EPL Week 16 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clashes
English Premier League fans are being treated to their fourth slate of matches in 16 days, and the marquee event for this flurry of action is set for this weekend.
While there have been a few exciting showdowns over the past two weeks, no EPL matchup can equal the drama of the Manchester Derby. United and City are set to take the pitch this Sunday, and the clash between these two giants will dwarf all other storylines.
The result of this contest will have major implications at the top of the table, while the other clubs are desperately trying to keep both Manchester teams from running away with the top two spots for the second consecutive year.
Here are the players form the derby, and the other matches, who will put on first-rate performances this week.
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Goalkeeper: Petr Cech, Chelsea
Chelsea earned its first victory under Rafa Benitez in Champions League, but the club's domestic campaign sunk to a new low this past weekend after an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to West Ham.
Urgency will be stressed heavily to the Blues players this week, and they will be fully aware of how badly they need all three points against Sunderland.
At the beginning of the season, Chelsea would have breezed by the Black Cats, but the team has been in shockingly bad form recently. The team will be desperate enough to earn a league victory, but it will not magically emerge from its slump.
A few quality saves from Petr Cech will ensure that the Blues only need one goal to win this match, and while spectators will not witness beautiful football, Benitez will have his first Premier League victory.
Left-Back: Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal
Death, taxes and Arsenal finishing in the top four are all guarantees in the life of an EPL fan. But with the Gunners sitting in 10th place, paradigms may be shifting this season.
However, the club is not in as dire a situation as many tabloids are suggesting, and it is not time for Arsene Wenger to be fired or for the Gunners to go into panic mode. Despite being mid-table, Arsenal is only five points back of third-place Chelsea.
Arsenal's outlook on this season could drastically improve in a short amount of time, but the team's form also must get better quickly. It must start knocking off the teams that sit about them and it will start this weekend with West Bromwich Albion.
Kieran Gibbs has shown quality and potential at left-back this year, and that will continue against West Brom. He will be one of the standouts in a bounce-back performance for the Gunners.
Centre-Back: Phil Jagielka, Everton
The early-season excitement surrounding Everton is fading fast, and the Toffees are without a win in their last four matches.
David Moyes has managed to salvage points in the previous three fixtures, but supporters at Goodison Park will be pining for a win against Tottenham this weekend.
The defense will not have to deal with Gareth Bale, as the star winger is out with a hamstring injury, according to the BBC. With a slightly easier task ahead of him, centre-back Phil Jagielka will continue his fine campaign.
Jagielka has proven to be one of the most consistent and reliable back-line players in England this season, and he will contain an in-form Jermaine Defoe. The Everton defense will impress against Spurs, and Jagielka will be at the heart of its success.
Centre-Back: Daniel Agger, Liverpool
Every week, Southampton's clumsy defending allows for an easy goal, but a defender is rarely the beneficiary of the Saints' deficiencies.
That was the case this past weekend when four Southampton players watched Daniel Agger deliver a perfectly placed header for the game's only goal. The centre-back's confidence will be soaring after scoring and helping his team to a clean sheet.
The Reds will take on West Ham and will look to continue their climb up the table. A victory would put them tied with the Hammers at 22 points.
While Brendan Rodgers' brief time at manager has been bumpy, there are signs of life at Anfield. Another quality match from Agger will continue to inspire hope.
Right-Back: Angel Rangel, Swansea City
Michael Laudrup has done a fantastic job since taking over at Swansea City, and the Welsh club is currently seventh in the table.
While Michu's 10 league goals have occupied many headlines regarding the Swans, there have been several players contributing at a high level on a weekly basis. Veteran right-back Angel Rangel has played every minute of the team's Premiership campaign and has been remarkably reliable.
His vision when passing out of the back in addition to his ability to carry the ball forward allows Swansea to play the attractive style of football that has become its signature.
Rangel played a key role in Swansea's winning performance against Arsenal, and he will continue his impressive campaign as the Swans move past Norwich.
Left Midfielder: Jobi McAnuff, Reading
Sir Alex Ferguson paid Jobi McAnuff the ultimate compliment last weekend when he removed Rafael—the player marking the Reading winger—after just 31 minutes.
The first half of last week's contest with Manchester United was played at a frantic pace and featured seven goals. McAnuff flourished and presented extreme danger to United down the left side of the pitch.
The Royals decided to take the match directly to the Red Devils instead of opting for a more conservative approach, and the gamble very nearly paid off. Getting three first-half goals against the league leaders will instill confidence in the side going forward.
This week, the team will take on Southampton in a much more even match. Reading's inspiration will carry over and the skipper will lead another excellent outing.
Central Midfielder: Marouane Fellaini, Everton
Everton's success is owed more to Marouane Fellaini than any other single player, and he will once again be the key contributor as Everton takes out Tottenham.
While the diminutive Spaniards have been tormenting centre-backs with their skill and quickness, Fellaini has been overpowering and leaping over back-line players, even though players at this position should excel at these aspects of the game.
The Spurs defenders will have their hands full with Fellaini, especially on crosses and set pieces. The Belgian will continue adding to his impressive statistics this weekend.
Central Midfielder: Yaya Toure, Manchester City
Now, to the main event. The showdown between Manchester City and Manchester United will be decided by a few key performances, and no Citizens player will have a larger impact than Yaya Toure.
One of United's greatest weaknesses is the lack of a quality ball-winner in the center of the pitch, and City has the perfect player to exploit its rivals' deficiency.
Toure is as gifted a central midfielder as there is in England. He has not only the size and strength to win balls, but also the pace and skill to create while going forward.
United does not have a player who can control him, and the Ivorian will run wild in this match.
Right Midfielder: Antonio Valencia, Manchester United
The weakness Manchester United will be trying to exploit is Manchester City's lack of true wide players. While signing Scott Sinclair has helped address the problem, the new boy would not be included in the starting 11 if Roberto Mancini is committed to putting his best players on the pitch.
David Silva and Samir Nasri often feature out near the touchline, but neither is a traditional winger.
Just as Sir Alex Ferguson did against Chelsea earlier this season, he will have United use its width, and Antonio Valencia will be a key part of the team's game plan.
Valencia's pace and impeccable crosses will be on full display in this match, and he will ensure that United takes full advantage of its superior wingers.
Striker: Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Wayne Rooney continues to flourish while playing with Robin van Persie and he was incredible in his most recent match.
With a converted penalty kick, a calm finish from a cross and a wonderfully creative flick to van Persie, Rooney had his fingerprints on three of United's four goals. He was the primary reason the team was able to overcome a dreadful defensive performance.
The defensive players will not impress in this fixture, and this derby will be decided by the attacking talents on both sides. Rooney will come through as the man of the match, and his performance will be the decisive factor in the contest.
He will be dangerous as a distributor and will also take chances on Joe Hart's goal, and United will extend its lead atop the table.
Striker: Christian Benteke, Aston Villa
Move over beer, chocolate and waffles; first-rate footballers are rapidly becoming Belgium's most well-known export, and every Premier League team is likely looking for the next start to come from the tiny country.
Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are already established at Manchester City and Arsenal, respectively. Eden Hazard has impressed at Chelsea, Jan Vertonghen has been excellent for Tottenham, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas have been revelations with Everton, and now, Christian Benteke is an emerging star for Aston Villa.
Benteke has three goals and two assists this year. He is the only Villa player to score and set up a teammate multiple times this season.
He has been one of the few bright spots in a rocky start to Paul Lambert's tenure, and he will continue to endear himself to fans at Villa Park against a Stoke City defense that is not nearly as effective when playing away from home.