EPL Week 32 Predictions: Players Sure to Land in All-EPL Team for Week's Clash
The race for the Premier League title may be all but over—let's face it, Manchester United isn't going to blow a 15-point lead atop the table with eight games to play—but there is still plenty at stake as the season draws to a close.
Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool are all fighting for the last two Champions League automatic qualifications. Queens Park Rangers and Reading are probably staring relegation in the face, but as many as seven teams are in danger of finishing 18th on the table and getting the boot.
And players like Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale, Juan Mata and Theo Walcott will try to prove they are worthy of being selected as the league's top player this season.
This weekend, there should be plenty of epic individual performances as players try to will their teams to much-needed victory. Here, I'll take a stab at predicting which individuals will stand above the rest in this week's slate of games.
Keeper: Tim Howard, Everton
As you'll see later, I do think Tim Howard will give up one goal in this game. But in general, I think he's going to stymie the dangerous Tottenham attack and eventually lead the Toffees to a vital victory over Spurs.
I can't shake this hunch that Everton is going to win this game, but Tottenham has a very dangerous attack and for the Toffees to win this game, Howard is going to be at his very best. I think that's exactly what he'll be, making several huge saves and leading the team's defense with his positioning and poise.
Behind Howard, Everton will keep its top-four hopes alive.
Defender: Rafael, Manchester United
Yes, the only Manchester United player you will see on here, with a date looming against Manchester City, is a defender. Surprised?
Don't be—Rafael has been quite good this season, and against a stingy City defense, United will have to rely on its own defense in a hotly-contested draw. Rafael is dangerous pushing forward in the attack but athletic enough to recover defensively.
Look for him to assist on a goal or two and shut down his wing.
Defender: Robert Huth, Stoke City
Robert Huth has been pretty solid for a defensively sound (read: really boring to watch) Stoke City team this season. Now, he and his defensive mates will have the unappealing task of trying to slow down Aston Villa's Christian Benteke.
But don't fret for Huth, oh no—he and his teammates held Benteke and Aston Villa scoreless when these teams met earlier in the season (though Benteke had his chances). Look for Huth to spearhead a similar effort on Saturday.
Defender: David Luiz, Chelsea
Every time I watch David Luiz play, I'm struck by how athletic he is for a centre-back. His ability to push play forward and almost act as a defensive midfielder is impressive, as is the danger he represents on set pieces in the box.
When Luiz is at his best, Chelsea is a tough side to crack. Look for him to stymie Sunderland's attackers on Sunday.
Defender: Chico Flores, Swansea City
I'm not going to lie, Chico Flores has flown under my radar this season. The defender has a 7.49 rating at WhoScored, ninth best in the EPL.
Yes, I was surprised too.
Now, he gets a Norwich City team that has only scored 28 goals on the season, tied for 18th in the league. He's only played one game since returning from an ankle injury that cost him seven weeks, but I expect Flores to be at his finest against Norwich.
Midfielder: David Silva, Manchester City
I'm of the belief that United and City will play to a 2-2 draw on Monday—with City storming out to an early lead before the Red Devils claw back and earn the draw—and I think Silva will be a thorn in United's side all afternoon long.
Few players are more technically skilled in the Premier League than Silva, who can beat a team with his crisp passing, smart movement, excellent vision or ability to swerve in a goal off a free kick. Look for him to at least set up a goal and perhaps score another against Manchester United.
Midfielder: Santi Cazorla, Arsenal
There hasn't been a more important player for Arsenal this season, and with the Gunners still aiming to finish in the top four, I think Cazorla will save his best for last.
According to WhoScored, only Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale have a better rating than Cazorla's 7.86 on the season. With 10 goals and seven assists in league play, Cazorla has been worth every penny after coming to the team over the summer.
West Brom won't have an answer for the crafty Spaniard in this one.
Midfielder: Gareth Bale, Tottenham
Few players in Europe have been hotter over the past two months than Gareth Bale of Tottenham, who has now scored 11 goals in his last 11 games for the team across all competitions.
I suspect Everton is going to beat Tottenham, or at least draw (until Spurs prove otherwise, a late-season swoon just seems in character for the team), but it won't be because of Bale. Expect the winger to be brilliant in this contest, even in a losing effort.
Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
When Eden Hazard wants to, he can take over the game. He's a bulldog on the ball, a danger to score from 25 yards out and as dangerous roaring down the wing as he is cutting back inside and creating from there.
The trio of Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar can be absolutely devastating—I don't see Sunderland having an answer for any of them. On this day, however, Hazard will be the star.
Forward: Rickie Lambert, Southampton
Rickie Lambert has been excellent for Southampton this season, scoring 14 goals in 31 Premier League appearances. Only Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale, Michu and Demba Ba have scored more in league play.
Now, he faces a Reading team that has allowed 61 goals on the season, the most in the EPL. Don't be surprised when Lambert scores one, maybe two goals against the shoddy Reading defense.
Forward: Luis Suarez, Liverpool
Luis Suarez has been excellent this season, leading the EPL with 22 goals in league play and scoring seven goals in his last six games for the Reds across all competitions. Few players in the Premier League have been better this season.
Liverpool is holding onto the slimmest of hopes that it might finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season, so I expect Suarez to be at his best against West Ham.