The EPL season is in full swing and we only have a few days before the transfer window shuts. This gameweek 3 preview article will go into Saturday’s games in detail to help give you an edge on the DraftKings main slate. We also have a nice four game slate on Sunday; I didn’t discuss that here but if you have any questions about those games give me a shout on Twitter @FantasyFutopia or @tom_whelan!
Crystal Palace vs Swansea
Crystal Palace have lost both of their opening games, but despite this we are likely to see Frank de Boer stick with a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation for the visit of Swansea. Palace have struggled to gel in the new system so far, but fortunately for them Swansea have been worse and the home side should have the edge in this one.
Yohan Cabaye played 90 minutes midweek in the cup, so he could get the start here in place of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Puncheon, Townsend , van Aanholt and even academy star Sullay Kaikai have all taken set pieces this season and Cabaye only makes the situation more complicated to figure out. We might see them all split set piece duty once again, then, until someone makes a stronger claim for the permanent role. Cabaye ($4,500) and Puncheon ($4,600) are cheap enough to consider as value plays in cash games, with the former having slightly more upside than the latter. Neither is a fantastic option, though, without a guaranteed monopoly on set pieces. Palace have never really been able to get the best out of Cabaye during his time there, with the Frenchman being forced to do a lot more defending than he is comfortable with. The predicted formation above is my best guess at how they will line up, but if we see something more like this below it should give Cabaye a bit of a boost in terms of fantasy production:
Update: Loftus-Cheek has been ruled out, so unless McArthur is fit enough to start we are likely to see Milivojevic retain his place at the base of midfield.
Townsend looks the most likely to start in the right-wing role with Zaha out and he sends in enough crosses from open play (5.95 per 90) to make him a good option even without set pieces. His $7,800 salary is a little bit prohibitive in cash games, but he is certainly viable in any format on this slate if you can fit him in. The manager has said that he wants his team to play the ball on the floor more, but Townsend doesn’t seem like the sort of player that can adjust quickly to that style of play…
Patrick van Aanholt is one of the top plays at defender on Saturday and he becomes more attractive when you factor in the possibility of a couple of set pieces. Joel Ward is much less exciting but he is a fine option at $4,500 if he starts at RWB. He isn’t as interesting if Palace decide to revert to a four at the back system. As bad as Swansea have been so far I’m not sure if Hennessey should be trusted in this one given Palace’s defensive struggles. However, the bookies like him and he is one of the favourites on the slate to pick up a clean sheet and the win, so feel free to stack up the Palace defense in GPPs if you like.
Swansea have been terrible in the first two games. They were facing Southampton and Manchester United, however, who are a cut above Crystal Palace in ability. They will be desperate to put some points on the board here to avoid slipping down into the relegation zone already.
The club have managed to pull off one of the best deals of the transfer window by selling Sigurdsson, but they are badly in need of reinforcements as a result. A third of the money has been spent on Sam Clucas, who won’t really contribute much in terms of attacking output and looks like a bit of an overspend. Wilfred Bony is rumoured to be returning to the club, which seems like a strange move with Abraham and Llorente already in the squad (unless the Spaniard is on his way out). Swansea’s most urgent priority should be to sign a creative midfielder that is good from dead-ball situations, but so far the only other name that has been strongly linked with the club is PSV right-back Santiago Arias.The fans should be very worried about their team’s prospects for the season ahead.
The main places to look for fantasy output are up front, with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham both viable in GPPs. Ayew has the safer floor (3.72 Crs90) but Abraham has more goal upside and an enticing $4,100 price tag. Both players scored in the midweek cup match against MK Dons, with Ayew providing the assist for Abraham. Given that you will need to take a bit of a risk with your second forward this week I don’t hate the idea of using Ayew in cash games.
My interest in Swansea stops there. Tom Carroll has been taking set pieces but he won’t do much else to help your lineup and it’s unlikely Swansea will get too many dead-ball opportunities away from home. Leroy Fer has been playing in a number 10 role and he scored twice in midweek, but even so it’s hard to rely on him here. $3,600 is cheap enough to make him a GPP flier, but it is questionable at best to use him in my opinion. The fullbacks are priced fairly so I can’t argue against using them, but realistically there are better options in that price range.
Huddersfield Town vs Southampton
Second-placed Huddersfield have won a lot of new fans since their step-up to the EPL and manager David Wagner will be over the moon with how his team have started the season. A glance at the stats suggest that a +4 goal difference is perhaps a little fortunate, though, and the visit of Southampton will be by far their toughest test yet. This looks like a good spot to avoid Huddersfield and hope others continue to ride the bandwagon.
Steve Mounie was extremely popular on the Sunday slate; I avoided him then and I will definitely be staying away this weekend, too. $6,100 is just too expensive in this matchup and I will be hoping that his ownership remains higher than it should be. Aaron Mooy has been great so far this season but DraftKings have bumped his salary all the way up to $6,500 in the wake of a 21 point performance against Newcastle. Don’t be fooled into thinking Mooy has that sort of upside every week; he only scored 4 times in the Championship last season (0.09 xG90). Tom Ince took corners from the right in the last match and he would be my preferred option on the Huddersfield side of the ball given his $4,800 salary. Ince has a lot more goal upside than Mooy (3.17 Sh90, 0.26 xG90) and I expect his ownership to be significantly lower despite the discount in price.
Southampton were finally able to find the back of the net last week against 10-man West Ham and they will be looking for more goals in this one. Their underlying stats have been great since the end of last season; Huddersfield won’t make it easy for them but the Southampton fans will be expecting the long trip north to be worthwhile. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all of the attacking players are viable once again here. Steven Davis has started the last two games but we could see James Ward-Prowse get the nod instead and he will take the majority of the set pieces if he starts. Dusan Tadic is a bit riskier for cash games without set piece duty but he is firmly in play in GPPs and has put in back-to-back 15 fantasy point performances so far. Nathan Redmond has the potential to become one of the best wide players in the league this season; he isn’t there yet but $5,500 is a good price for him against Huddersfield in GPPs. Redmond’s 0.43 xG+xA90 is the same as Marcus Rashford and there will be a huge gap in ownership between the two on this slate.
Manolo Gabbiadini finally ended his goal drought last weekend and at $6,800 he looks like a significantly better play than opposite number Steve Mounie in my opinion. It’s hard to imagine him scoring multiple goals here but he does have that sort of upside. The fullbacks are always viable; Bertrand has been taking corners and Cedric crosses a lot from open play (5.3 per 90). Fraser Forster isn’t far behind Wayne Hennessey in the bookies’ eyes and the Southampton defense stack is in play once again this week.
Newcastle United v West Ham United
Newcastle have been a bit disappointing so far, to say the least. They were unlucky to go down in 15/16 and were, in my opinion, the best team in the Championship last season largely due to the fact that they were able to keep a lot of their squad along with Rafa Benitez at the helm. Coming into this season Newcastle would have probably felt that they were already strong enough to avoid relegation, but the lack of new faces at the club is certainly a bit worrying and Rafa could be nearing the end of his patience with owner Mike Ashley. It doesn’t help that they have been hit by a couple of injuries and suspensions straight away and the manager will certainly be hoping to bring in a couple of players before the end of the window. A creative midfielders should be the top priority; with Shelvey injured Newcastle have looked a bit lost in the middle of the park.
Dwight Gayle never really managed to get going in the Premier League, but he was a huge outlier last season in the Championship. Averaging close to a goal per 90 minutes is excellent regardless of what league you are playing in. Gayle has been dealing with an illness this week but if he starts he is a good GPP option against a suspect West Ham defense. If Mitrovic gets the nod instead he is also in play; the Serbian striker’s underlying numbers are great but he wasn’t able to convert many chances last season. Either Mitrovic is a terrible finisher or he was very unlucky – the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Joselu is less exciting but he is also in play in GPPs if he starts ahead of both Gayle and Mitrovic (3.1 Sh90, 0.39 xG90). Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu also draw a bit of interest at $4,800 and $4,600, but realistically it’s hard to imagine either player ending up on the winning GPP lineup this weekend. If you are picking between them Perez has more upside of the two.
Matt Ritchie should have a monopoly on set pieces with Jonjo Shelvey still suspended. Ritchie just missed the cut-off on the graphs above (0.21 xG90, 0.26 xA90) and he is a good option this week in all formats, although there are perhaps better cash game options available given the matchup. It’s easy to avoid the Newcastle defense; Javier Manquillo has never been a good fantasy option and although Chancel Mbemba is cheap ($3,300) it’s always risky to trust a centre-back that is playing out of position; they just aren’t as willing to get forward and put crosses in as a regular fullback. The West Ham attack is quite strong so a clean sheet will be hard to come by for Rob Elliot, but if he does manage to keep West Ham at bay he will likely end up as the highest scoring goalkeeper on the slate. I definitely wouldn’t use him in cash games, but the risk might be worth it in GPPs.
I predicted last week that West Ham’s season would be full of goals at both ends of the pitch and it looks like this could be another fixture where both teams find the back of the net. The Hammers will be missing their best defender and the talented Newcastle forwards could cause some problems for Fonte and Zabaleta.
Chicharito got off the mark last weekend and his salary has been increased to $7,000 as a result of his two goal performance. Newcastle could struggle to contain the Mexican striker here (0.56 xG90) but his ownership could be high due to recency bias. It might be better to avoid Chicharito then, unless you are happy to pair him with a creative player from West Ham to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Manuel Lanzini could be fit enough to start on Saturday and he is one of the better options on the slate; he should get a monopoly on the set pieces for West Ham. Michail Antonio is also nearing full fitness and he is a good alternative to the more popular Chicharito in GPPs. Andre Ayew is cheap enough to consider too, given his ability to show up in the right place at the right time (0.41 xG90). Cresswell and Zabaleta are both reasonably priced but it is unlikely that I will be going there on this slate personally, as I fancy Newcastle’s chances to score. Cresswell is the preferred option of the two fullbacks if you feel differently, though, with 4.2 Crs90 compared to 1.2 Crs90 for Zabaleta.
Watford vs Brighton and Hove Albion
Watford have been surprisingly good so far this season but manager Marco Silva won’t be smiling just yet; he knows how tough it is to keep a team in the league. The new look attack has been impressive so far, ranking 3rd in xG after two games. It’s not good news on the defensive end, though, and if the attack cools off Watford will be in trouble. Brighton have been just as bad as Watford defensively so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hornets continue their good form in front of goal in this one.
Everyone seems to be in love with new signing Richarlison, but I am a lot more wary of him than most. He has been great so far, but this is still a young player who is coming into a tough league and it’s not sensible to think that he can do significantly better than he did last season in Brazil. I will be avoiding him in the hope that his ownership is high. Andre Carrillo has come in from Benfica to play on the opposite flank; he was OK in limited minutes for the Portuguese side and I would prefer him to Richarlison if he was in the playerpool. Andre Gray never looks good from a data perspective and I don’t think I have ever used him in DFS. This is a nice matchup for him though if you are more optimistic on his ability than I am.
Jose Holebas is suspended which means we could see Britos fill in at LB. We only have one viable Watford defender to look at then; Kiko Femenia doesn’t cross as much as you would like for DFS purposes (2.45 per 90) but he is reasonably priced here. With Holebas out, Tom Cleverley should take all of the set pieces. He actually managed two shots last week and at $3,300 he appears to be a nice way to save a bit of money in cash games if you need to go that cheap. Don’t expect a GPP-winning performance out of him, though. Heurelho Gomes is level with Hennessey in the clean sheet markets and given Brighton’s struggles so far he looks like a good play at goalkeeper.
It’s reasonable to argue that Brighton have been the worst team in the league so far. An opening day fixture against Manchester City followed by a trip to Leicester is a very tough way to start off the season, though, and with Anthony Knockaert back and new signing Jose Izquierdo available off the bench they will be hoping to create a few more chances in this one.
The main pieces to look at on Brighton are Knockaert, Pascal Gross and Markus Suttner. Knockaert will be the favourite to take set pieces here; he is a bit more expensive than you would like on the road ($5,600) given that he is still working up to full fitness, but he is in play in GPPs if you want to target the Watford defense a bit. Gross is still too cheap for his role as a second striker ($3,200) and he is fine as a GPP punt also. There is a chance he takes some of the set pieces even with Knockaert back. Suttner is one of the best values at defender ($3,600); he will struggle to get the clean sheet bonus but should generate enough peripheral stats to be valuable without it (1.36 Sh90, 1.64 CC90, 5.15 Crs90, 0.22 xA90).
Glenn Murray isn’t awful (0.39 xG90) but there are better punts at forward this weekend. Low ownership is guaranteed if you do fancy going there, though. Raphael Dwamema is arriving from FC Zurich; he has been prolific in his career so far (44 goals, 18 assists in 74 games) but he has spent most of his time in the Swiss and Austrian second tier. The EPL will be a huge step up for the young Ghanaian and in my opinion Brighton still need to sign another striker if they want to stay in the league.
Manchester United vs Leicester City
Jose Mourinho’s side have been scary to play against in the first two games and everyone seems to be considering United as the favourites for the title already. They were unlucky to finish 6th in the last campaign and they should be in the mix for most of this season, but they will still have to score 30+ more goals and 20+ more points than last time to win the trophy. Mourinho has only managed to improve a team by 8 points in the past and he probably won’t be aggressive enough against the other top teams to take United all the way to the title.
Lukaku has started off life at his new club with three goals and he is the number one option at forward on Saturday. You will have to pay a lot for the Belgian striker though; his $11,200 salary makes him the most expensive player on the slate by $2,600! I am never happy to pay that much for someone so goal-dependent but it’s hard to ignore him here given the lack of viable alternatives that can match his upside. It’s not that tricky to fit him in either, so I expect him to be extremely chalky in GPPs.
Juan Mata has been splitting corner kick duty with LB Daly Blind, and they are both excellent plays in all formats. Mata also has upside (0.56 xG+xA90) to go along with a safer floor and a much cheaper salary than the other United forwards ($6,900). Rashford, Mkhitaryan and Pogba are all viable in GPPs, as is Anthony Martial if he gets the nod over Rashford on the left wing (they all generate between 0.4-0.45 xG+xA90). Pogba has scored in both games so far and Mkhitaryan somehow has four assists to his name already (1.1 xA). Rashford is likely to be higher owned than both, though, as he is eligible at forward and is perceived to be more talented than he really is. Antonio Valencia puts in a lot of crosses from open play (4.96 per 90) and David de Gea is by far the safest goalkeeper on the slate, so a full United defense stack is a nice option here. It’s far from a guarantee that United will stick with the same starting XI, so make sure you leave yourself some options in case Jose decides to mix things up.
Leicester were excellent against Brighton in the last match but a trip to Old Trafford is on a completely different level; this is one of the toughest fixtures they will have all season. The salaries on Mahrez, Vardy and Albrighton haven’t come down enough to make them worth a look and I can’t officially endorse anyone here.
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Predicted lineups created using buildlineup.com. All data by Opta.