It’s a short matchweek as teams are forced to get ready for matches after playing three or four days prior. With a full slate Tuesday and Wednesday and another full slate coming Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, it is once again a good idea to make sure your bench is full of players that can produce if called upon because of unexpected rest to some of the players in your Starting XI.
Last week, the Bargain Bin was full of freshly washed bedding, as five of the players received points from their team keeping a clean sheet. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, defenders Ron Vlaar (although he did pick up a yellow card) and Martin Demichelis, and midfielders Nathan Redmond and Kevin Nolan all prevented their opponents from scoring last weekend. Fernando Torres had some opportunities but was unable to find the back of the net for Chelsea and Ross Barkley did not feature for Everton.
This week we look for more of the same from the back line recommendations, while also looking to pick out some goal-scorers, as scoring continues to rebound from low averages to start the season.
Here is Week 14 of the Bargain Bin:
Asmir Begovic has had an up-and-down season so far. While on the road, Begovic has had his struggles. He allowed four goals on the road Saturday against Everton and allowed three goals in each of the two previous away matches. On the flip side, Begovic has been putting up stats like a top-five goalkeeper while at home. Stoke City are allowing an average of 0.5 goals per game in their home matches, they have kept a clean sheet in three of their six matches there, and have yet to allow a visiting opponent to score more than one goal. Begovic and Stoke City will be at home Wednesday to host Cardiff City. The Bluebirds have struggled to produce much offense on the road this season and have averaged just 0.6 goals per game on the road. They have been accurate on just 24 percent of their shots, which is well below the league average of 33 percent in road ties. Averaging below three shots on target will not be enough against a goalkeeper that has the second-best save percentage on shots on target in home matches this season. Begovic has a great opportunity to keep his fifth clean sheet and second straight at home.
Ryan Shawcross has been the only defender to play every minute of every match for Stoke City and his good defense has been a key part of Stoke City’s defensive success at home. In addition, he has shown the ability to avoid being booked, having picked up just two yellow cards all season; less than any of other Stoke defender that has played a majority of the minutes. We’ve already discussed Stoke’s chances of keeping a clean sheet, but what makes Shawcross such an intriguing play is his chance to find the back of the net Wednesday. According to stats provided by Squawka, Cardiff City have conceded five headed goals this season. Only three other teams have allowed more, and they all have allowed six. Shawcross has been very effective in the air this season and will be the third tallest player on the pitch Wednesday, giving him some sneaky offensive value on top of his chances to collect some clean sheet points.
Martin Skrtel and Liverpool will play host to Norwich City on Wednesday. The Canaries have averaged less than 10 shots per game on the road this season and are scoring on just five percent of those attempts. Skrtel has been the most consistent of Liverpool’s defenders recently (with exception to his own goal Sunday), having played in every match since Matchweek Three. In addition, Skrtel hasn’t cost his fantasy owners any points this season from bookings. Liverpool have allowed an average of 0.5 goals per game at home this season and have a very good opportunity to keep a second straight clean sheet at Anfield.
Jonjo Shelvey has been involved in more Swansea City goals than any player besides Wilfried Bony. Bony is set to miss up to 10 days due to a hamstring injury, which leaves Shelvey as one of the go-to guys in the Swans attack. Swansea will host Newcastle United on Wednesday and there might not be a hotter team right now than the Magpies. They have won their last four matches and have fought their way into sixth place in the standings. However, three of those four matches have come at home and the Magpies are not the same team on the road. They have managed to keep just one clean sheet on the road and are allowing almost two goals per game in their six away matches. In addition, opponents have been accurate on more than 41 percent of their shots against a traveling Newcastle defense. A short week should not help those numbers, so look for Swansea to score a couple of goals and look for Shelvey to get involved in some way.
Ravel Morrison has adapted well to Premier League play this season. In his 10 Premier League appearances, Morrison has either scored a goal or picked up an assist in five of them. Not a stranger to scoring on the road, he has two goals in five away match appearance. On Tuesday, Morrison and West Ham United travel to face Crystal Palace. Only three teams have conceded more goals than the Eagles and they are allowing over one goal per game even at home. Crystal Palace’s opponents have been allowed to be very accurate with their shots and Eagle goalkeeper Julian Speroni is near the bottom in save percentage. There is a good chance West Ham get on the scoreboard Tuesday, and I like my chances with a guy that has participated in half of his teams goals since getting playing time this season.
Shane Long has been red hot over the last four weeks. The striker has three goals and an assist and is establishing himself as the go-to-guy in the West Brom attack, earning a place in the Baggies' starting XI ahead of both Victor Anichebe and Nicholas Anelka. On Wednesday, West Brom play host to Manchester City. City’s issues on the road have been very apparent over the past few weeks: they have allowed seven goals in their last four matches away from Etihad Stadium and will be up against a West Brom squad that have scored multiple goals in three of their last four home matches. Long has been very accurate with his shots the last couple of weeks and Manchester City have the worst save percentage of any team on the road this season. Even a change at goalkeeper has not helped Manchester City with their road woes. Look for them to continue as an onslaught of Shane Long shots puts pressure on the visitors.
Jay Rodriguez has been named to Southampton’s starting XI nine times this season and in each of those nine matches, he has featured on the left side as a midfielder in the Saints’ 4-2-3-1 formation. In that formation, Rodriguez has averaged 2.6 shots per game. He is currently tied for the team-lead in goals scored and will be at home Wednesday to face Aston Villa. Southampton have averaged 2.5 goals per game in their last four home matches and get a decent draw against the visiting Lions this match week. Look for Rodriguez to continue to be involved in the attack as Southampton fight to remain near the top of the table.