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Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 21 (1)

A reduced fixture list this weekend as part of the Premier League’s winter break, with five games in part one of the staggered schedule, but there was still some terrific action in England’s top flight.

Here is The Football Faithful’s Premier League Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez – Aston Villa

Aston Villa were the better side in their 0-0 draw at Everton but needed Emi Martinez at his best to keep the game goalless.

The Argentina international made two superb saves at the end of the first half, first winning the battle of wits against Dominic Calvert-Lewin one against one, before getting down low to keep out James Garner’s effort moments later. One of the best in the Premier League right now.

Right-back: Pedro Porro – Tottenham

Another high-class performance from a player reborn under Ange Postecoglou this season. Porro’s dangerous deliveries from dead balls troubled Manchester United all game and were rewarded with a seventh assist of the campaign at Old Trafford.

The Spaniard’s first-half set-piece was flicked home by Richarlison, with Porro having provided more assists than any Spurs defender has ever managed in a Premier League campaign.

Porro led the contest for crosses (20), penalty area entries (18), and chances created (5) while working hard defensively with four tackles and three interceptions.

Centre-back: Cristian Romero – Tottenham

Cristian Romero showed signs of rust in the opening stages at Manchester United but grew into the game on his return from a hamstring problem. The Argentinian’s return provided a depleted Spurs with a much-needed boost and the World Cup winner rose to the occasion at Old Trafford.

Romero should have scored when he crashed a header across the crossbar late in the first half, though that miss was a minor blot on an otherwise standout showing. His determined defensive work and passing from the back were pivotal for Spurs, including in the build-up for Rodrigo Bentancur’s equaliser.

Centre-back: Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton

Gareth Southgate will be sure on the majority of his selections for Euro 2024, but Jarrad Branthwaite is emerging as a genuine contender for England’s final squad.

The uncapped Everton centre-back is having a fine season and enhanced his growing reputation with another impressive showing against Aston Villa. The 21-year-old – a natural left-sided option with comfortability off both feet – won 9/10 duels in the goalless draw at Goodison Park, four tackles and made five clearances.

His partnership with James Tarkwoski is the foundation on which Sean Dyche’s side is building, a defensive duo that simply loves defending.

Left-back: Vitalii Mykolenko – Everton

A battling performance from the full-back, the sort of showing Everton fans appreciate more than most. The Ukrainian – bandaged up after a head clash with teammate James Tarkowski – was full of defensive discipline to keep Leon Bailey quiet in the goalless draw against Aston Villa.

The highlight of Mykolenko’s afternoon came with a brilliant last-ditch challenge on Matty Cash, with his block preventing a certain goal for the visitors. His upturn in form this season has been a big bonus for the Toffees.

Midfield: Rodri – Manchester City

At such a level that performances of this quality have become the norm. The Spaniard was key to Manchester City’s control of the game at Newcastle, but for a chaotic two minutes that saw the home side score twice.

Rodri led the game for touches (164) and completed 93.1% of his passes at St James’ Park while registering an assist with a neat outside-of-the-boot pass into Kevin De Bruyne. Defensively, he won seven duels in a complete midfield performance.

Moaned a bit to the officials, mind.

Midfielder: Rodrigo Bentancur – Tottenham

An excellent outing from a player who often goes under-appreciated outside of North London. Bentancur’s equaliser against Manchester United capped a flowing team move and a fine performance from the Uruguayan, who was outstanding on and off the ball at Old Trafford.

Having come back ahead of schedule from his latest injury setback, this was a nice moment for the midfielder, who completed 47/56 passes at Old Trafford and covered a whopping 12.3km. He hardly looked like a player who has not long returned from ACL and ankle issues.

Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

He’s back.

What a cameo from the Manchester City midfielder, who came off the bench to turn the game around in his first Premier League appearance in five months. De Bruyne scored City’s equaliser at St James’ Park with the calmest of finishes moments after his introduction, stroking the ball into the bottom corner with exquisite ease.

A brilliant pass then found Oscar Bobb for the late winner, as the champions came from behind to snatch a late – and important – win in the North East. City’s title rivals should be worried, De Bruyne is back and appears to need no time at all to get back up and running.

It’s now a goal and two assists in 54 minutes of action since his return to the team this week. What a footballer.

Forward: Cole Palmer – Chelsea

Chelsea’s most effective and eye-catching player once again. Palmer returned to the right wing this weekend and looked comfortable drifting infield to make things happen, with the 21-year-old always looking the most likely to carve out chances.

His disguised pass to Raheem Sterling in the build-up to the penalty was superb, before Palmer confidently stepped up to send Bernd Leno the wrong way from the spot and win the West London derby. It’s now nine Premier League goals for the campaign for Palmer, who has been the shining light in the club’s season.

Forward: Richarlison – Tottenham

An energetic outlet in the absence of Son Heung-min, Richarlison continued his fine form with a sixth goal in six Premier League games at Manchester United. The Brazilian rose in a packed penalty box to meet Pedro Porro’s corner kick, glancing the full-back’s delivery into the far corner.

Richarlison worked hard defensively and produced a high-quality performance as Spurs’ focal point. Arguably his best all-round performance for the North Londoners.

Forward: Rasmus Hojlund – Manchester United

Much more like it from the summer signing, who looks to have taken huge confidence from his first Premier League goal last time out. The Denmark international opened the scoring against Spurs inside three minutes, lashing a high finish past Guglielmo Vicario at Old Trafford.

Hojlund turned provider for the second after playing in Marcus Rashford, while offering an outlet all game for his side with industrious work off the ball. One fantastic flick and burst of pace saw Hojlund leave Micky van de Ven in his wake, with the Spurs defender no slouch in an eye-catching example of the former’s speed.

Back-to-back Premier League games with a goal for Hojlund, who can build from here.

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