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Six Players Who Could Hold the Key to Premier League Survival This Season

01/02/2015 20:28 GMT | Updated 03/04/2015 10:59 BST

The Premier League's relegation battle is just starting to take shape.

Now is the time of year when teams must start performing or risk getting sucked further into the mire and fans will be looking for certain individuals to rise up and inspire the turnaround.

​Here's a look at one key player from each of the current bottom six sides that could be the difference between survival and relegation this season.

6. Carles Gil

To call Aston Villa 'goal-shy' this season is actually quite an understatement. Paul Lambert's team have managed to find the net just 11 paltry times in 22 Premier League games so far. The combined efforts of midfielders Ashley Westwood, Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph, Carlos Sanchez and Joe Cole amounts to no goals and only one assist.

​Carles Gil arrived from Valencia to try and give the team the incisiveness and creativity it so sorely needs. The Spaniard is still very young and experiencing a new country for the first time, but in a Premier League cameo and stunning full debut in the FA Cup he has already shown so much.

If Villa can start scoring goals, then relegation won't even be an issue and Gil looks to have all the talent to unlock the team's potential.

5. Jermain Defoe

​Much like Aston Villa, Sunderland have been rather hard up for goals this season. The Black Cats have managed just 19 in the Premier League, but Gus Poyet's capture of a proven goal scorer is a sign of real intent.

Jozy Altidore was traded away in part exchange for Jermain Defoe, who is tasked with firing Sunderland up the table and out of danger. At 32 years of age, the former Tottenham hit-man's best days may well be consigned to the past, but he still boasts a predatory instinct that is never lost.

He failed to find the net on his debut, a career first, but Defoe holds the key to Sunderland's season and is confident he can deliver.

4. Michael Keane

Burnley's season so far seems to have been split into two distinct halves. In the opening months of the campaign, the Clarets could boast a good defensive record but couldn't score. Now, the front line has hit the net more times than five of their fellow strugglers, but goals have started to leak at the other end.

On-loan centre-back Michael Keane has come into manager Sean Dyche's plans of late and has been an ever present in the last 10 games. The 22-year-old has immense potential and could be Burnley's answer to rediscovering their defensive solidity.

If they can start keeping goals out, the good form of Danny Ings up front should be enough to earn survival.

3. Mohamed Diame

At the start of the season, Hull were considered by many as a dark horse contender to sneak into the Premier League's top half. Manager Steve Bruce looked to have bought well over the summer and everything was in place to kick on from reaching the FA Cup final.

Mohamed Diame was the driving force behind good early season form, which saw good points picked up against Newcastle, West Ham, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The Sengalese midfielder has scored four goals in 10 appearances this season, but therein lies the issue. He has been out injured since early December and the team have lacked a driving force without him. The sooner Diame gets fit, the sooner Hull can get back to fighting the drop.

2. Mauro Zarate

​It is plainly obvious that Queens Park Rangers' standout player this season has been Charlie Austin. The former non-league striker has scored 13 of his team's 23 Premier League goals this season and carried many of his colleagues on his back for large portions of the campaign so far.

Unfortunately, the reality is that even with Austin's contribution, QPR still remain firmly entrenched in the dogfight. He simply has to have some support and that could come from January arrival Mauro Zarate.

The Argentine forward is struggling for match sharpess, but if he can get himself fit he could have a real impact. The 27-year-old offers plenty of quality and already has experience of a Premier League relegation scrap, albeit an unsuccessful one.

1. Andrej Kramaric

Teams that break 100 points to win the Championship often carry momentum over into the Premier League as well. For a time it looked as though Leicester were doing just that, but after beating Manchester United 5-3, something suddenly changed.

The goals dried up and the Foxes started to struggle. Things have just begun to look up in recent weeks though and new signing Andrej Kramaric could provide the spark required to keep that going.

The striker was prolific in Croatia before moving to England and looked sharp on his full debut in the FA Cup last weekend, during which he was very unfortunate to be booked for diving. If Kramaric can start firing it might just be the miracle that Leicester need.

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