Team of the Week – Smalling & Willian save Manchester United and Chelsea whilst Manchester City stars shine

By Benjamin Wills.

The title race was unchanged at the end of this midweek round of matches, with Chelsea and Manchester City both winning with 1-0 and 4-1 wins over Everton and Stoke respectively.

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Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United all won to really get the top four hunt in gear, while Tottenham lost and Southampton were held at home by West Ham, who had to play half an hour with 10 men.

Paul Lambert endured his last game in charge of Aston Villa, who went down 2-0 at Hull and dropped into the bottom three, with QPR cock-a-hoop that they are now out of it as a result of an away win over Sunderland.

Goalkeeper: Allan McGregor (Hull City)

It is fair to say Aston Villa are not the most potent of forces in front of goal this season, scoring just 12 goals in 25 games, but McGregor did have to be on guard on Tuesday night.

The Scotland keeper denied Villa four times, while keeping a clean sheet in a vital 2-0 win as Tigers leapt out of the bottom three.

Right-back: Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

A fifth-minute injury to Phil Jones did not turn out as badly as some sections of Manchester United supporters may have feared.

Smalling came on as his replacement and the defender uncharacteristically nodded in two goals against relegation-threatened Burnley. Smalling’s first goal came with his first touch of the match.

Centre-back: Paul McShane (Hull City)

McGregor may have kept Villa at bay with some fine stops but McShane chipped in with his contribution too.

Despite Villa’s lack of threat in the final third, which ultimately led to Paul Lambert’s sacking on Wednesday night, Christian Benteke is always a handful and McShane kept the Belgian brute quiet.

Left-back: Florin Gardos (Southampton)

Making up the back three is Romanian Florin Gardos of Southampton in a make-shift left-back role.

Southampton drew 0-0 with West Ham at St Mary’s with Gardos, in particular, flourishing in defence as the Saints earned clean sheet No11 of the season. That’s higher than any other Premier League side this season.

Right midfielder: Willian (Chelsea)

Tireless worker Willian would have been worrying his place in the starting 11 of the Premier League favourites was under threat with the recent arrival of Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina, but an 89th-minute winner against Everton helped his cause.

He started in his favoured ‘No10’ role on Wednesday, with Cuadrado deployed on the right where Willian has been used this season, but it was the Brazilian who impressed and added to his good display with a neat volley in the closing stages.

Centre midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Ozil’s Arsenal timeline has yo-yoed but since his most recent return from injury, the World Cup winner has scored two goals and assisted three.

Both of the Gunners’ goals were set up by the German playmaker as they kept up the heat on Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham for a place in the top four.

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Centre midfielder: Samir Nasri (Manchester City)

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League was unblemished in their midweek match but Manchester City romped to a bigger scoreline, beating Stoke 4-1 at the Britannia Stadium.

Sergio Aguero took the headlines (more on that in a moment), but Nasri scored one goal, and set one up too, to keep Manchester City on Chelsea’s tails.

Left midfielder: Matt Phillips (Queens Park Rangers)

Finally, QPR picked up points on the road at Sunderland, which saw them climb out of the bottom three, and led to the appointment of Chris Ramsey as manager until the end of the season.

Leroy Fer and Bobby Zamora scored the goals, with Phillips assisting both, making him the first player to assist two goals for QPR in a Premier League match since Danny Dichio in 1996.

Striker: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Two goals from Aguero made it 16 goals in 20 Premier League matches for the little Argentine.

His opener was his first Premier League goal in 70 days as he has had his struggles with injury this season.

Striker: Brown Ideye (West Brom)

One goal and one assist for Ideye as the Baggies bounced to their first league win in a month.

Ideye broke the deadlock after an hour at the Hawthorns and then he teed up Tony Pulis’ poster boy Saido Berahino for a classy second goal.

Striker: Dame N’Doye (Hull City)

N’Doye will not forget his home debut for Hull in a while, having netted on his KC Stadium bow as well as setting up Nikica Jelavic who became Hull’s joint all-time leading Premier League scorer with his 11th in Amber and Black.

N’Doye was the darling Dame on show, however, winning the man of the match award for his performance.

Follow @BenjaminWillsSJ

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