EPL Week 29 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clash
In an abbreviated set of English Premier League matches, many of the stars from the smaller clubs will have a chance to shine without being overshadowed by their peers who play for the European giants.
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all scheduled to play FA Cup fixtures this weekend, causing their contests against West Ham United, Wigan Athletic and Fulham, respectively, to be postponed.
Robin van Persie, Yaya Toure and Juan Mata will not be on this week's list, but there will still be several outstanding performances in the Premiership this weekend.
Here are the players who will excel in their upcoming matches.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Spending £13 million on a goalkeeper when Tottenham already had Brad Friedel in excellent form was not an immediately popular move. But now, Spurs supporters are not questioning the judgement of this signing.
While Gareth Bale's stunning form has sparked Spurs' current 12-match unbeaten streak, Andre Villas Boas and Hugo Lloris also deserve a significant amount of credit as well.
Villas-Boas' tactics require a high line to keep the field compact, allowing Bale to receive a constant supply of passes to his feet. Lloris is the type of athletic, skilled keeper Villas-Boas needs to execute his strategy.
Lloris will continue sweeping up balls that travel past his back line while also making quality saves this week in a showdown with Liverpool.
Left-Back: Davide Santon, Newcastle
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Sitting in 15th place is certainly not where Newcastle wanted to be at this point in its Premiership campaign, but just three points separates the Magpies from 10th-place Fulham.
A stretch of good form could put Alan Pardew's side comfortably into the top half of the table, and with just 10 more league matches remaining, now is the time to start winning.
Pardew needs to throw out cautious tactics and start playing with the intention of earning full points. To do so against a stout defensive time like Stoke City, he will need to throw players forward.
An offensive contribution will be needed from the outside backs, and Davide Santon will add to his assists total for the season against the Potters.
Centre-Back: Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Another necessary component of Andre Villas-Boas' pressing tactics is a skilled, athletic pair of centre-backs.
Jan Vertonghen has shown these qualities this season and proved to be another excellent addition.
Whoscored.com notes that he has completed 86.2 percent of his passes this season, proving his ability to distribute from the back. His pace and agility were also put on display when he was asked to play left-back for several games earlier this season.
His contributions to Tottenham's defense and possession will be big reasons why Liverpool struggles against Spurs this weekend.
Centre-Back: Sebastien Bassong, Norwich City
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Sebastien Bassong is not coming off of a great week, and he has been added to the list of quality defenders who Manchester United have thoroughly embarrassed this season.
But after conceding four goals to the Red Devils, Norwich will find its defensive duties this weekend to be much easier when it takes on Southampton.
However, the Saints still have quality attacking options and the ability to score goals. There will be plenty of players capable of keeping Bassong busy in this contest.
But the Cameroonian will bounce back from last week's drubbing to deliver another quality performance while leading his team to victory.
Right-Back: Angel Rangel, Swansea City
Warren Little/Getty Images
Angel Rangel has had a fine campaign thus far, and he will need to continue providing Swansea City with strong play on the right side for the Welsh club to reach the 50-point mark.
After winning the Capital One Cup and reaching 40 points, manager Michael Laudrup is continuing to push his team, with Sky Sports noting that he wants his club to earn at least 10 more points in its remaining matches.
The club has had mixed results in the Premier League recently, with two wins and two losses in its last four contests. But when Rangel is excelling in his defensive duties while also making runs up the touchline, Swansea is difficult to beat.
He will give the Welsh side the spark it needs on the flank this weekend against West Bromwich Albion.
Left Midfielder: Yoan Gouffran, Newcastle
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Newcastle needs all of its attacking talent in top form if it hopes to salvage this season.
While expectations have been drastically lowered since the start of the campaign, the club still has the opportunity to finish strong and climb back into the top half of the table.
The added firepower of Yoan Gouffran will be key to a positive finish for the Magpies, and the team will desperately hope the winger can add to the lone goal he has scored since his arrival in January.
Newcastle's wishes will become reality this weekend as Gouffran and Davide Santon will create enough opportunities down the left side of the pitch for the Frenchman to put his name on the scoresheet.
Central Midfielder: Gareth Bale, Tottenham
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen's role in Andre Villas-Boas's game plans have been key to Tottenham's recent success, but the club's entire scheme depends on Gareth Bale's ability to score goals.
This is something the 23-year-old has done with astonishing style and regularity in recent weeks. His seven goals in his last five Premier League matches shows how dominant he has been.
Bale's pace and power make him truly unplayable, and it will be up to Liverpool to try to find a way to slow him down.
The Reds will not be up to the challenge this weekend, and Bale's ridiculously impressive run will continue at Anfield.
Central Midfielder: Michu, Swansea City
Warren Little/Getty Images
Swansea City's surprising success has been led by Michu's prolific attacking play this season.
His 15 Premier League goals this season trails only Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie and Gareth Bale. No one expected the Swans to have a player who would be mentioned in the same breath as these stars this season.
Michael Laudrup's side will need its star to continue creating chances against a disciplined West Bromwich Albion back line this week, and the Spaniard will deliver.
Michu will continue keeping pace with the best goalscorers in England as Swansea climbs a little close to the 50-point benchmark.
Right Midfielder: Robert Snodgrass, Norwich City
Jan Kruger/Getty Images
The Norwich City back line will have its work cut out for it when taking on Southampton's attack, but the Canaries' forward players have the ability to significantly help out their defense.
The Saints back four had an atrocious start to the season, and while the group has improved, it is still prone to worrisome mistakes.
If Robert Snodgrass can continue his impressive campaign and pose danger down the right flank, the Southampton defense will be stretched thin. If this happens, it will take discipline and athleticism to recover, and the Saints have not shown these abilities thus far.
Snodgrass will turn in a fine performance, and this will lead to goals for Norwich City this weekend.
Striker: Loic Remy, Queens Park Rangers
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Queens Park Rangers has scored three goals in its past four matches, and Loic Remy is responsible for two of those successful strikes.
He has proven to be an extremely valuable addition to QPR's attack since arriving in January.
If Rangers have any chance at avoiding relegation, they will need more quality goals from Remy. With a matchup against struggling Sunderland this weekend, the Frenchman has a perfect opportunity to help his team earn more points.
The Black Cats have three defeats and two ties in their last five Premiership fixtures, and Remy will ensure that the team's poor form continues.
Striker: Christian Benteke, Aston Villa
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Whether Christian Benteke's main motivation for the rest of this season is to help Aston Villa stave off relegation, or to audition for his next employer, it is in his best interest to score more goals.
The 22-year-old Belgian has a bright future after scoring 11 times in his first season in the Premier League. While Paul Lambert would love to have his star striker as the centerpiece for his future plans, The Sun notes that Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City are keeping tabs on Benteke.
If the Lions fail to stay in the top division, it will be nearly impossible to keep the promising forward in his current location.
But regardless of what happens this summer, Benteke will have his way with a weak Reading defense this weekend.