The English Premier League is back in Week 21 after a break for the FA Cup, which means it's time to take a look at the best bets available to you for all 10 games coming up on the weekend of January 14-15. We also analyze the crop of players and put together some of the top value plays for your DraftKings daily fantasy football lineups.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 14
Tottenham vs. West Bromwich Albion
West Brom has won twice on the trot, and isn't going to give Spurs any sort of free pass in this game that the Tottenham of last season might have expected to win convincingly. Even with Chelsea having been beaten by a Mauricio Pochettino masterstroke, Spurs will have a different kind of threat in the form of a polished, experienced Albion defence, and a true international-quality striker in Salomon Rondon.
Don't be surprised if West Brom takes a draw at White Hart Lane.
Top Bet: 22/5 with BetVictor for a draw
Watford vs. Middlesbrough
Even if Watford doesn't have the best form — it's unable to do anything consistently, win, lose or draw — it's a team that has scored 23 and conceded 36, so nothing is ever boring at Vicarage Road.
That's not something regular visitors to Middlesbrough's ground, the Riverside Stadium, can say with any conviction; Boro's players have scored a league low of 17 goals and have only won one game in the last six. Watford is in the same boat, but should win this one.
West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace
Memories of those three wins in a row that lifted West Ham back into a safe position are fading, at exactly the wrong time for Slaven Bilic now that we've hit the January transfer window and he has to convince high-class players to join.
Sam Allardyce hasn't got Palace ticking the way he would have hoped, and the remainder of the season looks like a struggle. The visiting side has been reliant on the pace of Wilfried Zaha up to now this season, so it's unfortunate that he is on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast.
Sunderland vs. Stoke City
Sunderland and Stoke used to be a cast-iron guarantee of meat-and-potatoes, functional, route-one football, and no-one liked it better than the club's fans, who appreciated being in the Premier League, and being solid at the back and the front.
These days, Stoke is more flowing and more fragile, though even with talents like Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic, the team spirit still isn't good enough to beat lower-league opposition in the FA Cup.
Sunderland is only a point from safety in spite of not having won a game since before the festive marathon, but Stoke ought to see this one out with a narrow win.
Top Bet: 6/4 with Paddy Power for a Stoke win
Swansea City vs. Arsenal
That win over Crystal Palace might be about to feel a bit illusory for Swansea, which is likely to get bumped back down to earth by an Arsenal side that might have stuttered a little over the congested period of recent weeks, but has more than enough strength in-depth even without the defensive midfield cordon of Mohamed Elneny (at the Africa Cup of Nations) and Francis Coquelin (injured).
The Swans defence just isn't good enough, and its porousness should distract from any shakiness Arsenal might otherwise feel at the back.
Burnley vs. Southampton
Burnley is a team that knows what it does well, and does that incredibly well. Andre Gray is a man on fire at the moment, having taken a hat-trick last time out in the Premier League; he's thriving as Sean Dyche instructs his players to press hard on the small pitch at Turf Moor, and get the ball forward quickly.
Southampton has been shaken by the news that Jose Fonte, having handed in a transfer request, will not be considered for selection in this game, and without one of the club's two defensive rocks, it may be that Burnley smells blood.
Top Bet: 12/5 with Betway for a Burnley win
Hull City vs. Bournemouth
Marco Silva won't get any easy games between now and the end of the season as the new Hull manager tries to convince a sceptical public that he's the man to keep up a club that has won only three times all season. If it's not Cleveland Browns-bad, it's certainly almost there, as a thin squad is stretched to the limit, complimented only with cut-price signings like Everton loanee and outcast Oumar Niasse.
Expect Bournemouth to take this one, with a settled squad that sits in ninth.
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Leicester against Chelsea: mission impossible for the defending champion side? Unlikely, but not impossible. Leicester may have only won a quarter of its games, and may be missing Riyad Mahrez thanks to international duty with Algeria, but in all honesty it was new stars like Ben Chilwell, Demarai Gray and Ahmed Musa who have been making waves in recent games.
While it's unlikely in the extreme we'll be seeing a Chelsea defeat for a second time in a row, this has the makings of a draw, albeit a hard-won one for the home side.
Top Bet: 3/1 with Betway for a draw
SUNDAY, JANUARY 15
Everton vs. Manchester City
A draw back in October saw Ronald Koeman praised for his tactics with Everton as Manchester City was held off. Pep Guardiola has had plenty of problems to deal with at City in the past few months, and may find his team is once again a victim of its own defensive inconsistency.
Expect goals at both ends, and for Romelu Lukaku to frighten the City backline.
Top Bet: 29/10 with BetVictor for a draw
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
However much Jose Mourinho and the Manchester United fans might crave beating City, Liverpool will always be the domestic rivalry that gets Old Trafford's fans passionate. With United chalking up win after win and Liverpool having stuttered to a draw against Sunderland, this is a match that could launch United back into contention for top honours.
Key Liverpool player Sadio Mane is at the Africa Cup of Nations, and he will be a big loss against a defence that has only conceded 19 all season. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic can again force critics to eat their... words.
DRAFTKINGS PICKS: SATURDAY, JANUARY 14
Goalkeeper: Lee Grant, Stoke City vs. Sunderland ($4,900)
Stoke may reflect that, at less than £2m, they have the bargain of the season in Lee Grant, the goalkeeper having permanently signed from Derby County following a successful loan spell.
Grant has brought assuredness to Stoke's defence, and with Sunderland overly reliant on Jermain Defoe, Grant may have saves to make, but can also bring you a clean sheet or a one-goal match.
Defender: Charlie Daniels, Bournemouth at Hull City ($5,200)
Daniels has been accumulating points regularly at both ends this season, and Bournemouth might not have the best defence, but when you've got an attacking full-back of his quality, it scarcely matters. Against Hull he will have the chance to cut loose.
Midfield: Joe Allen, Stoke City vs. Sunderland ($6,600)
When opening a locked door, you sometimes don't need a sledgehammer, but instead a piece of wire in the right place. Allen is that wire. The little ball-player has had five goals and two assists from an advanced role, and can create panic against uncertain Sunderland.
Forward: Andre Gray, Burnley vs. Southampton ($6,000)
Liable to be highly-owned after his heroics two weekends ago, Gray is nonetheless just the man for the visit of Southampton on Saturday, and can exploit perfectly the gaping hole in the Saints' defence where Jose Fonte used to be. Gray can add to his five goals and two assists.
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