EPL Game Breakdown: December 31st

Just five days after Boxing Day there is another packed period of games that sees every side play twice in the space of six days, some teams taking to the field twice in three days. That in mind, keep an eye out for rotation ahead of kickoff and be prepared to pivot away from your picks on this Gameweek or the next one. The following article goes through every game on the main slate of the day, taking a look at current form, recent results, set piece takers and player picks.


Burnley vs Sunderland

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

Burnley

Burnley Breakdown

It’s remarkable to think that if the Premier League was judged entirely on home form then Burnley would be fifth and challenging for a Champions League spot, Boxing Day’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough the latest victory. It was also Andre Gray’s first goal since the opening month of the season. 15 of Burnley’s 17 goals have come on home soil as well as three of their four clean sheets and all-but-one of their 20 total points. Burnley sit in the bottom three for both shots (162) and shots on target (52), and picking up fantasy points from the Clarets is easier said than done as a result. Jeff Hendrick is absent for this one after picking up his fifth yellow of the season and given he has started the last 13 games in central midfield his absence will be sorely felt.

Burnley Set Piece Takers

Corners – Steven Defour, Scott Arfield

Penalties – Andre Gray

Burnley Player Picks

Andre Gray ($5,700) – The controversial striker only scored 10 fantasy points against Boro despite scoring a goal but should get more shooting opportunities against a Sunderland defence that is far more forgiving.

Tom Heaton ($5,000) – Heaton has kept three clean sheets at Turf Moor this season and is still the Premier League’s saves leader (79).

Sunderland

Sunderland Breakdown

David Moyes endured an unhappy return to Old Trafford on Boxing Day as his Sunderland side went down 3-1, Fabio Borini notching a late consolation in a game that they weren’t actually fully out of until the final 10 minutes. The Scottish manager has steadied the ship on Wearside and knows that a win at Burnley will take them out of the relegation zone, for a day at least. It will be a tough task at one of the division’s top home sides and it’s especially difficult when you realise Sunderland have scored just five times away from home all season. It’s easy to see why this is the case as the Black Cats, like their opponents Burnley, rank inside the bottom three for shots (176) and shots on target (50). Sunderland have kept zero clean sheets in nine away games and the task of picking up a first one gets tougher as Jordan Pickford’s injury will rule him out for eight weeks.

Sunderland Set Piece Takers

Corners – Seb Larsson, Patrick van Aanholt

Penalties – Jermain Defoe

Sunderland Player Picks

Jermain Defoe ($6,900) – Exactly half of Sunderland’s 16 goals have come from the boot of the English centre forward and he remains by far their biggest goal threat.

Victor Anichebe ($6,500) – Anichebe has been reinvented as a powerful wide forward by Moyes and averages a very respectable 10.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG). His point production doesn’t rely entirely on goals and he is a better prospect than his teammates as a result.


Chelsea vs Stoke City

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

Chelsea

Chelsea Breakdown

Chelsea aren’t simply threatening to run away with the league, they are successfully doing so and the 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day was their 12th consecutive win. It also came without the suspended pair of Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante, Pedro, Eden Hazard and a Steve Cook own goal seeing them through. It was also an 11th clean sheet of a season that looked far less rosy back in September and the change to a 3-4-3 formation has done wonders for Antonio Conte’s men. Chelsea have scored 24 times at home and only Liverpool boast a better record in that department (25). Pedro is suspended after accumulating five yellow cards, but both Costa and Kante will return.

Chelsea Set Piece Takers

Corners – Cesc Fabregas, Willian

Penalties – Eden Hazard

Chelsea Player Picks

Diego Costa ($9,300) – Costa leads the Premier League with 13 goals and also averages 2.9 shots per game, the best of any Chelsea player.

Eden Hazard ($9,500) – Hazard owns the best fantasy average of any Chelsea player with 16.6 FPPG and leads the Premier League with 3.5 fouls drawn per game.

Stoke City

Stoke City Breakdown

Stoke City’s promising run of form in the lead up to Christmas has quickly evaporated, the 4-1 loss to Liverpool making it four games without a win, Jon Walters scoring their only goal. When looking at Stoke’s stats, they are very much a middle of the road team in every attacking department. At the back Stoke rank fifth for tackles per game (342) yet are in 18th place for interceptions per game (219) and it gives you an idea of where to scout out hidden fantasy points. Marko Arnautovic will serve the final game of his suspension and Marc Muniesa could be fit enough to return from a knee injury.

Stoke City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Xherdan Shaqiri

Penalties – Bojan Krkic

Stoke City Player Picks

Erik Pieters ($4,700) – Pieters leads the Potters in tackles per game (3.2) and will get plenty of opportunities to build on that number against Chelsea’s talented right sided duo of Willian and Victor Moses.

Lee Grant ($3,700) – Grant is highly unlikely to get a win or a clean sheet; however, he is adept at making saves and averages 3.23 per game this season.


Leicester City vs West Ham United

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

Leicester City

Leicester City Breakdown

Leicester’s season lurched from bad to worse on Boxing Day when Everton snatched a 2-0 victory from the King Power and the Foxes sit just three points above the drop zone as a result. That was just a second home loss of the season at a ground that was a fortress for last season’s surprise champions. Claudio Ranieri’s team has the joint-fifth worst defence in the league after that defeat made it 31 goals conceded. Jamie Vardy serves the second game of his ban and expect some rotation as the Foxes play again on Monday lunchtime.

Leicester City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Riyad Mahrez, Marc Albrighton

Penalties – Riyad Mahrez

Leicester City Player Picks

Riyad Mahrez ($8,500) – Even in a season that has been this disappointing, Mahrez still leads Leicester in shots (2.1), dribbles (2.3), and fouls drawn (1.6) per game. He also has three goals and two assists, takes penalties and corners. There’s enough here to pick him if he starts.

Marc Albrighton ($6,100) – Albrighton has been back to his fantasy best over the last two games, posting figures of 13 and 12 crosses in the respective games.

West Ham United

West Ham United Breakdown

The Hammers are on the cusp of the Premier League’s top 10 following a 4-1 demolition of Swansea City, Andre Ayew, Winston Reid, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll all scoring. That was a fourth game unbeaten and a third consecutive win for West Ham, all of them coming against the Premier League’s lesser lights (Burnley, Hull City and Swansea City). Away from home they are unbeaten in three games, although just one of their five clean sheets have been outside the confines of the London Stadium. When it comes to attacking play, West Ham rank inside the top ten for shots per game (13.7) but average just 3.4 shots on target per game, which is among the Premier League’s worst. Slaven Bilic’s team also leads the Premier League with 18.7 interceptions per game. Manuel Lanzini could return for the Hammers but they are still without a whole host of other players.

West Ham United Set Piece Takers

Corners – Dimitri Payet

Penalties – Mark Noble

West Ham United Player Picks

Dimitri Payet ($9,000) – Payet had a quiet day against Swansea yet still managed 17 fantasy points and has hit double digits in each of the last four games.

Darren Randolph ($4,400) – Randolph has scored 15-18-15 fantasy points in his last three games and averages four saves per game across those three fixtures.


Manchester United vs Middlesbrough

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

Manchester United

Manchester United Breakdown

United made it nine games unbeaten by overcoming Sunderland 3-1 on Boxing Day, goals from Daley Blind, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan making sure the Red Devils kept up with the top four. It was also their fourth consecutive win, yet they still sit three points off Spurs in fifth place. United have conceded just 18 goals all season, a record that is only bettered by Chelsea (11) and Spurs (13). Wayne Rooney looks like he will return to the squad for this fixture and there are no new injury worries for Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United Set Piece Takers

Corners – Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Daley Blind

Penalties – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United Player Picks

Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($9,100) – The Swedish striker improved to 12 goals for the season with his goal against Sunderland and he averages an impressive 4.6 shots per game – only Sergio Aguero boasts higher.

Paul Pogba ($7,800) – Pogba’s season has been heating up of late and the world’s most expensive player had 23 fantasy points against Sunderland.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Breakdown

Boro became the latest side to come away from Turf Moor with nothing after a 1-0 loss to Burnley. Even after that defeat, Boro manager Aitor Karanka knows that his side will end the year outside the bottom three. Their away form has been sliding downhill in recent weeks and that was their second straight loss away from the Riverside. Scoring goals has been a real problem for the Teessiders all season long and 16 goals is the joint-second lowest of any side. It’s no surprise that they rank last in shots on target (47) and second last for shots (164). They do lead the Premier League in tackles with 365 and are fifth in interceptions (297). Antonio Barragan is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season and Viktor FischerIs not expected to return from injury until mid-January.

Middlesbrough Set Piece Takers

Corners – Gaston Ramirez, Adam Forshaw

Penalties – Gaston Ramirez

Middlesbrough Player Picks

Gaston Ramirez ($6,700) – Ramirez has a goal and two assists in his last four appearances for Boro and is on 15.25 FPPG over that run.

George Friend ($4,600) – Friend will likely be reinstalled to the starting XI due to the suspension to Barragan and is the leader in tackles (3.0) and interceptions (3.1) per game.


Southampton vs West Bromwich Albion

St Mary’s, 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Southampton

Southampton Breakdown

For almost 20 minutes of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Spurs, Southampton looked to be getting one over on the London side. That was until Virgil van Dijk’s strike was cancelled out by a commanding second half performance from last season’s title challengers. Nathan Redmond also saw red in the game and that had a considerable effect on the outcome. It ended a three-game unbeaten run that had taken Southampton to the eighth place they currently occupy. Where fantasy points are concerned, Saints rank first for crosses (456), second in tackles (356), sixth for shots (270) and seventh for shots on target (90). It tells you that every part of the side can be relied on for points. Where it’s hard to pick up points is goals, Southampton’s total of 18 the fifth-lowest in the top flight. Redmond only misses the one game and Jordy Clasie could return from injury here.

Southampton Set Piece Takers

Corners – Ryan Bertrand

Penalties – Steven Davis

Southampton Player Picks

Dusan Tadic ($7,600) – Redmond’s injury gives Tadic the opportunity to start his first Premier League game for some time. His fantasy potential is always high and at this price, he could be a bargain.

Cedric Soares ($5,300) – Soares scored 9.75 fantasy points against Spurs despite being on the wrong side of a 4-1 loss, and fantasy points are always easy to come by where he is concerned.

West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion Breakdown

Tony Pulis’ side went down 1-0 to Arsenal on Boxing Day to make it three losses out of four, but they have not disgraced themselves on a run of games against Chelsea, Manchester United, Swansea City and the Gunners. Much like Southampton, West Brom’s form is hard to drawn anything from due to the fact they have won, drawn and lost almost equal amounts of games this season, and the same goes for their goals scored and conceded. What they don’t do is concede goals away from home, their nine conceded ranking joint-third in the top flight. Pulis has no fresh injury worries and no suspensions coming into this game.

West Bromwich Albion Set Piece Takers

Corners – Matt Phillips, Chris Brunt

Penalties – Nacer Chadli

West Bromwich Albion Player Picks

Nyom ($4,400) – Nyom has been posting decent fantasy totals without needing clean sheets and is the team leader in tackles with 2.8 per game.

Ben Foster ($4,000) – Foster made a rather ludicrous 10 saves at the Emirates and posted 17pts despite being on the losing side.


Swansea City vs AFC Bournemouth

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

Swansea City

Swansea City Breakdown

Losing 4-1 to West Ham on Boxing Day was the final nail in the coffin of Bob Bradley’s reign in South Wales, the owners deciding to dispense with his services. It leaves Alan Curtis in temporary charge of a side that is only not bottom of the league thanks to a superior goal difference. The Swans have conceded a league-worst 41 goals, 19 of them coming in Bradley’s 11 games. Things are slightly better at the other end where they have scored 21 times, Fernando Llorente getting the consolation against West Ham. Ki Sung-yueng and Jefferson Montero will both be pushing for a start if they are fit to return for this clash.

Swansea City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Penalties – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Swansea City Player Picks

Gylfi Sigurdsson ($9,200) – Sigurdsson’s numbers showed no signs of dropping off with Bradley at the helm, and he posted 17pts in the American manager’s final game.

Fernando Llorente ($6,400) – Llorente scored his sixth goal of the season in the loss against West Ham, and it should be enough to earn him a start.

AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth Breakdown

Bournemouth had chances in the 3-0 loss to Chelsea and will take confidence from forcing the usually quiet Thibaut Courtois into three saves. The Cherries are well clear of the drop zone on 21 points and a win in South Wales will move them as high as eighth in the Premier League. Eddie Howe’s team have lost their last three away games and have recorded just a single win (1-0 at Stoke) away from the South Coast this season.

AFC Bournemouth Set Piece Takers

Corners – Simon Francis

Penalties – Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas

AFC Bournemouth Player Picks

Callum Wilson ($6,300) – Wilson faces the Premier League’s worst defence and could build on his five goals as a result.

Simon Francis ($4,700) – Francis is enjoying himself as a wide defender and had six crosses in the 3-0 loss to Chelsea to make it another decent afternoon for the defender.


Liverpool vs Manchester City

Anfield, 17:30 GMT (12:30 EST)

Liverpool

Liverpool Breakdown

Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Stoke made sure they finished Gameweek 18 in second place, six points behind Chelsea. The goals came courtesy of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and an own goal from Giannelli Imbula. They now have 45 goals this season and are the league leaders in that category. The Reds are still unbeaten on home soil, and the only worrying part of their play is that they have accrued just five clean sheets in 18 games, two of them coming at home. Liverpool are second in both shots (326) and shots on goal (115), and are also fourth in tackles (348). Joel Matip may return for Liverpool but Philippe Coutinho is still unavailable due to an ankle injury.

Liverpool Set Piece Takers

Corners – James Milner

Penalties – James Milner

Liverpool Player Picks

Sadio Mane ($8,900) – In what will be one of his final games before a month off at the African Cup of Nations, Mane will looks to add to his eight goals against an average defence.

James Milner ($7,400) – Milner scored 19.25pts against Stoke despite getting just one assist and his cross-category scoring explains exactly why his price is always high.

Man City

Man City Breakdown

City remain just a point behind Liverpool after a 3-0 win over Hull City on Boxing Day, which came courtesy of strikes from Yaya Toure and Kelechi Iheanacho, and an own goal by Curtis Davies. It took until the 72nd minute for them to get ahead and it represented just a fourth clean sheet of the season. City have scored 39 goals this season and their opponents on Saturday are the only side that has more, and 22 of City’s strikes have come away from home – the best record in the top flight. City also rank third for shots (304) and shots on goal (104). Pep Guardiola welcomes back Sergio Aguero from suspension for this game and could tweak the formation as a result.

Man City Set Piece Takers

Corners – Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva

Penalties – Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure

Man City Player Picks

Kevin De Bruyne ($9,300) – The Belgian did have a quiet afternoon against Hull City but rarely stays silent for two consecutive games and leads the Premier League with nine assists. Aguero’s return will be key to that continuing.

Sergio Aguero ($9,000) – Aguero already has 10 goals this season and averages a league-high 5.1 shots per game.