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Mar 23, 2014

Team of the Weekend

After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Our panel of experts carefully select 11 of Saturday's star performers, along with a manager. Do you agree or disagree?

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 #TOTW. Plus, tune in to Monday's "ESPN FC" (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.

ESPN FC Team of the Weekend: March 23.
ESPN FC Team of the Weekend: March 23.

Goalkeeper: The Team of the Weekend kicks off with a disagreement, gauntlets thrown to the ground and pistols at dawn. Well, sort of. Each of our three panelists suggested a different keeper, with Steve Nicol opting for Norwich's John Ruddy, Paul Mariner choosing Everton stopper Tim Howard and Gab Marcotti picking Crystal Palace's Julian Speroni. Despite Ruddy being the only one of the three who kept a clean sheet, it's Speroni who makes the cut, after making a number of fine saves despite eventually being beaten by Papiss Cisse's late winner, keeping his Palace side in the game for long spells.

Right-back: The difference of opinion continues at right-back, with three different nominations from our experts. Branislav Ivanovic, Seamus Coleman and Geoff Cameron are all put forward, all three defenders producing winning performances on a goal-filled weekend in the Premier League. However, it's one of those goals that tips the balance, with Cameron's late strike in Stoke's 4-1 thrashing of Aston Villa enough to earn him a spot, the American putting in a fine performance even before he swept home Marco Arnautovic's cross to add insult to considerable Villa injury.

Left-back: There's a little more consensus on the other side of the defence, as although Mariner praised Cesar Azpilicueta for being "excellent in all areas," both Gab Marcotti and Steve Nicol picked Hull's Liam Rosenior. The full-back performed well throughout his side's crucial win over West Brom, but his perfectly-timed run to take advantage of Nikica Jelavic's missed penalty was especially admirable. "Scores and jokes that he's had a couple kids since his last goal. Given that it was in October 2009, he's probably right," said Marcotti.

Martin Skrtel may not have defended too astutely but his two goals for Liverpool were vital versus Cardiff.
Martin Skrtel may not have defended too astutely but his two goals for Liverpool were vital versus Cardiff.

Centre-back: While Liverpool's defending was a little suspect at times in their remarkable 6-3 victory over Cardiff, it's tough to ignore a player who popped up with two goals, so Martin Skrtel gets the nod as the other central defender in our team. The big Slovak popped up with a couple of his side's strikes as they came back twice to put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to the sword, combined with a solid display at the back, showing the "physical edge" to his game that Gab Marcotti would like to see more often.

Centre-back: One of Rosenior's teammates also makes the cut, a rare example of multiple Hull players rubbing shoulders with the elite in the ESPN FC Team of the Weekend. Curtis Davies has been mentioned as an outside bet for a spot in the England squad for the World Cup, but if he doesn't get the nod from Roy Hodgson, he can console himself with the approval of our panel. Steve Nicol called him a "rock at the back" while Gab Marcotti said he put in "another Alpha Male performance that will probably go unnoticed." Not by us, Gab.

Central-midfield: The first across-the-board consensus comes in midfield, and it's no surprise to see Yaya Toure selected by all three of our panelists after his hat trick for Manchester City as they thrashed Felix Magath's hapless Fulham side. "This is why he is African player of the year," said Steve Nicol, while Paul Mariner believes that if Toure plays like this until the end of the season "it will be City's title." The highest praise came from Gab Marcotti, though, who said: "He's like Galactus in the X-Men series, except he can't be toppled. A hat-trick to terrorize Fulham. Sure, two were penalties, but the other was special."

Central-midfield: Another screamer came from the boot of Norwich's Alex Tettey, who found the net in the Premier League for the first time with a phenomenal volley from around 25 yards, as his side claimed a vital three points against Sunderland. Tettey's strike rivalled Wayne Rooney's remarkable shot from 50 yards for Manchester United, simply because of the technique it took to strike it so sweetly, leaving Vito Mannone in the Sunderland goal grasping at thin air and giving Norwich half a chance of survival before a nightmare run-in -- one that sees them face Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in their final four games.

Central-midfield: After Southampton took an early 2-0 lead at White Hart Lane, things didn't look good for Spurs and Tim Sherwood, but that was before Christian Eriksen clicked into gear. The Danish playmaker scored twice as Spurs came back to claim a late 3-2 victory, and generally pulled the strings as Sherwood's side showed great character. Indeed, with six points separating Spurs and Arsenal in fourth place and with their rivals' form faltering, it's not out of the question that Sherwood can guide Spurs into the top four. Steve Nicol thought so anyway, crediting Eriksen for "keeping Spurs' Champions League dream alive."

Wayne Rooney's wonder-strike alone would have earned him a place in our XI, but he added a second just to be sure.
Wayne Rooney's wonder-strike alone would have earned him a place in our XI, but he added a second just to be sure.

Forward: There has been much discussion about Wayne Rooney's future and whether he is worth the bumper new contract given to him by Manchester United, but when he produces moments of quality like the one he pulled out of the bag on Saturday, it's a little easier to see why he has been rewarded so handsomely. "Couldn't NOT make the team after scoring from that range," said Gab Marcotti, "this one was special, practically and psychologically." Steve Nicol said he is "carrying David Moyes and United," while Paul Mariner called him the "main man" for his side.

Forward: At the start of the season, Chelsea's signing of Andre Schuerrle looked like something of a waste, given the amount of players they had in his position. However, as the season has gone on the German forward has showed that he has become a valuable and dependable performer for Jose Mourinho, and emphasised that with not just a fine general showing but a goal in the demolition of Arsenal. Paul Mariner said Schurrle "has got to grips with his role in the team, scoring and assisting regularly," while Paul Nicol noted exactly how important he has become to Mourinho's side.

Forward: Finally, our panel had very little option but to include Luis Suarez, about whom superlatives are running out after another remarkable feat of goal scoring in Liverpool's victory. Suarez bagged a hat trick and also found time to set up Daniel Sturridge's goal as Liverpool consolidated their position in second place. "Lucky to get in, he only scored three," joked Paul Mariner, while Steve Nicol and Gab Marcotti are both running out of ways to say how brilliant he is. If Liverpool do manage the unlikely and win the league this year, it will be largely due to the Uruguayan.

In Alan Pardew's absence, John Carver claimed a win for Newcastle thanks to Papiss Cisse's late goal versus Palace.
In Alan Pardew's absence, John Carver claimed a win for Newcastle thanks to Papiss Cisse's late goal versus Palace.

Manager: The boss of our team was only on the sidelines this weekend due to the indiscretions of his own boss. John Carver has been a Newcastle stalwart for some time, and called the shots against Crystal Palace as Alan Pardew continued to serve his ban for head-butting David Meyler. He managed to guide his side to a victory, and Paul Mariner praised the way he "made key subs like bringing on Hatem Ben Arfa, who turned the game against a very stubborn Palace side," while Steve Nicol said he "proved his influence" at St James's Park. Carver has ensured that Pardew's absence from the sidelines will not be too keenly felt on Tyneside.

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