Coral’s combined Premier League matchweek 33 and FA Cup semis XI
From a thrilling weekend of football that saw Aston Villa enjoy FA Cup romance by scalping by Liverpool, and Leicester City continue their great escape from the Premier League drop, Coral experts select a cracking combined XI.
Here are our picks from the cream of the crop in both the cup and league:
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
A Foxes fans will know, Schmeichel jnr is more than capable of mirroring his famous father with goalkeeping heroics, and the Danish stopper is finally showing his Premier League promise when it counts. A crucial save to deny Nelson Oliveira helped Leicester (12/1 to finish bottom) keep a first clean sheet in four.
Right back: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)
The Argentine was vital in keeping West Ham United pinned back in their own half, with his marauding runs down the right flank and crunching tackles keeping the visitors on their toes and helping Manuel Pellegrini’s Sky Blues get back on track.
Centre back: Paddy McNair (Manchester United)
Ryan Shawcross’ sturdy presence allowed Stoke City the solidity and confidence to go on and beat Southampton, but his fellow United academy graduate stood out in the Red Devils rearguard despite their loss. A class act in the making, McNair had the confidence to help his team build from the back and even try his luck on goal, looking far more comfortable than his more experienced contemporaries.
Centre back: Joleon Lescott (West Bromwich Albion)
Just as the Baggies looked like slipping back into the relegation battle, Lescott stepped up for boss Tony Pulis against his old club to put in a superb and commanding performance and help shut out Crystal Palace.
Left back: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Danny Rose surely impressed for Spurs, but Shaw’s powerful bursts forwards and precision passing, including a clever cut-back for Wayne Rooney, are all the more impressive considering it was the teenager’s first start since February, against champions elect Chelsea no less.
Right wing: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
It was a tough choice between electric Marc Albrighton, who propelled the Foxes forward fantastically against the Swans, but guileful Grealish earns his spot in our XI for a thrilling Wembley debut. Incredibly composed for a 19-year-old featuring in an FA Cup semi-final, the young Villan etched his name into Aston Villa folklore with an assist for the winner.
Centre midfield: Paulinho (Tottenham)
Paulinho has had a torrid time at Tottenham since joining in 2013, despite possessing all the attributes to be a success in the Premier League. Could the box-to-box Brazilian now be about to turn a corner after his impressivley powerful performance at St James’ Park?
Centre midfield: Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
Dynamo Delph simply had to form half of our midfield spine after demolishing Liverpool’s dreams and inspiring relegation-threatened Villa to an FA Cup final (which they are 9/4 to win). His driving presence spurred the team forward for the equaliser, before the England international lashed home the winner with poise and aplomb himself.
Left wing: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Hazard’s excellent acceleration and deft finish to beat David de Gea moved Chelsea ever closer to claiming the Premier League title, and the Blues may just look back at the Belgian’s deadlock-breaking winner as a defining moment. United could simply not keep up with the superstar.
Striker: Christian Benteke
Benteke went back to basics with a clean, crisp strike to draw Villa level with Liverpool, and it was a hugely important goal. The big Belgium international’s campaign, and career, has turned around spectacularly under Tim Sherwood. Can the potent poacher’s revival now result in an FA Cup winners medal?
Striker: Leonardo Ulloa
Goals are any centre forward’s bread and butter, but Argentine Ulloa had not found the target for 13 league outings before grabbing the opener against Swansea. With his work ethic and desire, Leicester’s record signing could yet save their season if he recaptures his previous formidable form.