DEFENDER: Laurent Koscielny – £6.0m (Home v West Ham)
Arsenal continue to have their frequent uncertainties at the back, but one of the consistencies is usually Laurent Koscielny.
The Frenchman has really upped his game in the past couple of seasons to become a real fans’ favourite at the Emirates, where all of his three league goals have come this season ahead of the visit of West Ham.
MIDFIELDER: Jason Puncheon – £5.6m (Home v QPR)
He’s played every minute of Crystal Palace’s last 11 Premier League games, and winger Jason Puncheon will again be crucial as the Eagles welcome QPR in Saturday’s early London derby.
After recently becoming the first ever Palace player to register three assists in the same game in the recent win over West Ham, Puncheon will be looked to to provide the creativity for Alam Pardew’s team, and he could well provide it.
FORWARD: Jermain Defoe – £5.7m (Home v Aston Villa)
The next four fixtures look crucial to Sunderland’s hopes of staying up, and so the investment they made in Jermain Defoe could well stand or fall just by what happens in them.
The English forward will be charged with scoring the goals to get his side out of trouble, and although Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa will have been buoyed by their FA Cup heroics, they are still in deep trouble in the league.
THE OUTSIDER: Andrej Kramaric – £5.5m (Home v Hull)
Time is running out for club record signing Andrej Kramaric to inspire Leicester to beat the drop, and this weekend’s fixture at home to Hull would be a pretty good time to really get going.
The Croatian has just one league goal to his name but a winner here would be priceless, and ahead of a decent run of fixtures he could be worth gambling on.
THE CAPTAIN: Diego Costa – £10.9m (Home v Southampton)
Depending on other results this weekend, the trip to Chelsea might prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Southampton’s top four hopes, and when there are nails in coffins to be hit then you can expect Deiego Costa to be around.
The frequent sinner will be fired up to face the Saints, and he can pick up yet more valuable points in a season which has been full of them.
There aren’t any monsters living under your bed, Friday the 13th is just a date like any other and The Exorcist was just a movie. Heads don’t really spin around like that.
In short, you don’t have to be scared. What initially seems unfamiliar and daunting can be overcome and eventually enjoyed if you just allow yourself to be a little braver and take control of the situation.
Southampton are proving that at the moment.
Following early run-ins with the big beasts of the Premier League, the Saints have slowly begun to acclimatise to their surroundings and are now even starting to look comfortable.
Brave losses to both Manchester clubs and a 6-1 hammering at Arsenal was a tough beginning to life at the top level for boss Nigel Adkins, but he and his side have recovered and come up with some eye-catching football in recent weeks. They’ve only lost one of their last six games.
That defeat came at Anfield at the beginning of the month when some Saints followers felt that their Merseysider boss Adkins showed Liverpool a little too much respect on the way to a 1-0 reverse. And so just when they were in danger of looking intimated by the division again they came up with last weekend’s 1-0 home victory over Reading, possibly their most important result of the season.
It was a win which lifted Saints out of the bottom three and into 15th, a highest position of the season so far.
Of course it is far too early to suggest that this is form that will see them pull away from the relegation zone and enjoy safety in their first top flight season since relegation from the Premier League in 2005 – they subsequently had a spell in the third tier of course – but what it does show is that Adkins and his side aren’t in danger of being completely overwhelmed by the top division, and nor should they be.
There were a few weeks back in August and September when that looked to be the case though, but crucially Southampton have been beating the teams around them this season.
Aston Villa, QPR, Newcastle and Reading are the four sides who Adkins’s men have seen off to pick up 12 points which were as crucial for Saints to claim for themselves as it was to prevent their opponents from taking them.
Given that their weekend fixture with Chelsea has had to be moved into the New Year due to the Blues’ Club World Cup involvement this seems like the perfect time for Southampton to take stock of their campaign and look to move forward again.
A home fixture against Sunderland when they return to action on December 22nd is another opportunity to beat one of those other teams around them, and Adkins will doubtless be looking to prolong the good feeling amongst his players during this gap without a match, a gap which he says will help them given that it provides the chance for captain Adam Lallana to recover from a knee injury without missing a match.
Others such as Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon and Nathaniel Clyne – all impressive in recent weeks – won’t be given time off during Southampton’s break but will instead be encouraged to keep working hard and keep proving that they, Adkins and the club have nothing to be scared of as they continue to go through life in the Premier League.
They are still likely to be involved near the foot of the table come May – even the most optimistic of Saints fans would probably agree to that – but any extra confidence they pick up along the way is sure to stand them in good stead when the wins suddenly get more vital and three points can feel like six.
That’s not a situation to be scared of though, and luckily Southampton know that now.