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EPL Week 13 Predictions: Projecting Top Performers and Biggest Surprises

CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 24:  Peter Whittingham of Cardiff (c) is fouled by Tom Cleverley of Manchester United (r) during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Manchester United at Cardiff City Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images
Steven CookContributor IIINovember 28, 2013

The midweek lull is over, and crazed English football fans can get back to what they thrive on most—Premier League football.

While international showdowns in the Champions League and Europa League—among others—spiced up that middle-of-the-week rut, there's nothing like the weekend and seeing England's best professional clubs do battle on the pitch.

There's no shortage of enticing fixtures on the slate for Week 13, either.

Here's a look at the biggest surprises that will unfold and the projected top performers among the field.

2013-14 Premier League: Week 13
TimeHome TeamAway Team
Sat., Nov. 30
10 a.m. ET; 3 p.m. GMTAston VillaSunderland
10 a.m. ET; 3 p.m. GMTCardiff CityArsenal
10 a.m. ET; 3 p.m. GMTEvertonStoke City
10 a.m. ET; 3 p.m. GMTNorwichCrystal Palace
10 a.m. ET; 3 p.m. GMTWest HamFulham
12:30 p.m. ET; 5:30 p.m. GMTNewcastleWest Brom
Sun., Dec. 1
7 a.m. ET; noon GMTTottenhamManchester United
9:05 a.m. ET; 2:05 p.m. GMTHull CityLiverpool
11:10 a.m. ET; 4:10 p.m. GMTChelseaSouthampton
11:10 a.m. ET; 4:10 p.m. GMTManchester CitySwansea
ESPN.com

 

Top Performers

Christian Benteke, Aston Villa

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Christian Benteke of Aston Villa reacts after missing a chance on goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Cardiff City at Villa Park on November 9, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by M
Michael Regan/Getty Images

After a heroic Premier League season in 2012-13, Christian Benteke hasn't found goals to be nearly as attainable.

Despite leading Aston Villa with four goals, he hasn't scored one since September 14 amid injury problems. It's been six matches played since he scored a goal—a stat that pales in comparison to his 14 straight matches with a goal last season. 

His foe on Saturday is just what the doctor ordered. Aston Villa play Sunderland, a club that ranks dead last in the Premier League in both points and goals conceded.

Sunderland get wiped out of seemingly every match they play, and Aston Villa will be motivated by the fact that they currently sit in the back half of the league table. That will only be amplified for Benteke, who is doubly motivated by his inability to score in recent fixtures.

Sometimes great goalscorers just need to see one go in, then it takes the lid off their game. That may very well happen to Benteke come Saturday with this favorable matchup.

 

Steven Caulker and Ben Turner, Cardiff City

CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 24:  Peter Whittingham of Cardiff and Luis Antonio Valencia of Manchester United battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and Manchester United at Cardiff City Stadium on November 24, 2013
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

You might as well call Cardiff City the giant killers by now. After beating Manchester City earlier in the season, the small club earned a late draw against Manchester United in a result that felt more like a win than anything else.

In Cardiff's best results, it's been their defense that has stymied some of the world's best attacking fronts. Centre-backs Steven Caulker and Ben Turner are the biggest reason for that.

There's no doubt that keeping City and United at bay is a mammoth task, but Cardiff's opponent this weekend—Arsenal—sit atop the league and have scored 24 goals this season. With Arsenal giving up just 10 goals all year, Cardiff goals will be coming few and far between—even at home.

To give their side any chance, Caulker and Turner must bring their A-game and constantly shut down Arsenal's wondrous passing chemistry.

This may be the toughest assignment they've had all year, and it will go a long way toward telling us if this Cardiff squad is for real. 

 

Biggest Surprises

Chelsea Will Dominate Surging Southampton

Aug 10, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley (4) loses the ball against Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien (5) during the first half at RFK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

Along with Arsenal and Liverpool, Southampton have taken the Premier League by storm with a blistering start, as they're currently tied for the final spot in the top four with Manchester City.

But the Saints' 2-0 loss to Arsenal last week is a sign of things to come in Week 13.

Just like last week, Southampton will go on the road against one of the most dangerous offenses and get another sobering dose of what life is like near the top of the table.

Chelsea have won five and drawn one in six total Premier League home tilts this season and hold a plus-nine goal differential in those contests. While the road is a different story, the Blues have taken care of things at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho and company will look to make sure they don't carry over any lethargy from their Champions League loss to FC Basel in the middle of the week and take care of business against an overmatched club. 

Prediction: Chelsea 4, Southampton 1

 

Late Heroics Will Secure Arsenal Victory in Cardiff

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal congratulates Jack Wilshere of Arsenal on scoring his second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and Olympique de Marseille at Emirates Stadium on November 26, 2013
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Cardiff City will stay true to form throughout most of their match with the Gunners, proving that they play at their best against the league's top competition. 

Key phrase there: most of their match.

Manchester City and Manchester United played against Cardiff like their talent and skill alone were going to magically win them the game. There was little scheming involved, little patience, little attention to detail.

Arsenal have shown plenty of all of those things, proving to have incredible chemistry among their best passers, and know how to get balls onto the feet of Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott in the clutch moments.

Cardiff playing at home will allow them to set the tempo a bit more than usual, which should allow them to settle in and play to their strengths. But that won't be scoring goals, not against this sound defense that has only let up 10 goals all year. 

It may take the Gunners the full 90 minutes, but they'll find a way to squeak past Cardiff with three points and (potentially) increase their lead atop the EPL.

Prediction: Arsenal 1, Cardiff City 0

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