EPL Week 22 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clash
It has been far too long since the last English Premier League game, but all will be righted shortly and this weekend will bring more world-class action.
After last weekend's break for Round 3 of the FA Cup, the storylines that have been building all season will continue.
Arsenal will continue trying to crack the Top Four against Manchester City, who need points to keep Manchester United it its sights. League-leading United will host Liverpool in a showdown between the Premiership's two most storied clubs.
But there are other intriguing matchups across the country this weekend, and these stars will outshine the competition in the upcoming slate of fixtures.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea, Manchester United
David De Gea's talent has been apparent this season, and the consistency he needs to become a first-rate goalkeeper is starting to show as well.
While the showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool does not attract the same intrigue as it once did, Brendan Rodgers' team has drastically improved as the year has gone on, and they will test the young Spaniard in this game.
The Reds have been taking more shots per game than any squad in the Premier League, according to Whoscored.com. United's back line has not played well in far too many fixtures this season.
De Gea will be called into action in this contest, and his instinctive shot-stopping abilities will be on full display as he frustrates the Liverpool strikers.
Left-Back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tottenham
Tottenham has been playing extremely well this season and now sits third in the table. The stars such as Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe have been heavily involved in the team's success, but several other players have turned in quality matches recently.
Spurs have four victories and a draw in their last five Premier League fixtures, and they have only conceded two goals in these contests while scoring 10 times. The back line is holding its ground and getting forward to help in the attack.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto has missed time due to injury with both Kyle Naughton and Jan Vertonghen filling in capably. But he is still the first choice at left-back, and his partnership with Bale looked as productive as ever in the team's recent FA Cup victory over Coventry.
Assou-Ekotto's presence will ensure that this team will continue to display an attractive brand of football against Queens Park Rangers and its former manager, Harry Redknapp.
Centre-Back: Vincent Kompany, Manchester City
Vincent Kompany has not been the same force of nature as he was last season, but he still is one of the top centre-backs in the Premier League, and Manchester City will need him this weekend against Arsenal.
The Gunners will be extremely motivated to send the Citizens home in disappointment, as Arsene Wenger's side is getting closer to cracking the Top Four.
But City will not let points slip away in this fixture, as that will allow Manchester United to further entrench itself atop the table.
Kompany will lead a first-rate performance by the City back line, and Roberto Mancini will be smiling while Wenger displays his characteristic scowl when the final whistle blows.
Centre-Back: Sebastien Bassong, Norwich City
Newcastle will need to figure out how to find goals after Demba Ba's move to Chelsea, and Sebastien Bassong will make this extremely difficult.
Norwich City went on a remarkable run earlier this season in which they went nine Premier League matches without losing. This stretch included victories over Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham, and the Canaries back line conceded just one goal against these three dynamic attacks.
Bassong has been at the center of the team's success at the back, and although Norwich has suffered through a stretch of poor play recently, he will ensure that the defense plays up to par against the Magpies.
The Canaries will earn a victory at home in a low-scoring contest, and Bassong will be a brick wall along the back line.
Right-Back: Seamus Coleman, Everton
Everton has had an impressive campaign thus far, and part of the team's success is owed to its outside backs' ability to get forward.
Leighton Baines' form on the left side has been well publicized, but Seamus Coleman—when healthy—also provides an excellent contribution to the attack. He returned from injury over the weekend in the team's FA Cup tie against Cheltenham, and he showed off his pace to score a fantastic goal.
After passing the ball out wide to Victor Anichebe, he shifted into another gear and made a dazzling run and finish to put an exclamation point on his performance.
Coleman will continue to be dangerous going forward against Swansea City this weekend, and Everton will remain in contention for one of the Top Seven spots.
Left Midfielder: David Silva, Manchester City
Manchester City has scored 41 goals in the Premiership this season, placing their offensive output second in the league. But the team still trails first-place Manchester United by 13 goals in this category.
The fearsome City attack is not what it was last year, and part of the reason for the decline is that David Silva is not in the same form as he was during the team's title-winning campaign.
However, he has been turning in fine performances recently. He has five assists in EPL fixtures this season, and three of them have come in the past five league matches.
He will need to turn in a first-rate performance in order to compensate for Sergio Aguero's absence due to injury and the midfield maestro will deliver in order to push his team past Arsenal this weekend.
Central Midfielder: Michael Carrick, Manchester United
Liverpool ranks second in the Premiership after keeping possession for 59.3 percent of its matches, while Manchester United is fourth with an average possession percentage of 58.4, according to Whoscored.com.
When these two teams take the field at Old Trafford, something has to give. Each side will look to its central midfielders to ensure that it possesses the ball for an adequate amount of time in this fixture.
Michael Carrick has been in excellent form for United recently, and he will be the most impressive playmaker on the pitch in this showdown.
His passing and decision making with the ball have been impressive in recent matches, and he will help orchestrate the United attack and lead another victory.
Central Midfielder: Mousa Dembele, Tottenham
Mousa Dembele's play in the center for the field this season has Tottenham supporters saying, "Luka who?"
When the talented Croatian bolted for Real Madrid in the summer, he left a gaping hole in the Spurs' midfield, but Andre Villas-Boas wisely signed Dembele from Fulham to replace him.
While there are differences between the two players' styles, the Belgian has streamlined the Tottenham attack with his ability to collect the ball in a deep-lying position and carry it forward at pace.
He is one of many Spurs players with the ability to take on opposing players, and he will be the best of the bunch when the team takes down lowly Queens Park Rangers this weekend.
Right Midfielder: Juan Mata, Chelsea
While Chelsea has dealt with its fair share of disappointment already this season, Juan Mata's play has inspired nothing but positive feelings at Stamford Bridge.
The 24-year-old has seven goals and seven assists in Premier League matches, and he has been one of the few Blues players to perform consistently at a high level.
His touch on the ball is as deft and controlled as any player in England, and he has the talent to be one of the world's dominant midfielders for many years to come.
But he will need every bit of creativity and flare he can muster to crack a stubborn Stoke City defense that has allowed just seven goals at home this season. Despite this impressive defensive record, Mata will set up goal-scoring opportunities and lead his side to a victory.
Striker: Demba Ba, Chelsea
Chelsea are not known as bargain shoppers in the transfer market, but signing the Premiership's third leading scorer for £7.5 million in January was a shrewd move.
The decision paid immediate dividends when Demba Ba scored twice in his debut this past weekend.
The Blues cannot afford to miss chances against Stoke, and Rafa Benitez will likely go with Ba over Fernando Torres as he is the player in better form.
With another opportunity to shine, Ba will once again get on the scoresheet and help Chelsea to a victory.
Striker: Shane Long, West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion remains in the mix for a spot in the Europa League next season, and it will continue to fend off Liverpool this weekend as it takes advantage of Reading's weak defense.
Shane Long has been the focal point of the Baggies' attack this season, and the team will once again feed him the ball throughout the match.
With five goals and four assists this season, Long is the midst of one of the best stretches of his career, and the Royals will not have an answer for him this weekend.
West Brom will continue fighting for a European berth, and Long will be at the center of all the action in the team's victory.