Premier League Week 24 will be remembered for Jose Mourinho's tactical wizardry, David Moyes' continued heartache and the impact of a swinging arm attached to the behemoth that is Andy Carroll.
The recently red-carded West Ham forward failed to see his ban overturned, as reported by BBC Sport, so he can't be taken into consideration for the projected top performers of Week 25. Thankfully, there's a division full of in-form souls to do exactly that.
Below, I'll weigh up the most likely stars across the coming week, as well as the biggest potential surprises.
Projecting Top Performers
|EPL Week 25 Projected Top Performers|
|Rank||Player||Club||Avg. Match Rating*|
|5.||Juan Mata||Manchester United||6.87|
|*according to WhoScored.com|
Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Jose Mourinho is playing a huge part in the development of Eden Hazard. The Belgian superstar's hard-working performance against Manchester City epitomised a Blues side that shouldn't fear anyone in the Premier League.
As noted by OptaJoe, Hazard's boundless energy knew no limits against Manuel Pellegrini's side:
The player's energy has coincided with plenty of direct influence on results. Hazard is Chelsea's top scorer with nine successful strikes this season, per WhoScored.com. He has also contributed five assists, ensuring he is becoming more than useful across the entire pitch.
Hazard will thrive against a Newcastle outfit that has managed just one win in seven matches. Alan Pardew failed to replace Yohan Cabaye, meaning Newcastle are forced to pin their hopes on the lazy Hatem Ben Arfa.
There's a lack of belief and plenty of space for Hazard to exploit, so expect the 23-year-old to maintain his fantastic run of form.
Juan Mata, Manchester United
While it was quickly obvious that Juan Mata won't propel Manchester United toward next season's Champions League on his own, the Spanish superstar has posted two useful performances for the Red Devils.
In fact, his WhoScored.com performance data averages him out at 7.52 in a United shirt, much higher than his stop-start record with Chelsea this campaign. Mata's movement has been sharp and his positioning clever, as highlighted by two assists in as many games.
Despite toiling down in seventh, most will expect United to beat Fulham, who recently suffered an FA Cup defeat against Sheffield United. Mata can thread passes, weave possession through to Robin van Persie and make a real difference in a game that is destined to be closer than United fans hope.
Projecting Biggest Surprises
Rene Meulensteen to Shock His Old Club with Old Trafford Victory
It can't really happen, can it? Fulham are bottom of the Premier League with one win in their last eight matches. An excellent transfer window brought Clint Dempsey, Lewis Holtby and Kostas Mitroglou to the club, all three of whom will need to be in top form if the Cottagers are to snatch victory away from United.
As unlikely as it seems, United's inability to win simple matches has come back to haunt them many times this year. The recent loss to Stoke was summed up by a wicked deflection off Michael Carrick, who really should have put his body in front of the ball that would eventually bounce past David de Gea.
Meulensteen, who left his job as a United coach in the summer, didn't think much of his Fulham side during the recent loss to Sheffield United.
"We could have played until next month and not scored a goal," he said, per BBC Sport. With United handing out gifts on a weekly basis, Fulham might not have to.
Norwich to Compound Bad Week for Manchester City
Manchester City's campaign will come under the spotlight at Carrow Road. Fresh from defeat against Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini's side needs to bounce back quickly. Norwich have won just once in 11 games, but there's reason to get excited when City arrive.
Pellegrini is likely to utilise Martin Demichelis in midfield again. Fernandinho's injury will keep him out for two weeks, as reported by Richard Jolly of ESPN FC, meaning City's overruling sense of mobility is missing from the centre. With Sergio Aguero also on the recovery table, the Canaries have hope.
Of course, it will take a herculean effort from Chris Hughton's men. They were comfortably beaten by Fulham in January but will call upon home support in order to challenge their superior visitors.
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