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Top Scorer Lukaku Joined By Leicester, Chelsea Trios In Team Of The Weekend
Riyad Mahrez was instrumental in Leicester's win at West Ham.
March 20th, 2017 | 10:19 AM | 496 views
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Gab Marcotti, Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner carefully select 11 star performers and a manager.
Do you agree or disagree with their picks? You can have your say on those picked or overlooked in the comments section at the foot of the article or on Twitter using the hashtag #ESPNFCTOTW.
Goalkeeper: All three members of the panel are in agreement that Kasper Schmeichel starts in goal, after Leicester kept their winning run going and climbed further from the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory against West Ham. "Leicester's resurgence has much to do with the otherworldly saves Schmeichel has been making of late," Marcotti said. Mariner described the Dane as "crucial."
Right-back: Again, there's only one man in the running for this spot, and that is Craig Dawson after his two-goal heroics in West Brom's 3-1 win vs. Arsenal. Admittedly, the Gunners' defence was all over the place, but nonetheless, all three members of the panel salute Dawson's proficiency in the air. Mariner dubbed him "Arsenal's killer," and Marcotti added: "Careful, he's on a tear!"
Centre-back: Another unanimous pick, Robert Huth makes the cut for his imperious performance at the heart of Leicester's defence, despite his usual wing man, Wes Morgan, missing the game. Huth kept things together at the back alongside Yohan Benalouane and even popped up with a goal to put Leicester into a commanding, early lead from which West Ham never recovered.
Centre-back: Nicol wants Burnley's Michael Keane, but Marcotti and Mariner go for David Luiz, and the Chelsea man gets the nod after another win edged his team closer to the title. True, Keane kept a clean sheet against Sunderland, but the case Marcotti makes for Luiz is too strong: "You think back to those who said he was a liability, and all you can do is laugh. They got it badly wrong."
Left-back: Sticking with Chelsea, Marcos Alonso edges James Milner, who scored for Liverpool at Man City, for the left-back berth. "He hits the woodwork, engages in physical battles down his flank and has been exceptional this season," said Marcotti, who, again, pleads his case successfully in the face of strong competition.
Midfield: This is beginning to feel like last season, as, only six players in, Leicester are dominating proceedings. Riyad Mahrez is the latest entrant into the XI after getting the nod from Nicol and Mariner, with the latter observing that Mahrez "is almost back to his best." We can't argue with that assessment after watching him score the first and have a hand in the second.
Midfield: From Leicester present to Leicester past ... Mariner and Marcotti select Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, the man who could take Mahrez's PFA Player of the Year title. He is crowned early by Mariner, who calls him "the king of the midfielders," while Marcotti marvels at Kante's presence and energy, adding: "Once again, there were two of him on the pitch, if not more."
Midfield: Marouane Fellaini had some big shoes to fill this weekend, with Paul Pogba missing for Manchester United, but Marcotti was impressed with his performance at Middlesbrough. Mariner wants to see the inclusion of Idrissa Gueye, a player he reckons is "Everton's Kante." Nicol also favours that pick after watching Ronald Koeman's side dismantle Hull 4-0.
Midfield: Tottenham might not have a like-for-like striker to step into Harry Kane's shoes while he is out injured, but they have enough creativity to conjure goals from nothing, as Christian Eriksen showed vs. Southampton. Marcotti described the strike that gave Fraser Forster no chance: "It's not so much the goal. It's the way he scurries and finds space where there is none, making his quality count."
Forward: Josh King laid down the gauntlet last weekend with a hat trick against West Ham, and fellow Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe responded to that challenge with a goal and a shot that led to another, as Eddie Howe's side moved to within touching distance of safety. Afobe gets the nod from Nicol and Mariner, with the latter pointing out: "He caused problems for Swansea's defence all game."
Forward: Romelu Lukaku might be an unpopular choice, given that his goals came in stoppage time against a 10-man Hull side in the relegation zone. But he is now the Premier League's top scorer and the first Everton player to surpass 20 league goals in a season since Gary Lineker in 1985-86. "Some still don't rate him," Marcotti said. "And he has a contractual dispute hanging over his head, but Lukaku showed he's a pro with two goals and an assist. Let the haters hate."
Manager: Given their revival in recent weeks, it's hard to look past Leicester's Craig Shakespeare (though Marcotti tried, opting for Tony Pulis). Despite being a newcomer to the role, Shakespeare is making management look easy, having seen his side win each of his first three games. Nicol and Mariner applaud that feat.
courtesy of ESPNFC
by MICHAEL WADE
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