Suarez, Hazard and Schurrle star in team of the week
Liverpool and Chelsea forwards make this week's team, but who are the three Aston Villa players in the XI?
AFTER what could prove to be a decisive week in the Premier League, Chelsea are four points clear of Arsenal and Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a convincing win over west London rivals Fulham, combined with Stoke's shock win over the Gunners.
Liverpool are up to second, above Arsenal on goal difference, after they beat Southampton. However, Chelsea's main rivals in the title race now appear to be Manchester City, who were busy winning the Capital One Cup yesterday afternoon. The Citizens are now six points behind the Blues, but have two games in hand, which they must win to maintain the pressure on Mourinho's men. So who were the standout performers on a weekend when Alan Pardew grabbed the headlines at Newcastle with an alleged headbutt on Hull's David Meyler and Aston Villa thrashed Norwich? Here's our pick of the experts' picks. Goalkeeper:
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool): The Belgian keeper had "arguably his best game for the club" says Bleacher Report. His fine stop to deny Jay rodriguez when the score was 1-0 gave the Reds the platform to go on and win 3-0. He is an almost unanimous choice among the experts. Defence: Leandro Bacuna, Ron Vlaar (both Aston Villa), Leighton Baines (Everton), Michael Dawson (Spurs): Goalscoring full-back Bacuna notched Aston Villa's crucial third goal against Norwich. Say what you like about his defensive abilities "there are very few who can match his attacking prowess", says website Winner Sport. Alongside him for Villa is Vlaar, who orchestrated his side's recovery after going a goal down. "I can't imagine where Paul Lambert's side would be without the flying Dutchman," says Garth Crooks of the BBC. Everton full back Baines was inspired against West Ham and proved that "he's the best left-back in the country", says Here Is The City. Dawson of Spurs earns his place thanks to what Goal.com calls a "solid display" against Cardiff City.
Midfield: Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Steven N'Zonzi (Stoke City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea). A three-man midfield includes Newcastle's two-goal hero Sissoko. Sometimes he "simply rips teams apart single-handedly," says Bleacher Report, and Saturday was one of those times. N'Zonzi helped inspire Stoke to a famous win over the Gunners. "His relentless harassing of Arsenal's midfield was incredible - and the key to Stoke's success," says Crooks of the BBC. The final place goes to Hazard, and Crooks even compares him to George Best. "Hazard teased and taunted the Cottagers before he destroyed them," adds Crooks.
Attack: Andre Schurrle (Cheslea), Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), Luis Suarez (Liverpool). Three up front this week with Chelsea's hat-trick hero Schurrle the star turn. The German was the main beneficiary of Hazard's influence and his 16-minute hat-trick that sank Fulham earned him 20 fantasy football points and the man of the match award from the Daily Mail, among others. "The German sent a clear message," says the paper. "Even when Chelsea appear to be faltering, they will find a way to get back into their stride and of such recoveries are title winners made." Benteke rediscovered his scoring boots as Villa beat Norwich. The Guardian makes him man of the match and describes his first goal, an overhead kick, as "a goal of the season contender". The final place goes to a familiar figure, Liverpool striker Suarez who was "back to his monstrous best" against Southampton, according to Bleacher Report, scoring one and winning a penalty.