EPL Week 12 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clashes
With the drama continuing to build in this English Premier League season, football's biggest stars will continue to fight for the spotlight this weekend as the action continues.
More story lines were made last week, and none were bigger than Manchester United's latest comeback, with Aston Villa being the victims this time. It seems that being down 2-0 with 30 minutes to play is exactly where United want to be this season.
But the Red Devils' neighbors also recorded a comeback victory as they sent Tottenham home in disappointment. With Chelsea's inability to take full points in their draw with Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs now own the top two spots in the EPL.
Here are the players whose performances will have the most impact on their teams and the standings this week.
Goalkeeper: Jussi Jaaskelainen, West Ham United
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West Ham United's veteran goalkeeper has been a model of consistency throughout his time in the Premiership, and that has continued this season.
Jussi Jaaskelainen may be 37 years old, but he was leaping around the penalty area against Newcastle last week like a player decades younger. He earned his fifth clean sheet in 11 league matches this season.
He had to deal with eight shots on target in that match, and this week will present a different challenge as the Hammers take on Stoke City. Jaaskelainen may only need to make a few saves, but he will need to deliver as there will likely be few goals in this match.
The Finn will pull through and turn in yet another clean sheet for West Ham.
Left-Back: Leighton Baines, Everton
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After producing fine performance after fine performance, Leighton Baines is quickly becoming a regular on this list.
The Everton left-back has continued to prove this season that he is one of the top players in England at his position. Few players with his attacking talents are as consistent and level-headed in defense as Baines, and his ability to get up and down the field this season has allowed Everton to play attractive and effective football.
Whoscored.com notes that the Toffees attack up the left side 45 percent of the time, which is more often than any other team in the Premiership. This is because David Moyes is a smart and sensible manager, and is trying to get the most out of Baines' talents.
Baines will continue to see plenty of the ball and turn in another excellent match against a helpless Reading side this week.
Centre-Back: Gareth McAuley, West Bromwich Albion
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While Arsenal's match with Tottenham may feature the most stars of any fixture this week, the showdown between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea is the most important fixture in this slate of games.
The Baggies are currently in fifth place after a shockingly strong start, while the Blues' recent woes have caused them to slide to third. West Brom has won five of its six matches at the Hawthorns this season, scoring 12 goals and conceding just four.
The team will make Chelsea's attempt to get back in top form extremely difficult, and centre-back Gareth McAuley will be a constant nuisance to the talented Blues attack.
This match will feature another fine defensive performance by Steve Clarke's men, and McAuley will lead the effort. The Baggies will defend their home turn, and will have their defense to thank for the victory.
Centre-Back: Robert Huth, Stoke City
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Tony Pulis has built a team of giants, and centre-back Robert Huth is one of his most imposing players.
The German is a tall and physical presence at the heart of the Potters' defense, but he will finally meet a striker with the stature to challenge him.
The battle between Huth and West Ham United's Andy Carroll will be like watching Optimus Prime and Megatron battle in Transformers. In the end, Huth will come out on top in this matchup.
He will keep Carroll from being effective throughout the match, and this will earn him accolades following the contest.
Right-Back: Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City
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Manchester City's comeback victory over Tottenham was overshadowed by Manchester United's incredible win, but the Citizens have been incredibly impressive in their recent domestic matches.
Many players have consistently come through with high-level performances for Roberto Mancini, and Pablo Zabaleta is certainly in that group.
He was able once again to cause problems for the opposing defense when going forward, although he did not get on the score sheet. He has built confidence, and he will be able to break his duck for this season against a dejected Aston Villa side.
Zabaleta will put his name on the score sheet while City cruise to victory.
Left Midfielder: Gareth Bale, Tottenham
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Gareth Bale is another player who will be considered a fixture on this list if he keeps playing at his current level.
He is the best winger in the Premier League and he will continue to play at an extremely high level this weekend against Arsenal.
While Bale may only have three goals this season, his impact on matches is not completely quantified in that statistic. His pace and finishing ability make him a constant danger who must always be monitored.
With Bacary Sagna back from injury, Bale is set for a showdown with one of the best right-backs in England. Bale will be able to get behind the Gunners defense and get on the score sheet in this match.
Central Midfielder: Jack Wilshere, Arsenal
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Jack Wilshere's last Premier League start did not go well, and he was sent off while his team lost to Manchester United.
After a one-match suspension, he will return for the North London derby and he will remind English football fans why Arsenal had been so eagerly awaiting his return from injury.
He is a rare talent whose vision and passing are elite among not just young players, but all players. He will prove this against Spurs.
Both teams will fail to defend well in this rivalry matchup, and fans will be treated to an exciting match while Wilshere and Bale both find success when going forward.
Central Midfielder: James Morrison, West Bromwich Albion
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West Bromwich Albion's defense will lead the team to victory over Chelsea, but the Baggies will need an attacking player to give them a slim lead.
James Morrison has three goals this season and he will be able to break through the heart of the Blues defense in this match.
John Terry's injury means Gary Cahill and David Luiz will remain at centre-back for Chelsea, and these two are capable of occasional lapses. A crucial mistake will allow Morrison to get into a threatening position, and he will not waste his opportunity.
In a closely contested match between West Brom and Chelsea, a goal from Morrison will prove to be the decisive moment.
Right Midfielder: Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle
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Newcastle will be desperately trying to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to West Ham United, and they will be looking for a forward player to step up and create quality chances.
Hatem Ben Arfa will be the team's best bet to spark the offense when they take on Swansea City this weekend.
The French midfielder has two goals and two assists this year, and he will add to his statistics against Michael Laudrup's side. The Swansea defenders will not be able to deal with his skill and creativity.
The Magpies will start their climb back up the table behind a fantastic performance from Ben Arfa.
Striker: Javier Hernandez, Manchester United
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Javier Hernandez has just one Premier League start this season, but his play will certainly earn him more in the future.
After scoring twice and causing an own goal to lead Manchester United back from 2-0 down against Villa, Sir Alex Ferguson will not keep him off the pitch against Norwich City.
The Mexican international has scored seven times in his last five matches and is in remarkable form. He may not have Thierry Henry's smooth strides or Robin van Persie's technical ability, but Hernandez rarely wastes chances and always comes through when United needs him most.
That will not change against Norwich as Hernandez' remarkable play will continue this weekend.
Striker: Dimitar Berbatov, Fulham
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Both Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov have spent a significant amount of time on Manchester United's bench, and both will have fantastic games this weekend. However, Berbatov will be putting on his wonderful performance for Fulham.
Last week, the United cast-off broke Arsenal's defense down to pieces, and his form will carry over into the Cottagers' matchup with Sunderland.
If Berbatov can get on the score sheet early, Sunderland's anemic offense will not be able to play catch-up. Martin Jol will know this, and the team will be aggressive early.
Berbatov will see the ball at his feet right from the start of this contest, and he will continue adding to his goal total for the season.