Confederations Cup Final 2013: 5 Premier League Players Expected to Shine
For fans starved of football during the close season of the Premier League, the Confederations Cup has brought some much-needed respite.
Eight nations have contested what is viewed as the dress rehearsal for next summer's World Cup, from tiny Tahiti to tournament hosts Brazil, and this year's final pits the latter against world and European Champions Spain at the Estadio Maracana tonight.
The Brazilians will be hoping for victory to fill both themselves and perhaps the country itself with renewed optimism following their slump to their lowest-ever Fifa ranking along with widespread protesting and disharmony.
As for Spain, they will be hoping for a clean sweep of silverware by collecting the Confederations Cup to sit neatly in their glittering trophy cabinet alongside the European Championship and of course the World Cup.
Brazil have three representatives from the Premier League while Spain boast seven players from England's topflight, and all 10 will be hoping to put in quality performances tonight and to hit the ground running ahead of the resumption of the EPL in August.
Here, B/R profiles five Premier League stars who are expected to shine in tonight's Confederations Cup final.
For Brazil's No.1 goalkeeper Julio Cesar, tonight's final is the perfect opportunity for the QPR shot-stopper to put himself in the proverbial shop window now that the summer transfer window is open for business.
The ex-Inter Milan star made a shock move to the Premier League last summer when he signed for the Loftus Road outfit but endured a nightmare debut in England after being relegated to the Championship with his current club.
The two-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year and Champions League winner looks almost certain to move on this summer. A good performance tonight could help convince his potential suitors—thought to include Arsenal, Roma and Fiorentina (per Dominic Fifield of The Guardian)—to make a bid.
Cesar has played in all four of Brazil's fixtures throughout the Confederations Cup run so far and has enjoyed a successful tournament, with one of his biggest highs so far being the save he made against Uruguay to keep out Diego Forlan's penalty.
The 33-year-old has kept two clean sheets so far, and his country will be expecting him to shine tonight as he attempts to become only the second keeper to keep a clean sheet in this competition against La Furia Roja.
Chelsea's David Luiz has experienced something of a mixed Confederations Cup tournament so far.
He was guilty of blatantly and inexplicably wrestling Uruguay captain Diego Lugano to the ground in the semi-finals and rightfully entered the referee's notebook as he conceded a daft penalty for his side.
He also broke his nose following a nasty collision with teammate Thiago Silva during the group clash against Mexico, but has managed to soldier on so far despite needing surgery (per The Independent).
The Brazil international faces an uncertain future at Chelsea with reports suggesting he may leave this summer (per Charlie Wyett of The Sun) and his occasionally erratic performances in the Confederations Cup will have done him no favours if he was seeking to impress new Blues manager Jose Mourinho.
But a solid display in the final tonight may yet reinvigorate the Chelsea man ahead of the resumption of Premier League football in August and convince Mourinho he is still the right man for the job at the heart of his defence.
For Chelsea midfielder Oscar, tonight's final is yet another game in what has been a seemingly endless run of fixtures for the youngster, who played an incredible 79 times for the Blues last season.
The 21-year-old has occasionally looked tired and has put in a number of laborious performances thus far—little wonder taking his youth and exhausting run of games into account—yet the youngster must not be overlooked.
The wide man netted 13 times last season and also provided the same number of assists. He will be one of the Brazilian's most prominent goal-scoring threats if he plays tonight, with his energetic bursts through the middle of the park.
He has scored six times for his country since making his debut in the senior set-up as a 19-year-old and is expected to star for Brazil at next summer's World Cup.
Another Chelsea star expected to shine in tonight's Confederations Cup final is Fernando Torres.
The Spaniard endured a disappointing Premier League campaign last season, and despite showing signs of real progression in Europe, in which he netted nine times, he only managed to hit eight league goals and just one so far this year.
Yet he has excelled thus far for his country at least in this tournament, of which he is its top scorer with five goals, four of which came in the 10-0 mailing of Tahiti.
Along with Pedro and David Villa, Torres has been expected to lead the line for Spain in the Confederations Cup and has not let the side down with a number of fine performances.
He is again expected to help fire Spain to glory tonight. Getting among the goals again will do his confidence the world of good, considering his difficulties in finding the back of the net for his club so far this year.
All eyes tonight will be on Manchester City's new signing, Jesus Navas.
The Spaniard became one of Manuel Pellegrini's first signings at the Etihad this summer following his £14.9 million move from Sevilla (per the BBC). Much is expected of the 27-year old as he prepares to embark on his debut in England's topflight in August.
His decisive spot kick proved crucial in Spain reaching this year's Confederations Cup final as he netted the winning goal in a marathon shootout against Italy in the semi-finals. When Leonardo Bonuci finally missed from the spot, up stepped the new City man to calmly fire past Gianluigi Buffon to send La Roja through after a relatively tepid and under-par performance by the World Champions.
Navas' decisive winner proved, however, that he has the mettle to cut it in the Premier League and that he can deliver when the pressure is on. The pacy winger will be expected to put in a similar performance in the final tonight.