English Premier League: 5 Players to Watch in This Week's Matches
The English Premier League is back on Tuesday and Wednesday for Gameweek 21. While it is a new year, we are just over halfway through the 2012/2013 season and there are a bunch of great games to watch.
Fans saw an amazing round of games over the weekend and will hope for the same in midweek.
Here's a list of five players to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City)
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Stoke are unbeaten since November 3 in all competitions, but face Champions Manchester City on Wednesday. If Tony Pulis' side are going to stay unbeaten, they will need Ryan Shawcross to be at his very best.
Stoke drew against the Citizens at home in September, but will have a much more challenging game at the Etihad Stadium. If Edin Dzeko plays like he did against Norwich City on Saturday (assuming he does play), it could be a long day for Asmir Begovic.
Shawcross has been superb all season but he will need a perfect game if Manchester City are going to be stopped.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
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The month of December started off badly for Arsenal. The Gunners lost to Swansea City at home and were defeated against Olympiakos three days later. After a home win to West Bromwich, they lost on penalties to League Two side Bradford City.
Since then, Arsene Wenger's team have looked very sharp. They crushed Reading 5-2 at the Madejski Stadium before winning away to Wigan Athletic. And on Saturday, they scored seven times against Newcastle United after an amazing performance by Theo Walcott.
Walcott now has four goals and three assists in his last few games. The Englishman has been linked with a move away from Arsenal this season, but looked at home against Newcastle.
On Tuesday, Arsenal take on a Southampton side that tied Stoke City despite having a two-goal advantage at half-time.
Nigel Adkins' side threw away the three points at the Britannia Stadium, but looked good—especially for a side currently in the relegation zone. Southampton have lost just one of their last five home games so Arsenal may have problems when the two sides meet at St. Mary's.
Another great performance for Theo Walcott could prove the difference on Tuesday.
Mark Noble (West Ham)
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Star player Kevin Nolan is suspended, so Mark Noble will have to step up for West Ham, who host Norwich City on Tuesday.
This season, the Hammers have scored 22 league goals, but only six have come from their strikers. The midfielders have led the team, with Nolan, Noble, Mohamed Diame, Matt Jarvis and Matthew Taylor contributing 12 goals and five assists.
Both West Ham and Norwich City have lost their last two games and will want to start 2013 with all three points. Noble will be crucial for the Hammers.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)
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In their past three matches, Aston Villa have conceded 15 goals. They now face Swansea City on Tuesday—and another big loss for the Villains could result in the sacking of Paul Lambert.
While the 8-0 loss to Chelsea and the 4-0 home defeat to Tottenham were humiliating, Aston Villa will be most worried about their performance against Wigan. The Birmingham-based club were very poor defensively and ended up losing 3-0 at home to a team that hasn't won since November 24.
Christian Benteke has arguably been Aston Villa's best player this season and Paul Lambert will need the Belgian striker at his best against Swansea.
Marouane Fellaini (Everton)
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Fellaini was suspended in Everton's last three matches, but will be back in Wednesday's game at Newcastle United. The Belgian was handed a three-match ban on December 17 for headbutting Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross.
Everton lost for the first time at home this season to Chelsea on Sunday and will want to bounce back against Newcastle. The Magpies have won just one of their last five games and sit just three points above the relegation zone.
Everton will need to get back to winning ways if they are going to finish in the top six this season and the return of Fellaini will be a huge boost for the team.