they were all keepers, that’s Angus Gunn), and his skillset is what had ManCity hold onto him for so long. This is no joke, the rest of Southampton are, and while I wouldn’t suggest he'll never see some sort of regressive stats, Angus Gunn should continue to be on every radar until proven otherwise.

Southampton is not an overly friendly DFS side. All their DK salaries are creeping into a range where you can’t be satisfied if they finish with their usual 6fpts, and their chance creation has never been a strong suit. Angus Gunn or bust, probably bust.

LEICESTER CITY

Most Recent Result: Another League Two surprise, home side Newport County 2, Leicester City 1.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Daniel Amartey

For the last home side of the normal timed games we have Leicester City playing host to Southampton. My hope is this will be a fun one.

Leicester is also coming into this on a decent run of form. Finding results against ManCity and Chelsea does confidence for any side, and considering these guys were completely void of confidence, now there’s still hope for European qualification after all. The Foxes have won three of their previous four EPL games, and as well three of their previous four EPL home games vs. Southampton. Leicester has lost only once in their previous 12 vs. the Saints, so needless to say Leicester has been good against Southampton, but utterly dominate at home. The best thing we can hope for is Southampton to come out with an early lead, as unlike their league worst amount of lost leads, this season Leicester has come from behind four times to steal a result, a league lead tied with Arsenal. Considering Leicester has struggled all season to keep a clean sheet, especially at home, that script isn’t the biggest ask of the weekend.

Leicester’s issues continue to be limited, but extremely relevant. Schmeichel will rarely see enough shots to offset any goal he may concede, and he’s more likely to concede than numerous salaries below him. On top of that, when all is said and done he’ll make less saves. The Foxes will shoot and cross, but very rarely will their production amount to chances. Let’s say Albrighton sees 90min (unlikely) and gets 8-10 crosses (unlikely), it’s very unlikely all but maybe two of those crosses will count for FD chances, nor amount to a ceiling on DK. The same can be said about Maddison, and his situation is only made worse by his expensive salary. Vardy is another guy who is struggling to get a serious ceiling. On DK, for example, he will be pushed to score more than 2-4fpts above whatever he gets in goal/assists. The only way he or Maddison pays off is if the rest of the slate craps or they go absolutely bananas. Vardy has way more upside, and both are correlative for GPP. Their salaries will be low owned, and considering they will probably concede once, to win they will have to score twice.

I will hold off on my meta-play for now, but still consider Leicester as solid GPP options, with less than effective but still acceptable cash options. Maddison in GPP above the others, even though Vardy still has more upside.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Most Recent Result: 1-1 FA Cup draw vs. their historic rivals Blackburn.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Federico Fernandez (D), Mohamed Diame (D), Jonjo Shelvey, Kenedy, Ku Sung-yeung and Yoshinori Muto (Asian Cup).

In the late hammer of the day we have Newcastle travelling into London. That about wraps this up.

Newcastle has one of the league’s worst attacks, but at the same time presents a solid defensive option. They’ve scored only 15 goals this season (2nd worst in league), and only 8 times away from home. The Maggies have only 1 goal in their previous four games, 4 goals in their previous eight games, and they haven’t scored in three of their previous four outings. As such, Newcastle has won only one in their previous eight games. United are doing their best Palace impression, in six of their previous 10 games they’ve kept the scoreline under 3 total goals. However, Newcastle hasn’t won in 12 straight away games to Big 6 sides, and they’ve won only once in their previous 23 trips to Stamford Bridge. To make matters worse, manager Rafael Benítez hasn’t defeated Chelsea since he managed Liverpool in 2008. Chelsea has hit a blip as well, but where Liverpool is away to a tough Brighton, Chelsea are hosting an equally tough defense, but with less upside.

It’s tough, Rondon should be an excellent GPP option this weekend, but it’s like DK saw it coming and priced him up accordingly. Chelsea has struggled all season with crosses, and while they’ve gotten better at defending corners, as a whole set pieces continues to be a concern. However, Chelsea generally keep floors low, so while a set piece may pay off, don’t expect it to pay off in the form of a floor, only a ceiling. Newcastle may get three crossing set pieces, and they should score from one of them. Therefore, I have no issue with the likes of Ritchie in GPP, but Newcastle’s starters aren’t consistent enough to hedge massive risk on it. The same can be said for Rondon, so if there is to be late exposure on Newcastle, let it be defensive. We don’t need a lot from Dubravka’s salary, and if you don’t want to chase a CB goal, Dummett has an excellent record vs. the Blues. That’s about as far as I would take it, uptick for Ritchie if there’s zero other set pieces options, but save that for GPP.

Newcastle’s only hope is to keep Chelsea under 2 goals and play the clean sheet buster. The quicker Newcastle gets out to a lead, the worse for people who faded the late game, because Chelsea isn’t going to let alone result slip by.

CHELSEA

Most Recent Result: Losing 1-0 vs. Spurs in the Carabao Cup Semi Final.
Notables Missing This Weekend: Cesc Fabregas (D), Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

For the final late hammer home team we have Chelsea playing host to Newcastle. If you happen to fade this game, I can definitely think of worse weekend decisions to make.

Don’t be mistaken, Chelsea is a great team. They’ve conceded only 8 goals at home this season (only behind Liverpool), allowing the opposition to score in only one of their previous five outings. The Blues have won four of their previous six, and in their previous seven vs. Newcastle they’ve lost only once, winning five. However, unlike Liverpool’s excusable rotation losses, Chelsea has little to no excuse for their recent let down. They’ve been shut out in back to back home games, not going three straight home games without a goal since 1993. Chelsea has scored only 6 times in their previous six games, and less than 3 total goals in five straight home games. Word on the street is Sarri is making changes, and depending on the starting XI we could see Hazard as the new CF.

That has been Chelsea’s issue, scoring. Morata has fallen off the face of the earth, and Giroud has never been a true goal scorer. If either of those two are playing, all three of Hazard, Willian, and Pedro can’t play in attacking roles at the same time. What generally happens is Willian, the better floor/cash play, ends up coming off for Pedro, who scores and anybody who didn’t play a sub loses. All we can really hope for is some early news that Hazard is starting up front. Even then, the more appealing script would be to fade the Chelsea salaries for greener pastures. It’s not like they won’t still be super high owned, and considering as of late they have done nothing but present the most sharpest of fading edges, I have no issue fading Chelsea outfield players and the final late hammer of the weekend. If you want to Kepa, Kepa, but again, the Newcastle scoring is not only just as viable, but maybe even more valuable than chasing a Chelsea clean sheet.

Chelsea is an excellent, world class side. However, until they get their attacking issues sorted I’m less interested in their salaries, and more interested in their fades.