IT’S HERE!! This weekend is the start of the flurry of EPL games around the holidays. There will be 40 EPL games in 14 days starting Friday, that’s about double what there would normally be. Saturday’s slate is a big 7-gamer, so let’s get to it.
Sergio Aguero (Bournemouth @ Manchester City, $12,500) – Aguero, along with essentially all of MCI’s regular starters, got rested on Tuesday in their League Cup Quarterfinal match against Leicester City. Nevertheless, Manchester City’s bench still pulled of the win. If Aguero gets the start on Saturday, he should be rested and ready go to against an average Bournemouth defense. Aguero only has 1 goal in his last 5 EPL appearances, but as the main forward on Manchester City, he will always be a threat to score when he starts. On the off chance that Gabriel Jesus ($11,000) starts, he will be a good forward option as well.
Richarlson (Watford @ Brighton & Hove Albion, $9,500) – After getting absolutely embarrassed last weekend against Huddersfield, Richarlson and Watford will surely want to come back strong on Saturday. Richarlson picked up the majority of his fantasy points last weekend via defensive stats. That’s how you know it was a bad game. BHA’s defense is nothing special, giving up 1.33 goals per game at home this season. Watford offense, on the other hand, has been surprisingly good. They’re scoring 1.5 goals per game this season, and that number jumps to 1.78 when playing on the road. Richarlson is a great second-tier forward option this week.
Charlie Austin (Huddersfield Town @ Southampton, $9,500) – Charlie Austin is another great option as a mid-priced forward this weekend. Austin is averaging 28.31 fantasy points per game in his last 4 EPL starts. He also gets to play at home against a Huddersfield team that has given up the 3rd most goals in the league when playing on the road this season. Austin has been a bright spot, especially recently, for a Southampton team that has otherwise been very mediocre. Austin is in a great spot this weekend.
Also like: Marko Arnautovic ($8,500)
Glenn Murray (Watford @ Brighton & Hove Albion, $8,000) – Let me start this one of by advising everyone to stick with forwards that are priced 8.5k or higher. There are not many good-looking options at $8,000 or lower, but if you want to go that low, Murray would be the top choice. Murray faces a leaky Watford defense that is giving up 1.83 goals per game (2nd most in the league). Watford gave up 4 goals on the road last weekend to Huddersfield’s poor offense, and if they haven’t fixed their defending issues this week, we could easily see a repeat of that with BHA putting up a big number.
Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich Albion @ Stoke City, $7,500) – Rodriguez is featured in my article for one reason, and one reason only; his matchup. Stoke City have given up the most goals in the league (39) so far, and it’s not even close. They’re giving up 2.17 goals per game, and 2.0 in home games. WBA is by no means a good attacking team, and Rodriguez is not known as a great goal-scorer. However, against a defense like Stoke’s, it is likely that someone will score for WBA, and Rodriguez is the most likely.
Kevin De Bruyne (Bournemouth @ Manchester City, $12,500) – If you haven’t already noticed, KDB is on a rampage. He is averaging 43.8 fantasy points in his last 5 EPL starts!! MCI doesn’t look like they’re planning on slowing down anytime soon, and they draw a nice matchup this week after playing Tottenham and Manchester United in the last 2 weeks. I’m expecting another big weekend from Manchester City, but it doesn’t take much to form that idea. For that reason, Sterling ($10,500), Silva ($10,500), and Sane ($9,000) are all in play this weekend if they start. Right now, Ilkay Gungodan is expected to start instead of David Silva. If that holds true, I love Gundogan for his $7,000 price tag.
Xherdan Shaqiri (West Bromwich Albion @ Stoke City, $9,500) – I wrote about Shaqiri last weekend as well, and turned in a decent game (19.75 fantasy points), but I was expecting better in a big plus matchup against WHU. Shaqiri is presented another good matchup this weekend against WBA at home. WBA is decent defensively, but Shaqiri is far and away Stoke’s best attacker. He’ll have a lot of opportunities to make something happen in a big game in the relegation race.
Also like: Pascal Groß ($8,500)
Dusan Tadic (Huddersfield @ Southampton, $8,000) – Dusan Tadic, along with Charlie Austin (see above), has also been one of the brighter spots for Southampton this season. As an attacking midfielder, Tadic has contributed to almost 1/4th of all of Southampton’s goals this season by way of goal or assist. He faces a Huddersfield defense that is very poor on the road, and is in a good spot to build on his success this season.
Mikel Merino (Newcastle @ West Ham United, $7,500) – Merino continues to produce very good fantasy outputs for someone priced at 7.5k. He has tallied 23+ fantasy points in all 5 of his last EPL games. Merino has a nice matchup this weekend to continue that run. He faces a WHU defense that isn’t very good, so he should have opportunities offensively. What’s more is that WHU’s offense is decent, so he’ll have defensive responsibilities as well. This combination can lead to big fantasy games for a midfielder like Merino.
Tom Cleverley (Watford @ Brighton & Hove Albion, $7,500) – Tom Cleverley is much like Merino. He’s been steady producing good fantasy games for a player priced at 7.5k. Cleverley doesn’t do any one thing great, but he does everything well. He creates a ton of chances for a Watford side that scores a lot of goals. He also picks up defensive stats at a good rate for a midfielder. Watford will be without their best midfielder, Abdoulaye Doucoure, due to a suspension this weekend. Cleverley will be relied on more heavily if Watford wants to redeem themselves after last week’s embarrassing loss. Etienne Capoue ($6,500) and Andre Carrillo ($6,000) make intriguing options in Watford’s midfield as well.
Also like: Yohan Cabaye ($8,000), Gareth Barry ($7,000), Andros Townsend ($7,000), Johan Berg Gudmundsson ($6,500)
Deep punts: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg ($4,500), Rajiv van La Parra ($4,500)
Ben Mee (Tottenham @ Burnley, $7,000) – It seems like every week I end up writing something about Mee. Mee is the center of Burnley’s stout defense, and ranks high in several defensive categories. This week he’ll face Tottenham, who have a very formidable attack. Tottenham should control most of the ball in this one, giving Mee a lot of opportunities to collect defensive stats. James Tarkowski ($6,500) is in line for a solid game as well.
Daryl Janmaat (Watford @ Brighton & Hove Albion, $6,500) – Previously I’ve written about Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies being technically classified as defenders, but actually playing as extra midfielders. The same is true for Janmaat. In Watford’s system he is essentially an extra midfielder who must also cover some defensive responsibilities when necessary. Janmaat has missed a ton of time this season with injury, but in the 4 EPL games where he’s play at least a half, Janmaat is averaging 26.63 fantasy points if you exclude the dud last weekend against Huddersfield. Janmaat has a fair matchup this weekend, but without Doucoure in the midfield, he should be in line for some more work.
Simon Francis (Bournemouth @ Manchester City, $6,500) – This season, it’s been one of my favorite things to play good defenders against explosive attacking teams. That’s exactly what we have here with Francis. He’s one of the better defenders for Bournemouth, and he gets the tall task of defending Manchester City this weekend. On FD, there are no clean sheet or win bonuses for defenders, so you don’t have to worry about that. Francis should tally a ton of defensive stats versus Manchester City this weekend.
Also like: Nathan Ake ($7,000), Kyle Naughton ($6,000), Zanka ($6,000), Maya Yoshida ($6,000)
Phil Bardsley (Tottenham @ Burnley, $5,500) – Bardsley has only started 5 EPL games this season, but he’ll likely draw the start against Tottenham this weekend. Bardsley is averaging 17 fantasy points in those 5 games, which is good for a defender at his price. He’s been racking up clearances and interceptions like it’s nobody’s business, and I expect him to get a lot of those this weekend wit a good matchup against Tottenham at home.
Lewis Dunk (Watford @ Brighton & Hove Albion, $5,500) – Dunk leads the EPL in blocked shots. Each blocked shot is worth more than other common defensive stats like interceptions and clearances. Dunk also ranks in the top 10 in interceptions and shots on goal for players at his position. Fun fact: Dunk also leads the EPL in own goals (3) which is most of the time just a very unfortunately occurrence. Some defenders go their whole career without an own goal, and Dunk has 3 in 18 games….lol wild. Regardless, Dunk has a solid matchup against Watford who do a lot of attacking. Let’s just hope he doesn’t put one in his own net again.
Also like: Allan Nyom ($5,500), Matthew Lowton ($5,000), DeAndre Yedlin ($5,000), Ryan Bertrand ($5,000)
Nick Pope (Tottenham @ Burnley, $6,000) – Pope is pricey this weekend, but for good reason. He’s been a monster in the goal this season, averaging 17.4 fantasy points per game (2 more than the next highest GK). In 9 home games so far this season, Burnley have only give up 3(!!) goals. That’s an incredible average of 0.33 goals per game. Now, Tottenham is a good attacking team, so Burnley will definitely have their hands full. Pope should be able to make a ton of saves this weekend, and if Burnley can defend well enough, he’ll get the clean sheet bonus as well.
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham @ Burnley, $5,000) – 2017 Hugo Lloris is not the same Hugo Lloris of the past. However, Lloris is still a top GK play this weekend. Their attack is as bad as their defense is good. Even at home, Burnley score less than 1 goal per game (7 goals in 9 games). Lloris is my favorite to get the clean sheet this weekend.
Also like: Mat Ryan ($5,000), Julian Speroni ($4,500), Adrian ($4,500)
I realize that I’m posting this breakdown 60+ hours before lock, so I will be adding/subtracting picks and making changes as more news comes out. Like always, you can check my Twitter (@vdray5) for updates as well.