It's a short turnaround for the Premier League ahead of Matchweek 19. With teams playing just two or three days earlier, teams may be resting players for lesser injuries, or just to give players a breather to ensure their fitness for the rest of the season.
Here at the Bargain Bin, we are still busy restocking our shelves after a very busy Boxing Day. Other than the last match of each season, Thursday was the first time since 2008 that all 20 teams were in action on the same day. Still recovering from the overload of food and football, we look ahead to Week 19. Some friendly matchups present themselves, as Sunderland, Fulham, Crystal Palace, and Stoke City are all on the road. Be sure to take advantage of these matchups with the players discussed below in the Week 19 edition of the Bargain Bin.
David Marshall leads the Premier League in saves, has kept five clean sheets, and this is just his first appearance in the Bargain Bin. Saturday, Cardiff City will host Sunderland and their struggling road offense. Heading into their Boxing Day away tie, the Black Cats had scored just two goals in eight away matches and had been kept blank in six straight. Sunderland average less than 10 shots per road tie and just over two shots on target. Combine their low shot-total with their even lower (ranked last) accuracy and you have the recipe for a clean sheet.
Steven Caulker has played the full 90 minutes for all of Cardiff City’s matches this season. In addition to the excellent chance to keep a clean sheet, Caulker has some sneaky offensive potential. Sunderland have allowed the second-most goals to opposing defenders, and are just one-shy of being tied for the most goals conceded off corner kicks. Caulker has scored two goals this season, and both have come off corners. Any additional offense would be a very nice bonus to go along with clean sheet points that he can accrue.
Martin Demichelis has started every Manchester City match since returning from a knee injury earlier in the year. In his streak of nine consecutive starts, he has helped City keep three clean sheets, while also adding an assist. Saturday, Demichelis will have a good chance to keep a clean sheet against the visiting Crystal Palace squad. The Eagles have scored the second-fewest away goals, which can be attributed to their poor conversion rate. Crystal Palace struggle to get quality shots on target away from Selhurst Park, and that will only be compounded as Manchester City have the highest save percentage in home matches (regardless of who is in net). Five of Manchester City’s six clean sheets have come at Etihad Stadium, and they will look to add to that total Saturday.
Marc Albrighton is third on Aston Villa in shots since being recalled from Wigan in November. This is even more impressive when you factor in that he's played just 28 minutes total in his first two matches. Of his seven shots, three have been on target, which would be second-most on Aston Villa. His high shot total and good accuracy should fare well Saturday against a visiting Swansea City. The Swans have the second-lowest save percentage on shots on target and will certainly be challenged by the Lions’ midfielder. With Christian Benteke (knee) expected to be out, Albrighton should continue to feature in the Villa attack against Swansea City.
Tom Huddlestone’s long locks remain, as the Hull City midfielder is still in search of his first goal. His lack of scoring should not be attributed to a lack of opportunity, as the Tigers’ midfielder leads the team in shots and is constantly creating chances. His luck will have a good chance to change as Hull City will host Fulham on Saturday. The Cottagers come into the match averaging over two goals allowed per away game, second worst in the Premier League. No team allows their opponent to take more shots than Fulham, so expect Huddlestone to have plenty of opportunities Saturday to get his first goal, and haircut.
Jordon Mutch becomes the third Cardiff City member in the Bargain Bin for this weekend’s matches. Needless to say, we like their matchup against Sunderland. In the month of December, Mutch has established himself as the leader of the Cardiff City attack; his 13 shots are eight more than any other Bluebird has attempted this month. Much of that can be attributed to their attacking strategy. Cardiff City attack down the right side, Mutch’s side, 43 percent of the time. This gives Mutch plenty of opportunity to participate in goals, either by assist or a goal of his own. Cardiff City should have plenty of chances to score against Sunderland. The Black Cats allow 16 shots per match away from the Stadium of Light, which should give Mutch plenty of looks to provide good fantasy value.
Gary Hooper will face Manchester United on Saturday. Norwich City have yet to be shut out by the Red Devils at Carrow Road and will have a “better than you may think” chance to continue their goal-scoring streak. United have struggled to prevent goals away from Old Trafford this season, allowing multiple goals in four of their 10 away matches. In addition, they appear to be vulnerable in the first third of the match, allowing seven goals on the road in that time. Hooper should be able to jump on United early and provide a goal for the Canaries at home.
Emmanuel Adebayor appears to have returned to full fitness for Tottenham. The Spurs’ striker had been battling knee and groin injuries through much of the first half of the season. However, his Boxing Day start will mark his second consecutive inclusion in Tottenham’s starting XI. He scored two goals in his first start and will look to add more against visiting Stoke City on Sunday. The Potters have conceded the fourth-most road goals and allow the second highest shot accuracy for their opponents in road matches this season. Adebayor will be looking to improve the Tottenham attack that struggled to score in the first half of the season. He will be given plenty of opportunity and should be able to make the most of it against Stoke City.