Premier League Survival Sunday: Predicting the Heroes and Villains
This is the sort of day that hardcore football fans salivate over.
Everything is on the line for several teams and there is no chance to recover from any disappointment after today—essentially, there are 10 cup finals going on at once.
Whether it be Manchester United and Manchester City staging their final duel for the Premier League title; Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle fighting for the last one or two Champions League places; or even QPR and Bolton fighting for their top-flight lives, there is excitement everywhere.
It is on days like this that legends are born, but those on the other side of the coin often turn into hated villains for years to come.
In anticipation of a day that has the potential to make or break the career of any player, here are some who will remember or rue Survival Sunday.
Hero: Robin van Persie
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All Arsenal need to do against West Brom is win. A victory will guarantee the Gunners a third-place finish, which means Champions League football and yet another finish over rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
And whenever Arsenal have needed to grind out a result this season, they have turned to their captain and talisman Robin van Persie.
Freed from the shackles of injury and blessed with the form of his life, van Persie has sometimes single-handedly won games for his club through sheer determination and awesome skill.
His teammates will again turn to their leader to provide the inspiration necessary to break down a resilient West Brom side who will want to fight for their departing manager, Roy Hodgson.
As if the Dutchman isn't revered enough around the Emirates Stadium, he might just ascend to a whole new stratus.
Villain: Ashley Young
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Sir Alex Ferguson has been reticent to play Ashley Young in big games because he knows how combustible the English winger can be.
Perhaps Young's reputation precedes him, but he has acquired a record of diving recently, with his pathetic flop under the gentle tug of Shaun Derry drawing universal condemnation.
If Ferguson can drum up the audacity to take a risk on playing the ticking time bomb, he will either be fantastically rewarded or bitterly disappointed.
It would not be at all surprising if Young was on the receiving end of a very controversial refereeing decision or the scorer of a dubious goal.
Hero: Kevin Davies
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If there is one man who can lead Bolton to their "great escape," as he himself called their potential survival on the final day, it would be skipper Kevin Davies.
He is that sort of inspirational leader who can wring great things out of his men, and he only needs to work his magic one more time this season on a wounded squad to pull off a minor miracle.
Davies has the power to directly impact the scoreline, as well, as his goal-poaching ability and the general annoyance he poses to defenders could let him nick the one goal that Bolton will need for a win.
With their competitors for 17th place, QPR, facing Manchester City at the Etihad, Davies will receive all the external help he will need in further cementing his legendary status as Mr. Bolton.
Villain: Martin Jol
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After being rather unceremoniously dismissed from Tottenham a few years ago, Martin Jol will seek the ultimate revenge against his past employers on the final day of the season.
With a win or a draw, Jol's Fulham side will all but destroy Spurs' hopes of finishing in third place and guaranteeing their fans both a finish above Arsenal and Champions League football next season.
Ostensibly, the Cottagers have nothing to play for, but Jol will definitely be motivated to stick it to his old club at their home stadium.
As if he weren't disliked enough in the blue half of North London.
Hero: Papiss Cisse
With the run of form that Papiss Cisse is in for Newcastle, how could he not emerge as a hero on Survival Sunday?
The Senegalese striker has scored 13 times in as many Premier League games for Newcastle since arriving from Freiburg in January, including this dumbfounding banana-strike against Chelsea.
While Demba Ba has lost his shooting boots in recent months, Cisse has found them like never before. To say that he has bee taking the Premier League by storm would be an understatement.
If and when he strikes again for the Magpies, he could lift them into fourth place. That might just be enough for a Champions League position, depending on what happens at the Allianz Arena next weekend.
Villain: Lee Cattermole
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If Manchester United are to get the win that they absolutely need to keep any hopes of retaining the title, they will need to create chances by bossing the midfield.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, they have Paul Scholes patrolling the middle of the pitch, but he will be matched in toughness by Sunderland's pugnacious captain Lee Cattermole.
Cattermole can be like a brick wall at times when Martin O'Neill's side decide to sit back and defend. If the skipper decides to get involved in the proceedings, it will make the Black Cats a much tougher side to break down.
He might just be a villain in the red half of Manchester (unless he earns a red card, which, given his style of play, is entirely possible) but Lee Cattermole will not be very well-liked outside of Wearside.
Hero: Vincent Kompany
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Vincent Kompany represents some of the best cash that Manchester City have ever spent.
No one represents the club more honorably or with more passion than the inspirational Belgian skipper.
When the club was going through hard times this season and most wrote the Citizens off again during what seemed like a late-season collapse, Kompany stood like a rock and pulled his teammates up to drag them across the finish line.
It is no surprise that, when nobody else could or would step up during City's biggest match of the season thus far—the derby clash with Manchester United—Kompany was the one to stand up and smash in the single most pivotal goal in the title race.
Now, he only needs one more win to be able to hoist the Premier League trophy at home, in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans.
Is there really any doubt who the ultimate hero of the day will be?