Hull vs Chelsea 12:45
Hull went down 2-0 to Liverpool at Anfield last time out, with Steve Bruces’ men unable to contain one of the in-form sides in the league in a match which became somewhat about damage limitation for the home side.
Curtis Davies has been garnering a large amount of column inches this season thanks to someone excellent performances at the back for Hull. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, these headlines are well-deserved, with Davies currently standing fifth in the league for total defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, tackles won) with 245.
Hull fans will be hoping that Tom Huddlestone’s new hairstyle won’t prove to be an unlucky charm as the former Tottenham man continues to impress at the KC Stadium. No Hull player has won more tackles than his total of 52, representing a success rate of 80%.
Liam Rosenior has pulled in some impressive defensive statistics this season, but he’s been equally solid when venturing into the opponent’s half this term. He currently has the best average pass completion rate in the Hull squad, racking up one on average every 4.1 minutes he’s been on pitch.
Striker Danny Graham may not have had the most of prolific seasons so far but his shooting statistics suggest that more goals may not be far off. He currently has the best shot accuracy rate of any Hull player, hitting the target with 63.6% of his 11 attempts on goal. Graham is an industry best 9/2 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
Chelsea secured an impressive 0-3 win on the road on New Year’s Day, beating Southampton with consummate ease. The Blues are beginning to show their title credentials, with goals from Fernando Torres, Willian and Oscar completed a comfortable win against what was one of the tightest defences in the Premier League.
Ramires remains the most penalised players in the league so far this term according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. The Brazilian has a league-leading 37 tackles to his name, as well as 6 yellow cards.
However the Brazilian enforcer does also have the highest number of attempted tackles to his name this season with 107, his workrate and commitment proving to be invaluable assets to Jose Mourinho as he looks to rebuild a new squad.
Eden Hazard broke through an impressive personal barrier last time out, the young Belgian continuing to develop under the tutelage of Mourinho. Hazard is now only the seventh player in the league to have completed more than 600 passes in the opponent’s half (604), with these coming at an average rate of one every 2.7 minutes.
The introduction of Oscar into the fray in the second half against the Saints proved to be a masterstroke by Jose Mourinho, the youngster providing the catalyst for the Blues eventual victory. Despite only being on the pitch for a total of 37 minutes, Oscar not only registered two assists, but also managed to rack up a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 2.9 minutes. Oscar is an industry best 11/4 with 888sport.com to get himself on the scoresheet against Hull thought and score at any time this weekend.
Cardiff vs West Ham 15:00
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer guided Cardiff to a 2-1 victory in his first game at the helm at Cardiff, with goals from Craig Noone and Frazier Campbell ensuring that the Bluebirds progressed to the fourth round.
Solksjaer would have been delighted with the spirited performance of the Cardiff team, particularly after the disappointment of coming so close to holding Arsenal in their last Premier League game. Kevin McNaughton made his first appearance of the season against the Gunners and he certainly showed his commitment to the cause as he attempted 7 tackles, the third most in the league.
As we pass the halfway mark in the season, it is clear to see who Malky Mackay built his side around. Peter Whittingham and Steven Caulker are the only players in the Cardiff squad to have featured in every minute for the Bluebirds this term, and it will be interesting to see whether the new boss has the same unwavering faith in the duo.
One real bright spark for Cardiff in an indifferent first half of the campaign has been central midfielder Jordan Mutch, with the young Englishman showcasing his excellent offensive ability. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights this, as not only has the midfielder completed a pass in the opposition half at an impressive rate of a pass every 5.3 minutes, but he has also made 7 goalscoring contributions (based on goals and assists). Mutch is 13/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
Craig Bellamy may not have featured as much as he’d have liked this term due to injury problems, but he has shown his timeless class in the opportunities that he has been given. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he has hit the target with 60% of his shots this term, a more impressive percentage than any of his teammates.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham continued their indifferent form in their last Premier League game as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away to Fulham. January looks to be an important month for big Sam as he looks for signings to steer the club away from the drop zone.
Allardyce will be hoping that the acquisition of Roger Johnson helps solve West Ham’s centre-back crisis as injury problems meant that he fielded two unnatural centre halves against the Cottagers. Joey O’Brien was one of the men asked to step in, and he showed his natural defensive awareness as he made a total of 9 clearances – the most in the West Ham squad.
Matthew Taylor has always been a firm favourite of Sam Allardyce having played under the manager at Bolton and now at West Ham, with his ability to operate at left back or left midfield a real asset for any team. He was deployed on the left wing against Fulham and demonstrated his excellent offensive ability by making a total of 21 attacking contributions (based on passes in the opposition half, shots on target, dribbles and crosses). You can find Matty Taylor at 18/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
By examining the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, it isn’t difficult to see why the absence of centre halves has hit the Hammers so hard as their excellent tackling ability has been on show all term. The preferred centre backs, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and James Collins, all have a tackle success rate of over 75%.
Sam Allardyce described Kevin Nolan as ‘irresponsible’ following his red card against Fulham, and mentioned that his actions not only affected the team in the game, but also in the subsequent fixturess in which he will be forced to serve a suspension. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights precisely how integral Nolan is to the Hammers team, as so far this season he has made a total of 8 goalscoring contributions – the most in the West Ham squad. His absence will certainly be felt against Cardiff this weekend.
Everton vs Norwich 15:00
Everton drew 1-1 with Stoke last time out thanks to a last-gasp penalty from Leighton Baines. The Toffees had appeared to be heading towards three dropped points after going 1-0 down and seeing two shots hit the bar, but they eventually found the break they needed and were good value the draw at the Britannia.
Romelu Lukaku continues to impress this term whilst on loan from Chelsea, the imposing Belgian transferring his excellent form from The Hawthorns to Goodison Park. His 63.2% shot accuracy rate is the highest total for any of the top 20 players in the league for total attempts on goal according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Roberto Martinez, and indeed all Everton fans, will be keen to see Gerard Deulofeu return from injury as soon as possible. The youngster has been incredibly impressive whilst on loan from Barcelona and currently has one of the best shot accuracy rates in the league, with 81.3% of his 16 attempts working the ‘keeper.
Youngster Ross Barkley shows no sign of letting the high praise he has been receiving this season go to his head. Everton fans will be have been hoping that he would keep his head down and simply continue to develop his outstanding talent and he has been doing exactly that. Barkley has completed the joint fourth highest number of attacking contributions (crosses, dribbles, shots on goal) in the league this season with 93. Barkley is 5/2 with 888sport.com to score at any time this weekend.
Barkley appears to be flourishing under the guidance of not only Martinez, but also some of the more experienced members of the Everton squad. Gareth Barry would certainly fall under such a category and has been the perfect foil for Barkley’s attacking instincts at times this season. In the last round, only Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta and Santiago Cazorla combined in similar roles for greater success, with Barry and Barkley registering 98 successful passes in the opponent’s half between them.
Norwich grabbed a point thanks to a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in torrential conditions at Selhurst Park. Chris Hughton felt aggrieved after what should have been a red card for Marouane Chamakh for a push on Wes Hoolahan, but he will need to pick his side up for a tough away game this weekend.
Norwich may have been struggling at times this season but Sebastian Bassong can hold his head up high as one of the Canaries’ best performers according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. No player has contributed more to the Norwich defensive effort than Bassong, who leads the squad for defensive contributions (blocks, interceptions, tackles won, clearances) with 153.
Leroy Fer may prove to be one of Chris Hughton’s best pieces of business during his tenure as Norwich boss if he continues in his current form. However Fer may have to adapt his tackling style slightly following his summer move, drawing the most fouls of any Norwich player with 36.
Jonny Howson has been of the fulcrums of the Norwich midfield this term, linking up play in the middle of the park excellently. His 356 passes completed in the opponent’s half is the current Norwich squad benchmark.
More goals may well be not far off for Gary Hooper, who looks to be finding his feet at Carrow Road. He currently has the best shot accuracy rate of any Norwich player, with 68.4% of his 19 shots testing the opposition ‘keeper. Hooper is 7/2 with 888sport.com to score at any time this weekend.
Southampton vs West Bromwich Albion
Southampton fell to a 0-3 defeat at home to Chelsea on New Year’s Day, the Saints struggling to make any in-roads against a dangerous Blues outfit. They will need to regroup ahead of the visit of a West Brom side who are precariously positioned above the relegation zone.
Rickie Lambert continues to display the kind of willingness to have an attempt on goal which may yet win him a post on the plane to Brazil and which the Baggies defence must be wary of. He is currently the joint fifth highest rated striker in the league for total shots on goal with 38. Lambert is an industry best 7/5 to score at any time with 888sport.com this weekend.
The transfer window has rolled round again and once more the future of Luke Shaw is being debated. Shaw has stated adamantly that he will be staying on the south coast though, which must be music to the ears of Mauricio Pochettino. The 18-year old currently has one of the best tackle success rates in the Southampton squad despite his tender years, winning 68.3% of his 41 attempted challenges according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Pablo Osvaldo has taken little time to settle into Southampton’s style of play since arriving from Roma and the Saints will miss him while he serves out his ban for his part in the touchline incident against Newcastle. Osvaldo leads the Southampton squad for attacking contributions (shots on goal, assists, dribbles, crosses) with 38.
Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin once again leads the Southampton squad for passes completed in the opponent’s half this weekend, and West Brom will have to do their best to stifle his use of possession. He’s racked up 413 so far this term.
A late Saido Berhaino penalty gave West Brom what could prove to be an absolutely vital 3 points at home to Newcastle last week. The victory was the Baggie’s first in the 10 league games and caretaker boss Keith Downing will be hoping they can now push on and move themselves further away from the bottom three.
Claudio Yacob continues to be one of unsung heroes of this West Brom campaign, his defensive efforts providing some stellar statistics. The Argentinian has won the joint highest number of tackles in the league according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index with 72. This gives him a 70.6% tackles success rate so far this term.
Fellow midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu has been compiling some impressive statistics of his own this season, his reading of the game being particularly exceptional. He’s completed the joint second highest number of interceptions in the league with 51, tied with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny.
The form of Stephane Sessgenon may well hold the key to the rest of West Brom’s season, the Benin midfielder being one of the driving attacking forces for the Baggies so far this term. His 56 attacking contributions (shots on goal, crosses, dribbles, assists) is the current squad benchmark. Sessegnon is an industry best 5/1 to score at any time with 888sport.com this weekend.
Similarly, the fitness of Jonas Olsson may prove to be another crucial factor, albeit at the opposite end of the pitch. The Swede leads the West Brom squad for total defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, tackles won) this term with 223 and whoever takes over at The Hawthorns will need his leadership in defence moving forward.
Fulham vs Sunderland
A victory over fellow strugglers West Ham will have given Fulham a much needed boost as they look to move away from the relegation zone, and the Cottagers will be looking to make it two wins on the bounce when they host fellow strugglers Sunderland this weekend.
Fulham’s winner was scored by striker Dimitar Berbatov as he made a return to the side following a groin problem which had kept him out since December 14th. The enigmatic Bulgarian, should he choose to stay this January, will be central to Fulham’s hopes of staying in the league, not only because of his goals but also his overall creative package. Berbatov’s passing is one of his key assets, and this outstanding ability of his was on show again against the Hammers as he managed to complete a total of 29 passes in West Ham’s half – the second most of any striker in the league.
Fulham boasted an incredible 68% of possession against West Ham and this was, in no small part, down to the performance of midfield general Scott Parker. Parker has become an essential component of the Fulham lineup since his arrival at Craven Cottage, featuring in 17 of their 20 fixtures so far this campaign, and he was at his creative best against the Hammers. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he completed 56 passes in the opposition half, which was more than any other player in the league.
Berbatov and Sidwell may have grabbed the headlines with their goals against West Ham, but the performance of Philippe Senderos should not be undervalued. The former Gunner has undergone something of a revolution since Meulensteen took the reins, and he produced another imperious performance against the Hammers. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he made 13 clearances – the most in the league.
Steve Sidwell has been a rare shining light in an otherwise gloomy campaign for Fulham, and his equalizer against West Ham underlined his worth to the team. Not only has he played more minutes than any other Fulham player this term (1650), but he has also made 40 interceptions – the sixth most of any midfielder.
Sunderland battled their way to a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the first leg of their semi-final. It was a morale-boosting win after a disappointing loss to Aston Villa at home in the last round of Premier League fixtures.
Gus Poyet will be extremely frustrated by the result, particularly because his team boasted 65% of possession. Pass-master Ki Sung-Yueng was critical in ensuring Sunderland retained the ball, as he managed to complete an impressive 46 passes in the opposition half – the fifth most in the league. Poyet has expressed his hope that Sung-Yueng will remain at the Stadium of Light, and on the back of performances such as these, it isn’t hard to see why.
Another player who Gus Poyet has seen as an essential component of his team is full back Phillip Bardsley. Off-field players problems led to the Scot being discarded by former manager Paulo Di Canio, but he has come back into the fold since Poyet took the reins, contributing defensively, but also popping up with a few goals. Bardsley’s propensity to bomb forward was evident again against Aston Villa as he completed an impressive 37 passes in the opposition half. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that no other defender completed more than the former Manchester United man.
Jozy Altidore has made 18 appearances for Sunderland in the league this year, but has only managed to hit the back of the net once. When consulting the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, this appears to be a fairly surprising statistic, as he has hit the target with an impressive 64% of his efforts. No other player in the Sunderland squad matches the American’s accuracy. Altidore is 11/2 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
Sunderland will be desperately looking to tie Jack Colback down to a new contract with his current deal due to expire at the end of the campaign. His versatility has been an asset for Gus Poyet, with his ability to operate both in central midfield and left back a major boost. He’s showcased his offensive and defensive skills this term, as he has won an impressive 70% of his challenges and also completed a pass in the opposition half at an impressive rate of a pass every 4.7 minutes.
Tottenham vs Crystal Palace
Tottenham host Crystal Palace in a clash of two of the Premier League’s newest managers, and both Tim Sherwood and Tony Pulis will be looking to build on their impressive starts.
One of the first moves that Tim Sherwood made at the start of his tenure was to bring Emmanuel Adebayor back in from the wilderness, and his decision has certainly been vindicated with the Togolese striker putting in a number of top quality performances. He was impressive again against Manchester United as the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates, as he made a total of 22 attacking contributions (based on shots on target, crosses, dribbles and passes in the opposition half), which was more than any other player in the squad.
When looking at the Tottenham striker’s shooting statistics, Sherwood’s decision to bring Adebayor back in to the fold shouldn’t be considered too much of a surprise. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that Adebayor has managed to hit the target with 63% of his efforts, whereas Defoe’s accuracy is only 45% and Soldado’s 35%.
Christian Eriksen’s scored the goal that proved to be the winner against the Champions, and it was probably the most telling contribution of his Spurs career to date. Critics have been quick to jump on the back of Eriksen since his move to North London, but the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights that many of these criticisms may be unfounded. His passing, in particular, has been impressive, as he has completed a pass in the opposition half every 2.9 minutes, however he also has incredible shooting statistics. So far this season, he has hit the target with 80% of his shots. Eriksen is 8/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
The injury to Andros Townsend has certainly hit Spurs hard, with Tim Sherwood’s men missing his classic wing play. So far this campaign, Townsend has completed 56 dribbles, the most in the Spurs squad, and swung in 12 crosses, also the most in the Spurs ranks.
Tony Pulis will be hoping that Crystal Palace’s progress isn’t hampered by their disappointing draw at home to Norwich.
Since Pulis took over at Selhurst Park, he has placed more emphasis on defensive organisation, and the performance of Joel Ward against Norwich encapsulated this change of philosophy. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he was successful in every challenge that he attempted.
Jason Puncheon has been incredibly impressive since he made his loan switch to the Eagles, featuring in 17 of their 20 matches this term. Always a threat on the wing, Puncheon’s ability to glide past defenders and swing in a cross has been evident this term, and his excellent offensive ability was on show against the Canaries as he made a total of 27 attacking contributions (based on passes in the opposition half, crosses, dribbles and shots on target). This was the most in the Palace squad. Puncheon is 17/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal at the weekend.
Mile Jedinak has been an inspirational skipper for Palace this term, and has led from the front in their fight against relegation. This is most evident in the fact that he is the only outfield player in the Eagles’ squad to have featured in every minute of the campaign so far. The Australian has also made a staggering number of interceptions this campaign, with no other player in the league bettering Jedinak’s 70.
Barry Bannan has made a solid start to life at Selhurst Park, racking up a total of 13 appearances for the Eagles since his move in the Summer. His crossing has excelled in this time, as he has swung the ball in a total of 17 times – more than any other Palace player.
Manchester Utd vs Swansea 17:30
Manchester Utd’s woes this season continued last week as David Moyes’ side fell to a 1-2 defeat at home to Tottenham. After falling 0-1 behind, Danny Welbeck drew the hosts level but Christian Eriksen’s winner saw Tottenham head back to London with all three points and left Utd fans to ponder their somewhat under par form of late.
The word is that Javier Hernandez may push for a move this month to enhance his chances of making the Mexico team for the World Cup in Brazil this summer. Hernandez is a natural poacher and has been showing his shooting instincts again this season. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the diminutive Mexican the best shot accuracy rate of any player in the league to have had more than 5 attempts on goal (87.5%).
Fellow striker Wayne Rooney has also been showcasing his value to the Reds rebuilding effort this term. His attacking abilities are well-known, but Rooney also currently has the third highest number of defensive contributions (blocks, tackles won, interceptions, clearances) of any forward in the league with 58. Rooney still may be amongst the goals this weekend though and he’s evens with 888sport.com to score at any time this weekend.
With news that Nemanja Vidic may not extend his current deal past this season, Chris Smalling looks set to take over as part of a new look defensive lineup next season. The England international appears ready to make the step up though, currently has the second best tackle success rate of any player in the league to have attempted more than 20 tackles, winning 91.7% of his 24 attempts this season.
Michael Carrick remains one of the vital components in the Manchester Utd machine and will no doubt be a vital part of the rebuilding effort under David Moyes. He’s second only to Tom Cleverley for passes completed in the opponent’s half with 470, but has also completed 104 defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, tackles won), the only Utd midfielder to move into triple figures in this category so far this season.
Despite a brace from the impressive Wilfried Bony, Swansea eventually lost 2-3 to Manchester City in a thrilling game at the Liberty Stadium last time out. Michael Laudrup was quick to praise the attitude of his players to keep battling against City’s creative onslaught and it is this exact quality he will hoping they can display again against this weekend as they prepare for an expected Utd backlash.
With Michu suffering from a slight drop off in form this season, Swans fans will be glad to see that Wilfried Bony appears to have hit the ground running at the Liberty. Given his brace last week it’s unsurprising that he had one of the best shot accuracy rates of any player in the league in the last round, with 60% of his 5 attempts on goals working Joe Hart. Bony is 11/4 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
In Jonjo Shelvey and Jonathan de Guzman, Swansea have two of the most prolific passers and one of the most technically gifted midfields, in the league. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index they’ve completed 1,153 passes in the opponent’s half between them, with both averaging a completed pass every 2.7 minutes or less. Utd will have to work hard in the middle of the park to make sure they aren’t starved of possession for too long during the game this weekend.
Ashley Williams has been one of the rocks at the back for Michael Laudrup’s side this season, allowing the creative players in front of him to flourish. The Wales captain has racked up 228 defensive contributions (blocks, interceptions, tackles won, clearances) so far this term, a squad-high.
No Swans player has been more keen to take the game to opposition defences than Nathan Dyer this season and the Utd defence will need to be wary of allowing him too much room this weekend. He leads the Swansea squad for dribbles with 24.
Sunday 12th January
Newcastle vs Manchester City 14:05
A red card from Mathieu Debuchy sent Newcastle on their way to a disappointing 1-0 loss against West Brom, and they host Manchester City desperately looking to get back to winning ways.
Newcastle fans will be praying that they can fend off interest from Arsenal, and keep hold of the services of playmaker Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman has been in scintillating form this term, with his passing in particular a joy to behold. This excellent ability of his was on show again against the Baggies, as he completed a total of 29 passes in the opposition half – 11 more than any other Newcastle player. Cabaye is 14/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal at the weekend.
Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye have formed a formidable central midfield partnership over the last few years, with Tiote the foil to Cabaye’s more creative instincts. Tiote produced another swashbuckling display against the Baggies, protecting the back four by completing an impressive 75% of his challenges. Tiote has certainly shown his willingness to get stuck in this campaign, as no other player in the Newcastle squad has attempted as many tackles as Tiote’s 90.
If Newcastle are to breach the top 6, then they’ll need the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa to perform to his brilliant best. The Frenchman has been on the bench in recent weeks, but he still manages to top the Newcastle table regarding dribbles completed (43). After losing two games on the bounce, manager Alan Pardew may look to roll the dice and bring the talented midfielder back into the fold.
Mathieu Debuchy’s absence will be sorely felt by Newcastle in the next three games following his reckless red card, the Frenchman has been one of the Magpies most consistent performers. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has made a total of 207 defensive contributions this term (based on blocks, tackles won, interceptions and clearances), which is the most in the Newcastle squad.
As we pass over the halfway point in the season Manchester City look like they’re hitting top gear, winning five games on the bounce. Critics have argued that their away form is what is letting them down, and they face a stern test as they head to St James’ Park.
One player who has really impressed in this time is midfielder Fernandinho, who looks like he’s starting to get to grips with the Premier League. He produced a barnstorming display against Swansea scoring and also protecting the back four with aplomb. His defensive capabilities are most evident through the fact that he made the most interceptions in the Manchester City squad (3), and also attempted the most challenges (7). Fernandinho has been impressive defensively all term, as he has completed a total of 131 defensive contributions, more than any other Manchester City player.
Samir Nasri has been in fine form all season, and this was no different against Swansea as he produced another eye-catching display. The Frenchman struggled at times last campaign, following his well-publicised fallout with Roberto Mancini, but he has undergone a rejuvenation under Manuel Pellegrini, managing to keep the brilliant David Silva out of the team at times. The Frenchman was in fine form again against Swansea, as he completed a pass in the opposition half at a rate of a pass every 2.5 minutes.
Sergio Aguero has hit the headlines this term as he has produced numerous match-winning displays, but one player who has been slightly overlooked is central midfielder Yaya Toure. Toure has become a real fans favourite since his arrival at the Etihad, and he has certainly been a midfield maverick in front of goal this campaign, hitting the back of the net a total of 10 times – more than any midfielder, and the third most in the league. Toure is 15/2 with 888sport.com to score the first goal at the weekend.
Edin Dzeko may not have started as many games as he would have liked this campaign, with Manuel Pellegrini favouring the strike partnership of Negredo and Aguero. In the opportunities he has had though, Dzeko has shown an eagerness to take shots at goal, with the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index showing that he averages a shot every 24 minutes.
Stoke vs Liverpool 16:10
Despite Oussama Assaidi’s opener, Stoke could not quite hold on for the win last week against Everton, as a late penalty saw the match end 1-1. The Potters will be without the Moroccan this weekend though, as his parent club Liverpool arrive at the Britannia to no doubt test the resilience of Mark Hughes’ side.
Assaidi has been in fine form for the Potters this season, jumping at the chance for regular first team football and the opportunity to impress Brendan Rodgers, albeit from afar. He’s only had eight shots on goal, but has scored three goals from the 62.5% of those eight shots which have hit the target.
Ryan Shawcross continues to be one of the most physically committed players in the league this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Only Cardiff’s Steven Caulker (31) can better his total of 29 blocks.
His central defensive partnership with Robert Huth has been vital for Stoke this term and will no doubt continue to be given the level of understanding between the two players. The German has distinguished himself in his own right as well though this season, pulling in some impressive defensive statistics. Huth has completed an excellent 83.3% of his 30 attempted tackles this term, the best rate in the Stoke squad.
Asmir Begovc remains one of the most sought after ‘keepers in the league so Stoke fans will be hoping that this window can pass without one of their prize assets departing. Begovic is enjoying another standout season so far though, completing an excellent 61 saves, as well as 11 clearances. The latter figure in particular shows the anticipation and defensive instincts the Bosnian possesses, a valued trait in the age of the modern ‘sweeper-keeper’.
Liverpool cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win last time out against Hull, with goals from Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez giving them all three points at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers hailed the team performance of his side after the game, with a team ethic being built around the work rate and instinctive brilliance of his mercurial Uruguayan striker.
The sterling form of Suarez shows no signs of abating as the season wears on. He’s still had the most on target attempts on goal of any player in the league according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, with 43 to his name.
Despite a great start to his Anfield career, Phillippe Coutinho will likely be a little disappointed with some of his shooting statistics following his return from injury. The Brazilian has had the third highest number of off-targets attempts in the league, with 26. This represents a 39.5% shot accuracy rate for the gifted playmaker, something he will be looking to improve upon as he attempts to return to full form. You can find Coutinho at an industry best 5/2 with 888sport.com to score at any time this weekend.
Martin Skrtel continues to demonstrate what an indispensable part of the Liverpool defence he has once again become with some excellent defensive work this season. He’s completed the second highest number of clearances in the league, with 187 to his name.
Simon Mignolet has been outstanding for the Reds following his arrival from Sunderland in the summer. Brendan Rodgers may be concerned however that he has completed the third highest number of saves in the league with 66 and the highest number of any ‘keeper from a team in the top 6.
Monday 13th January
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
A morale-boosting victory away at Sunderland moved Villa six points clear of the relegation places, cementing their place in the middle of the table, and they host in-form Arsenal on Monday.
Christian Benteke’s goalscoring woes continued against the Black Cats, with the striker failing to find the back of the net again. He did, however, impress in other areas of the pitch, with his passing in particular a joy to behold. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that completed a total of 21 passes in the opposition half – more than any other in the Villa team. Benteke is an industry best 21/10 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Monday.
Ashley Westwood completed another 90 minutes against the Black Cats, underlining his status as an integral member of the Villa team. The former Sheffield United man mas completed 1507 minutes this season, which is more than any other player in the Villa squad.
The injury of Libor Kozak will be a bitter blow to Paul Lambert’s men, as the tall striker has made a solid start to life at Aston Villa. Despite Lambert favouring Christian Benteke over the Czech Republican, Kozak has still managed to score four goals, which is unsurprising considering his excellent shooting record (he’s hit the target with 78% of his efforts).
Marc Albrighton has impressed since returning from a loan spell at Wigan, with his his passing being a particular highlight. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that he has completed a pass in the opposition half at a rate of a pass every 4 minutes.
Arsenal will be hoping that the loss of winger Theo Walcott doesn’t stop the momentum that they’ve built up over the last few weeks.
Two goals in the last 3 minutes guided Arsenal to a 2-0 victory over Cardiff, but truth be told, this did not reflect Arsenal’s level of dominance. Walcott, in particular, was a constant menace as he took a total of 8 shots – the most in the league.
Walcott’s absence in the forthcoming months will most definitely be felt by the Arsenal team, as over recent weeks he has returned to sparkling form. This is probably clearest through the fact that he has made 10 goalscoring contributions (based on goals and assists), in only 13 appearances.
Arsene Wenger’s plethora of quality midfielders has meant that he has the option to rotate players such as Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere. Mikel Arteta was given one of the coveted central midfield berths against Cardiff, and his excellent passing ability was on show all afternoon. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he completed a pass in Cardiff’s half every 1.6 minutes.
Who to start in the ‘number 10’ role must be a constant dilemma for Arsene Wenger, with talented players such as Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere eager to play there. Santi Cazorla started there against the Bluebirds and was impressive, making a total of 58 attacking contributions (based on passes in the opposition half, crosses, dribbles and shots on target). You can find Cazorla at 17/2 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Monday.