Arsenal v Fulham – Robin Van Persie v Brede Hangeland
How the hell do you stop Van Persie this term? The man is on fire and is clearly relishing the mantle of being the side’s figurehead since Fabregas’s departure to Spain. Fulham have the rare fortune to possess a player who might just be able to achieve something no other defender has managed so far – nullify the Dutchman’s potent threat. Hangeland certainly has every attribute required for the task; he is powerful and dominant in the air whilst being deceptively nimble on the ground. He also, crucially, has a football brain to match his prolific opponents and their battle of wits – particularly as regards to movement as one attempts to shephard the other into reluctant areas – will be a fascinating watch.
Swansea v Aston Villa – Scott Sinclair v Alan Hutton
It is vital for the Swans to get back into winning ways at the Liberty following their narrow defeat to United. Their Premier survival is entirely dependant on them establishing an imposing home record and against a Villa side who looked defeated from the opening whistle at Spurs last Monday this is an opportunity not to be wasted. The Welsh side will once again look to attack with real width and the under-rated Hutton will have his work cut out trying to subdue a player in Sinclair who will be desperate to atone for his glaring miss last weekend.
Liverpool v Manchester City – Lucas Leiva v David Silva
With Merlin’s propensity for roaming all over the park it would be folly for Liverpool to deploy a man-marker. But in Lucas they have the next best thing – a combative midfielder who doesn’t just sit in front of the back-four but instead works his socks off and gladly covers the acres. Expect to see the rejuvenated Brazilian snapping at Silva’s heels all afternoon and only backing off if his prey drops deep. The key to this tussle lies with a third party – if Yaya Toure advances into dangerous positions he will take priority and it will allow his magical team-mate to drift wide and double-up on either full-back. There, in conjunction with Adam Johnson who will surely start, the damage can be done.