By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- The festive period hurtles along as Manchester City lose their second league game on the bounce away at Leicester City
- Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur hit Newcastle and Bournemouth for four and five respectively
- Chelsea and West Ham United bounce back from defeats on the road
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – The Premier League festive schedule continues to hurtle along as a number of players make their debuts, but who made our Gameweek 19 XI for the week?
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Goalkeeper & Defenders
Lukasz Fabianski (GK) – West Ham’s Polish stopper is becoming one of the best shot-stoppers in the English top-flight, and he again proved so against Southampton making a number of key saves at big points in the game. Fabianski almost set a Premier League record last weekend in becoming the first goalkeeper to save four consecutive penalties, but having been denied by Troy Deeney against Watford, he made four vital saves – three of which at full-stretch – as Manuel Pellegrini’s men climb back up the table.
Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) – With Kieran Trippier rested and Serge Aurier out injured, Spurs’ third-choice right-back, Walker-Peters had a stunning performance against the Cherries, assisting no less than three goals and keeping a clean sheet. The Englishman also made one interception and had a shot on target to cap a superb – and possible rare – appearance.
Dejan Lovren (CB) – Lovren has in recent weeks been eclipsed by the performances of both Joe Gomez and the talismanic Virgil van Dijk, but the Croatian World Cup runner-up took centre stage this weekend, netting a spectacular volley from the edge of the penalty area together with a shut-out, as the Reds opened up a six-point lead at the top of the table. Lovren also made one key pass on the way to beating Newcastle, as Liverpool showed the depth of the squad once again.
Sol Bamba (CB) – After Crystal Palace’s sensational win at the champions, the Eagles may have expected to pick up three points at home to Cardiff, but the hosts had not reckoned on a superb rear-guard effort from the Bluebirds, in particular centre-back Bamba. The Ivorian has grabbed the headlines for his goals recently, but Cardiff kept a rare clean sheet on the road courtesy of Bamba, with an impressive ten clearances, five tackles and two interceptions as Neil Warnock‘s men returned to Wales with a vital point.
Lucas Digne (LB) – Deployed as a left midfielder away to Burnley, the adept French full-back netted twice for Everton on the way to the Toffees’ 5-1 win. Since making the switch from Barcelona, Digne has shown his attacking abilities in replacing veteran Leighton Baines even if his defensive abilities still leave something to be desired. In December alone he has netted three times, notched an assist and has supplied a massive 55 crosses. If Marco Silva keeps the same system, Digne could be magic on Merseyside.
Paul Pogba (CM): The arrival of Ole Gunnar Soskjaer at Manchester United has seemingly bred new life into Pogba, who has now been involved in four goals in two games since the Norwegian took control of the team. The Frenchman provided two assists as United ran out 3-1 winners at home to Huddersfield on Saturday, and controlled the game from midfield once again. Yes, it is against Cardiff and Huddersfield, but Pogba’s recent performances have given hope to United fans that he can realise his potential at the club.
Christian Eriksen (CM): Spurs are now very much in the title race after thrashing Bournemouth on Saturday, and it is becoming even clearer that Eriksen will play a big part in their title ambitions. The Dane’s goal was fortunate in that it took a deflection, but it once again showed the special awareness Eriksen has to get into that position in the first place. He then turned creator, teeing up Harry Kane for Tottenham’s fourth of the day.
James Maddison (CAM): Leicester City put in another great performance to claim a huge win over Manchester City on Saturday, and Maddison was once again at the heart of it. The Englishman did not have any direct goal involvements, but his ability to run the game from the number 10 spot was the basis of Leicester’s attacking success. His passing and movement was a constant thorn in City’s side and he was rightfully cheered off when replaced by Danny Simpson.
Mohamed Salah (RW): The Egyptian continued his fine form as he led Liverpool to a 4-0 win over Newcastle. Salah controversially earned and converted a second half penalty to double Liverpool’s after a back and forth first half at Anfield. He then provided Fabinho with the fourth and final goal of the day, crossing onto the head of the Brazilian who slotted home late on.
Felipe Anderson (LW): The Brazilian is making his case as one of the signings of the summer, and he once again showed his quality in West Ham’s 2-1 win over Southampton. After going a goal behind on Thursday, Anderson turned on the style, netting twice to overturn the deficit and win the Hammers three points that took them into the top half of the table. If Anderson continues his fine form, there will be big clubs around Europe who will be looking for his signature in the summer.
Eden Hazard (ST): The Belgian proved he could also operate effectively as a false nine as he netted twice in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Watford. The first was a fine finish to give Chelsea the lead before the break, his 100th goal for the club. The 101st goal came from the penalty spot after he was bundled over by Ben Foster, the one that proved to be the winner. Hazard said he wanted to become a Blues legend post-match, but it will be interesting to see how long he can resist the move to Spain with Real Madrid continuing their pursuit of the Chelsea star.
Do you agree with our picks?
Premier League Gameweek 20 begins on Saturday, as league leaders Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield.
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