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Heroes and Villains: Mahrez Magic and Mourinho strife

We’re in the thick of the festive schedule, and the Premier League’s top stars have already given us plenty to talk about. Here’s our list of who had a Christmas to remember and who may need to make some New Year resolutions.

Heroes

Ashley Barnes

Burnley, 6/4 to stay up, have certainly needed a prolific protagonist up front this season and, whilst much hype has centered around Danny Ings and his apparent contract flirtations with other clubs, brilliant Barnes stepped up and out of the shadows.

The 25-year-old’s scorching strike and fiesty display against the Sky Blues rescued an unlikely point for the Clarets and was the highlight of his recent purple patch. Bath-born Barnes now has three goals in his last four games; can he be Burnley’s Charlie Austin?

David Silva and Yaya Toure

The dynamic duo seem to have taken over the scoring burden at striker-less City, filling in for absent Sergio Aguero and keeping the title challenge ticking over.

Sensational Silva and tenacious Toure have been responsible for six of the Sky Blues’ last eight goals, with the Spaniard in particular hitting new heights with his game-changing strikes.

Come the end of the season, these good Citizens may have made all the difference to their side’s chances of silverware.

Riyad Mahrez

Magical Mahrez has been Leicester City’s leading man of late, and one of their brightest lights this term.

The Foxes have had little to celebrate this Christmas, but midfield maestro Mahrez finally gave his skulk a reason to smile against Hull City.

A mazy run saw the Algeria international twist and turn the Tigers’ defence before slotting home a vital winner, but it was Mahrez’s defensive output that also impressed.

Villains

Conspiracy!

Jose Mourinho put his best panto hat on to deflect attention away from Chelsea’s inability to finish off Southampton. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a classic quote from the ‘Special One’, after all.

Cesc Fabregas was unfairly booked for diving and saw a valid penalty claim waved away, which did not appear to please the ever-mercurial Mourinho.

The cheeky Portuguese coach stated: “There is a campaign against Chelsea. I don’t know why there is this campaign and I do not care.”

West Ham United’s luck
Lady luck seems to have deserted the Hammers of late, as Santa brought them back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Arsenal.

Being downed by the Gunners must have been especially galling for Big Sam, who saw his side spurn numerous chances to level the game.

Ex-Arsenal man Alex Song’s super strike was first ruled offside and Diafro Sakho saw his last ditch effort somehow head over the crossbar, in moments that both book-ended and summed up West Ham’s match.

Red mists

A spate of suspensions have occurred over Christmas, with bad tempers and bad tackles rearing their heads. Culprits included Fabian Delph, Olivier Giroud, Paul Konchesky and Morgan Schneiderlin, who will all leave their teams in the lurch for crunch clashes.

Unlikely antagonist Giroud deserves special mention for his rather un-festive headbutt antics, leaving Arsene Wenger shaking his head on the sidelines like a disappointed gym teacher.