EPL Week 8 Predictions: Stars Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Weekend's Clashes
The English Premier League will return to action after a break for World Cup Qualifiers, and football's biggest stars will need to ensure that the brief time away from their clubs does not prevent them from turning in an impressive performance that will lead to a victory.
Each of the 10 contests this week will be heavily influenced by one player in particular, and that star will earn Man of the Match honors.
Whether it is due to a favorable matchup, excellent form leading up to the fixture or desperation, there will be a standout performance in each Premiership game this weekend.
Here are my predictions for the result of each match and which player will will receive the most praise after the final whistle.
Tottenham vs. Chelsea
Prediction: Chelsea 2, Tottenham 0
Man of the Match: Juan Mata, Midfielder
The marquee match this week is the London Derby between Chelsea and Tottenham, and the contest could have a massive impact on the top of the table. The Blues currently hold a four-point lead over both Manchester Clubs, while Spurs are five points back.
A victory could create an extremely tight situation among the Premiership's top clubs, but Chelsea will ensure that they retain some breathing room in first place.
The team's defense has been in fantastic form and has allowed a league-low four goals. The back line's stellar performance will continue, but the attack will be driven by Juan Mata.
The Spanish international may have a slightly bruised ego after not being selected for his country's World Cup Qualifier against France, but returning to the pitch for his club will allow him to fall right back into the habits that have led to four goals and six assists in his last five matches. Mata's skill and creativity will be too much for Tottenham to handle.
Fulham vs. Aston Villa
Prediction: Fulham 3, Aston Villa 2
Man of the Match: Hugo Rodallega, Striker
Paul Lambert's tenure as Aston Villa manager has gotten off to an extremely bumpy start, and Yahoo Sports notes that the club has never earned so few points through its first seven matches.
A trip to London to take on Fulham will bring further trouble as Villa's struggles will continue against a Fulham team that has refused to let its form fall, despite losing Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey to Tottenham.
Manager Martin Jol added talent in the summer in anticipation of losing last season's stars, and one the Cottagers' new boys will come through with his best match of the year this Saturday.
Hugo Rodallega is an efficient striker, and he will take advantage of a mediocre Villa defense. He will receive opportunities in front of goal and he will not waste them.
Liverpool vs. Reading
Prediction: Liverpool 3, Reading 0
Man of the Match: Steven Gerrard, Midfielder
Liverpool still has not treated fans at Anfield to a victory this season, with its only win of this campaign coming at Norwich.
But in that game, the Reds drubbed the Canaries 5-2 and the squad showed that it was finally grasping and properly executing Brendan Rodgers' system. No player has made a greater improvement over the past seven games than Steven Gerrard.
He has become increasingly comfortable with the new tactics, and has played brilliantly in the team's most recent matches. He has two goals in the last three league fixtures.
Liverpool will finally get a win at Anfield as Gerrard and the Reds overwhelm the Royals, who seem destined to drop back down to the Championship at this point in the season.
Manchester United vs. Stoke City
Prediction: Manchester United 1, Stoke City 0
Man of the Match: Jonny Evans, Defender
Stoke City's physical and unadventurous style of play makes goals rare in their matches. The team has allowed just five goals this season, while only scoring six.
United will not get many chances in front of goal, and will not be able to get on the scoreboard more than once. Keeping a clean sheet will be vital to earning three points.
Jonny Evans will be a key part of the team's defensive effort and he has proved throughout his time at United to be a valuable understudy to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
He has once again been called upon to be a regular part of the starting-11 due to an injury to Vidic, and he has performed extremely well. His gritty play will lead the United back line to fine defensive performance.
Swansea City vs. Wigan
Prediction: Swansea City 2, Wigan 2
Man of the Match: Shaun Maloney
Swansea burst out of the gate to start the Premier League season with a 5-0 win over Queens Park Rangers and a 3-0 win over West Ham. But since those first two matches, the Welsh club does not have a league victory.
Wigan, however, is coming off an impressive draw with Everton, who blew the Swans off the field in a 3-0 rout earlier in the season.
Roberto Martinez will be managing against his former club, and both he and Michael Laudrup coach attractive, possession-based football. This game will be open and exciting, and the player who will benefit most from the space on the field will be Shaun Maloney.
The winger had an impressive match against Everton and will carry his fine form into Wales. While the Latics will fail to earn a victory, he will be the engine behind the attack.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1, Manchester City 1
Man of the Match: Shane Long, Striker
Steve Clarke and West Bromwich Albion have been one of the biggest surprises of this Premier League season, and their fine form will continue as they host the defending champions.
Manchester City holds just a one-point lead over the Baggies in the table, and neither club will be able to change that as they fight to a draw at the Hawthorns.
With West Brom entering the game as a underdog, the man that pulls them level with City will be the star of the match for both sides.
Shane Long will be the man to hit the back of the net for the hosts. He has had two fine performances in his last two league matches, and his constant pressure on the City back line will pay off in the form of a goal.
West Ham United vs. Southampton
Prediction: West Ham 4, Southampton 2
Man of the Match: Andy Carroll, Striker
Southampton's defense has been shockingly bad this season. The team faced low expectations at the back entering the season, and have still managed not to meet them.
After conceding 20 goals in the just seven matches, the Saints' back line has shown that it will be putting its fans through a long season. The bleeding will not stop against West Ham, and this contest will treat fans to plenty of scoring.
Unfortunately for Southampton supporters, most of the action will be in front of their side's goal, and new West Ham striker Andy Carroll will be a constant threat the team's lackluster defenders.
The powerful striker will use his size and strength to dominate his opponent's back line, and that will lead to a fine day in the attack for Sam Allardyce's side.
Norwich City vs. Arsenal
Prediction: Arsenal 5, Norwich City 1
Man of the Match: Santi Cazorla, Midfielder
With an immensely talented Arsenal team taking on a struggling Norwich side, the Premier League has its most lopsided matchup of the week.
The Canaries defense was scorched by both Liverpool and Chelsea in its last two league fixtures, and the back line is in for another brutal day against the Gunners.
As has been the case in every one of Arsenal's matches this season, the attack will be run through Santi Cazorla. His passing, movement, vision and skill have been a revelation for Arsene Wenger's team this season, and he will continue to be extremely dangerous going forward.
Norwich has absolutely no chance at containing Cazorla, and he will terrorize the Canaries' defenders. No player will be more impressive than the Spanish international in this match.
Newcastle vs. Sunderland
Prediction: Newcastle 2, Sunderland 0
Man of the Match: Fabricio Coloccini, Defender
Newcastle is coming off a disappointing 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United. The Magpies started their campaign with an impressive 2-1 victory over Tottenham, but only have one victory since then, and that was by a slim 1-0 margin over lowly Norwich.
But Sunderland is also coming off a 3-0 defeat, losing two weekends ago to Manchester City. The Black Cats have just one victory this season, and they will not be able to earn another due to a fine defensive performance from Newcastle.
Fabricio Coloccini's absence put the Magpies' back line at a disadvantage against United, and the Argentine's return will help the unit deal with an in-form Steven Fletcher, who has scored five goals in five league matches for Sunderland.
Fletcher is remarkably intelligent with his movement, and lethally efficient with touches in the box. All he needs is an inch of space, but Coloccini's discipline and marking ability will not allow him any quality looks at goal. The defender's performance will lead to both a shut out and Man of the Match honors.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Everton
Prediction: Everton 3, Queens Park Rangers 0
Man of the Match: Leighton Baines, Denfender
Everton has made its supporters grow accustomed to slow starts in the Premier League, which has made this season incredibly thrilling. The team will continue playing at a high level against a struggling Queens Park Rangers side.
Rangers currently sit dead last in the table and are an early favorite for relegation. There are problems all over the pitch for QPR and many will be exploited against the Toffees.
Leighton Baines will be just one of several Everton players to impress, but the left back will stand out due to his ability to contribute to a potent attack and a suffocating defense.
Baines is one of the top players at his position, and his left foot will be featured heavily in Everton's contest against QPR.