The Premier League may have a schedule cut in half this week, as only 10 teams will be in action, but there are still plenty of surprises in store and top performances to track for fans of English football.
The highlight, of course, is Chelsea hosting Tottenham, but a shaky Manchester United side will be in action, while Fulham and Cardiff City will battle for the right to not be the league's worst team.
Below, we'll take a look at all of the potential surprises in store and make some predictions for this week's top stars.
Top Performers and Biggest Surprises
Last week's big surprise was Stoke upsetting title-contending Arsenal. Will we see another upset of the like this week?
With only five games in league play to tune in for, probably not, though the best chance at a shocker is probably West Brom hosting Manchester United. After all, the defending champions haven't been consistently good all season long and West Brom generally take points at home, with three wins and seven draws in front of their supporters.
But the trio of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata have yet to really click on the pitch. Look for them to combine for all three of United's goals in a performance that will inspire some hope in the Red Devils supporters.
The recent struggles of both Rooney and van Persie have become a key storyline for the Red Devils, though van Persie's form in general has dipped this year. Jason Burt of The Telegraph takes a closer look at that dynamic:
Rooney has also struggled to an extent within a struggling team and the sense that perhaps he and Van Persie cannot prosper at the same time is growing.
The ‘heat maps’, which highlight players’ movement, and the analysis of both of their performances—not least the failure of the pair to simply pass the ball to each other—have been revealing.
Interestingly [David] Moyes did check the comments Van Persie made following the crushing defeat at Olympiakos in the Champions League last Tuesday, when he spoke about team-mates “playing in my zones”, a match which had the feel of a watershed moment for United.
Although it appeared to be symptomatic of a greater malaise, an insight into discontent, Moyes felt reassured that Van Persie was simply trying to explain away his frustration and speaking plainly, and even using technical language to support that.
This is a must-win match for United—heck, every match is a must-win for the club at this point—so getting van Persie and Rooney back on track is vital. Of course, it's important to remember that United have traveled well (seven wins and three draws in 14 away matches), so they aren't going to be upset.
Nor will Chelsea earn their first Premier League loss at Stamford Bridge, even if Tottenham are coming to town.
But the surprise from this game will be that Roberto Soldado—who finally scored for Tottenham against Cardiff after a nine-game scoreless streak—will make it two games in a row for Spurs.
He recently thanked the Tottenham supporters for sticking by him on Spanish radio station OndaCero, via the Metro:
It was a long expected goal for me and especially for my team-mates and the fans. Despite it has been a long time without scoring the support I have received on the social network has been amazing.
Every time I touch the ball people are expecting to see the best of me and the reaction after my goal was amazing. I feel very loved here despite I haven’t proved anything to them. I still have time to change the situation. There are two months left, the most beautiful part of the season, and I hope to reach my top.
But Eden Hazard's goal and an assist will trump Soldado's return to form.
The good times won't last for Stoke after their 1-0 victory over Arsenal, as they'll fall to Norwich by the same score. That should hardly come as a surprise—the Potters have managed just six of a possible 42 points on the road this year.
The surprise will be that Ricky van Wolfswinkel—this summer's big signing for Norwich and this season's biggest disappointment for the club—will score his second Premier League goal in the win.
Another surprise will be Rickie Lambert's brace against Crystal Palace, making him the player of the week. Lambert's eight goals trail only Jay Rodriguez's 10 for the Saints, but they are a far cry from the 15 he scored a season ago. He's due for a big performance.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!