Nemanja Matic Magic and the Top 5 Players from Around the World This Weekend
It's easy to heap praise on the stars who steal the limelight with their goalscoring prowess, but leagues are won by the men doing the work in the middle and at the back.
With this in mind, Chelsea's Nemanja Matic kicks off our top five best players of the weekend for his commanding appearance in Chelsea's rout over Tottenham.
(But don't worry, there are a few limelight-stealing strikers in the list this week too.)
Samuel Eto'o earned plenty of credit for his excellent performance during Chelsea's 4-0 demolition of Tottenham on Saturday—and he stole headlines with his "old-man" celebration after his 300th professional goal.
Yet the most vital cog in the Blues machine was almost certainly Matic.
The Serbian defensive midfielder seemed to single-handedly break down a great deal of Spurs' attacking play; he took 84 touches with a 83 percent pass accuracy, as per WhoScored.com, and according to the Daily Mail, he ran 12 km—more than anyone else on the pitch.
The Mail also has Matic's heat map, which shows he covered a tremendous amount of ground behind the halfway line.
Suddenly, spending £21 million on a player you gave away doesn't seem like a terrible idea.
It hasn't been an easy few weeks for Mesut Ozil. Fans and colleagues have criticised his work rate, and he was even jeered by Germany fans as Die Nationalmannschaft faced Chile earlier this week.
In Saturday's 4-1 FA Cup win over Everton, however, the German star might have played his best game in an Arsenal shirt so far.
Ozil took only seven minutes to open the scoring by connecting with a Santi Cazorla pass, and he set up Olivier Giroud for the Frenchman's second and the Gunners' fourth in the last few minutes.
The BBC notes that he also created five other chances in the match, three more than any other player.
"He looked physically regenerated," said Arsene Wenger, per The Guardian, after the game. This certainly seemed to be the case in a first-half performance in which he certainly appeared to recover his confidence.
Schalke bounced back from heavy defeats to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to inflict a heavy defeat of their own on Hoffenheim on Saturday.
The man at the centre of the 4-0 win was Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who scored a hat-trick which included a beautiful long-range strike in the 29th minute.
The Dutchman slightly blotted his copybook by fluffing a panenka penalty attempt, but he made amends by completing his hat-trick a few minutes later.
The Schalke star earned a 9.0 player rating from WhoScored.com for his talismanic performance.
Another week, another exceptionally good performance from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The talismanic Swede was the star of the show in Paris Saint-Germain's 3-0 win at Bastia on Saturday, getting his name on the scoresheet with a powerful header after only six minutes of play.
That was Ibra's 38th goal in 38 games for the French leaders this season and his 226 goal in European leagues—a new Swedish record, according to @ZlatanStat.
The mighty Swede's best moment of the game, however, was the flick-on that he provided to set up Ezequiel Lavezzi's first goal. It can only be described as "Zlatan-esque."
Cardiff and Fulham played a hugely important relegation battle on Saturday, with both teams in poor form and desperately attempting to pull themselves from the relegation zone.
Solskjaer's Cardiff turned it into a relegation six-pointer with a 3-1 win, with the Bluebirds breaking a run of 400 minutes without scoring, thanks to captain Steven Caulker's first-half strike.
The centre-back doubled his tally in the second half and also made 12 effective clearances and two interceptions, as per WhoScored.com, to help plunge Fulham even deeper into the mire.
According to quotes from The Mirror, Solskjaer was insistent that Caulker can earn his seat on the plane to Brazil with performances like this.
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