A busy stretch of Premier League action continues with another loaded weekend of matches. The full slate is highlighted by Arsenal trying to maintain or increase their edge atop the table against Manchester City, and a clash between Tottenham and Liverpool.
The logjam atop the table, which features just a three-point gap between second and sixth, makes things more interesting because every match involving top clubs takes on a higher level of importance. It sure seems like every point is going to make a difference in the end.
Knowing that, let's make some predictions for which players will shine the brightest this weekend along with some surprises that could be in store. For a complete look at the schedule for Matchday 16, visit the league's official site.
Eden Hazard—Chelsea (vs. Crystal Palace)
Hazard is a special player with amazing potential. The 22-year-old winger is still searching for the consistency necessary to achieve elite status, though. His last two matches illustrate that as he was virtually unstoppable against Sunderland, but failed to make any type of impact in a loss to Stoke.
The Chelsea phenom should be able to get back on track against Crystal Palace, which have struggled mightily away from home. In seven road fixtures, the Eagles are 1-0-6 with 12 goals allowed as they prepare to head into Stamford Bridge, where the Blues are unbeaten in league play this season.
The vast difference in form should allow Hazard to take control of the match. When he's at his best, the Belgian is pushing forward with pace, creating chances for both himself and his teammates. Expect plenty of that en route to a goal and a couple assists this weekend.
Sergio Aguero—Manchester City (vs. Arsenal)
Aguero, who ranks second in the Premier League in goals behind Luis Suarez, has been on fire lately. He's scored in four of his past five appearances across all competitions for City, including the club's only tally in a draw with Southampton last week.
What's your prediction for the match?
Above all else, his terrific form shows the power of confidence. In 14 matches, he's already tied his goal total in league play from all 30 of his EPL appearances last season. He's been able to carve out a more defined role and has proven himself worthy of a starting spot on a weekly basis.
Now, he gets a major opportunity to stand out. All eyes will be on City's battle with Arsenal, and if Aguero can put together another strong showing, the Sky Blues can creep closer to the top spot. With a pair of goals, he'll do exactly that.
Manchester United Finally Emerge from League Malaise
Very little has gone right for Manchester United with the halfway point of the campaign right around the corner. They are in ninth place, 13 points off the title pace currently being set by Arsenal, and manager David Moyes is already feeling immense pressure due to the slow start.
The good news for United is the poor form hasn't carried over to Champions League play, where they captured the top spot in Group A, and there's still plenty of time to turn things around in the EPL. A good place to start would be on the road against Aston Villa.
A road match against a fellow mid-table club isn't the most likely place to start a turnaround, but United have been playing well defensively. They are just waiting for the attack to match that form—and when Phil Jones moved forward to score against Shakhtar Donetsk it was like a weight was lifted off the Red Devils' shoulders. Expect them to parlay that relief into a win over Villa.
Tottenham's Attack Will Outduel Luis Suarez and Co.
Few players in the world can match Suarez's form right now. Over his past seven appearances for Liverpool, he's scored 12 goals, including a four-goal match and a hat trick. It's been an outstanding stretch in which back lines have often been at his mercy.
While Tottenham have defenders capable of at least slowing down his goal-scoring rate, Spurs' attack will also need to outshine that of Liverpool to earn all three points. That puts the onus on Jermain Defoe and Paulinho, among others, to thrive in the spotlight.
While the Spurs offense was sluggish out of the gate, it's finally shown some signs of life in recent weeks. Look for Tottenham to put everything together for one of their strongest performances of the campaign so far to knock off Suarez and Liverpool.