- Premier League
Torres finds his touch, Suarez making up for lost time
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Selected by our panel of ESPN FC experts, 11 of Saturday's and Sunday's star performers, including a manager, are carefully chosen.
Goalkeeper: There are a few candidates for the No. 1 jersey but with former Newcastle and West Ham stopper Shaka Hislop making his Team of the Week bow, it would be churlish to ignore his suggestion that Cardiff's David Marshall be the incumbent. As Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner rightly point out, Everton's Tim Howard was in inspired form at Villa Park, but Marshall faced an incredible 31 shots on his goal and his double save from a deflected Robert Snodgrass cross and Gary Hooper follow-up sealed the deal. The only time he was beaten was by the impudent Leroy Fer, who clearly hasn't studied the spirit of sportsmanship very closely.
Right back: Though Mariner pressed the claims of Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta at right back - highlighting the shackling job he did on Eden Hazard - Steve Nicol again plumps for Southampton's Nathaniel Clyne, who now officially plies his trade in the meanest defence in the top flight. In fact, Nicol is so impressed with Clyne's current form on the right side of the Saints' back line, that the former Liverpool stalwart now thinks he should be nailed on to go to the World Cup with England. High praise indeed.
Left back: Everton will be represented in our TOTW though, as Leighton Baines takes our left-back berth. Sunday's papers were full of tales that he'll be off to Manchester United in January and it comes as no surprise the champions want him. Saturday's win at Aston Villa showcased his best qualities according to Mariner, as Baines allied his defensive diligence with his usual marauding presence down the left flank. No wonder then, that he had a hand in the crucial opening goal, feeding Leon Osman, who in turn fed Romelu Lukaku, who duly found the back of the net.
Centre-back: It was the clash of the weekend and Mr Chelsea delivered. John Terry earns a slot in our TOTW for the first time this season after his showing in the Blues' 2-1 win over Manchester City. It's a fair bet there wouldn't have been such a calamitous mix-up between centre-back and goalkeeper had it been Terry rushing back towards his own goal and not Matija Nastasic. Paul Mariner applauded a "captain's performance" while Steve Nicol declares Terry "did not put a foot wrong".
Centre back: there were several candidates for the final slot in our back four - Phil Jagielka, Jose Fonte and Steven Caulker all mentioned in dispatches - but for his part in a shutout at Selhurst Park, Arsenal's Per Mertesacker gets the nod. According to Paul Mariner the German has been consistently excellent all season for the Gunners, and was their "rock" at Palace. Down to ten men after Mikel Arteta's red card, Maertesacker was chief organiser at the back, he and Laurent Koscielny preventing a lively and hardworking Palace outfit from finding the net.
Centre midfield: As ever, this is where the bun fight begins, as a profusion of Premier League players jostle for six places. First up is Ramires, who was at his tireless best against City. Any top-flight midfielder in England needs a good engine and the Brazilian's was so good on Sunday Steve Nicol has labelled him "Chelsea's BMW". Shaka Hislop was also impressed at how Ramires both managed to break into attacking positions time and again while playing a full part in the concerted effort to pressure City's attacking players.
Centre midfield: Paul Mariner liked the look of Lucas in Liverpool's emphatic victory over West Bromwich Albion but for Shaka Hislop, it was captain Steven Gerrard who ran the midfield for Brendan Rodgers' side. The 33-year-old looks so at ease in the middle of the park at Anfield it's a wonder he doesn't play in his dressing gown. Gerrard was chief string-puller as Liverpool supplied plenty of ammunition for their electric front two to feed off and no wonder that in response to Sir Alex Ferguson's criticism of him Rodgers felt compelled to say after the game that Gerrard is a "top, top, top, top, top player".
Centre midfield: I can only apologise to James Ward-Prowse, Mile Jedinak and Adam Lallana, as well as Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop who put them forward, because even though it means playing him slightly out of position, there has to be room for Jay Rodriguez in our side. The forward was superb for Southampton in their destruction of Fulham, scoring one and going close with several other spectacular efforts. One scissor-kick flew inches wide of the post while one powerful first-half run would have counted as one of the goals of the season had Maarten Stekelenburg not palmed it past the post. Shaka Hislop was also a big fan.
Centre forward: Thankfully, our striking berths practically pick themselves. First up is Manchester United's best player at present - Wayne Rooney. Fit, hungry (not like that) and lean, Rooney is looking particularly potent this season and showcased his new-found appetite (stop it) against Stoke. When the chips (oh, come on) were down Rooney was the one driving his side forward, setting up a goal for Robin van Persie, then grabbing an equaliser with a superb glancing header which laid the platform for a huge victory for David Moyes. As Paul Mariner noted, where would they be without him?
Centre forward: Alongside Rooney is another striker who looks like he is back to his barnstorming best. Fernando Torres has on several occasions looked weighed down by his price tag, struggling to snuggle into his surroundings in West London, but maybe Jose Mourinho is the man to coax the best out of the Spaniard. Yes he missed a glorious chance in the first half but the Torres of last season may have let that affect the rest of his afternoon. Not the 2013 2.0 version, however, who kept battling hard for his side, scooping up the gift so lovingly presented to him by a combination of Joe Hart and Nastasic. That's why he cost £50 million, according to Steve Nicol. Paul Mariner goes for a simple but effective "phenomenal".
Centre forward: Saving the best for last, say a warm hello to a unanimous choice in Luis Suarez. In this form he is simply unstoppable, as West Brom found out on Saturday. The Uruguayan loves a nutmeg - Jonas Olsson the latest victim as he burst through the middle for the first - while his header from 17 yards to make it 2-0 showcased the strength of his neck muscles, and the deep well of confidence he's currently slurping from. The third was a cute glancing header and he almost made it four with an overhead kick. The only disappointment for him will be that despite his hat-trick, he still didn't score the best goal of the game, Daniel Sturridge's chip outdoing him ever so slightly.
Manager: Paul Mariner nominated Roberto Martinez for gaffer of the week, noting the Spaniard is "quietly doing a fantastic job", while Steve Nicol thinks Manchester United's comeback shows David Moyes still has plenty of spirit to work with, but even though it must smart a little given his Toon heritage, Shaka Hislop has it spot on by anointing Gus Poyet. Not only did the Uruguayan marshal Sunderland to their first win of the season on the back of a hiding last weekend, he did it against their biggest rivals too. The Black Cats were first to every ball and deserved their win on desire alone. Poyet now has the perfect platform from which to build.
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