EPL Game Breakdown: December 26th

It’s Christmas ladies and gents, which means the action comes thick and fast. In all there are eight mouthwatering fixtures on Boxing Day that will have you salivating and ready for those turkey leftovers that are piled high from the day before. DraftKings has a post-Christmas treat in the shape of the Mini Boxing Day Classic that offers $2,000 to first place. Below is a breakdown of every one of those fixtures.

Watford vs Crystal Palace

Vicarage Road, 12:30 GMT (07:30 EST)

Watford

Watford Breakdown

Watford are one of the hardest sides to predict in the entire league and have now lost their last two away games after going down 1-0 to basement dwellers Sunderland last weekend. That result when combined with the 2-0 loss to Man City in the midweek round of games means the Hornets have dropped to 12th spot and those dreams of a top half finish have frittered away, for the moment at least. Roberto Pereyra and Stefano Okaka could both return for Boxing Day’s game against Palace, a team Watford have not beaten on home soil in five attempts.

Watford Set Piece Takers

Corners – Jose Holebas, Etienne Capoue

Penalties – Troy Deeney

Watford Player Picks

Etienne Capoue – The French midfielder remains the club’s top scorer on five goals and he also averages a steady 2.1 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game.

Jose Holebas – Playing against a Palace side that struggles to defend against anyone, Holebas will look to bomb forward from full back and add to his two goals and three assists. He also takes most corners and free kicks.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace Breakdown

Alan Pardew finally bit the dust after a run of just one win in 10 games, and it’s widely expected that Sam Allardyce will be tasked with the job of keeping them in the Premier League. Their alarming slide to the foot of the table has only hastened in the past week after successive home losses to Man Utd (1-2) and Chelsea (0-1) and it leaves them just a point ahead of 18th place Sunderland. Scoring goals has not been a problem as they are the sixth best scorers in the Premier League (28 goals), but at the other end Palace have conceded 32 times. Only Hull City and Swansea City boast a worse record than that. Pardew’s team have kept just one clean sheet all season and are on a run of five away games without a win (D2, L3). Palace are no longer the most prolific crossers of the ball in the top flight and sit second in that list (419 crosses). There are suggestions that Loic Remy could make the squad for this game but the likes of James Tomkins, Pape Souare, Steve Mandanda, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham are all still out.

Crystal Palace Set Piece Takers

Corners – Jason Puncheon, Yohan Cabaye

Penalties – Christian Benteke

Crystal Palace Player Picks

Wilfried Zaha – Having the best season of his career, Zaha has three goals and six assists this campaign.

Christian Benteke – The Belgian centre forward already has eight goals for Palace and is making sure that no one can complain about their forward play.


Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion

Emirates Stadium, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Arsenal

Arsenal Breakdown

Things have hit full blown Arsenal at the Emirates after two straight away losses saw them drop to fourth position in the Premier League. The Gunners led 1-0 in both 2-1 losses to Everton and then Man City, Theo Walcott scoring at the Etihad before two contentious goals gave City the points. Arsenal have been struggling to keep clean sheets all season and it’s now eight straight games without a blank for Petr Cech. Only Liverpool have scored more times than Arsenal’s 38 goals and in that department there is nothing to worry about. It’s more the style of play that sees manager Arsene Wenger instructing them to sit back when in the lead. Aaron Ramsey could return for this game and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be assessed ahead of the clash.

Arsenal Set Piece Takers

Corners – Mesut Ozil

Penalties – Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal Player Picks

Alexis Sanchez ($9,600) – The Chilean continues to shine and had a goal and an assist in the pair of recent defeats. He also averages 2.8 shots and 2.6 key passes per game thus illustrating just how influential he is.

Theo Walcott ($8,200) – Walcott’s eighth goal of the season means that he is on course to smash his previous best of 14 goals, achieved back in 2012-13. He also averages 3.0 shots per game, the highest of any Arsenal player.

West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion Breakdown

Things were looking oh so rosy for Baggies boss Tony Pulis prior to last weekend’s loss to Man Utd, yet even after that 0-2 reverse they still sit in eighth position in the Premier League. A surprise win at Arsenal would take them back into seventh position. On the whole, Albion have been better on the road and have lost just three of eight games on their travels. Only Chelsea and Spurs have a better defence away from home and the eight goals they Baggies have conceded is a testament to Pulis’ managerial acumen. West Brom have no new injury problems to worry about on Boxing Day and Jonny Evans may even be fit enough to return.

West Bromwich Albion Set Piece Takers

Corners – Chris Brunt, Matt Phillips

Penalties – Nacer Chadli

West Bromwich Albion Player Picks

Matt Phillips ($6,700) – Phillips’ run of huge fantasy performances ended last weekend but this time around he matches up against an Arsenal defence that is struggling to keep clean sheets.

Chris Brunt ($4,800) – Even in a tough 2-0 loss to Man Utd, Brunt still managed six crosses on the way to six fantasy points.


Burnley vs Middlesbrough

Turf Moor, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Burnley

Burnley Breakdown

Sean Dyche’s charges acquitted themselves very well in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Spurs, going 1-0 up through an Ashley Barnes goal before succumbing to their seventh away defeat of the season. The Clarets have just two goals on their travels all season, but the good news is that they are back in the depths of Lancashire for the visit of Boro on Boxing Day. If home form counted for everything they would be eighth in the Premier League and it’s where they have gained 16 of 17 points this campaign. Burnley’s goalkeepers have made a combined total of 82 saves this season, which puts them ahead of anyone else. Also, an idea of how this fixture may play out is illustrated by the fact these two teams sit one and two in the Premier League long ball ranks. Matt Lowton is suspended for Burnley after accumulating too many yellow cards and there are suggestions that Johann Berg Gudmundsson may play a part.

Burnley Set Piece Takers

Corners – Steven Defour

Penalties – Andre Grey

Burnley Player Picks

Tom Heaton ($4,900) – The top flight’s best shot stopper averages 5.1 saves per game after 15 starts and has also saved two penalties this season. Heaton is also playing for a Burnley team that doesn’t lose at home.

Jon Flanagan ($4,200) – Lowton’s injury opens up a starting berth for the Liverpool loanee. Flanagan leads Burnley with 3.8 tackles per game and could benefit from a Burnley clean sheet if they manage to keep up their excellent home form.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Breakdown

Boro won the weekend’s relegation six pointer by hammering Swansea City 3-0, Alvaro Negredo scoring twice and Martin de Roon adding the other. It means they sit a point ahead of Burnley and Boro arrive at Turf Moor with a decent away record. Although they have only won once away from the Riverside, Actor Karanka’s team have lost just twice and boast five draws, including respectable points at Arsenal, Leicester and Man City. Middlesbrough also lead the Premier League in tackles (354).

Middlesbrough Player Picks

Gaston Ramirez ($7,200) – Whilst his defensive work is sometimes lacking, Ramirez is Boro’s biggest threat going forward from a fantasy point of view and has two goals plus three assists already this season. It has helped him score double digit fantasy points in each of the last three games.

George Friend ($5,000) – Boro love to tackle and Friend leads the team with 3.3 tackles per game – the fifth best mark in the top flight. He also averages 3.3 interceptions per game and has an assist already this campaign.


Chelsea vs AFC Bournemouth

Stamford Bridge, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Chelsea

Chelsea Breakdown

Chelsea made it 11 straight wins by overcoming Palace 1-0 in last Saturday’s early kick off, Diego Costa scoring his 13th goal of the season but also picking up a yellow card and as a result misses this game. The same goes for N’Golo Kante and their replacements are likely to be Michy Batshuayi and Cesc Fabregas. The win at Palace represented a 10th clean sheet of the season for the Blues and they have now conceded just 11 goals, the best record in the top flight.

Chelsea Set Piece Takers

Corners – Cesc Fabregas, Willian

Penalties – Eden Hazard

Chelsea Player Picks

Eden Hazard ($9,500) – Hazard already has eight goals this season and with Costa out of this game will be relied upon to provide more impetus by manager Antonio Conte.

Cesc Fabregas ($6,000) – Fabregas has been used sparingly by Conte but still has one goal and two assists in just three starts. Fabregas handles almost all the set pieces when on the pitch and should prove good value.

AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth Breakdown

Eddie Howe admitted following the Southampton game that it was a mistake not to make more changes to his side, and given the busy schedule of three games in quick succession he was right. Bournemouth took the lead through Nathan Ake in that one but were pegged back by three goals from the visitors, two of them in the second half. Bournemouth have won only one game on their travels this season and lost their last two away from the South Coast. Ake is one player who won’t be appearing at Stamford Bridge as he cannot play against his parent club. Andrew Surman may return but Junior Stanislas is expected to still be missing.

AFC Bournemouth Set Piece Takers

Corners – Harry Arter, Ryan Fraser

Penalties – Callum Wilson

AFC Bournemouth Player Picks

Harry Arter ($4,200) – Arter’s points come across a whole raft of different categories to mean that he leads the team in tackles per game (2.4). The Irishman also takes corners and should achieve some cheap points for your line-up.

Simon Francis ($4,600) – Francis has suddenly become relevant for fantasy players since moving to right back and has scored double digit fantasy points in two of the last three games.


Leicester City vs Everton

King Power Stadium, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Leicester City

Leicester City Breakdown

Claudio Ranieri and the rest of the Leicester City squad had a trophy laden weekend last Sunday as they took home various gongs at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. That flies in the face of their current Premier League form, which has seen them drop to 15th after winning just one of the last six games. They did show fighting spirit to come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City, Leonardo Ulloa and Daniel Amartey scoring their goals and that was despite losing Jamie Vardy to a first half red card. Thankfully they are back home for this clash, a venue where they have lost just once this season. They have one of the worst defences in the league although the return of Kasper Schmeichel will make things a little easier in that department. Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth are both suspended and Vardy’s red card has been appealed by the club.

Leicester City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Riyad Mahrez

Penalties – Riyad Mahrez

Leicester City Player Picks

Riyad Mahrez ($8,700) – Mahrez still managed to hit eight points in the Stoke game and had eight consecutive double-digit fantasy point games in the run of games before then.

Kasper Schmeichel ($5,000) – Only Heaton and Jordan Pickford have a better saves averages than big Kasper’s 4.2 saves per game.

Everton

Everton Breakdown

All the momentum from the win over Arsenal was soon forgotten after Sadio Mane scored a late, late winner to give Liverpool a win at Goodison Park. It means Everton are left clinging onto a place in the top half of the table after winning just one of the last six games. Away from home, Ronald Koeman’s team have lost five of the last six games and kept just one clean sheet (v Sunderland). At any venue, Everton haven’t kept a clean sheet since October 30. What they do possess is the Premier League’s leading tackler in the shape of Idrissa Gueye and the return from suspension of Phil Jagielka should steady things up at the back. There have also been at least four goals in each of the last four encounters between these two teams.

Everton Set Piece Takers

Corners – Ross Barkley

Penalties – Leighton Baines

Everton Player Picks

Romelu Lukaku ($8,500) – Leicester’s defence has been desecrated by suspensions following the ill tempered game against Stoke and Lukaku should have some fun as a result.

Seamus Coleman ($5,500) – Coleman is back to his fantasy best and has 12.5 fantasy points per game over the last two matches.


Manchester United vs Sunderland

Old Trafford, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Manchester United

Manchester United Breakdown

Jose Mourinho’s written off Manchester United charges have now put together a run of eight games without a loss, and the latest game in that run was a 2-0 win at West Brom, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring both goals to bring his total to 11 for the season. United are another team that have been better away from home and have won just three of their eight home games. United still rank in the top five for shots (270), shots on goal (93), tackles (323), interceptions (314) and crosses (404), and it makes picking them for fantasy purposes fairly safe every week. In terms of injury news, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could all be back for this clash.

Manchester United Set Piece Takers

Corners – Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial

Penalties – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United Player Picks

Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($9,000) – Only Costa and Sanchez have scored more goals than Zlatan in the Premier League this season and he also averages 4.6 shots per game.

Paul Pogba ($7,500) – The world’s most expensive player is starting to come into his own and has three goals, two assists and averages the fifth-highest shots per game ratio in the top flight (3.1 per game).

Sunderland

Sunderland Breakdown

David Moyes makes his first return to Old Trafford since being sacked just a few years ago and comes here off the back of a 1-0 win over Watford, Patrick van Aanholt did enough to lift them off the foot of the table. Sunderland are one of the Premier League’s worst away sides, winning just one of their nine games and scoring a minuscule four goals. The Black Cats have kept no clean sheets in that run and could go back to the bottom if they lose and both Hull City and Swansea City win. On the flip side, a win will almost certainly lift them out of the bottom three. Sunderland still have plenty of injuries and Adnan Januzaj is ineligible to face his parent club.

Sunderland Set Piece Takers

Corners – Patrick van Aanholt

Penalties – Jermain Defoe

Sunderland Player Picks

Patrick van Aanholt ($5,200) – The goal against Watford was his third of this Premier League campaign and the way he contributes going forward makes him a decent option.

Swansea City vs West Ham United

Liberty Stadium, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Swansea City

Swansea City Breakdown

You get the feeling that Bob Bradley is trying hard to distract people away from the poor play of his team when he bemoans not being respected for his accent and Swansea fans should be very worried indeed. His arrival had no effect on their form and the 3-0 loss at Middlesbrough is exactly the kind of game they need to get something from if they are to avoid dropping to the Championship. That result means Swansea have conceded 37 goals this season and that figure is the worst in the entire top flight. The Swans have been better on home soil of late, winning the last two but even a third straight win is unlikely to take them out of the bottom three. There are no new injury worries ahead of this one for Bradley.

Swansea City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Penalties – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Swansea City Player Picks

Gylfi Sigurdsson ($9,300) – Sigurdsson remains key to any small bit of success Swansea manage to achieve against West Ham and had 16 fantasy points in the heavy defeat to Middlesbrough. For the season as a whole, he averages 15.1 FPPG, and I’d go as far as to say there’s no other Swansea player worth picking.

West Ham United

West Ham United Breakdown

There was more than an element of good fortune about West Ham’s tight 1-0 win over Hull City on Wednesday night, not that manager Slaven Bilic will be bothered. Mark Noble’s winner was his second in as many games and it means the Hammers are unbeaten in three games. Their recent away record makes grim reading when you see they have not won in four games, but the last two draws at Man Utd and then Liverpool will give them plenty of confidence. They have also now kept five clean sheets this season and when you remember how bad their defence has been at times then that number is quite a triumph. The absence of Pedro Obiang due to suspension leaves a sizeable gap in midfield, and it’s unclear who will deputise.

West Ham United Set Piece Takers

Corners – Dimitri Payet

Penalties – Mark Noble

West Ham United Player Picks

Dimitri Payet ($9,300) – Like Sigurdsson for Swansea, Payet is an absolute lock for fantasy points, and for the second straight game he reached double digit fantasy points without a goal or an assist. I think it’s always worth paying up for that kind of performance.

Andy Carroll ($6,400) – Carroll has three goals in his last three games against Swansea and the Welsh have not acquitted themselves well against height this season.


Hull City vs Manchester City

KCOM Stadium, 17:30 GMT (12:30 EST)

Hull City

Hull City Breakdown

Hull manager Mike Phelan was left feeling hard done by after the 1-0 defeat at West Ham, a game where his team hit the post multiple times. That followed a 3-0 loss at Spurs in midweek, and those two games saw them drop to the foot of the Premier League table. The Tigers are a full 15 games without a clean sheet, the longest such run in the Premier League, and are without a win in six games. They have also failed to score in the last two. Only Palace have a worse home record this season than Hull, and they are also the Premier League’s lowest scorers with just 14 goals from their 17 fixtures.

Hull City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Robert Snodgrass

Penalties – Robert Snodgrass

Hull City Player Picks

Robert Snodgrass ($7,900) – Snodgrass averages 12.6 FPPG over the last six games and had 11 points in the loss to West Ham. No one else in Hull’s side has better scoring potential than the Scot.

Manchester City

Manchester City Breakdown

Premier League leaders Chelsea remain in Pep Guardiola’s crosshairs following a pair of wins that concluded with a come-from-behind victory over Arsenal courtesy of goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. Pep is still getting used to the English top flight, and on a trip to Leicester just a matter of weeks ago they were subjected to a 4-2 thumping. Only Arsenal and Liverpool have scored more than City’s 36 goals this season, and they also have the third best shots total (288). Keeping clean sheets has been a real problem for City and the one against Watford on December 14 was just their third all season. Sergio Aguero remains suspended for this match with Vincent Kompany still out of action and Pablo Zabaleta doubtful.

Manchester City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva

Penalties – Yaya Toure

Manchester City Player Picks

Kevin De Bruyne ($10,100) – De Bruyne’s 16 fantasy points against Arsenal showed that he should never be doubted from a fantasy perspective, and that was on a day where he got his eighth assist of the season – the best total in the league.

Raheem Sterling ($8,600) – Sterling has now hit double digit fantasy points in two consecutive games and averages 17 FPPG in that time.