Premier League Week 23 is officially in the books and now the focus shifts to Week 24's full slate of matchups.
While all eyes will be on the top four this weekend, there are plenty of individual performers and potential surprises to watch for.
Below I'll project the top performers and biggest surprises ahead of Matchday 24.
Projecting Top Performers
|Rank||Player||Club||Avg Match Rating*|
|2||Sergio Aguero||Manchester City||7.8|
|3||Wayne Rooney||Manchester United||7.7|
*according to WhoScored.com
Luis Suarez, Liverpool
Reds superstar Luis Suarez has been setting the Premier League ablaze since returning from suspension last fall. With 23 goals and half a dozen assists in 18 appearances, the Uruguayan striker is sure to be a topic of discussion on Matchday 24.
Opta Sports breaks down Suarez's year:
23 - Luis Suarez has matched his PL goal total from last season in just 18 appearances (compared to 33 in 2012-13). Menace.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 28, 2014
Liverpool will battle West Bromwich Albion, a struggling club that Suarez recorded a hat-trick against back on Oct. 26. The Baggies had no answer for Suarez then and likely won't have anything better in store the second time around.
Olivier Giroud, Arsenal
The Gunners will host Crystal Palace in Week 24 in a match they'll be expected to win comfortably at the Emirates. Therefore, French forward Olivier Giroud will be a star to watch this weekend.
Not only has Giroud scored in each of his past two outings against Southampton and Coventry, but he's creating chances for others and playing with immense confidence. Giroud has 10 goals and five assists through 21 Premier League matches this season and is likely to add to that count on Sunday, Feb. 2.
The Eagles have lost nine of their previous 11 league road games and have been outscored 17-5 away from home this season.
Projecting Biggest Surprises
Stoke City Set to Stun Manchester United
Despite their current place in the standings, Stoke City are a dangerous squad, especially at home.
Which result is more likely?
The Potters will host defending champions Manchester United on Saturday, Feb. 1 in a match both clubs desperately need for different reasons. United are looking to close the gap on the top four while Stoke are trying to avoid relegation. But keep in mind that the Potters have had a considerable amount of success at home against the league's top teams in 2013-14.
Stoke defeated Chelsea 3-2 at Britannia Stadium on Dec. 7 and earned a draw with high-powered Manchester City there back on Sept. 14.
With David Moyes' Red Devils struggling to defend outside of Old Trafford, having conceded 22 goals in 11 away clashes, this match will be there for Stoke's taking.
Chelsea Will Earn a Draw at Manchester City
One of the biggest surprises on Matchday 24 will see Manchester City's home dominance come to an end when Chelsea earn a hard-fought point at Etihad Stadium.
The Citizens are a perfect 11-0 there against Premier League opposition this season and are outscoring clubs 42-8 over that time. However, they'll be up against arguably the best defensive club in the league in Chelsea.
Keep in mind that the Blues held City to just one goal in a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge back on Oct. 27. Plus, Chelsea have received a tremendous boost from the play of winger Eden Hazard, who has recorded nine goals and five assists in 22 Premier League appearances.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho recently talked about Hazard's potential of joining the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the world's elite, per ESPN FC's Kevin Palmer:
If he wants to be a great, great player and arrive where Cristiano and Messi arrive, he has space to go because he’s 23. It’s a great ambition for him. What I feel now with him is responsibility in every aspect.
Now I say yes [he can reach that level] because his evolution is great. I think, because of the positions Cristiano and Messi played, they are also top goalscorer and the number of goals they score makes them even more special.
With the talented Belgian leading the way, Chelsea will have as solid a shot as any club to pick up a positive result at Etihad Stadium.
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