Garth Crooks' team of the week: Kane, Alli, Pogba, Cahill, Milner, Valencia

Garth's team of the week

The festive football action keeps coming, with no sign of the Chelsea juggernaut slowing down.

The Premier League leaders extended their winning run to 13 matches, but Liverpool and Arsenal remain in pursuit, with Manchester City out of the top four after Tottenham's thumping win at Watford.

At the other end of the table, Swansea and Sunderland were both humbled, while champions Leicester got a much-needed win.

Goalkeeper - Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)

Kasper Schmeichel
Schmeichel made five saves to help Leicester to a 1-0 win over West Ham; only his third clean sheet of the season

There seems to be a correlation between Kasper Schmeichel being in goal and Leicester City keeping clean sheets.

They haven't kept that many this season and that's probably why the Foxes are mightily relieved to have their number one back between the sticks.

Injuries are an occupational hazard for any footballer, and some might argue you can't enjoy the full experience of top-flight football until you have felt the misery of a long-term injury and the sheer euphoria of the return.

Of course Kasper's father Peter (an infinitely better keeper, by the way) would have schooled him in the arts of football survival. Considering the way Leicester have been defending this season, that may come in very handy.

Right-back - Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

Antonio Valencia
Valencia completed a higher share of his passes against Middlesbrough than any other United player (98%) and attempted the most crosses (12)

I was very tempted to select Bournemouth's Simon Francis at right-back, but I was so impressed with Manchester United's comeback that I had to go for Antonio Valencia.

The game against Middlesbrough was going away from United and they needed a few cool heads to see them through. If there is one player they can count on, it's Valencia. The full-back is as safe as houses.

Valencia was one of those players who shut the game down for United once they got their noses in front.

In the final minutes, Valencia had no hesitation launching the ball into the crowd in order to relieve the pressure and kill the game. Sometimes even exceptional defenders can't afford to be too proud to do what needs be done.

Centre-back - Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

Gary Cahill
Cahill made more clearances (seven) than any other Chelsea player against Stoke and also scored the game’s opening goal

What a thumping header by the Chelsea captain.

Victory over Stoke made it 13 consecutive wins for the Blues and there was a touch of inevitability about the outcome of this match. Did anyone really believe Stoke could pull this off?

To be fair, the Potters went to Stamford Bridge and gave the Blues a game and were even the better side in the early exchanges, but there was only one winner.

It's not common for Stoke to concede goals from a corner but the way in which a Chelsea quartet descended upon Cesc Fabregas' beautiful floated corner was like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I've never before seen a Stoke defence bulldozed down like that on a set-play. It was Cahill who scored the goal but it was Chelsea's heavy mob that contributed to Stoke's total destruction.

Centre-back - Wes Morgan (Leicester City)

Wes Morgan
No Leicester player made more clearances in their win over West Ham than Morgan's eight

It has been some time since Wes Morgan made my team of the week. Last season he was practically ever-present, but Leicester's preoccupation with the Champions League seems to have created a Premier League paralysis.

However, against a stubborn West Ham they managed a rare clean sheet, which was the basis upon which last season's title success.

Claudio Ranieri's celebration at the end of this fixture was telling enough, and without these three points Leicester would have been in big trouble.

Morgan's contribution was central to their clean sheet and it was just as well.

Left-back - James Milner (Liverpool)

James Milner
Milner had more touches of the ball than any other Liverpool player in their win over Manchester City (86)

James Milner is making me eat my words. When I saw him in Liverpool's worst performance of the season against Burnley, I accused the England man of being a square peg in a round hole.

A right-footed midfield player playing left-back? He looked awkward and was exposed.

Admittedly his team-mates weren't much help that day, but since then he has grown into the part beautifully.

He has been Liverpool's best player during the past four games and never gave Manchester City's Raheem Sterling a kick on his return to Anfield.

In fact, the battle between Milner and Sterling was the highlight of the game for me. It was like a throwback to the 1970s, when you had players like George Best and Ron Harris going at it for 90 minutes, only without the brutality. I must admit, Jurgen Klopp has certainly got that one right.

Midfield - Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Paul Pogba
Pogba has been directly involved in five goals in his past four Premier League appearances (two goals, three assists)

It's been a great Christmas period for Paul Pogba. He was inspirational against Sunderland and a match-winner against Middlesbrough.

Please don't think for one minute that his header against Boro that gave United all three points was easy. He didn't panic and steered the ball in the only place Victor Valdes could not retrieve it.

I've seen those last-ditch efforts float wide of the post all too often, but Pogba absolutely nailed it. He's getting there.

Midfield - Willian (Chelsea)

Willian notched his first Premier League brace and has equalled his goal tally for last season in the competition (five)

The finish with his left foot was brilliant and the one he scored with his right was even better.

Chelsea had just conceded for the second time in this match against Stoke but on each occasion the Blues raised their game. The touch from Diego Costa that set up Willian to score his first goal was sensational, but the Brazilian still had much to do and did it with calculated precision.

However, it was Fabregas who cut Stoke's throats with a glorious through ball for Willian, who smashed it past visiting goalkeeper Lee Grant.

Liverpool boss Klopp and Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola spent the week stroking each other's artichokes prior to their meeting at Anfield, but neither of them can hold a candle to Antonio Conte and what he is doing with Willian and company at the moment.

Midfield - Matt Phillips (West Brom)

Matt Phillips
Phillips has been involved in 10 goals in his 18 Premier League games this season (four goals, six assists).

Winning at Southampton was a very impressive performance by West Brom and in particular Matt Phillips, who is having an excellent season.

He took his goal brilliantly and from that moment there was no coming back for the Saints.

It's been a miserable holiday period for Southampton since their controversial defeat by Tottenham and they never really looked like they had recovered from that mauling in time for the match against the Baggies.

What Tony Pulis has going at The Hawthorns is nothing short of miraculous. The purchase of Phillips has been inspired.

Midfield - Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Dele Alli
Alli has scored five goals in his past three Premier League appearances after a run of seven without one

Dele Alli is officially 'in the mood'. Just like the old Glenn Miller classic, the player looks upbeat and gets you on your feet.

From the moment he struck the bar with a cracking drive, I knew he was up for the Tottenham game at Watford.

To be fair, this performance against a poor Hornets side was a continuation of his display against Southampton.

Spurs have been desperate for someone to share the goalscoring responsibilities with Harry Kane, and Alli has duly obliged. We've now got to get him playing for England the way he is playing for Spurs.

Forward - Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Harry Kane
Kane has now scored 59 goals in 100 Premier League games, the same number as Thierry Henry had at this stage

Harry Kane is back to his best again and he hasn't been looking like that for a while.

The first signs of a more relaxed, but purposeful, Kane were against Southampton and he would have capped an excellent performance that night had the earth not moved beneath his feet as he was about to take a penalty.

His all-round display against Watford was fantastic, not to mention his two goals. I have had a real dilemma this weekend having seen Diego Costa play one of his best games for Chelsea, Kane playing like he's finally put the European Championship behind him and Andre Gray scoring his first hat-trick.

I couldn't have had three more exciting candidates. Sadly, Costa has hit the cutting-room floor but somebody had to.

Forward - Andre Gray (Burnley)

Andre Gray
Gray became the first Burnley player to score a Premier League hat-trick

It is good to see Andre Gray playing football and scoring goals again.

I was more than a little perturbed by the severity of the punishment imposed by the Football Association for his inappropriate Twitter remarks four years earlier. How sad that the governing body had no room for redemption.

Much has changed since those remarks and an extremely apologetic Gray seems far more mature than he was four years ago but, nevertheless, he took his medicine like a man. He took his goals against Sunderland in a similar fashion too.

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