This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
10:00 a.m: Leicester City v. Bournemouth
10:00 a.m: Southampton v. Stoke City
10:00 a.m: Swansea City v. West Ham
10:00 a.m: Tottenham v. Huddersfield
10:00 a.m: Watford v. West Brom
12:30 p.m: Liverpool v. Newcastle
- Top-five teams are much better than the rest of the league. When very good teams face bad teams the game flow is usually as follows: bad team parks the bus and places a lot of people in the box hoping to block as many shots as possible and maybe get lucky in a counter attack.
- Shots are the new crosses. Good teams don't cross as much unless they think they can win second balls. For example, Liverpool and Tottenham average over 17 shots per game but only 21 crosses. That's nearly a 1:1 ratio while in previous years it was closer to 2:1. Let's add to that trend the considerable "shot concentration" we have seen in the big teams compared to their "cross concentration." Kane takes 6.06 shots per 90 minutes (including over 7.0 at home ) while Son Heung-Min averages 2.94, Christian Eriksen 2.67 and Dele Alli 2.33. That's it. For crosses, Eriksen and the full-backs average around six per 90. So Kane is averaging as many shots as Eriksen's or the fullbacks' crosses, except the expected value of a Kane shot is roughly 3.0 fantasy points (one shot on goal for every two shots, one goal for every six or so shots). The expected value of an Eriksen cross? No much more than one point.
- The DraftKings salary algorithm is making the research "edge" go away. This might be controversial but the reality is that salaries for "floor" players (i.e. set piece takers) are high compared to previous years and they adjust quickly upwards and slowly downwards. Also, DraftKings now offers DFS for almost all the top European leagues, as well as the Championship, so the possibility of finding mispriced players is very low since they have much more info. The result? We have to make very tough decisions every week because if you don't play Kane or Salah, the "pivots" are Riyad Mahrez ($9,500), Eriksen ($9,800), Xherdan Shaqiri ($8,100) or Joao Mario ($7,000). None of them have a set piece monopoly assured and their odds of scoring a goal are half of those of Kane and Salah. In previous years you could pay $10K-$11K for Kane and Sergio Aguero or $7K-$8K for Kevin De Bruyne and Eriksen with full monopolies and only a fraction of the goal scoring odds. It was a no brainer. Get KDB and the good fullback instead of relying on Aguero's or Kane's braces. That decision is no longer easy.
Ok, now to the players. Tottenham and Liverpool are heavily favored to win with the highest totals on the slate. Tottenham previously won 4-0 at the John Smith's Stadium with a Kane brace, leading him to 31 fantasy points. Another trend I've seen in England, which is common in Spain, is that small teams put their B squads in these matches to keep their good players fresh for the games that matter. I wouldn't be surprised if the Terriers play some of their "puppies" to keep the players fresh for their upcoming pivotal matches against Swansea and Crystal Palace. There is risk in Spurs since this game is sandwiched between the FA Cup match and the uber important UCL match against Juventus, so maybe Kane plays limited minutes if the game is close early, but I think that is unlikely since Kane's replacement, Fernando Llorente, can't find the goal or even the ball to shoot. Kane is indispensable and the Spurs are locked in the top-four fight.
Now for the other pick: since the departure of Philippe Coutinho (and even before, though it wasn't as evident) Salah has become the top dog in Liverpool. Playing as a de facto center forward who starts from the right side, Salah's stats are eerily similar Kane's. They average almost the same number of fantasy points, though with slightly more crosses since he takes (or used to take, or takes whenever someone else is not in the field) corners but doesn't take quite as many shots.
Liverpool has no cup matches this week and the UCL tie is already decided after winning 5-0 in Portugal, which means Liverpool are going to go full strength against a Newcastle team that have a very limited squad, especially with the fullbacks where Salah and Sadio Mane ($9,000) do their damage. Since Coutinho's departure, the Egyptian magician is averaging 23 fantasy points per game with a floor of 10. I have a hard time deciding between the two, so I can see playing both.
Troy Deeney, WAT v. WBA ($4,900): Watford manager Javi Gracia has trusted Deeney with a leading role, and he hasn't disappointed with two goals in his last two home matches, and they'll now face a lowly Baggies side riddled with internal problems after their Barcelona trip fiasco. West Brom booked a 5-star hotel in downtown Barcelona with no training facilities the week they thought they wouldn't be playing in the FA Cup because of the Liverpool match. During that trip, four players stole a cab, manager Alan Pardew "lost" his wallet and the owners fired the executive directors. Even if you don't know or care about any of this, West Brom looked awful at home against one of their relegation rivals and now sit at the bottom of the table, eight points from salvation, while players are openly criticizing Pardew's tactics. West Brom are falling apart and Deeney can easily take three or four shots and score a goal.
James Milner, LIV v. NEW ($6,800): Since I'm recommending two players over $11K, I'm going to go value at midfield and defense. If you aren't playing Kane and Salah I would look into Mahrez, Marc Albrighton ($7,800) and Shaqiri. We got some clarity last week with Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ($7,500) and Salah in the field with set pieces, as it seems that they are going to belong to Milner (at least the indirect free kicks; I think Salah wants the penalties and maybe the direct free kicks). Boring James got 14 fantasy points against West Ham and I think he can easily repeat the output against Newcastle.
Badou Ndiaye, STK at SOU ($4,700): The Potters have had a big problem in the middle of the park since Steven N'Zonzi left for Sevilla. They haven't been able to control games and they went and got N'Diaye, who had been a beast in the Turkish Super Lig with Osmanlipor and then Galatasaray. Strong and quick with a good long distance shot, he has drawn comparisons to Idrissa Gueye and N'Golo Kante, but I think he looks more and more like Steven Gerrard, an aggressive box-to-box midfielder who can score. He averages over 10 fantasy points per match and Southampton are a very good matchup because the Saints like to establish themselves in his area of influence (their 33 attempted tackles per match lead the Premier League).
Roberto Pereyra, WAT v. WBA ($3,300): Again, West Brom are a mess, and now Gerard Deulofeu ($6,500) may not play, which means Pereyra could have a bigger share of set pieces. For around $3K, what else you need?
Tottenham Fullbacks, TOT v. HUD (around $6K): If you have the salary, Spurs fullbacks should get to 10 fantasy points with upside.
Jose Holebas, WAT v. WBA ($5,700): As you can tell, I'm targeting West Brom, so Holebas, Darryl Janmaat ($4,700) and Kiko Femenia ($4,100) are all in play. It is hard to decipher what Javi Gracia is going to do with his defenders because last time Kiko entered for Richarlison and Janmaat, not Holebas, moved to centerback. Check the formations and see who is playing, though I would find Holebas hard to fade if he is on the wing, while Kiko is a good value if he starts.
Kostas Stafylidis, STK at SOU ($3,700) or Moritz Bauer, STK at SOU ($4,000): Stoke brought in two very offensive-minded fullbacks who crossed a lot for their previous teams. Bauer had an incredible performance when he started, but he has cooled down a bit and we are grateful for the salary discount. Stafylidis used to average over 10 fantasy points per game while in the Bundesliga last season, but the eruption of Philipp Max made him look for playing time elsewhere. Thankfully, DraftKings doesn't offer Bundesliga yet, so we get him for below-average fullback salary.