Whilst the Premier League title race seems to be heading towards an anti-climactic conclusion, there is still plenty to play for over the final months of what has proven to be an enthralling season.
Just six points separate six teams in the race to secure a top four finish or European qualification, with the tight nature of the Premier League meaning there is remarkably also just nine points between fifth-placed Sheffield United and Crystal Palace in 14th.
Norwich may be facing a fight to survive, though the relegation candidates are also far from assured, whilst there is the small matter of players wanting to impress their national sides with a European Championship and Copa America looming large on the horizon this summer.
Several stars will be wanting to make a huge impression as the season draws to a close, and here are five Premier League stars we hope can ‘kick on’ over the final months of the campaign…
Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
The marquee signing of the January transfer window, Fernandes would join Manchester United following a protracted chase in a deal which could rise as high as £68m.
The Portuguese international had starred for Sporting Lisbon in recent seasons, scoring prolifically from midfield with 32 goals in all competitions last season and a further 13 over the first half of the campaign thus far.
Fernandes would make a promising debut during the club’s goalless draw with Wolves prior to the international break, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope the 25-year-old can provide the creativity and goal threat that has been sorely lacking in an unimaginative United midfield this season.
Despite the club’s disappointing season so far there is still plenty to play for for the Red Devils, United six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea in the race to secure Champions League football at present and drawn to face Derby County and Club Brugge in the next stages of the FA Cup and Europa League respectively.
Adding Fernandes to a midfield that could be boosted by the returns of injured duo Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba will enhance the spine of Solskjaer’s developing side, and should the winter signing hit the ground running he could make the difference to United’s season.
Tanguy Ndombele – Spurs
Another marquee signing for one of the Premier League’s top six, Tanguy Ndombele’s Spurs career is yet to truly take off since his club record arrival from Lyon last summer.
The France international’s move to north London was seen as a major coup for Spurs amid interest from several of Europe’s elite clubs, though despite glimpses of his talents Ndombele is yet to make his mark in English football.
Clearly talented, the 23-year-old possesses all the attributes to develop into one of the Premier League’s most complete midfield players, though injury and fitness issues have hampered his progress with Jose Mourinho seemingly unconvinced about the star at present.
Two goals and four assists have been provided in 15 starts in all competitions so far, whilst his unique blend of power and dribbling ability in central areas make him an exciting watch for the neutral.
Ndombele has completed the ninety minutes just once in the Premier League since the second weekend of the season, and needs to prove his fitness can sustain the required intensity to force his way into Mourinho’s plans.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – Chelsea
After months of speculation surrounding his future and the flirting with German giants Bayern Munich, Hudson-Odoi would sign a long term deal at Chelsea, the winger keen to play his part in the revolution of ‘Lampard’s lads’ at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi’s precocious talents have been well documented during the early stages of his Premier League career, the 19-year-old having earned his first senior caps for England despite having yet to establish himself as first-team regular in west London.
Having recovered from a serious Achilles injury that ruled the winger out of the start of the season, it has proven to be a frustrating campaign for the youngster so far, starting just seven times in the Premier League, with four of those coming in the past four league fixtures in the absence of the injured Christian Pulisic.
A first top-flight goal and a further five assists have been provided in all competitions, though the teenager is yet to produce the electric displays which first marked him out as perhaps a generational talent. Still incredibly young and developing, he looks an outside bet to make this summer’s European Championship, though a strong second half of the season could see him force his way into contention.
David McGoldrick – Sheffield United
It just hasn’t happened for David McGoldrick in the Premier League yet, has it?
The relationship between the Irish international and the Sheffield United fans may just be one of the most unique in the division, the Blades’ fans adoring the centre-forward despite him failing to register a single league goal so far this season.
Last season’s Player of the Year in their promotion-winning campaign, McGoldrick has once again been a fundamental part of the club’s meteoric rise towards the European places, though he remains without a top-flight goal in this most remarkable of seasons for the Sheffield side.
A selfless forward, the 32-year-old brings so much more to the side, his ability to draw defenders and clever movement having seen him lead the line admirably in Chris Wilder’s pioneering system at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United supporters are in no doubt about the player’s quality despite his barren run, and we for one would love to see the forward deservedly open his account as Wilder’s side seek a place in Europe for next season.
Jack Grealish – Aston Villa
It seems odd to include a player who has starred this season on this list, but the ceiling for which Grealish can reach is even greater than his current level of performance.
The Aston Villa captain has almost singlehandedly kept his boyhood side in contention for Premier League survival, scoring seven times and providing a further five assists in the top-flight for Dean Smith’s side, whilst also leading the Midlands outfit to the Carabao Cup final.
Much more than his goal contribution, however, Grealish is the undoubted heartbeat of the Villa side, proving a talismanic figure with his ability to receive the ball in tight areas and drive the side forwards.
The 24-year-old is likely to receive a deserved inclusion in the England squad ahead of next month’s friendly fixtures with Italy and Denmark, whilst speculation continues to link him with a move to a bigger club at the season’s end – Manchester United reportedly showing the strongest interest in his services.
Maintaining or even improving his performances towards the end of the season are likely to seal a big-money move should he depart Villa Park, which is surely the right decision for the midfielder if he is to fulfil his potential and play at the highest level.
Arguably the stand-out creative English midfielder in the Premier League this season, a strong end to the season could even see him force his way into Gareth Southgate’s side ahead of the European Championships, the England manager yet to find his preferred solution to the Three Lions’ lack of midfield creativity.