With Real Madrid playing at the Club World Cup, all eyes in La Liga turn to Atletico Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao this weekend. It could be brutal...
Plus Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks 'heart-breakingly well-suited to a Real Madrid shirt' according to one United fan. Plus, words from the good doctor and plenty more...
NB: The only caveat is that there should be no repetitions from the team of the season so far. The team is loosely sculpted into a 4-3-3 formation:
Goalkeeper - Michael Vorm
Whilst Tim Krul can count himself unfortunate to lose out in a battle of the Dutchmen, there was at least a sense at the Sports Direct Arena (titter, titter) that Krul was expected to perform. Michael Vorm, however, came straight out of left-field. Or FC Utrecht, to be exact. After making 11 saves on debut against Manchester City (more than made in any game last season), Vorm followed this up with five clean sheets, including a penalty save to deny Ben Watson and a point-gaining performance at Anfield. Not too shabby for a goalie that cost just £1.5million.
Right Back - Kyle Walker
You have to feel sorry for Micah Richards. Perennially overlooked by Fabio Capello, the form of Kyle Walker could push him ahead of the City man in the queue to be England's next right-back. Lightning fast, Walker's loan spell at Aston Villa last season alerted fans to his evident talent, and when Spurs' cry for a decent right-back was uttered, Walker stepped up. At 21, the defender is a hugely exciting prospect.
Left Back - Ryan Taylor
When Davide Santon arrived at Newcastle, it was assumed the Italian international would immediately be the owner of a first-team place. Santon has since sat on the Newcastle bench for seven games because of the form of Taylor. Always noted for his impressive set-piece delivery (highlighted by his goals against Sunderland and Scunthorpe this season), the full-back has added a sturdiness to his defensive game, often missing in previous seasons. The highlight for the St James' crowd was Taylor's strike against Everton, which led to thoughts that the Scouser may receive a phone call from Signor Capello.
Centre Back - Ashley Williams
Quite simply Mr Dependable. It should be seen as no coincidence that Williams joined Swansea in March 2008. By the next month promotion to the Championship was assured, and over three years later, still with the centre-back in place, Swansea have kept five clean sheets in the Premier League. Swansea will this weekend play Manchester United for the first time in 30 years. It will be Williams' 152nd consecutive game, a phenomenal effort achieved playing in three different divisions. He will more than likely be marking Wayne Rooney. Not many people have earned that chance more.
Centre Back - Steven Taylor
Whilst Pete Gill has correctly referred to Steven Taylor's dark side (or lack of basic honesty, as an alternative explanation), there is no doubting that it has so far been his season mirabilis. Whilst English centre-backs have been disappointing on the whole thus far, Taylor has remarkably bucked the trend. At the beginning of last season Taylor was transfer-listed due to a breakdown in contract negotiations, but 15 months later he is a pivotal member of the Premier League's meanest defence: a decent improvement by anyone's measure. Taylor has that inspiring propensity to put his body on the line where it hurts and, for that, rather than the lies to referees, we should respect him.
Defenseive Midfield - Scott Parker
Interesting that I feel vindicated in selecting last season's Player of the Year as being overwhelming. Because whilst it was always evident that Spurs would be favourite to sign Parker, at the age of 31 there was a suspicion that although the England midfielder shone in a struggling West Ham team, he could become something of a squad player at White Hart Lane. Not a bloody bit of it. If anything Parker has improved further, making himself an integral part of Capello's midfield plans by effectively and efficiently providing the cover for Modric, Van der Vaart and Bale.
Spurs without Parker in the team this season: Won 3 Drew 3 Lost 3
Spurs with Parker in the team this season: Won 7 Drew 1 Lost 0
Midfield - Chris Eagles
There was a feeling around the Championship that Chris Eagles was something of a fancy dan - nothing unusual in a footballer but potentially part of the reason for his Old Trafford exit in 2008. Known for producing tricks and exhibiting flair, there was a worry that Bolton were signing a player without significant end product (although that doesn't seem to rule anybody out of a starting berth in the Premier League). Eagles has proved the doubters wrong, and with three goals and four assists he has significantly improved a struggling Bolton side. After three solid months there is no question of an international call-up, but at just 25 has the time arrived for Eagles to finally deliver on his potential?
Midfield - Joe Allen
The Premier League's status as the best league in the world is open to question, but one cannot doubt its physicality. It was therefore unsurprising that many pundits wondered exactly how Swansea would fare in the middle, and particularly Joe Allen, the winger-turned-centre-midfielder who, at 21 and 5'6", could easily have been overrun. No-one should have worried, because Allen, who in truth was one of the unsung heroes of Swansea's promotion season, has shone as arguably the club's brightest light. A regular for Swansea at 17 and making his full international debut for Wales after just turning 18, Allen seemingly takes things in his short strides. He has done the same with Premier League football.
Forward - Mario Balotelli
It has always been difficult not to have a soft spot for Super Mario, but this lighter side of the game often masked the reality that this was a striker that cost £24million. Even Manchester City wouldn't pay millions for court jesters. Anyone can be the clown of a group, but what makes Balotelli so fascinating and wonderful is that madness is mixed with marvel. Seven goals in nine appearances for Manchester City this season demonstrates an assassin's calmness behind an unbalanced exterior. A loose cannon that still continues to fire straight should be both lauded and applauded.
Forward - Gabriel Agbonlahor
Agbonlahor's Villa career had become somewhat stagnant over the last couple of seasons. He scored just three league goals in 2010/11, and such was his drought that manager Gerard Houllier moved him onto the wing in order to utilise his pace. However, Agbonlahor's comeback has been impressive. His five Premier League goals have matched Darren Bent, and the striker even managed to gain his first international call-up for two years.
Striker - Demba Ba
The striker providing fuel to the trivia question fire:
1. Name the three African players to have scored more than one hat-trick in a Premier League season?
2. After Robin Van Persie, who is the second top Premier League goalscorer in 2011?
3. Who is the only player to score a Premier League hat-trick at the Britannia Stadium?
4. Which player has the highest chance conversion rate in the Premier League this season?
The form of Ba is all the more impressive when you consider that he was signed on a free transfer after leaving relegated West Ham. There were enough concerns about the health of his knees for Stoke to pull out of a deal to sign the Senegalese striker, but Ba certainly looks like a gamble worth taking, and he completes our triumvirate of Newcastle players.
NB - Adebayor and Benjani are the other two.
Daniel Storey - Twittify!