5 Premier League Players Who Need Big Performances This Weekend
There are now only seven weekends left of the Premier League season and Manchester United’s domination, as well as Manchester City’s inconsistency, means that the title has all but been sewn up by Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
And even though the Manchester derby takes place this coming Monday at Old Trafford, its result is unlikely to affect the destination of the Premier League trophy.
Don't get me wrong though, it will still mean an awful lot to the inhabitants of the city.
There are still European and relegation battles that need to be dueled though, and this weekend promises to be a pivotal one in sorting out the table’s final running order.
But which players need to put in big performances this weekend in order for their clubs to prosper?
There is a hint of optimism surrounding Aston Villa at the moment.
Encouraging and spirited performances against Manchester City and Liverpool have been separated by crucial victories over QPR and Reading, and now they find themselves in the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Paul Lambert is certain that they can avoid the drop, and if Christian Benteke can continue to blossom he will be proved right.
Benteke will give as good as he gets against Stoke City, and his pace and guile could prove to be too much for a defence that is far from sprightly.
Villa's Premier League survival rests on his broad shoulders.
The European Champions are in serious danger of being usurped by Arsenal and Tottenham in their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Frank Lampard have each shown moments of class throughout the season, but Chelsea’s Mr. Reliable for the last 18 months has been the Spanish maestro known as Juan Mata.
Once again, on Monday it was his sumptuous pass that lead to Ba’s incredulous finish, and if Chelsea are to get the necessary run of results to help them qualify for the Champions League next season, they will need Mata at his very best.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s first season at Tottenham has been a disappointment.
Spurs’ reliance on Gareth Bale has overshadowed almost every other aspect of the North London club’s campaign, but the Welshman’s injury against Basel on Thursday now means that the fringe players on the squad will be expected to replace the side’s talisman.
The Icelandic midfielder has far from stamped his mark on Tottenham’s roster so far, but with Bale joining Jermain Defoe on the sidelines, and Emmanuel Adebayor continuing to misfire, Sigurdsson will be expected to step up and help maintain Tottenham’s march towards Champions League qualification.
Starting against Everton on Sunday.
Everton themselves, though, still harbor their own Champions League ambitions, and after a shaky start to 2013, the Toffees have slowly returned to form and now sit only four points off fourth place.
They face Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea before the end of the season and on their day they believe that they can beat any opposition in front of them.
If they are to finish in the top four they need Marouane Fellaini to return to his impeccable and unplayable best.
However, with the tall man out for the last of a two game suspension, they need someone else to step up to the plate. So, David Moyes will be hoping that Nikica Jelavic can build on his goal against Manchester City, his only effort of 2013, to lead Everton to victory in what promises to be a tight encounter.
Tottenham’s defence has been shaky of late and if Everton can provide him with the service, the Croat might be the key to victory for the Merseysiders.
QPR are very much on the brink of relegation.
Any ambition that they have of staying in the division rests on the shoulders of Loic Remy, the French striker they paid an obscene amount of money to acquire, alongside the cumbersome Chris Samba, in January.
Remy has shown that he has the pace, strength and guile to excel in the Premier League, and if QPR are sent packing to the Championship in May, there will be a host of clubs after his signature.
But Harry Redknapp will be hoping he can still propel the Londoners to safety, and if he’s to do that they will need to start by registering a victory against fellow strugglers Wigan on Sunday.
Even then though, it might still be too little, too late.