- Premier League
Schurrle and Suarez fuel the title fire
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, along with a manager, are carefully chosen.
Goalkeeper: Heroes were made at Wembley, but we have no time for them in our Premier League Team of the Weekend. Propping up the rest is Simon Mignolet, who beats Gabriele Marcotti's suggestion of Asmir Begovic, and Paul Mariner's selection of Tim Krul, to make the side. Liverpool won comfortably in the end at Southampton but that they did was largely thanks to their keeper. As Steve Nicol points out, the Belgian made a "world-class" save from Jay Rodriguez at 1-0, clawing away his goal-bound effort, and was an assured presence throughout.
Right-back: There's a tight call at right-back, Steve Nicol insisting it should go to Stoke's Geoff Cameron, who was reliably solid for Mark Hughes in the defeat of Arsenal. But Gab Marcotti's appointment of Mathieu Debuchy gets the nod this week. A player who always gives it the proverbial 110 percent, Debuchy was fully involved in Newcastle's counterattacking modus operandi in their romp at Hull. As Gab says of a performance that saw the Frenchman set up the Toon's opener: "He's made for games like these, where he's got highways ahead of him. And, sure enough, he goes to town."
Week in Pictures
- In the latest collection of our favourite images from the sporting week, Lizzy Yarnold goes knock-door-running, John O'Shea takes some tips from Mr Miyagi and Chris Powell tries his hand at gymnastics.
- View our Week in Pictures gallery here
Centre-back: "An absolute rock at the heart of the Stoke defence," is how Paul Mariner described the performance of Ryan Shawcross against Arsenal - one that will have surely blackened his name further among the Gunners' faithful. Yes, Arsenal were unusually sluggish, but Shawcross set the tone for a gritty, committed display from the Potters, marshalling Olivier Giroud efficiently, and forming a formidable rear-guard barrier with Marc Wilson. Their shutout laid the foundation for Jonathan Walters' late winner.
Centre-back: He might be retired from international football, but if John Terry keeps up this rich vein of form, the clamour for him to go to Brazil will grow to seismic levels. Our pundits are certainly impressed with the partnership he's formed with Gary Cahill. Gab Marcotti thinks Terry "made it look easy" against a spirited Fulham, while Paul Mariner was impressed with the way he led the troops during a first half in which Chelsea's attacking players seemed strangely off-key. Steve Nicol opted for Cahill, but is outvoted by his pundit pals.
Left-back: It sounds implausible but I can assure you it is true - Leighton Baines' superb cross for Romelu Lukaku's match-deciding strike in Everton's clash with West Ham was his first assist of the Premier League season. As Gab Marcotti points out, Baines is "growing nicely in the second half of the season" after an injury-flecked campaign. Paul Mariner agrees, saluting the impact Baines had at both ends of the field as Roberto Martinez's side denied the Hammers a fifth consecutive top-flight victory.
Right midfield: The undisputed choice for TOTW MOM this time around was Andre Schurrle after the 23-year-old bagged a hat trick at Fulham. It was only the third time a German player had notched a treble in the Premier League - Jurgen Klinsmann and Fredi Bobic the other two - and unsurprisingly, our panel was falling over itself to praise him. Gab Marcotti wonders if his goals will persuade Jose Mourinho to give him more minutes, Paul Mariner delighted in Schuerrle's second-half "explosion" and Steve Nicol underlined his "cool and calm" finishing prowess.
Centre midfield: As you may have noticed, Alan Pardew went a bit nuts at the KC Stadium on Saturday, foolishly overshadowing Newcastle's best away win of the season. While the world and his wife were passing judgement on the gaffer's nudge toward David Meyler, a fine display from Moussa Sissoko was virtually forgotten. The Frenchman has been earmarked for a big role now that Yohan Cabaye has departed and this two-goal showing proves he has the talent for it. Gab Marcotti called him "ruthless, intelligent and cool" while Steve Nicol paid tribute to two "classy" finishes.
Centre midfield: There are a multitude of candidates for our second centre midfield berth, the names of Glenn Whelan, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Cheik Tiote all thrown into the mix, but I'm siding with Steve Nicol's choice - Steven Nzonzi. The Frenchman is a key figure in Mark Hughes' mission to alter Stoke's playing style, adding a touch of class in the centre of the park, and he showcased his probing qualities against Arsenal. In Nicol's opinion, Nzonzi is "the most underrated central midfielder in the Premier League."
Left midfield: This was one of those displays from Eden Hazard that could easily be transferred to the National Theatre and labelled high-class performance art. As Steve Nicol rightly points out, Hazard is "the man" at Chelsea these days, Gab Marcotti trumpeting his ability to pick up the slack left by an off-colour Oscar. As Paul Mariner notes, the Belgian was "unplayable" in the second half of the West London derby at Craven Cottage, supplying precisely 66.6 percent of Andre Schurrle's three goals with a pair of gorgeous passes. What a show.
Centre forward: This is more like the Christian Benteke we know and love. He'd gone four matches without scoring, then grabbed two goals in two minutes. His first proved a perfect demonstration of his dual qualities - power and finesse. Chesting down a punt into the area, the big Belgian held off Sebastien Bassong before unleashing an unstoppable overhead kick into the top corner as he registered a contender for goal of the season. Less than 160 seconds later he rose highest to nod home a corner and complete Villa's transformation. As Gab Marcotti explains, it was a vital performance as Paul Lambert's side beat a direction relegation rival to ease their own fears.
Centre forward: He's back. Luis Suarez had clearly had enough of Daniel Sturridge hogging the limelight and promptly surged back to goal-scoring form at St Mary's. Looking more potent than he has done in weeks, Suarez got Liverpool off and running with a trademark finish after pouncing on a loose ball. Not content with that he then teed up Raheem Sterling for the second and won the penalty for Steven Gerrard's third. As Paul Mariner neatly surmises: "While on sabbatical from scoring Suarez has assisted goals, now he is back to full-on mode he is scoring and assisting. Normal Suarez service is resumed." A unanimous choice from our panel.
Manager: "Not Alan Pardew," is Steve Nicol's succinct way of lambasting the preposterous behaviour of Newcastle's manager, who might have had a genuine case had he not gone a little nutty at Hull. In the end, it is a toss-up between Mark Hughes and Paul Lambert, both of whom enjoyed important home wins over the weekend. But for procuring only Aston Villa's second home win since November, and inspiring a second four-goal display in three home matches, the Scot gets the nod. As his champion Paul Mariner says: "Lambert was under massive pressure to win against Norwich in a six-pointer, and though they went a goal down , he rallied his troops and went on to win in style."