Want to be the pub/terrace know-all this weekend? Want to know who has committed the most fouls? Or who has covered the most ground and put in a true captain’s performance? Then read on and let the welcome return of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index arm you with enough stats to impress everyone but girly girls.
Saturday 8th March
West Brom vs Manchester United 12:45
West Brom entertain Manchester United with both sides fully refreshed after a weekend off, following the disruption caused by the League Cup final. It’s a vital game for both sides as we approach the business end of the season, and Pepe Mel will be particularly concerned that his side’s poor form has seen them dragged into a relegation dogfight.
Following the departure of Shane Long to Hull in the January transfer window, youngster Saido Berahino must shoulder much of the goalscoring burden for the Baggies. The 20-year old has impressed since breaking into the first team at the start of the team, particularly with his willingness to take shots at goal at any available opportunity, something that is demonstrated through the fact that he’s taken a shot at goal every 29 minutes this term. Berahino is 7/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
If West Brom are to be relegated this year there certainly won’t be a shortage of suitors looking to secure the services of Claudio Yacob. The holding midfielder has become an essential part of the West Brom team, with his ability to shield the back four to great effect allowing the more creative players to express themselves further up the pitch. His excellent defensive ability can be shown clearest through the fact that he has won 98 tackles this term, more than any other player in the league.
The cornerstone of West Brom’s success under former manager Steve Clarke was the pairing of the aforementioned Claudio Yacob with fellow central midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu. The two marshaled the centre of the field to great effect, allowing the Baggies to gain a real stranglehold on matches. Considering his reputation as a midfield enforcer, Baggies fans may be surprised to hear that Mulumbu has also completed a incredibly high total of dribbles this term, with the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index showing that he has completed 31 – second only behind Sessegnon in the West Brom table.
Morgan Amalfitano has been an astute signing for West Brom as the Frenchman has become something of an outlet for them on the flank. The on-loan midfielder is very much in the classic winger mould as he enjoys taking full backs on, and swinging a teasing cross into the box. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has done this to great effect this term, as he has completed the third most dribbles in the West Brom squad (26) and swung in the most deliveries (25).
Manchester United head to the Hawthorns 12 points away from the Champions League spots. Although the difference isn’t insurmountable, the Champions will need to hit a purple patch to force their way back into contention.
With Nemanja Vidic agreeing to join Inter Milan at the end of the year David Moyes Chris Smalling must think that his time has come to really make his mark on the first team, and hold down a regular first team place. Pundits may not be convinced by Smalling’s ability to fill the skipper’s boots, but when looking at the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, it appears that some of these criticisms can be considered slightly unfounded. So far this season, the former Fulham man has made a total of 201 defensive contributions (based on blocks, interceptions, clearances and tackles won), the third most in the United squad, winning a staggering 95% of his challenges in the process.
One of David Moyes’ priorities at the start of the season was to sign a new left back, with Patrice Evra appearing to be unable to replicate the form that had made him one of the first names on the Manchester United team sheet for the best part of 8 years. No man can ever beat the passing of time, but Evra has certainly gone some way to show that there’s still life in the old dog yet, as he has been one of the Red Devil’s standout performers in an otherwise disappointing season. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has made the second most defensive contributions in the squad (260), and also swung in more crosses than any other defender in the league (23).
Critics may question the money in Wayne Rooney’s bumper new contract, but they surely will be unable to doubt the importance of the former Everton man to the Manchester United team. Rooney’s centrality is best demonstrated through the fact that he has scored 10 goals for Moyes’ men, bettered only by Van Persie’s 11, and he has also registered more assist than any other United player (11).
Adnan Januzaj has been a rare bright spark in an otherwise gloomy season for the Champions, with the teenager making an immediate impact on the first team. Of his many assets, the area that he probably excels best at is his dribbling, showcased through the fact he has completed 35 dribbles this term – more than any other Manchester United player. Januzaj is 7/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
Crystal Palace vs Southampton 15:00
A penalty from Glenn Murray in the last 10 minutes ensured that the Eagles left the Liberty Stadium with a point on Sunday, and they host Southampton who will be looking to improve on their loss to Liverpool in the last round of Premier League fixtures.
Glenn Murray’s has earned high praise from manager Tony Pulis in the last fortnight, with the Eagles manager claiming that he has the quality to keep Palace in the division. Murray scored an outstanding total of 31 goals last season to help Palace secure promotion and he has shown his excellent eye for goal in the short time that he has been back for injury, as he has managed to hit the target with every shot that he has attempted. 888sport.com have Murray t 5/1 to score the first goal on Saturday.
Joe Ledley is a new arrival at Selhurst Park with the former Cardiff and Celtic man arriving in the January transfer window. He hasn’t taken long to bed into the Palace team though, slotting into midfield with consummate ease. He operated in both midfield and defence on Sunday and performed admirably, protecting his back four to great effect. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he won more tackles than any other Palace player (8), with a tackle success rate of 89%.
Wayne Hennessey was another new arrival at Selhurst Park in the January transfer window, with the Welsh international arriving from Wolves. Although still a young man, Hennesey will be looking to establish himself in the Palace lineup as quickly as possible, but with the form that Speroni has shown this season, the Welshman may be on the bench for some time yet. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Speroni made 5 saves on Sunday, the second most in the league, taking his overall tally to 80 – the seventh most in the league.
Yannick Bolassie is a player who’s impressed on the flanks for Palace this term, with his excellent dribbling ability a key element in the Eagles offensive armoury. He showcased this talent of his on Sunday, completing 5 dribbles – the most in the league.
Southampton succumbed to a 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool in the last round of Premier League fixtures, a slightly unfair result considering Southampton boasted more possession and had more attempts at goal. Led by Captain Fantastic Adam Lallana, the Saints will be looking to get their campaign back on track this weekend.
Lallana has been something of a revelation in the Premier League this season, and it will be pleasing for Saints fans that he has replicated that form on the international stage. His creativity could be a key asset for Roy Hodgson come this Summer, as he has an excellent ability to play passes that others can’t. This superb skill of his was on show at the weekend as he completed a total of 36 passes in the opposition half, the most in the Saints squad.
In the form of Callum Chambers, Southampton’s famed Youth Academy appear to have produced another gem of a young player. At the tender age of 19, Chambers has featured in 17 matches for Southampton this term, operating at either right back or on the right wing – and he certainly hasn’t let anyone down in this time. Defensively, he has excelled, making an impressive total of 139 defensive contributions (based on blocks, clearances, interceptions and tackles won).
Gaston Ramirez has struggled at times in his time at Southampton, with the weight of his transfer fee perhaps hanging over him. The Uruguayan was introduced by Pochettino at half time on Saturday, and in the 45 minutes that he was on the field, he showcased his excellent offensive ability. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he completed 3 dribbles, the most in the Southampton squad, and also completed a pass in the opposition half at an impressive rate of a pass every 2.6 minutes. Ramirez is 7/1 with 888sport.com to score at any point on Saturday.
With all the hype surrounding Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, another young Englishman who has gone a bit under the radar is midfielder James Ward-Prowse. Another product of the Youth Academy, the youngster has been practically ever-present for Southampton this term, featuring in 25 of the Saints fixtures so far and within this time, he has managed a swing in an incredible number of crosses. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Ward-Prowse has crossed the ball 22 times – the fifth most in the league.
Cardiff vs Fulham 15:00
Cardiff remain in the bottom three as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane last time out. Ole Gunner Solskjaer will be hoping his side can respond immediately this weekend though in what could prove to be a crucial fixture at the foot of the Premier League table.
Although Cardiff have at times struggled defensively this season, Steven Caulker has nonetheless been a standout performer for the Bluebirds according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. He has the highest tackles success rate of any Cardiff player, winning an excellent 79.1% o his 43 attempted challenges this term.
If Cardiff are to fight their way back up the Premier League table then more goals are a must. Frazier Campbell has had more attempts on goal than any other Cardiff player this term, racking up 31 efforts. He has however only worked the ‘keeper with 41.9% of these attempts and he’ll no doubt be looking to continue to improve this accuracy rate as the season continues. Campbell is an industry best 39/19 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
Although he doesn’t grab as many headlines as some of his teammates, Peter Whittingham is nonetheless a crucial asset to this Cardiff side. He’s completed more passes than any other player in the Cardiff squad with a superb 510 to his name. He is currently the only Cardiff player to have broken the 500 pass barrier in this category.
Midfielder Jordon Mutch has been a key creative outlet for Cardiff this term, compiling some impressive statistics along the way. Only Whittingham has completed more assists than Mutch who currently sits on three, as a solid 29 dribbles showcasing his willingness to chance his arm and take the game to the opposition.
A solitary Johnny Heitinga goal could not prevent Fulham from going down 1-3 to Chelsea thanks to a fine hattrick from Andre Schurrle. Felix Magath was brought in by Fulham to help them fight their way out of the relegation zone and no doubt he will also view this weekend’s fixture as a pivotal game should they wish to retain their Premier League status.
Scott Parker has established himself as the heartbeat of this Fulham side following his arrival from Tottenham. It hasn’t taken him long to see him top the Fulham pile for passes completed in the opponent’s half, with a squad best 539 to his name. These have come at an excellent average rate of one every 3.7 minutes according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
His midfield colleague Steve Sidwell will be crucial in helping to shut down Cardiff in the middle of the park this weekend, having been more active in defence than any other Fulham player this term. He’s attempted 124 tackles, winning 66.1%, and completed 237 total defensive contributions (interceptions, clearances, tackles won, blocks), both squad-highs.
Sidwell has however also racked up the highest number of fouls in the Fulham squad this term with 43. He’ll be keen to not draw the attention of the officials too often this weekend in what will be a crucial battle for three points.
Youngster Pajtim Kasami has been a key attacking outlet at times for Fulham this season and his new manager will no doubt be keen to convert his talents into even more goals for the remainder of the campaign. He’s had more attempts on goal than any other Fulham player with 32. Kasami is 5/1 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
Norwich vs Stoke City 15:00
With their final four league matches of the season against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, the Canaries will be hoping to get their Premier League campaign back on track against Stoke after suffering a disappointing defeat against Aston Villa. Even though Norwich made a promising start which saw Gary Hooper link up with newly recalled teammate Hoolahan who netted with a side-footed effort into the corner from 12 yards, Norwich found themselves 4-1 down before half time.
Despite the dramatic turn of events which saw the Canaries go from leading the game to conceding 4 goals in under 20 minutes, Chris Hughton’s decision to recall Wes Hoolahan looks to have been wise as in addition to scoring Norwich’s only goal, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the midfielder also made 35 attacking contributions, (Shots on target, passes, crosses and dribbles); more than any of his Norwich teammates. Hoolahan is 19/4 to score at anytime with 888sport.com
Norwich fans will be looking to top scorer Gary Hooper to inspire his team to get their Premiership survival campaign back on track. Hooper has found the back of the net 5 times this season and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows he is the Canaries’ most accurate player in front of goal with a shot accuracy of 67.9%
After conceding 4 goals in 20 minutes, the Norwich defence will be hoping to put last weeks defeat behind them. Central to containing Stoke City’s threat will be Joseph Yobo who had a 100% tackle win percentage against Aston Villa. Sébastien Bassong will also prove vital in stopping Stoke City from building on their victory over the Gunners, the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has made 256 defensive contributions (tackles won, blocks, interceptions and clearances) this season; the highest at the club.
Having recently stated that Canaries’ Premier League survival is more important to him than selection for England’s World Cup campaign, Norwich No.1 John Ruddy will be looking to resume the form that has attracted so much media attention. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Ruddy has made 90 saves this season, the second highest in the Premier League.
The Potters, sitting six points clear of the relegation zone, will be hoping to reciprocate the impressive home form they have shown against the Premier League top clubs, away against struggling Norwich this weekend. Stoke and Arsenal looked to be at a stalemate until Laurent Koscielny handled the ball with 14 minutes left on the clock, resulting in a penalty which Potters’ frontman Walters converted. The impressive win, however, has been somewhat overshadowed by Charlie Adam’s charge of violent conduct by the Football Association after an incident with Olivier Giroud which has resulted in a 3 match ban.
Although without talisman Charlie Adam, Mark Hughes will still be confident his Stoke side has sufficient firepower to deal with Norwich. Former England international Peter Crouch is Stoke’s joint top scorer with Adam and provides a significant aerial threat. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Crouch has a shot accuracy rating of 45% so far this season and has completed a total of 327 passes in the opposition half. Crouch is 11/4 to score at anytime with 888sport.com
Central to Stoke’s attacking threat this weekend will be playmaker Steven N’zoni. The midfielder has completed 628 passes in the opposition’s half this year, 18 of which were made in Stoke’s defeat of Arsenal last weekend; more than any of his teammates. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that The Frenchman has made a season total of 646 attacking contributions (Shots on target, passes, dribbles and crosses).
In addition to their attacking threat, Stoke’s impressive defensive capabilities have also proved fundamental to this season’s campaign and in particular the Potters’ fine recent home form against the top Premier League clubs. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that defender Robert Huth has won 83% of his tackles whilst Ryan Shawcross has made 316 defensive contributions (blocks, tackles won, interceptions and clearances) this season; more than any of his fellow teammates.
Chelsea vs Tottenham 17:30
Chelsea pulled four points clear at the top of the Premier League last weekend after convincingly beating Fulham 3-1. José Mourinho’s men are now unbeaten in 12 league matches stretching back to their defeat at Stoke in December. Despite a poor first half performance at Craven Cottage, the Blues found themselves 3 goals up with just over 20 minutes to go.
Chelsea broke the deadlock after 52 minutes when Andre Schurrle combined with the in-form Eden Hazard to slot past Maarten Stekelenburg. It took the German just 16 minutes to complete his hattrick combining again with Hazard before being set up by fellow forward Fernando Torres in the 68th minute. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the German made 13 attacking contributions (shots on target, passes, crosses and dribbles) and had a shot accuracy of 60%. He is 2/1 to score at anytime against spurs with 888sport.com
Eden Hazard once again played an important role in Chelsea’s victory. Assisting Schurrle in his first goal with a clever pass over the top of Dan Burn before combining with the German again by playing him into the box for a simple chance on goal. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that Hazard made 35 attacking contributions (passes, dribbles, crosses and shots on target) against Fulham; contributing to his season total of 990; the 5th highest in the Premier League.
Chelsea fans will be confident of the abilities of César Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill to cope with Tottenham’s attacking threats. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the defenders made 13 defensive contributions (Blocks, interceptions, tackles won and clearances) against Fulham with Azpilicueta winning 77.8% if his tackles.
In the face of Adebayor’s fine recent form, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic’s role will be crucial to Chelsea’s hopes of beating their London rivals. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the pair have made 253 and 231 defensive contributions this season respectively; more than any other of Mourinho’s men.
Tottenham will be looking forward to their trip to Stamford Bridge following their victory against Cardiff, which closed the gap on fourth place Manchester City to just 4 points. Roberto Soldado, scoring his first goal in 9 games, kept the dream of Champions League football alive for Tim Sherwood’s men who needed to show a positive response following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Norwich.
Spurs fans will be hoping that the end of Soldado’s 9 game goal drought will mean the Spaniard can now create a formidable partnership with in form Emanuel Adebayor, who assisted Soldado in his winner against Cardiff. Adebayor has rewarded Tim Sherwood’s faith with 8 goals this season; the highest at the club this season. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the Togolese International has a shot accuracy rating this season of 70%; he is 7/4 to score at anytime with 888sport.com
Kyle Naughton was the biggest attacking threat for Spurs against Cardiff. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he made 61 attacking contributions (passes, shots on target, crosses and dribbles) of which 59 were passes completed in the opposition’s half.
Tim Sherwood should feel confident in the ability of his defense to cope with the threat posed by in form Eden Hazard this weekend. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that defender and Younes Kaboul has won 83.3% of his tackles whilst midfielder Mousa Dembélé has an even more impressive 91.2% tackle accuracy. With 336 defensive contributions so far this season, Tottenham players and fans alike will be sure to look to captain Michael Dawson to provide a bedrock in defence.