Juan Mata just can’t win.
Two years ago, while at Chelsea, he was the man in the middle, scoring twelve league goals, notched twelve assists, and was in contention for the Premier League player of the year. But then, last season, under the direction of José Mourinho, Mata found himself riding the bench most weeks.
With playing time under Mourinho being sparse, a move to a different club seemed imminent, and a last second transfer to Manchester United brought greener pastures for the playmaking midfielder. However, despite scoring nine goals in just 20 appearances for the Red Devils, the Spanish international has recently been finding himself on the outs yet again, as the arrival of Radamel Falcao has pushed Wayne Rooney back into Mata’s traditional “number 10” role.
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But, thanks to Captain Rooney seeing red last week against West Ham United, manager Louis van Gaal will have no choice but to rely on Mata, making him an intriguing fantasy option heading into matchweek seven.
Mata should settle into his preferred role just behind the aforementioned Falcao and second striker Robin van Persie, with Angel Di Maria occupying the wide areas to his left. This will give the midfield maestro ample opportunities to wreak havoc against an Everton side that has leaked 14 goals in just five matches.
When allowed to roam the middle of the pitch for United, wether under David Moyes last season or LvG this season, Mata hasn’t disappointed. In addition to the nine goals, he’s created 38 chances, with four of those going for assists.
In addition to Mata, let’s look at the rest of my value plays for this weekend on Draftkings.
Joe Hart – Manchester City ($4,700), Lukasz Fabianski – Swansea ($4,000), Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City ($3,700)
Hart was dropped last week against Hull City so as to rest before for the club’s Champion’ League tilt with Roma earlier this week, but he should be restored to the side ahead of a tasty matchup against Aston Villa this weekend. Villa have scored a measly three goals in this campaign and have mustered a league low 31 created chances.
Fabianski has arguably been the best fantasy keeper this season. His three wins, two clean sheets, and 18 saves have led to an average of 10 points per game. He may not have the defense in front of him that Thiabut Courtois does, but this has actually worked in his favor as he has more save chances. This week he gets a home match against Newcastle which should yield at least a victory – if not a clean sheet – to go along with a handful of saves.
Schmeichel is my sneaky value play this week, as he draws Burnley at the friendly confines of King Power Stadium. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Burnley have a little trouble scoring. So much so, that they’ve only bagged one (yes, one) goal through the first five matches. Schmeichel’s overall numbers don’t look spectacular as he faced the gauntlet of Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United, but he has made 20 saves. Burnley will get some shots off, but they lack a finisher up front and that gives Schmeichel a great chance at a clean sheet.
Pablo Zabaleta – Manchester City ($4,000), Richie De Laet – Leicester City ($3,400), Kieran Trippier – Burnley ($3,300)
Zabaleta has yet to post a clean sheet, but, as I’ve already stated when discussing Hart, he has a great chance at getting one this week. He’s been City’s best attacking defender, as evidenced by his two assists last week at Hull City. I only hope I’m not a week late on him. In any event, you can bank on a handful of crosses played and the likely clean sheet.
This week I’ll be shelling out a little bit more for my defenders, but just in case you decide to go a different route, De Laet makes for a great bargain defender. The Foxes get the punchless Burnley at home, which gives De Laet and his back line mates a good – if not great – chance at keeping their sheets clean.
In keeping with that same match, Trippier, while you’ll likely have to swallow him giving up a few goals, is the sneakiest of sneaky plays this week. With Burnley desperate for any signs of offense, help could arrive in the form of their best attacking defender in Trippier. Through five matches he’s played an astounding 22 crosses. So, while a clean sheet isn’t likely, you can still take comfort in the fact that he should still deliver a decent amount of points.
Dusan Tadic – Southampton ($8,000), Juan Mata – Manchester United ($7,900), Aiden McGeady – Everton ($4,200)
The price does continue to rise on Tadic, and I could understand exploring cheaper options, but if you fancy being a little thrifty in your midfield while still getting someone who you know will put up a decent amount of points, then look no further than this Southampton star. Through five matches he has three assists, 12 created chances, and a whopping 16 shots. He’s second only to Di Maria among midfielders in terms of fantasy points per game (FPPG).
As I’ve already stated, Mata should get the nod to fill the number 10 role temporarily vacated by Rooney, and he’ll have about a month to show he belongs in the United first XI. He doesn’t quite have the nose for goal that Rooney does, but he’s a better creator, and, more importantly, a better passer which should suite him well playing behind a couple star strikers.
McGeady’s time to shine comes at the expense of Everton losing Kevin Mirallas to injury. McGeady had already featured on occasion with The Blues, and I expect he’ll do so even more now with the Belgian lost for several weeks. The Republic of Ireland international is very skilled on the ball, and has a knack for getting a shot off. Everton head to Old Trafford on Sunday for a match that has the makings of a high scoring affair.
Mario Balotelli – Liverpool ($8,600), Steven Naismith – Everton ($6,000), Wilfried Bony – Swansea ($5,900)
I know, I know, Balotelli has been a disappointment since his arrival at Anfield, but the enigmatic striker has been getting his fair share of chances. With Daniel Sturridge still likely a few weeks away from returning to action, Balotelli will continue to lead the line and serve as a dangerous presence in and around the box. Much similar United’s Falcao, I feel a big game is coming…soon.
Naismith is probably one of the most underrated players in Premier League. He truly has relished his increased playing time with Ross Barkley on the shelf, and has been one of the more consistent Toffee’s thus far. He hasn’t found the back of the net since scoring in three straight matches to kick off the season, but he’s constantly getting off shots and finding himself in just the right spot at just the right time. The aforementioned loss of Mirallas only compounds Naismith’s importance for Everton.
Bony is another top-level striker that’s due for a big day. After netting 16 league goals last season and subsequently drawing attention from other clubs in the offseason, many thought Bony would hit the ground running. That hasn’t happened…yet. But I can’t think of a better time for it to come than this weekend against one of the worst defensive sides in the league, Newcastle.
Last week was a letdown after tasting success in week five, as my high upside lineup did not pan out. Overall it wasn’t a poor lineup, but the decision to go with the Manchester United stack of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Di Maria, and Falcao proved to cost me. Herrera, in particular, was a big disappointment as I was lost in his current run of good form and a bargain price.
This week could also be called “Stack Week”, as there are several matches that warrant deploying several players from the same club. Taking advantage of that, you’ll notice my Swansea and United stacks. Both clubs have favorable match ups against suspect defenses, and the players I’m using should have big days.
Methods Behind My Madness
Goalkeeper: Schmeichel, though not the most gifted keeper, has without a doubt the best match up in week seven against a Burnley club that just can’t score right now. He comes at a dream price that allows me to divvy out the funds across the rest of my squad.
Defenders: As stated earlier, this week I’m spending on both my defenders. With the possible exception of Chelsea’s Ivanovic, there isn’t a better attacking fullback in the Premier League right now than Leighton Baines. He’s constantly getting forward and playing crosses, but his greatest value lies in his free kick ability and that he’ll be the one attempting any penalty kicks should things get heated at Old Trafford.
The same thinking went behind the selection of Zabaleta, although the Manchester City man has a much better shot at keeping a clean sheet.
Midfielders: I probably don’t need to delve to much further into why I think Mata will shine this weekend. To put it simply, nothing taken away from Rooney, but I feel Mata is a much better fit to play the number 10.
Sigurdsson is due for a big game. The Icelandic international was one of the hottest players through the first few weeks of the season, but has cooled off somewhat of late. A dream matchup at home against a sieve-like Newcastle defense should allow him to break out of the funk. Though he hasn’t notched one since week three, his four assists are still good for second in the league.
Forwards: I’m still on the Falcao bandwagon. He has yet to score for United, but with assists in back to back matches, he’s still getting involved in the attack. I’m of the opinion that he will link up better with Mata playing behind him than Rooney, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t open his account this week.
Ulloa disappointed against Crystal Palace last week and was limited to just a lone shot. Fortunately, he should bounce right back against Burnley this weekend. He’s the focal point of The Foxes attack, and will see plenty of chances in front of goal against a week defensive unit.
Flex: Bony is the second part of my “Swansea Stack”, as both he and Sigurdsson should have a field day against Newcastle. He’s been kept quiet thus far, but he’s the type of vulturing striker that can blow up on any given day.
Good luck in matchweek seven!