EPL Week 24 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clash
Fans are going to have to wait a little bit as the Premier League is set to kick off again in midweek on Tuesday, January 29, after this week's domestic cup action.
Gameweek 24 doesn't feature some of the juicier matchups fans have seen in the past few weeks, but there's plenty to watch out for.
The spotlight match is on January 30 at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal will try to get closer to a Top Four spot, while Liverpool will be looking to prove that it can contend with clubs near the top of the table.
There's another huge match in Villa Park. Aston Villa was humbled by Bradford City in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday. The result just compounded what has been a poor league season.
The club will be looking jump a struggling Newcastle in the table.
While the matches might not be the most marquee, you can bet these players will put on performances that deserve plenty of praise.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet, Sunderland
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It's no surprise that Simon Mignolet has been linked with a transfer to Arsenal (h/t Laure James of the Daily Mail). He's been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League this season.
Mignolet has registered eight clean sheets this year and has helped Sunderland concede only 31 goals, which is 11th in the Premier League.
He'll need to have a very good performance if Sunderland is going to get anything out of its next match. Swansea is coming in playing some of the most entertaining football in England.
Michu has earned plenty of plaudits for his performance and is fourth in the league in goals, with 13.
The Swans will almost certainly get plenty of chances on goal, so Mignolet will be under the microscope for his performance. If he does well, he'll stand out among all the EPL keepers
Left-Back: Leighton Baines, Everton
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Ashley Cole has been long regarded as the best left-back in the league, and as a result, the one English player who could get on any team in the world.
This season, Leighton Baines has given Cole a run for his money, yet no one is arguing that he could play for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, etc.
Baines has only scored three league goals, but his free kick against Newcastle is going to be on highlight reels for decades.
He's found the right balance between attacking and defending that trips up so many full-backs. Baines can, of course, get caught on the break, but it's much less so with him than just about any left-back in the Premier League.
West Brom is going to be tough opposition. If Everton is going to get anything out of the match, Baines will need to put in a good performance.
Centre-Back: Ryan Shawcross, Stoke City
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It shouldn't come as a surprise that Stoke City are amongst the best in the Premier League in goals allowed. The 27 goals Stoke has conceded make it tied for fifth in the EPL. Only 11 of those goals have come at home.
Tony Pulis will have his side motivated after it conceded three goals to Swansea over the weekend.
Ryan Shawcross will be the guy to get this back four back to its best. Shawcross will be buoyed by the fact he's signed a long-term contract with the club (h/t The Guardian).
Stoke should be extremely happy to welcome in a Wigan side that's only scored 25 goals this season. The Latics are coming in having lost four of their last six matches.
They have quite an uphill battle in traveling to the Britannia Stadium hoping to get a result.
Stoke City could very easily record a clean sheet against Wigan. If they do, it will be as a result of Shawcross and the rest of the back four's stellar work.
Centre-Back: Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United
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Manchester United's back four has been incredibly shaky at times this season. While there are some larger issues, you felt part of it was only temporary.
Nemanja Vidic has missed a significant amount of time this year, so when he and Rio Ferdinand get back to playing beside each other on a regular basis, the Red Devil's defense would improve.
United will be welcoming Southampton to Old Trafford. Last time out, United surrendered two goals to the Saints en route to a 3-2 win.
The Red Devils will be looking to set the record straight this time around. In addition, Nigel Adkins has been sacked, with Mauricio Pochettino taking charge of the Saints (h/t Daily Mail). Southampton did well to earn a draw against Everton.
Playing away at Old Trafford could prove to be much tougher as the team adjusts to Pochettino's tactics.
Vidic is still getting back to his full form, and when he does, he will retain his place among the elite centre-backs in the world.
Right-Back: Bacary Sagna, Arsenal
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Without a doubt, Bacary Sagna is one of the best right-backs in the world. He could do well against a Liverpool side without its preferred left-back, Jose Enrique. Enrique tore his hamstring against Queens Park Rangers on December 30 (h/t BBC).
Glen Johnson has been one of Liverpool's more steady players since his move from Portsmouth. Sometimes, though, he looks to be a better winger than he is a full-back.
Johnson will also be playing out of his more natural right-back position. Sagna could find himself with some serious space as Johnson fails to track back.
In addition, Sagna will be lined up against either Raheem Sterling or Stewart Downing. Both have been in good form lately, so shutting them down will be key to ensuring Arsenal gets the full three points it desperately needs.
Liverpool have been playing better, but the Reds have still yet to fully prove themselves against the top teams in the Premier League.
Left Midfielder: David Silva, Manchester City
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Manchester City have a bit of a tricky fixture ahead of them in Queens Park Rangers. Before Harry Redknapp arrived, it would have been an assured three points.
Since the moment he has taken over as manager, QPR has been playing much better football. The club even managed one of the biggest coups of the transfer window by signing Loic Remy (via BBC).
Rangers have won one and drawn two in their last three games.
David Silva will need to bring his otherworldly creative ability to Loftus Park for Manchester City. His skill has never been in doubt, but he's failed to hit the form he did last year.
Silva scored two goals in City's 2-0 win over Fulham this past weekend.
Sergio Aguero made an appearance in the win, however, it's not totally clear if he'll be able to make the start against QPR. With that in mind, Silva's playmaking skills will be heavily in demand.
Central Midfielder: Jack Wilshere, Arsenal
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As mentioned earlier, Liverpool have begun to look like a much better side since the purchase of Daniel Sturridge (h/t BBC). The Reds have yet to prove they belong in the top half of the table near the Champions League spots, though.
They're winning the matches they should be winning, but the Reds are failing to get points from the crucial fixtures, like in their 2-1 loss to Manchester United.
Arsenal is also in need of a win. The Gunners have struggled in the Premier League lately. There is the incredibly genuine threat that Arsenal will finish outside the Top Four this season, which could hit the club hard financially.
In order to throw Liverpool off its game, the Arsenal midfield will need to step up. According to WhoScored.com, the Reds have maintained the most possession of any club during the season, at 59 percent.
It's been Liverpool's greatest strength this year. Now with Sturridge, the club has another striker to ease the burden on Luis Suarez.
Jack Wilshere has the ability to set the tone in the midfield and help get Arsenal on the right track. If he has a poor performance in the center of midfield, the Gunners will be in major trouble.
Central Midfielder: Joe Cole, West Ham
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Joe Cole has been nothing short of fantastic since coming back home to West Ham. His time at Liverpool was a much-publicized disaster, and moving to Upton Park seems to have revived him quite a bit.
The midfielder recorded both assists in West Ham's 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the F.A. Cup and scored this past weekend against Queens Park Rangers.
With those two performances, he's almost already outdone the totality of his performances during his Anfield career.
West Ham will be traveling to Craven Cottage to a Fulham side that has really been struggling lately. The Hammers sit two points ahead in the table, so it could be an important match in maintaining West Ham's standing in the middle of the table.
Cole will be at the forefront should the Hammers manage to get a result against the Cottagers.
Right Midfielder: Juan Mata, Chelsea
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Juan Mata has been the engine in the Chelsea attack since his arrival last season. It's all the more impressive when you look at the players he has beside him in the Blues' midfield.
An away match to Reading should be a rather easy fixture for Chelsea, despite the way Reading has played lately.
With the draw to Southampton last week, the Blues can't afford to drop more points, and the players know it. They and Rafa Benitez will be ensuring that matches like the one against Reading aren't taken lightly the rest of the way.
Mata is one of the biggest reasons the club finds itself still third in the table despite all of the turmoil and drama that has gone on behind the scenes this season.
He is tied with Frank Lampard for the scoring lead, with eight goals, and his eight assists are two ahead of Eden Hazard in second place.
Striker: Papiss Cisse, Newcastle
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Papiss Cisse has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Premier League season. After scoring 13 league goals in 14 games in the second half of last season, he's managed only four goals in 21 appearances this term.
With Demba Ba out of the picture, it's all on Cisse now, so he has to step up. Newcastle are only two points out of a relegation place. It's quite a turnaround from last year, when the Magpies finished fifth.
Newcastle has a huge match with Aston Villa. It's the cliched six-pointer, as Villa are just a point below in 17th place.
This match is a great opportunity for Cisse to find his scoring boots. As with most misfiring strikers, he needs to put a few solid performances together, and he'll be able to find his top form.
That could start against Aston Villa.
Striker: Robin van Persie, Manchester United
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Robin van Persie has been absolutely outstanding this season. Every football fan knew he was talented, but he's managed to take his game to a different level this season.
He's scored 18 goals in 23 league matches and managed to carry the club with the injury to Wayne Rooney. In fact, he's been the kind of talisman that Rooney has yet to become during his time with the Red Devils.
In addition, Van Persie has shown the kind of scoring versatility that he had struggled to find at Arsenal.
The Dutch striker has the opportunity to feast against Southampton. As mentioned earlier, the Saints have a new manager in Mauricio Pochettino, so it could be very hard going for them.
Van Persie scored a hat-trick in United's 3-2 win over Southampton back in September. It's unlikely he'll repeat that performance, but the Dutchman should score at least a goal and maybe set up another.