What could you do with $100 million? Daily Fantasy Football's MondoGoal is handing you an opportunity to find out, and Bleacher Report's here to provide counsel on which Premier League stars could bolster your matchday XI.
Setting the Table
Almost as sacred as Boxing Day fixtures, the FA Cup's third round, played in early January, is no stranger to upsets. Sharks and minnows swim in the same waters, and surprises are bound to transpire.
Five Premier League clashes were spawned by the Football Association's draw, but worry lies elsewhere.
Whether League Two, League One or the Championship, these games provide some of the only opportunities for England's fledgling talent to play against the country's best clubs. This tends to spur every ounce of effort from so-called minnows, causing unexpected replays and upsets.
|January 8||7:55 p.m/2:55 p.m.||Exeter City vs. Liverpool|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Watford vs. Newcastle United|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Doncaster Rovers vs. Stoke City|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Norwich City vs. Manchester City|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Arsenal vs. Sunderland|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||West Ham United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|January 9||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Southampton vs. Crystal Palace|
|January 9||5:30 p.m./12:30 p.m.||Manchester United vs. Sheffield United|
|January 10||2 p.m./9 a.m.||Chelsea vs. Scunthorpe United|
|January 10||4 p.m./11 a.m.||Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City|
The FA Cup
Not necessarily looking for star names but locating value is your mission. Only four games are provided by MondoGoal: Arsenal vs. Sunderland, Doncaster vs. Stoke City, Eastleigh vs. Bolton and Manchester United vs. Sheffield United.
Here's a prospective XI, using the 3-4-3 formation, that will be attempting to avoid any massive, unforeseen FA Cup casualties.
Arsenal's goalkeeping situation seems straightforward, but Petr Cech will probably rest this weekend vs. Sunderland. David Ospina should get the start, but one cannot be sure. The safest value is using Stoke City's magnificent young shot-stopper Jack Butland ($9.2 million).
One of the hottest goalkeeping prospects in England, the 22-year-old goalie has risen to prominence since Asmir Begovic's summer sale to Chelsea. In line for Roy Hodgson's Euro 2016 squad, and possibly PFA Young Player of the Year nominations, the Stoke City 'keeper is primed for great things.
Taking the FA Cup's third round into account, Doncaster are not the most frightening offensive outfit, but playing at home, there might be some familiarity to rely upon. Butland's ability to keep out goals, however, has been on display all season—no reason to expect anything different in Doncaster.
Sunderland have been woeful this season. Only Aston Villa have a worse points total than the Black Cats, and at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal should have a field day with Sam Allardyce's men. That suggests a stellar offensive display, but what's more important is manager Arsene Wenger establishing a solid defence.
The pieces to be named could vary, but top names should keep their places on current form. Laurent Koscielny ($10.1 million) is arguably the Premier League's best centre-back, and Hector Bellerin ($9.1 million) has given the Gunners much-needed pace/stability at right-back.
Of course, their French manager could rotate bodies with Gabriel Paulista and/or Mathieu Debuchy, but if he wants to retain his FA Cup crown, the best players must play vs. EPL competition—even Sunderland.
Our final defender plays Sheffield United at Old Trafford. Manchester United's Chris Smalling ($7.8 million) appears ready to lead a solid defensive performance vs. League One's eighth-best side. An all-round game from Louis van Gaal's burgeoning centre-back should lead to a clean sheet.
Learning from his first foray into English cup football—losing to MK Dons 4-0—Van Gaal is likely to field a strong XI.
That squad might include the likes of Juan Mata ($9.7 million) and Ander Herrera ($8.9 million). The Spanish duo are capable of bossing any attacking midfield, but against weaker opposition, they should exploit pockets of space and opportunity.
Our most expensive player is Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey ($11.6 million). Overshadowed by the brilliance of Mesut Ozil's current form, many forget that Ramsey was the one carrying the north Londoners' midfield punch just two seasons ago. Ozil and the injured Alexis Sanchez had relieved that burden, but facing a porous Sunderland, the 25-year-old Ramsey should enjoy himself greatly.
Rounding out the quartet is Xherdan Shaqiri ($7.0 million). The Stoke City man scored possibly England's best goal of 2015/16 (whether he meant it is another discussion entirely) vs. Everton to close 2015, and 2016 needs more of the same. Doncaster will not have played a footballer possessing the Swiss' natural technical ability in years. He could, and maybe should, riot.
Shaqiri's team-mate Bojan ($8.3 million) is our first striker. Of Barcelona fame, then passing across Europe and finally landing in Stoke City of all places, Bojan recovered from a nasty injury last season and is becoming himself once more. Another player Doncaster cannot prepare for, he should be on the scoresheet.
Wayne Rooney ($7.0 million) finally scored a goal vs. Swansea City. Created by Anthony Martial's endeavour and finished by the veteran's footballing senses, a flicked goal of that quality might just inspire a fresh Manchester United captain. Costing a fraction of what his career numbers warrant, the 30-year-old is worth a punt.
Closing this strike force is Wenger's Olivier Giroud ($10.6 million),
For the better part of two years, the French forward has been thought of as good, not great. Arsenal are incessantly linked with strikers—and even Theo Walcott has threatened to undermine Giroud's tenure—but he somehow finds a way to stay put; mostly by scoring timely goals. If given a chance vs. Sunderland—except more of the same.
As shown, this squad used $99.8 million—the permutations are endless.
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