EPL Predictions: Picks, Top Players for Week 26 Premier League Fixtures

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2018

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English League Cup semi-final, second leg football match between Bristol City and Manchester City at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, south-west England on January 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Geoff CADDICK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)
GEOFF CADDICK/Getty Images

Manchester City face a demanding away day at Burnley, while a new-look forward line will try to revive Arsenal's miserable season against Everton when the Premier League resumes for Week 26 on Saturday.

Sunday will see a critical top-four clash between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. The winner will become the favourite to seal a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League.

All three matches will be defined by key attackers, with leaders City increasingly reliant on striker Sergio Aguero for goals while Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane are injured.

Speaking of strikers, Arsenal's club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will pose a problem for the Toffees' defence thanks to his pace and perceptive movement.

Aguero and Aubameyang are stars, but it's Tottenham's Harry Kane and Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah who have lit up this Premier League season. Whichever one is on form on Merseyside will surely decide this significant encounter.

Here's the full list of fixtures, along with picks:

     

Saturday, February 3

  • Burnley vs. Manchester City, 12:30 p.m. GMT/7:30 a.m. ET. (City)
  • Bournemouth vs. Stoke City, 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET (Draw)
  • Brighton & Hove Albion vs. West Ham United, 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET (Draw)
  • Leicester City vs. Swansea City, 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET (Draw)
  • Manchester United vs. Huddersfield Town, 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET (United)
  • West Bromwich Albion vs. Southampton, 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET (West Brom)
  • Arsenal vs. Everton, 5:30 p.m. GMT/12:30 p.m. ET (Arsenal)

     

Sunday, February 4

  • Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle United, 2:15 p.m. GMT/9:15 a.m. ET (Newcastle)
  • Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 4:30 p.m. GMT/11:30 a.m. ET (Draw)

      

Monday, February 5

  • Watford vs. Chelsea, 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET (Chelsea)

       

Aguero has proved his worth to City after returning to the lone striker role following Jesus' injury. The Argentinian's hat-trick saw off Newcastle United recently, while he also scored during Wednesday's 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Aguero's goals will be vital for City during the run-in.
Aguero's goals will be vital for City during the run-in.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Whenever Aguero plays through the middle, he gives City a natural focal point for their intricate passing between the lines. While he doesn't press with the energy of City's other attackers or link as often with team-mates, the 29-year-old remains a natural finisher with a ravenous appetite for goals.

Aguero will need to be at his best against a formidable Burnley defence led by centre-backs Ben Mee and James Tarkowski. The pair are tough tacklers who read the game well and define the Clarets' physical style.

If Burnley can't keep Aguero under wraps, City will extend their 15-point advantage at the top.

Arsenal need Aubameyang to hit the ground running immediately after Tuesday's 3-1 defeat to Swansea City further damaged their top-four hopes.

Arsenal's club-record signing needs to deliver right away.
Arsenal's club-record signing needs to deliver right away.TF-Images/Getty Images

It left the Gunners eight points adrift of fourth place, and while defensive issues have been obvious, it's also worth noting the north London club has scored the fewest goals of any side in the top six.

It's why Arsenal felt the need to pay £56 million for Gabon international Aubameyang, a deal officially confirmed on Wednesday, per BBC Sport. The investment will be justified if the 28-year-old can replicate the free-scoring form from his time with Borussia Dortmund.

Aubameyang scored goals in bunches for the Bundesliga side, with many of them coming from inside the box, per OptaJoe:

Having somebody who can finish from close range will be a huge fillip for the Gunners, who play an intricate game based on one- and two-touch passing at close quarters.

Everton have generally been solid at the back since Sam Allardyce replaced Ronald Koeman as manager. Yet if they can't keep track of Aubameyang at the Emirates Stadium, the Toffees will suffer.

Spurs rely on Kane, but Liverpool only go as far as Salah takes them. The Egypt international scored from the penalty spot to cap Tuesday's 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

Another goal cemented Salah as the division's most productive attacker:

Salah's breathtaking pace and commendable industry, along with the timing of his runs, are perfect for the high-pressing game Liverpool play. The strategy can unnerve a usually well-disciplined Spurs' defensive line away from home.

Liverpool often start fast at Anfield, so Salah could again be among the goals early.

Elsewhere, Manchester United and Chelsea should win as they bid to make the gap to City easier on the eye. Meanwhile, precious points will be available for those fighting against the threat of relegation when Crystal Palace host Newcastle United on Sunday.

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