Top 20: Premier League stars 2012/13
A look at 20 of the Premier League's top performers, including Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale & Robin van Persie
With just seven Barclays Premier League matches left to play, the race for Champions League & Europa League football is hotting up.
Fifth-placed Arsenal sit two points behind Chelsea, who themselves are two points from third-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst the title race is all but over, the battle to avoid relegation is another major talking point ahead of the season run-in, with the bottom seven sides all in danger of playing football in the Championship next season.
In order for the teams to survive the threat of relegation, to play in Europe's elite competition and ultimately to win the Premier League, they rely on their key players to produce moments of magic in order to get the three points which are craved by managers at both ends of the table.
My top 20 players of the season are as follows, but do you agree? Put forward your nominees in the comments box below.
20. David de Gea | Manchester United
United's Spanish stopper may not get the credit he deserves due to past blunders, as he has recently established himself as one of the league's top goalkeepers. De Gea currently has 9 clean sheets from 21 appearences in the Premier League this season.
19. Yaya Toure | Manchester City
The Manchester City monster may not be having as good a season as he did last year, but Toure has still been in good enough form to run the show for City. The Ivory Coast midfielder destroyed Chelsea recently, and has scored 4 goals in 25 appearances.
18. Steven Gerrard | Liverpool
It may be difficult being a Liverpool player at this time, following the club's poor last few seasons and Luis Suarez taking all the headlines, but Anfield legend and current captain Gerrard is still the most-loved player. The England midfielder has played every second of the season so far, scoring 10 goals.
17. Frank Lampard | Chelsea
Whatever the situation about his new deal, Lampard has had yet another top-class season in the blue of Chelsea. Since the 2003/04 season, Lampard has scored over 10 goals a season, and this year is no different. Despite the brilliance of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, the Blues' number eight has smashed in 12 goals in 21 appearances, and is closing in on the record of being Chelsea's highest goalscorer ever.
16. Wayne Rooney | Manchester United
After an indifferent start to the season, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is finally back to his deadly best, scoring 12 goals in 21 appearances. Having missing numerous games following injury, Rooney has timed his form to perfection, as fellow United forward Robin van Persie has struggled for recent form.
15. Rickie Lambert | Southampton
Southampton's goal machine, 31, has won golden boot awards in League 1 and the Championship, and has continued his goalscoring form in the Premier League. The Southampton striker has scored 14 goals this season, including a long-range free kick against Chelsea.
14. Leighton Baines | Everton
Following impressive international displays for England, Baines has been one of the key players to have propelled Everton to fight for a place in the Champions League. Baines, 28, has scored five goals this season, including an incredible free-kick against Newcastle United.
13. Dimitar Berbatov | Fulham
Fulham's Bulgarian star is back to his elegant best after joining for £4 million. Dubbed "the best walking footballer", Berbatov has scored 11 goals in 24 appearances this season, including an incredible volley against Stoke City.
12. Rafael da Silva | Manchester United
Manchester United's 22-year-old right-back is their answer to Barcelona's Dani Alves. The future Brazil full-back seems more like a winger than a defender at times, scoring three goals this season, including a curling effort at Anfield and, more recently, a screamer against QPR.
11. Jan Vertonghen | Tottenham Hotspur
Completing the Belgian invasion of this list, the Spurs defender has been a revelation at White Hart Lane, not only producing top defensive displays, but also attacking contributions too. Vertonghen has scored five goals this season, including a double at Anfield, as well as a solo-goal at Old Trafford.
10. Eden Hazard | Chelsea
Mata's partner in crime, Belgian winger Hazard has had an exciting debut season in the Premier League. In 27 appearances, he has scored eight goals, as well as combining with Oscar and Mata to assist eight for his teammates. The former Lille forward has become one of Chelsea's key men, scoring recently against West Ham.
9. Marouane Fellaini | Everton
Fellaini is Everton's record signing of £15 million in 2008, and it's easy to see why. David Moyes has pushed the Belgian into a more attacking role, and he's scored 11 goals in the league so far, including the only goal as Everton beat United on the opening weekend of the season.
8. Christian Benteke | Aston Villa
I have acknowledged the fact that many fans will be wondering as to why Benteke is so high on this list, but it is simple - he has contributed to over half of Aston Villa's goals this season. Put simply, without the Belgian powerhouse, the Villains would be relegated by now. Benteke has scored 14 league goals this season (his debut year), and is catching the eye of bigger clubs, including the likes of Manchester City and Inter Milan.
7. Michael Carrick | Manchester United
Former Tottenham midfielder Carrick has been ever-present in Manchester United's team since he moved from Spurs in 2006 for £18 million. The Englishman is perhaps the most-underrated player in the Premier League, as he is one of United's most consistent performers and one of the reasons why they are so far atop the table.
6. Michu | Swansea
One of this season's most talked about players, Swansea star Michu has surprised the English game since day one. The £2 million forward has scored 16 league goals this season, and may go down as the biggest bargain in Premier League history.
5. Santi Cazorla | Arsenal
The incredible thing about Arsenal's Spaniard this season is that new signings usually take a few months to adjust to the pace and power of the Premier League, but Cazorla has run Arsenal's season since the opening day. He is Arsenal's most dangerous player as a playmaker, and has scored in big games against Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool.
4. Robin van Persie | Manchester United
In 26 appearances this term, United's Dutch striker has scored 19 times, including a breath-taking hat-trick at St. Mary's against Southampton. Van Persie is also one of the favourites to win the PFA Player of the Year award this season, following his triumph in an Arsenal shirt last year.
3. Juan Mata | Chelsea
Chelsea's silky Spanish playmaker has won them matches from an attacking midfield position this season, scoring 10 league goals as well as creating 10 for his colleagues. His world-class passing, vision and finishing means that, along with his combinations between Hazard and Oscar, he is one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League.
2. Gareth Bale | Tottenham
Running Suarez incredibly close, the favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award. Winger Bale is perhaps the best footballer from Wales since Ryan Giggs, and his 17 goals this season prove that argument, including a 'Goal of the Season' contender against West Ham. Bale also scored in Spurs' first win at Old Trafford for 23 years, which has helped him become one of Europe's most-sought after stars.
1. Luis Suarez | Liverpool
The Premier League's current top goalscorer is never far from controversy, but it is difficult to ignore Suarez's brilliance on the ball. He has scored 22 league goals this season in 30 appearances, including hat-tricks against Norwich City and Wigan Athletic. His genius has prompted Steven Gerrard to say that the Uruguayan is the best striker the Liverpool captain has ever played with.
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