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Team of the Week

Chris Linnell’s EPL Team of the Week

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Manchester United finally secured the Premier League title with a 3-0 win versus, struggling side, Aston Villa.

Meanwhile City’s defeat at Tottenham puts the north London club in with a shout of playing Champions League football next season but signalled the end of the Blue’s Premier League reign.

At the other end of the table, Norwich and Stoke almost certainly sealed the fate of Reading and Queens Park Rangers respectively whilst Chelsea picked up a valuable point at Liverpool in a game marred by controversy.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions!

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Manchester City

Premier League: Team of the Week XXXIII feat. Manchester United and Manchester City stars

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The big story of the weekend came on Sunday at Old Trafford, where Manchester United helped hand title contenders Tottenham a lifeline with a 2-0 victory over leaders Chelsea, whilst keeping up the pace with the top-four. The gap at the top is now a mere four points going into the final five matches, and the title race remains wide open.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain third after victory at West Brom, whilst Manchester City tightened their own grip on a Champions League place with an emphatic win at Southampton. Arsenal’s 2-1 win at Middlesbrough keeps them just about in touch, but with seven left for the Gunners to play and trailing Manchester City by seven points, their hopes of the top-four are hanging by a thread.

Elsewhere, Everton kept up their recent run of good form with a 3-1 victory over Burnley, Crystal Palace came from two-down to salvage a point in a thrilling match with Leicester, Hull kept one eye over their shoulders after succumbing to defeat at Stoke, and Swansea remain in trouble after slumping to defeat at Watford.

Sunderland remain bottom and in deep trouble after only managing a draw with West Ham,which left the lack Cats nine points from safety but with one game in hand over Hull, who lie just above the relegation trapdoor.

But who stood out the most an an enthralling Gameweek 33, where the title race was blown wide open and the relegation rat-race took yet another twist?

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Coach: José Mourinho (Manchester United)

Formation: 4-4-2

Mourinho’s opponent in the dugout, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, absolutely castigated himself after the game, after his Blues succumbed to defeat at Old Trafford against a United side that they had beaten twice in league and cup on home turf this season.

If Conte failed to get his players fired up for the big occasion, Mourinho certainly didn’t, and his side executed the game plan to perfection as the Portuguese got one over on his former side for the first time since taking the reins at United.

His side were just shaded in terms of possession, but that doesn’t take away from how the Red Devils – far from the overly defensive mentality Mourinho has been accused of adopting this season- monopolised the ball, enjoying more opportunities than the visitors and ensuring they were restricted to no shots on target.

Mourinho’s biggest calls came before the game even kicked-off, with Juan Mata out and Henrikh Mkhitaryan named amongst the substitutes, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini were named in the starting line-up, but the biggest decision was that the fatigued Zlatan Ibrahimovic was forced to settle for a place on the bench, in favour of an attacking duo of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.

The chemistry between the two was a thorn in Chelsea’s side, whilst the defensive cover of Fellaini and Herrera allowed Paul Pogba to roam forward and wreak havoc behind them, a set-up which frustrated the Blues all over the park and re-ignited some doubt in the title credentials of Conte’s side.

For Mourinho, it was another tactical masterclass, and his attempt to rain on the title parade, just as he did back in 2014 at Liverpool when in charge of the Blues, was once more a success.

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Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)

Simon Mignolet seems to enjoy playing at the Hawthorns. The Belgian goalkeeper has kept a clean sheet on his last two visits to the Albion, and another fine performance to shut-out the Baggies seems him get the nod as goalkeeper in our team for the second week running.

A big save near the end of the game preserved another vital three points for Liverpool in their quest for the top-four, and he even remained unnerved when opposite number Ben Foster charged forward twice in a vain attempt to help provide the equaliser.

Despite being much maligned in seasons gone by, Mignolet has been one of the stars in Klopp’s Liverpool side of late, and his new-found reliability will only help the cause.

Right-Back: Daryl Janmaat (Watford)

It may have looked a dead-rubber to Watford for some in terms of the respective league positions of themselves and relegation-threatened Swansea, but in reality, this result was huge, as a Watford side who have been struggling in recent weeks mustered a huge victory to get themselves over the 40 point mark and almost certainly guarantee Premier League football next season.

The winner was gifted to the hosts in the end after an uncharacteristic error from Swansea centre-half Alfie Mawson, from which Etienne Capoue profited, but much of Watford’s solidity at the back in shutting out the battling Swans was owed to the presence of right-back Daryl Janmaat.

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Gylfi Sigurdsson, Martin Olsson, and Luciano Narsingh were given no joy by the Netherlands international, whose defensive awareness kept the Hornets well regimented at the back, whilst his runs forward also caused the visitors problems.

Centre-Back: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Vincent Kompany has had a frustrating time of things of late with injury after injury keeping him out of the reckoning for Manchester City, but he was back amongst the goals over the weekend, his sheer delight visible on his face after his bullet header opened the scoring at Southampton.

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His defensive performance was another plus, adding some stability to a rear-guard that has developed an unwanted knack of conceding goals over the course of the season. Dominance in the air, awareness on the ground, a typical captain’s performance from Vincent Kompany.

Centre-Back: Phil Jagielka (Everton)

The Everton skipper has amassed a handy record of scoring in his last three consecutive games for the Toffees, following his latest goal-scoring exploits in Everton’s triumph over Burnley at Goodison Park.

The England international is looking like a potent threat from set-piece situations, and his overall leadership and reading of the game has been pivotal in helping Everton’s surge up the table following their recent run of impressive form.

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He finished his goal off with all the instinct of a clinical forward too. Goal-line technology confirmed that his initial headed effort had crossed the line, but after Tom Heaton was somehow able to claw the ball away, Jagielka was still able to react first to slam the ball into the back of the net to make sure.

Left-Back: Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)

Besides making more clearances from inside the box, with nine, than any of his teammates in United’s win over Chelsea, it was his personal duel with Chelsea striker Diego Costa, and how he went about getting the best of the Spain international, that helped sway the game in the hosts’ favour.

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Rojo kept Costa firmly on a leash, shackled for much of the contest, and luckily ended up on the right side of some sensible refereeing after the Chelsea forward lashed out in frustration at a rare, poorly-timed challenge from the Argentine.

The duel between the two was a joy to watch, and it was crucial in restricting the Blues to having no efforts on target, giving David de Gea a quiet afternoon.

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Right-Midfield: Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)

There were several performers on the day who were instrumental in Stoke’s victory over Hull, which almost guarantees their Premier League status for another year, but for us, Xherdan Shaqiri pips them, not only for his absolutely wonderful long-range strike which all but killed the game, but for his expert assist for the first goal.

His neat ball inside was picked up by another of Stoke’s stars on the day, Marko Arnautovic, who drilled a fierce shot into the top corner to hand the Potters the initiative. Perhaps unlucky to have not made it in himself, the consensus was that his Swiss teammate was just that little more influential.

Centre-Midfield: Ross Barkley (Everton)

For a man concerned with off-field distractions of late, with the manner of Ross Barkley’s performance against Burnley, you wouldn’t have thought he had a care in the world, other than winning games of football of course.

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Shutting out the headlines, Barkley was the lynch-pin in the Everton midfield, constantly looking to trouble Burnley with his direct running and passing.

He was in the right place at the right time to thwart Michael Keane, clearing the defender’s headed effort of his own goal-line, and eventually made a telling impact at the other end when his fierce drive flew beyond Tom Heaton after taking a ricochet off Ben Mee.

The nigh-perfect end to a difficult week.

Centre-Midfield: Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

Eden Hazard troubled Ander Herrera to the point that the Spaniard was dismissed for a second yellow-card the last time the two sides met in the FA Cup, but in this game, Herrera firmly kept hold of his composure and played like a man on a revenge mission.

He followed Hazard around the Old Trafford pitch like a dog, not giving the Belgian a yard of space and thus neutralised the mercurial winger’s influence on the game, but his most telling impact was at the other end, where, despite his defensive midfield position, he scored and assisted in the Premier League for the first time since October 2015.

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Fortune was on his side as the referee waved away the handball shout in the build-up to the goal, which allowed Herrera the time and space to play an inch-perfect pass through for Marcus Rashford to score, before his deflected strike beat the scrambling Asmir Begovic – in for the injured Thibaut Courtois – to put the game beyond the Blues.

It may just be that with this latest defeat, the Blues are losing their grip on the title too.

Conte will argue his players lacked lustre and motivation, shouldering the blame on his and the team’s approach to the game. On this evidence from Herrera, perhaps they were simply outclassed.

Left-Midfield: Leroy Sané (Manchester City)

Sané has developed a helpful knack of scoring goals for City away from the Etihad. His strike at St. Mary’s was his third in their last four games away from home, and he showed great persistence to get his goal, netting from Kevin de Bruyne’s wonderful pass after Fraser Forster had pulled out a splendid stop earlier on to deny him.

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The youngster’s lung-bursting 40-yard run to support the Belgian was what helped craft the goal, having shown the desire to get into a position to receive the pass.

It is fair to say that the player signed from Schalke, whom many thought would be a signing for the future, is quickly turning into one of Pep Guardiola’s key players.

Expect more from him in the Premier League and indeed on the international scene in the future.

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Centre-Forward: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Sometimes unleashing young, raw talent is the way to go in football, and Marcus Rashford proved the theory right again, running the league leaders ragged after José Mourinho showed his faith in the youngster by starting him up-top in an attacking duo with Jesse Lingard.

Very few players have troubled Chelsea’s cast-iron defence since Conte switched to a back-three, but Rashford’s chemistry with Lingard, along with the support of Pogba, exposed once more all of the Blues’ frailties, and reminded the Old Trafford faithful that Rashford is a special talent and not just a half-season wonder.

His finish beyond Begovic after being played in by Ander Herrera showed all the instinct, swagger and verve of a seasoned veteran, which would have made the watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic proud.

More importantly, being one of England’s brightest prospects for the future, he looks at home at one of the highest levels in world football. It goes without saying that many United supporters would like to see him start games consistently.

Centre-Forward: Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur)

Son Heung-Min has been one of the most improved players in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad this season.

His early season run of goals helped carry the side before Kane rediscovered his shooting boots, and he has stood up and been counted when it has mattered the most, the spells when Kane has been out injured, providing a helping hand for six Tottenham goals in his previous four Premier League appearances, assisting one and netting five himself.

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Bournemouth’s case at the weekend wasn’t helped by their approach to the game, but Spurs this season have confirmed themselves as title contenders by showing their clinical streak against both lesser and stronger opposition, and Son has often been at the heart of their creativity, finding himself amongst the goals yet again.

What a transformation from the player who endured such a difficult season in England last campaign after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen. Spurs are firmly in this title race, and much of that is owed to the South Korean.

Premier League: Team of the Week XXXIII

Coach: José Mourinho

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Liverpool

Premier League: Team of the Week XXXI feat. Liverpool and Tottenham stars

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Already we have reached the end of Gameweek 31 of the 2016/17 Premier League season, and the Chelsea machine remains well-oiled and rolling towards the title, after the Blues beat Bournemouth 3-1 to maintain their seven point lead over Tottenham, who’d already laid their hand upon the table having beaten Watford 4-0 in Saturday’s early kick-off.

Liverpool’s 2-1 turnaround victory at Stoke sees them remain third and in a strong position to claim a Champions League spot at the end of the season, with the last place in the top four currently occupied by Manchester City, who comfortably disposed of Hull at the Etihad. Rivals Manchester United kept in touch of the leading pack with a 3-0 triumph at Sunderland to go fifth, ahead of Arsenal’s meeting with Crystal Palace on Monday night.

Further down the league, Everton came out on top in a 4-2 thriller at Goodison Park against defending champions Leicester to remain seventh, and inflict Craig Shakespeare’s first defeat in charge of the Foxes, whilst West Ham United picked up a crucial 1-0 victory at home to relegation threatened Swansea to ease the pressure on manager Slaven Bilic. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough remain in danger having failed to break through Burnley’s resistance, a goal-less draw at the Riverside leaving the ‘Boro six points adrift of safety in the bottom-four and Burnley still without an away win all season.

But who were the stand-out stars this week, as we accelerate towards the home-strait at the end of the Premier League season?

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Coach: Jurgen Klopp

Formation: 4-3-3

The Kop favourite gets the nod this week for his inspired half-time substitutions, even if they were blindingly obvious to anybody wanting to play the role of Football Manager. Missing several key players, including Adam Lallana and Sadio Mané, Klopp was forced to throw teenagers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn into the firing line away at Stoke, and the two failed to come up trumps in the opening half, the latter probably unlucky not to have won a penalty in the opening 45 minutes.

Another two of the big names omitted were Philippe Coutinho, who had been struggling prior to the game with illness, and was passed fit to feature from the bench on the morning of the match, and compatriot Roberto Firmino, who had suffered from accumulated fatigue, also named amongst the substitutes. The German called upon them at half-time, with Liverpool trailing by a goal to nil to Jon Walters’ opener, and the Brazilians duly responded. Coutinho, the record Brazilian goal-scorer in the Premier League, netted the equaliser, before Firmino snatched the points with a brilliantly executed half-volley over flailing goalkeeper Lee Grant. They may well have been forced in the circumstances, but Klopp’s half-time tactical switch worked a treat, and anybody could tell by the way in which he hugged goalkeeper Simon Mignolet at full-time just how priceless this result was in Liverpool’s quest for the top four. A huge result, ensuring the Liverpool chief is well worth his money in our Pick of the Week.

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Crystal Palace

Premier League: Team of the Week XXX feat. Tottenham and Crystal Palace stars

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The Premier League returned for Gameweek 30 following the conclusion of the international break, and the shock of the weekend’s fixtures came at Stamford Bridge, where Crystal Palace fought back from an early deficit to stun Premier League leaders Chelsea 2-1. Their gap at the top of the league is now cut to seven points after Tottenham won 2-0 at Turf Moor against Burnley.

Elsewhere near the top, Arsenal and Manchester City’s clash at the Emirates ended in a thrilling 2-2 stalemate, whilst Manchester United failed to take advantage at home to West Brom, with the Baggies holding them to a goalless draw at Old Trafford.

Those results meant that Liverpool tightened their grip on a top-four place, after overcoming Everton 3-1 in the final Merseyside Derby of the season at Anfield.

Nearer the bottom, Hull City were another side who enjoyed an all-important win after Andrea Ranocchia’s 85th-minute winner saw them beat a stuttering West Ham after coming from behind. Swansea and Middlesbrough both failed to keep up the pace after a goal-less draw at the Liberty Stadium, and Watford piled more misery on Sunderland after overcoming the Black Cats 1-0 at Vicarage Road. Another goal-less draw came in Southampton’s South Coast Derby with Bournemouth, whilst defending champions Leicester continued their revival under Craig Shakespeare with a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Stoke City.

But who stood out on Gameweek 30 to make The Boot Room’s pick for Team of the Week, as the races at both ends of the table were blown wide open?

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Coach: Sam Allardyce (Crystal Palace)

Formation: 3-4-3

Crystal Palace had initially lacked the almost instantaneous ‘Allardyce effect’ that has so often gotten struggling Premier League clubs out of trouble, following the arrival of the experienced coach after his dismissal from the England post. Though Palace have been gaining momentum in recent weeks with a few credible results, but this latest victory, a shock 2-1 triumph at Stamford Bridge over Chelsea, may well be the biggest result of their season.

Allardyce is a manager who prides himself on making sides tough to beat, who defend well and take their chances when they come, before seeing out games. The sit back and pinch a goal approach looked to have gone out of the window early on when Eden Hazard fed Cesc Fabregas to tap Chelsea ahead, and prior to Allardyce’s arrival at the helm, in such a scenario they may well have crumbled.

But, Allardyce responded by urging his side forward, and they caught the Blues very much cold, a wonderful solo equaliser being struck almost immediately by Wilfried Zaha, and they weren’t done there. Again, almost immediately, Palace regained possession from the kick-off, and 91 seconds after Zaha had levelled the match, he turned provider for Christian Benteke to stun Stamford Bridge and put Palace ahead with a cool, dinked finish over the onrushing Thibaut Courtois.

It was then that with their lead to protect, Palace reverted to the trusty Allardyce approach, and were dogged in defence to ensure Chelsea found no way through, whilst also looking threatening on the counter, forcing continual intervention from Courtois. Behind Palace’s cast-iron back-four was Wayne Hennessey, who when called upon was simply sensational, thwarting Chelsea with a string of saves to preserve what could be a vital three points for Palace.

A tactical plan that went out of the window early on, but was surprisingly rescued within minutes before being executed perfectly for the remainder of the game. Allardyce had his side well-drilled to get a result at Stamford Bridge and urged them on in all their determination to get what would be the result of the weekend.

In fact, it was so unexpected that Allardyce allegedly entered the press room following the match and opened with the words “I bet you weren’t expecting that”. In all honesty, for the vast majority of pundits, analysts, coaches, players, and spectators the world over, he is probably right.

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Goalkeeper: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace)

What a performance from Wayne Hennessey at Stamford Bridge. Despite conceding early on, after a quick-fire double of Palace goals turned the match on its head, three wonderful first-half saves from the Wales international set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon. So often would Palace have crumbled in such a scenario, but Hennessey was a testament to the Eagles’ new-found resilience under Sam Allardyce, and the Welshman continued to intervene to preserve the points for his side, with a commanding, confident second-half performance to match the first. He finished up having made a total of 10 saves, the most of any goalkeeper for the club in a single Premier League match since the 2003/04 season.

Centre-Back: Andrea Ranocchia (Hull City)

Andrea Ranocchia has helped steady the ship somewhat since new manager Marco Silva brought the Italian in on-loan from Inter Milan. Although in the first-half, he was involved in an abject performance from the Tigers in which their three-man defence struggled against a depleted West Ham, and went in at the break trailing thanks to Andy Carroll’s 18th-minute opener, presented on a plate by teammate Curtis Davies.

Reverting to a back-four in the second-half, Hull rediscovered their verve, and Ranocchia’s aerial presence began to count, with Andy Carroll restricted to a mere one effort on target in the second-half, which went straight into the hands of goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, before he made his presence tell in the opposite penalty area five minutes from time. The Hammers looked as if they’d done enough for a point before they naively left the Italian unmarked in the area, and he gobbled up the chance, rising high to head home and seal the points for Hull.

Centre-Back: Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)

Dier’s strike at Turf Moor was a wonderfully taken goal. It was his first in the top-flight since December 2015, and his first goal away from White Hart Lane in the league since August 2014. Despite not scoring often, when he does get on the score-sheet they’re often significant, and his latest strike may well be the biggest goal of Spurs’ season so far. With Chelsea trailing at home and Spurs simply unable to break through Burnley’s resistance, a chance to make-up ground on the leaders looked to be slipping away, until the Clarets failed to deal with Christian Eriksen’s corner, and Dier reacted first to fire through a crowd of players and into the goal.

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Dier’s progress for club, as well as for country, has been sensational, having transferred seamlessly between roles as a holding-midfielder and centre-half/sweeper throughout the season, and on this occasion, he was in the right place at the right time at the other end to re-ignite Spurs’ title hopes.

Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace)

Since his arrival on-loan from Liverpool, Mamadou Sakho has been critical in preventing Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace side from shipping goals. He has only featured in four games since his arrival, but Palace have managed three clean sheets in that time, and he may not have added to that tally but he helped the Eagles to a precious win nonetheless, using all of his strength and guile to help slam the door in the face of the league leaders, keeping Diego Costa particularly quiet in the process.

Sakho was vital in helping keep Palace determined at the back despite Chelsea’s early advantage and imperious home form, and when they had struck back to regain the lead, he was determined to let nothing beyond him, and if it ever did, he had the confidence of having a capable shot-stopper in Wayne Hennessey behind him. No doubt, he’d be a stellar addition if Palace were to retain his services beyond this season, but given his form for the South London club, a recall to Anfield following this season may be in the pipeline.

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Right Wing-Back: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

The Ecuadorian put in yet another tireless shift for Mourinho’s Manchester United, even though they couldn’t find a way through the West Brom rearguard for all their attacking endeavour. He had relatively little to do defensively given how deep the Baggies were camped in their own half, but he got up and down the flank when necessary, and was behind much of United’s penetration down the right, with Juan Mata missing. Without the attacking influence of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front, however, they just couldn’t profit from Valencia’s creativity and work-rate, Ben Foster intervening to keep them out on three occasions.

Centre-Midfield: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

Kevin de Bruyne alongside David Silva is a notorious lynchpin in midfield for Manchester City and has been consistently all season, assisting 11 Premier League goals this season, a joint-best, after adding to that tally in City’s entertaining draw with Arsenal at the Emirates.

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Following a dangerous Arsenal attack, in which they nearly fired the opener, De Bruyne received the ball in his own half and first-time played a stunning 60-yard pass which bisected the Gunners’ defence and found Leroy Sané, who raced away from Arsenal’s retreating defence and slid the ball home beyond David Ospina to put the visitors ahead.

De Bruyne dictated play for long periods and for a good two-thirds of the game was simply unplayable. He played a vital role in City’s second goal, coolly dispatched by Sergio Aguero, and struck the post with David Ospina helpless, a chance which, if converted, would have surely put the game beyond the Gunners.

Centre-Midfield: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Once again missing the attacking potency of Harry Kane, the onus was on Tottenham’s creative players to provide the killer touch, not least young prodigy Dele Alli. He has repaid the club with the faith shown in him by manager Mauricio Pochettino with eight goals and three assists in the calendar year 2017 alone, and his incisive passing helped carve a way through Burnley for Spurs to maintain the pressure on leaders Chelsea, after their slip-up at home to Crystal Palace.

 

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Burnley have one of the strongest points’ return records in the Premier League at home, but Dele Alli got the ball down and helped dictate play without any such fear of the statistics, showing superb awareness to pick out Son Heung-Min, who fired in Spurs’ second of the match to put the game beyond the Clarets. Tottenham had to work for this, but in games where results must be ground out, class can unlock teams, and Alli brings that in abundance.

Left Wing-Back: Andrew Robertson (Hull City)

As he has been consistently for Hull this season, Robertson was an outlet down the left, even in the midst of a poor first-half team performance against the Hammers, and he was rewarded with his first goal in the Premier League, taken with a perfect right-footed first touch and an instinctive finish with his left, after being fed by substitute Kamil Grosicki. His 81 touches of the ball meant that he saw more action than any of his teammates, whilst also leading the way for attempted passes (49), interceptions (two) and recovering possession (10).

This latest victory may well prove key in Marco Silva’s bid to keep Hull in the Premier League, and without Robertson’s influence down the left, retaining possession in tight situations when closed down at will, they may well have lost out.

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Right-Forward: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Wilfried Zaha has been hitting the headlines of late, and he seems to finally be coming unto his own at Selhurst Park under the tutelage of Sam Allardyce. Having attracted much media attention for his international switch from England to the Ivory Coast, given his shortage of opportunities for the Three Lions, he has begun to show that Gareth Southgate may well have missed out on a gem. He has netted six goals now for Palace this season, better than his previous three seasons in the top-flight combined, and probably registered the best of the bunch on Saturday, with a quite stunning solo goal against league leaders Chelsea.

Besides that, his collective contribution to Allardyce’s side, tracking back and helping out his full-back, then taking apart the opposition with weaving runs forward when in possession, was simply fantastic. It is no wonder speculation is linking him with a move to a bigger club over the summer, with Tottenham one of the sides thought to be in the running.

Centre-Forward: Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)

The Belgian forward just loves playing at Stamford Bridge, despite its reputation as a fortress. He has netted at the home of the Premier League leaders on each of his last three visits to the ground, with former clubs Aston Villa, Liverpool, and most recently Crystal Palace, and what a goal it was for the Eagles on Saturday. He cleverly waited, holding his nerve for the opportune moment, waiting for Thibaut Courtois to rush off his line before coolly chipping the ball over his advancing compatriot to put Palace ahead after being fed by Wilfried Zaha. Chelsea never recovered from the shock of seeing their early lead turned on its head, and it was Benteke combining with Zaha twice that wrote the script for Chelsea’s downfall.

 

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As Palace sought to defend their lead, Benteke helped ensure they were a threat on the counter, using his strength to hold up the ball and give David Luiz and Gary Cahill a full workout in dealing with him. As well as being a handful in the air and of course holding the ball up on the ground, when not trying to cause chaos in the Chelsea half, he was back in his own box for set-pieces to get the ball clear. A good all-round team contribution, capped by a remarkable finish.

Left-Forward: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Philippe Coutinho is beginning to get back to his best following injury. Despite his spell out earlier in the season, he has still managed an impressive six assists, his second best total in a Premier League campaign so far, though that may be a lot more impressive were it not for that absence.

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His most notable contribution in the Merseyside Derby win over Everton was his goal that handed Liverpool the points, and it was a strike befitting the occasion, a weaving run which bamboozled the Everton defence, capped by a curling finish into the top corner that Joel Robles and the Toffees back-four could merely stand back and admire.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Christine Sanjaya.

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