Premier League: Key battles on Saturday

Sports Mole takes a look at three of the key on-field battles in Saturday's Premier League games.

The fixture computer has served up another set of intriguing Premier League clashes this Saturday, including two games between four of the bottom five.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the key clashes between players in the games that could decide the points for their respective teams.

1. Gary Medel vs. Mesut Ozil - Cardiff City vs. Arsenal

In a game that, on paper at least, should go the way of the away side, Gary Medel and Mesut Ozil are the two players who sum up the way their teams should play on Saturday. If Cardiff are to get anything from this one, then their midfield enforcer Medel will need to be at his best. If he can upset the intricate Arsenal midfield then the Welsh side stand a chance of getting something.

Gary Medel of Cardiff in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on October 19, 2013© Getty Images

The Chilean will have a similar role to that of Mathieu Flamini for the visitors, but he will see a lot more of the German Ozil throughout the 90 minutes. He will be tasked with just sitting in front of the defence and will not roam as much as the Frenchman. He will also need to win the ball from Ozil as early as possible to nip the danger in the bud.

It is a big ask for Medel and he is unlikely to keep Ozil quiet for the entire 90 minutes. It is what Ozil can do when allowed those few seconds of space that makes him most dangerous. He just needs a couple of chances to pass or run into space and Cardiff could have a long afternoon.

2. Sebastian Bassong vs. Marouane Chamakh - Norwich City vs. Crystal Palace

Sebastian Bassong was dropped by Chris Hughton ahead of the 3-1 win against West Ham United and he also sat out last week's 2-1 loss to Newcastle United. Against Crystal Palace on Saturday, a side who will begin to have a more physical presence under new manager Tony Pulis, the big centre-back could be restored to the XI.

Marouane Chamakh is likely to become an important player this season under Pulis and he has a chance to make a name for himself against Norwich with his aerial ability. How much success he has against Bassong - or if he still does not play, Ryan Bennett - could go a long way to deciding which way the points go on Saturday.

Marouane Chamakh annoyed Arsene Wenger when he was seen smoking shortly after Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers.© Getty Images

Hughton will want his players to match up against Palace in what has to go down as a must-win game for Norwich. That starts at the back, and a dominant display from his club captain would make things very tough for the Londoners.

3. Collison/Noble vs. Boateng/Parker - West Ham United vs. Fulham

Two of the worst sides in the Premier League on current form clash at Upton Park on Saturday with 18th place beckoning for the defeated team. Sam Allardyce's team will surely be ready to battle and Martin Jol will need to prepare his men to scrap for the points. This means that central midfield will be a key area of the pitch both in terms of winning the ball and then doing something with it.

There will be a lot riding on the likely midfield pairings of Jack Collison and Mark Noble for the hosts and Derek Boateng and Scott Parker for Fulham. It is fair to say that neither midfield has taken control of recent games and this represents an opportunity for one of them to do just that.

The burden for West Ham will be shared evenly between the two, but for Fulham defensive responsibility lies much more with Boateng than Parker. It means that should Boateng take the game by the scruff of his neck Fulham might well see more of the ball, but if he doesn't then they will be forced ever deeper during the game.

Derek Boateng of Fulham in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Fulham at the Stadium of Light on August 17, 2013© Getty Images

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison park in Liverpool on November 23, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City24212170185265
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd24165349163353
3Chelsea24155445162950
4Liverpool24138354292547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs24136547222545
6Arsenal24126645311442
7Leicester CityLeicester249783632434
8Burnley249781921-234
9Everton2477102639-1328
10Watford2475123344-1126
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2468103042-1226
12Bournemouth2467112536-1125
13Crystal Palace2467112237-1525
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2466121941-2224
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2465132234-1223
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2458111733-1623
17Stoke CityStoke2465132550-2523
18Southampton24410102435-1122
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom24311101931-1220
20Swansea CitySwansea2455141535-2020
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