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Liverpool’s injury woes continue as Daniel Sturridge picked up another injury during the training session on Thursday. The striker has been out since October 4 and was keen to make his return to first-team action for Klopp against Bordeaux in the Europa League.


Sturridge's fatigue can deface his chance to play in Euro 2016 for England
Jurgen Klopp commented about Sturridge’s injury after Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Bordeaux:

"I don't know too much about the situation"

“It wasn't a situation I saw because we trained in two groups - the starting line-up and the other players.”

"It was really close to the game when the news came. At the moment we have to wait."

"We trained this morning, we were at the hotel and he had to leave to have a scan. We have to wait for the results."

Since joining from Chelsea in January 2013, Sturridge has managed to score 42 goals in 70 appearances for the Merseyside club. Sturridge has missed 68 games for Liverpool due to his injuries.

The injuries he has suffered since the start of last season.

August 2014: Returned early from the pre-season tour due to a hamstring injury.
September 2014: Injured his thigh during international duty.
October 2014: Suffers a calf strain during the training.
November 2014: Picks up a thigh injury after returning to full training.
March 2015: Injures his hip against Manchester United.
October 2015: Suffers knee injury after just three appearances.

November 2015: Foot injury during the training.

The friendly between England and France always had a special importance to it other than the result. This was a game where the result was not of much significance because sometimes football is indeed just a game and there are other issues far more important than a 90 minute match.

England & France show solidarity against the Paris terror attacks.
The solidarity shown by both sets of players along with their supporters sent a message of strength and unity to the entire world. It was never easy for the players and the supporters to be part of this occasion just four days after the horrific terror attacks in Paris that took the lives of around 120 people. However, the supporters, with their 'Pray for Paris' placards, made sure their defiant message was heard by everyone.

As for the game, it was a wonderful night for Hodgson and his men. England were ordinary against Spain but they upped their game in the match against France. The French started the game well with Cabaye in particular threatening in the early stages.However, it may have been one of those games for France where the occasion got to them and they started to fade away as the game went on. For England though, this was a game where a lot of positives could be brought along.

Rooney, who was restored to the starting lineup, was particularly impressive and so was Dele Alli. The young Tottenham midfielder scored the first and also played an important part in the second. Rooney, who scored the second, looked sharp in the game and was looking like he wanted to impress his manager after being benched for the match against Spain.

There was also a heartfelt applause for Lassana Diarra, who had lost his cousin in those attacks, when he came on later in the game. France, however, failed to threaten in the final stages of the game and England went on to win the match comfortably in the end. However, it was one of those games where the result was not king, the occasion was.

England is currently ranked 9th in the FIFA World Ranking. It is often argued that a country's world ranking sometimes does not reflect the quality of the squad. The fact that Belgium is the number one team in the world ahead of heavyweights like Germany and Argentina would raise a few eyebrows.

Xavi and Phil Jones
However, in the case of England, the current ranking can be regarded as justifying their quality. It can be viewed that England are better than most others but not one of the best in the world. In spite of a stellar qualifying campaign, even the most ardent English supporters would not be viewing England as one of the favorites to win Euro 2016.

One of the best examples of this was the recent friendly between England and Spain. There was a sense of frustration among some of the English supporters and media where they witnessed England getting totally dominated by a superior team. The match did not delineate anything new to a general football supporter. Spain dominated possession as Spain usually does.

England was trying to keep their shape to the maximum and just hoping that they can nick one on the counter. It was more of hope than belief and in the end it was inevitable that Spain would break them.

The match reminded me of how West Ham have been so effective in their counter attacking football this season. In the match against Spain, there were some moments where England could have actually scored. West Ham have been successful in winning against the so called big teams this season with the help of this style. England, though, were not able to replicate the same in terms of the result.

However, it just reminded us of the fact that the best way England can hope to win a major tournament is to play the West Ham way rather than opt for the Arsenal way.

England beat Lithuania 3-0 and ended their European qualification campaign with a perfect record. England are now the only team to win all of their qualification games in this campaign. But does that make them favorites for the tournament?

Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson fielded a youthful team against Lithuania and the players were eager to take their chances with Ross Barkley particularly impressing. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also got on the score sheet to make a case for his inclusion in England's first choice starting eleven. It was a comfortable win for England but it is now that the real test starts for England.



England are the sixth team to reach the tournament with a hundred percent qualification record. But only one team out of the previous five has gone on to win the trophy. So it is evident that a 100% qualification campaign record means next to nothing when the tournament begins. England were similarly impressive in the previous World Cup's qualification matches but they stuttered on the big stage.

England's toughest opponents in the group were probably Switzerland, and even they were no threat to a full strength England team. In fact, out of the ten matches not once has England struggled. That is an impressive feat actually, as we have seen current world champions Germany struggling in their last two qualifiers. But the problem for England is that they haven't faced a proper tough opposition yet.

England play two friendlies against Spain and France next month and that should provide an indicator of how far this team has come after the horror showing at Brazil in 2014. England were not favorites to qualify from their group in Brazil, but the way they went out without winning a single game was disappointing. Even against Costa Rica, they couldn't score a goal.

Now where does the problem lie for England? Undoubtedly, they have quality. Hart is a fine goalkeeper. Defence is probably their weakest area with John Stones the better of the lot. England's defence was never really tested in their qualification matches. England also lack a proper defensive minded midfielder but they never had to use a defensive midfielder in their qualification games. When facing teams like Germany and France, these weaknesses could be brutally exposed.

Further up, England has a very talented and youthful midfield with the likes of Barkley, Wilshere, Sterling and Chamberlain. All of them are very creative and talented players but can they respond when their team is in crisis? Once you go 2-0 down, can these players inspire a comeback? We have never gotten the chance to see that yet, in truth. But that will be something Hodgson needs to look at.

England have a lot of striking options with Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck all offering Hodgson a variety of options.

Wayne Rooney is the most experienced player of the lot and his form will be a big worry for Hodgson. England needs players like Rooney to be able to respond when the team is in crisis and this young lot has not yet proved their credentials in that aspect. Hodgson may even drop Rooney from the team if his form doesn't improve.

But again, England has so far beaten whatever has been put in front of them and who knows, we might see an unlikely hero rise in the Euros next summer.

Wayne Rooney
Despite being Manchester United's third highest goalscorer of all-time and only being 7 international goals off the England record, there has always been doubts (and probably always will be) over whether Wayne Rooney is 'all that'. This may seem absurd, but it is a fair point given both his recent poor performances that have been masked by the odd goal, and the sheer brilliance he showed as a youngster. The fact remains, however, he has been prolific at club and international level, boasting a better than 1 in 2 record at Manchester United.

Let's start by discussing why Rooney may be considered world class. A superb record that displays his goalscoring prowess says a lot, but there's more to Rooney than that. He also boasts a superb assist record, hitting double figures for assists and goals in his last 5 seasons. He's a leader, one who at his best can grab games by the scruff of the neck and win them single-handedly. Not only is he a great scorer of goals, he's a scorer of great goals - think the overhead kick against Man City, the volley against Newcastle and even the free-kick against Arsenal at the age of 16. Even when Man United have struggled, like last year, Rooney's performances were a shining example. On-form, Rooney is a scary player to face, with pace, which is often very understated, power and impeccable technique. He may not be the exciting, raw 18 year old that he once was, but he's still a frightening player.

What I think is the problem with Rooney is that he was so good at such a young age, that because he's not Cristiano Ronaldo people think he's not very good. We play down his talents and feats because he hasn't progressed as much as we thought he might. You could argue that he peaked early - especially at international level, where he was absolutely scintillating at Euro 2004, but a damp squib at the recent World Cup. So what went wrong?

Rooney is plagued with inconsistency and cursed with being English. Inconsistency is understandable at a young age, so people didn't mention it so much, but at 28 those problems should have long gone. Quite why he cannot hit a consistent run for an extended period we may never know, but Rooney can be quiet for long periods of games or even seasons, but he will always score goals and make chances. That's what sets Rooney apart; against Estonia he was poor, the public opinion of him at an all-time low and a lot of pressure on his shoulders, yet he still scored the winner. Good players have bad games, great players have bad games, but great players will still contribute.


Being English and only playing in England may have hurt Rooney's career. Whilst he is a very physical player, he is extremely technically gifted, but maybe lacks the footballing intelligence to fully utilise his talent. In England, physicality is so important that we maybe don't look at the finer details. Had Rooney moved abroad, to Real or Barcelona at the age of 23/24, he may have become the player we all hoped he would. The European focus on intelligence, positioning and ball retention is extremely close and this would have helped Rooney massively. As it is, his awareness and movement have limited him a little bit, I feel.

Look at the successful English teams - all of them have players that have played large portions of their career abroad. Chelsea will walk this year's Premier League, as has been clear since the summer, and their team consists of 2 players who have played in England their whole life - Terry and Cahill. A spell abroad may have sanded off Rooney's rough edges and made him the complete forward.

Wayne Rooney is an enigma - on one hand, he is statistically brilliant, obviously talented and an icon, but on the other, he is inconsistent and when he should be at his peak, he appears to be dropping off, a worrying trend that he will no doubt stop now I've written this. Will he go down as a great? Maybe for Man United, but I'm not sure he will be remembered as fondly in the eyes of the England fans.

Article contributed by:  Elliott Griffiths

Blog: Just Like Watching Brazil

Twitter: @ElliottBCFC

Jonjo Shelvey [Photo Credit: FA]
Since I can remember, England managers have been derided for always picking players from the big teams, or having their favorites. Whilst it sounds petty and it sounds like sour grapes, it's mostly true. Chris Smalling has been in plenty of England squads on reputation alone, despite being an average defender and poor in possession, which is a cardinal sin in international football, while Curtis Davies is forced to watch England games from his living room sofa.

Roy Hodgson, however, despite the criticisms leveled at him, is starting to break the mould a little bit, though it may have taken a little bit too long. Nathaniel Clyne has been the best English right back for at least 2 years, yet the player he kept out of the Southampton team, Calum Chambers, moved to Arsenal and got a call-up. That's not to say that Chambers shouldn't be in the England set-up, just that Clyne should have been first choice for a while now. At least Hodgson has seen sense and finally called him up, which other managers may not have done.

Probably the clearest example of this philosophy starting to change is the inclusion of Jonjo Shelvey, an enigmatic but talented young midfielder. Shelvey has impressed at Swansea with his fantastic range of passing and eye for goal. The London-born midfielder should suit international football, as it is generally played at a slower pace and he excels in a possession based game. He is generally very composed but sometimes picks the wrong pass which can cause trouble, though this side of his game has improved since joining Swansea. What this may indicate is not only a change in selection policy but a change in playing style for England. Whereas before we aimed to sit back and break with pace, using Sterling and Sturridge's speed which is so often displayed at club level, maybe this indicates a shift to a possession based game.

Though Shelvey is often deployed in a deeper role, England still lack a proper holding midfielder. Attempts at playing Wilshere as a defensive midfielder will likely fail, though the national team appears to have an obsession with trying to play box-to-box midfielders in defensive positions, as Wilshere takes over Gerrard's mantle of not defending. There is a lack of top English holding midfielders at big clubs, so for some reason England just play without one, rather than look at other options at 'smaller' clubs. Every top team has a holding midfielder, not just a central midfielder. For every Xavi there's a Busquets, for every Fabregas a Matic and for every Yaya Toure there's a Fernandinho. England should look at the less glamorous options, such as Jack Cork, a talented midfielder who has been key to Southampton's superb early season form. Cork is technically proficient but reads the game superbly, allowing him to break up attacks and start them. Lee Cattermole is an unpopular choice, but one that should be explored. He has a very underrated technical side to his game but he also does the dirty work - it's surprising that such an archetypal English midfielder is so ignored, but then he plays for Sunderland, rather than Man United.

Andros Townsend makes another squad, despite being a wasteful footballer who offers very little but the odd wonder goal to a team. He's selfish, inconsistent and hasn't played regularly for months, but Townsend had a few good games for England 6 months ago, so he stays in, whilst the top scoring Englishman Saido Berahino goes to Croatia with the U21's. Berahino at 21 has fired 5 goals in 8 games this season for a team who many tipped to struggle. Though I think he should be in the England squad, I understand that maybe the U21's is best for him right now, it just seems bizarre to not call up the best English striker at this current moment.

Though England boss Hodgson has started to break the mould in terms of selection, there's a long way to go until England select players on form and ability rather than reputation, but with the exit of big name players like Gerrard and Lampard in recent years, maybe this will change, gradually.

Article contributed by:  Elliott Griffiths 

Twitter: @ElliottBCFC

Whenever Jack Wilshere is mentioned, everyone quickly remembers that performance against Barcelona. But since then, Wilshere's career has gone off track a little bit. Regular injuries and a laid-back attitude has certainly stopped him from becoming the midfielder he promised to be at the tender age of 18. Recently, Wilshere publicly said that he aspires to be like Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo and Barcelona's Javier Mascherano, but will he ever be able to reach their level?
Will Jack Wilshere fulfill his potential?
For me, Pirlo and Mascherano are two of the best midfielders in the world. Certainly Mascherano is underrated, but we all saw just how good he is playing in the defensive midfield role in the world cup, playing a major part in leading Argentina all the way to the finals. Pirlo, on the other hand, is simply a maestro. Everything he does with the ball seems to ooze class, whether it be long or short passes or free kicks .

Wilshere, on the other hand, is a decent midfielder, but not someone who I can categorize as one of the best young midfield prospects around, and he can certainly not be named among the best midfielders of today. Is he anywhere near the level of Paul Pogba? Probably not. But does that mean he will never be able to reach the elite level? Definitely not.

A couple of years ago, I would've agreed that Wilshere seemed like the most promising young mifielders around. Fast forward a few years, in which he really should've been gaining an even bigger reputation, and he's not even Arsenal's best midfielder anymore. This is not entirely his fault. Wilshere suffered a lot of injuries after that match against Barcelona, and injuries at a young age have often caused the downfall of some of the most exciting young midfielders of our time. Jermaine Jenas, David Bentley, Tom Cleverley are just a few name that spring to mind.

Despite the injuries he suffered, Wilshere always vowed to fight for a place and never abandoned Arsenal. Today, he still is a young and talented midfielder, with a never say die attitude and unquestionable loyalty, traits which can seldom be found in others. Wilshere will really need to work hard, instead of partying, and stay fit in order to challenge Aaron Ramsey for his starting spot, and also secure his spot in England's team.

Jack Rodwell was once hailed as England's next star midfielder. Some even called him Steven Gerrard's perfect successor. The whole country dreamed of the day when Jack Wilshere and Jack Rodwell played alongside each other in the English kit, and destroyed midfields which have conquered England's for so long. At the time, Rodwell was playing for Everton under David Moyes, who had unearthed the talent from Everton's academy. It seemed like Jack Rodwell had it all; he could tackle, he could fit into Moyes' passing game, he could press, and he could undoubtedly score some thumping goals. Fast forward a few years, and here we see Jack Rodwell signing for Sunderland, after spending 2 disastrous years at Manchester City. What went wrong in the young star's career?
Rodwell went from being a young star to an outcast

In 2012, Jack Rodwell signed for Manchester City, from Everton, where he had impressed ever since he made his debut back in 2007 while he was just 16 years old. I personally thought that Rodwell would excel during his time at the Etihad. Roberto Mancini needed someone to partner Yaya Toure in midfield, and despite also having Nigel de Jong and Javi Garcia at the club, I did think that Rodwell would start over them. I had never been so wrong.

During his two year stay at Manchester City, Rodwell only made 16 appearances. This was partly due to the amount of injuries he suffered, and partly because there were now plenty of better midfielders than him at the club. There was no place for Rodwell in the side or the bench, and the only useful thing about him was the fact that he would be counted in the Manchester City 'Homegrown' category, allowing City to cope the Financial Fair Play rules.

Now, finally Rodwell's injury plagued tenure at City has come to an end. The England international put pen to paper with Sunderland last night, and will be hoping to resurrect his career at the Stadium of Light. But will that be possible?
Jack Rodwell has signed for Sunderland


Unfortunately, it is very likely that Rodwell will never again be the player that impressed everyone during his time at Everton. He has spent too much time playing for the City Reserves and on the sidelines. There is, however, a small chance that Rodwell could be half the player he was thought to be at this age, and if Rodwell fulfills half of the potential he had, Sunderland would have made a bargain signing.

At the tender age of 23, Rodwell could well manage to turn his career around, however unlikely it may seem. But for that to happen, Gus Poyet must ensure that he gives the lad a major confidence boost, which is something he will undoubtedly need after the disastrous spell he had with Manchester City, as well as regular minutes on the pitch. With midfielder Jack Colback leaving the club, Rodwell could find himself thrown on to the pitch straight away, which he must have been missing for so long.

Gus Poyet faces a massive challenge himself. Without the needed reinforcements in the form of Ki Sung Yeung and Jack Colback in midfield, Poyet depends on Rodwell being fit otherwise his only central midfield pairing will have to be Craig Gardner and Lee Cattermole, a midfield duo who aren't exactly ideal for the Black Cats.

Sunderland will be desperately hoping that they don't get involved in the relegation dogfight again this time around, but in order to do that, they will need to bring out the best from the waning bright light of Jack Rodwell. Will Rodwell reshape his career and live up to his potential, or will he just be another name added to the list of disappointing young English talents who faded away alongside David Bentley?

Written by Mayank Tiwary. Twitter: @VanPerseing

Last season, whenever I saw Ashley Young's name on the teamsheet, I would sigh in disappointment. Despite facing stiff competition from the likes of Nani and Antonio Valencia, Young was easily the worst winger at Manchester United last season. Although his career at Old Trafford got of to a glistening start, he slowly faded away and now his performances were bleak everytime he stepped foot on the pitch. After Moyes' dismissal and the start of the transfer window, I knew Ashley Young will be sold, mainly because he was stealing a living at Manchester United. However, Young seems to be a whole new person in van Gaal's system. Should the Englishman get another chance at Old Trafford to prove his worth?

Young, who signed from Aston Villa for what seemed to be a bargain of a deal at the time, has been victimized and scapegoated on a fair few occasions by the Manchester United fans, similar to how midfielder Tom Cleverley was treated last season. Everytime he posted a tweet, a photo or updated his status, Young would get thousands of hateful comments telling him to get out of Old Trafford. 

At first glance, I thought Young would never be able to survive in van Gaal's 3-5-2 system. He would either have to adapt in the role of a wing-back, and take on the responsibilities of defending, something he was never really known for, or play as a forward whilst having to compete with the likes of Welbeck, Rooney, van Persie and Zaha for a place. No matter what he chose, it seemed his only option was a move away from Manchester United.

And although that decision would have pleased many at the time, including myself, it seems most of us are having second thoughts about Ashley Young leaving this window. Young, who has had an incredible pre-season tour with Manchester United, seems to have revitalized his career here. Of all the players who have featured in Manchester United's pre-season fixtures, Young has impressed me the most.

It's not just his goals against Real Madrid which caught my eye, instead it is his new, improved playing style which impressed me. Last season, Young's playing style could be described as a winger playing on the left side, always looking to dive and cut inside to deliver an utterly useless cross which will meet the head of no one. Now, he plays like a fully accomplished wing-back, solid defensively and also helpful when going forward. (Yes, I said he has been helpful going forward)

With there being a short supply of wing-backs at United this season, Ashley Young could be a vital clog in the side. Young, who has impressed me more than Valencia in his role, should be the back up to injury-prone Rafael, or supposedly overweight Luke Shaw who van Gaal doesn't want to start until full fitness is regained.

Although many might think that Valencia would be better suited to the wing-back role than Young, it has been evident that Young is much more comfortable and accomplished in the role this pre-season. Albeit going forward or defending, Valencia has been quite clumsy whereas Ashley Young has been the opposite.

Young can not only function as a wing-back in the side, he could also be played as a forward. He has featured in that role once this pre-season, in which he also impressed. Timing his runs to perfection or finishing the chances presented to him, Young played well  after coming on as a forward against LA Galaxy. Before you dismiss his performance by saying it was in just a pre-season friendly or it was just against LA Galaxy, just know that LA Galaxy are one of the best sides in the MLS, and pre-season is quite important as it contributes heavily towards the morale and fitness of a squad.

Certainly, Young has impressed Louis van Gaal, who has almost been forced to start Young after his performances in pre-season.

Van Gaal has done this trick before, converting attacking players into wing-backs. If you remember, van Gaal used ex-Liverpool attacker Dirk Kuyt in the wing-back role on more than one occasion during the World Cup, a role in which Kuyt impressed so much he started the majority of the games over natural wing-back Daryl Janmaat.

Ashley Young may not be everyone's favourite at Old Trafford, and I certainly still hold a grudge against him for becoming the successor to Paul Scholes' number at United, but fans have to realize that he is still a Manchester United player and have to back him to succeed in his new role, something which we are not accustomed to doing ever since his arrival. And if you think that the prospect of Young starting league games for United is daunting, just remember that it could be worse; we could have a brainless oaf with one foot charging up and down the right flank, trying to hammer in crosses despite none of them getting past the first man and then conceding a stupid foul in a dangerous area. In other words, we could have Antonio Valencia starting instead of Ashley Young.

Article written by Mayank Tiwary. Twitter: @VanPerseing






Every summer, Premier League clubs have to go out and spend some money in order to recruit new faces who will help them either challenge for the title or help them stay up for another season. However, not always do these new signings live up to their expectations. When this happens, we get to witness players who have been lurking in the shadows for a while step up to the plate when their team needs them most. In this piece, I'll try to identify some players who could be the catalyst to their team's successful campaigns in the upcoming and eagerly awaited Premier League season.

Graziano Pelle




Southampton's recruits in this transfer window have been overshadowed by some high profile exits, but in my opinion their capture of Graziano Pelle from Dutch club Feyenoord will definitely please the fans. Not only does the 28 year old have slick looks, he is a natural goalscorer and will help fill the void left by veteran Rickie Lambert, who left for Liverpool. Pelle has already started to impress in pre-season, where he scored a brace on his debut. His goals could help the Saints stay in the Premier League when most of their successful team has been poached by bigger clubs.

Fabian Delph

Since his arrival in 2009, Fabian Delph has been a revelation in the middle of Aston Villa's team. The 24 year old is very undervalued in my eyes, and he would have gotten plenty of recognition had he been playing for a bigger club. The Englishman can do it all; whether it be tackling, passing, scoring or creating chances. His performances might determine whether or not Aston Villa can save themselves from relegation again this season.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

A big season awaits the Icelandic international. Since moving to the Premier League, Sigurdsson has proven his worth time after time. He can take free-kicks, deliver crosses into the box, drift inside from the wings, help out defensively and score vital goals for whichever team he plays for. In his first spell in the English league, during a short term loan deal with Swansea, Sigurdsson impressed so much that he was linked with a move to Manchester United. Eventually, he made up his mind and joined Tottenham Hotspur, where he was often extremely undervalued. Now, he has moved back to Swansea and I expect him to shine. At Spurs, Sigurdsson managed to do well despite not being played in his favoured #10 role, something he will not have to worry about at Swansea. Playing behind Wilfried Bony, Swansea will be a very lethal attacking force next season, and should not be underestimated.

Aiden McGeady

Since joining from Spartak Moscow, Everton's number 7 hasn't lived up to the hype that he brought with his price tag. This season, McGeady will have to step up his game. Last season, McGeady was behind Mirallas and Deulofeu in the pecking order, but with the latter gone, McGeady will undoubtedly get more game time. An incredibly skilled winger, the Irish international has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and the pace to match them. On his day, he could be a nightmare for full-backs. Everton fans will be hoping that he rediscovers his lethal form, which will be needed if either Kevin Mirallas or Naismith don't hit the form they were in last season.

Lewis Holtby

German international Lewis Holtby's Tottenham career never got started ever since his move to White Hart Lane from Schalke. Many thought that the small, frail looking attacker will not be able to succeed in the physical Premier League. Last season, Holtby spent the second half of the season with Fulham after being denied minutes on the pitch by Andre Villas-Boas. No one quite expected him to play as well as he did at Craven Cottage. In a Fulham side struggling to score goals, Holtby brought the creativity and flair they were missing. The German gave some hope to the fans, and although Fulham were eventually relegated, his performances did not go unnoticed. Linked with a move to Queens Park Rangers, Holtby has so far reiterated his desire to stay with the Lilywhites, a sign of a loyal gem. If he is given the central role at White Hart Lane, I expect him to succeed at White Hart Lane next season. Spurs will have a deadly attacking midfield trio of Lamela, Holtby and Eriksen behind either one of Harry Kane, Emmanuel Adebayor or Roberto Soldado. This could be the make or break season for Holtby at Spurs.

 Ander Herrera

Ever since the retirements of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, Manchester United have had a below par midfield area. Although Michael Carrick was almost single-handedly running the midfield for quite some time after Scholes' retirement, we saw last season under David Moyes that even he does not seem to be the player he was. Getting a midfielder in this transfer window was on top of United's list, and they managed to get a gem of a midfielder in Ander Herrera. The Spanish midfielder will be an instant hit at Old Trafford, in my opinion. Herrera is a box to box midfielder who can tackle, is unafraid to get stuck in, can pass, create opportunities from deep, and score himself. Although he did not come cheap, his purchase could prove to be a bargain, and he is a massive improvement on the midfield United had under David Moyes. Everyone spoke very fondly of him in Spain, and he could be the player which United were missing for so long. Under Louis van Gaal, Herrera could fulfill his potential and become one of Premier League's top midfielders.

Andreas Weimann

Aston Villa's Austrian attacker Andreas Weimann has been a sensation for them since he joined in 2010. The Austrian has often scored crucial goals, or managed to set up one of his fellow attackers. Although his finishing has seemed a bit bleak at times, the 22 year old is one of Villa's brightest creative sparks, and will be a crucial part of their campaign. With an in form Christian Benteke ahead of him, and the double pivot of Delph and Westwood behind him, Weimann could excel at Villa Park this season. Last season, himself and Gabriel Agbonlahor were burdened with the responsibilities of socring and creating chances, due to their main man Benteke being out of form. This season, if he is not burdened with too much responsibility, he can be the star in Paul Lambert's team and get Villa to the top half finish which they crave so badly.

Marco van Ginkel

An injury hit season saw the young prospect get barely any minutes on the pitch last season. Following the disappointed domestic season he had, van Ginkel also missed the chance to represent his country in the World Cup, which would have shattered his heart and confidence. However, van Ginkel seems hell bent on proving a point and has impressed during the chances given to him by Mourinho in pre-season, where he has mostly played alongside a relatively young side. In a crowded midfield where he will be competing with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, Ramires and Mikel for a place in the squad, the young Dutch midfielder will need to prove his worth if he is to succeed at Stamford Bridge.

Dusan Tadic

Another fantastic recruit by Southampton, Tadic will be hoping to fulfill his potential at the St. Mary's following his switch from FC Twente. Southampton were in desperate need for attacking talent following the dismissals of Rickie Lambert and the inevitable transfer of Pablo Osvaldo away from England. Tadic, a flamboyant dribbler, could light up the St. Mary's, and should excel in his role if played in an attacking three consisting of Jay Rodriguez, Graziano Pelle and Tadic himself. The Serbian will be hoping to fulfill the expectations and become an instant fans' favourite. He could play a crucial part in Southampton's season, and will need to share the burden of creating goalscoring opportunities for Jay Rodriguez and Graziano Pelle.

Stevan Jovetic

Another player whose first season in England was ruined by injuries, Jovetic will be hoping to feature much more in his second season. Playing for a Manchester City side who have been missing a creative striker at times during the long Premier League campaign, Jovetic could be a key player for Pellegrini's side as they hope to retain the Premiership. Alvaro Negredo's poor recent form, alongside Sergio Aguero's recent habit of spending long amounts of time on the sidelines could mean that Jovetic will be playing a lot more should he manage to stay injury-free. Having scored a couple of impressive goals already for City in pre-season, this could be the season in which Jovetic outshines his fellow strikers at the Etihad Stadium.

Harry Kane

The young English striker broke into the Spurs first team under Tim Sherwood last season, and has not looked back since. In the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor in Spurs' pre-season tour, Kane has impressed alongside Roberto Soldado at the front. He will be hoping to force his way into the the starting XI, and score crucial goals for his club. Spurs often struggled for goals last season, but Harry Kane will be hoping to change that, as the young English striker hopes to announce his name to the White Hart Lane faithful by scoring his way into their hearts.

Lazar Markovic
 
The departure of Luis Suarez left Brendan Rodgers with a massive void of creative genius up front. Instead of going out and buying a like for like replacement for the Uruguayan, Rodgers decided to invest in younger talents who will join their creative sparks to fill the void left by the prolific striker. Markovic, who I must say does look like a player with massive potential, is one of these recruits. Although he does carry on his shoulders a massive price tag, Benfica's prized asset could light up Anfield with his combination of trickery, pace and creativity. Markovic managed to notch 5 goals in 19 appearances for Benfica in the Liga Sagres last season, an impressive tally for someone of his age. The Serbian will be burdened with the task of creating vast chances for Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert, who will primarily be playing up front. But the responsibility should not be too heavy for a player of Markovic's quality, and with Brendan Rodgers being able to bring the best out of young players like Raheem Sterling, I believe Markovic could have a fantastic start to his Liverpool career.

Siem de Jong
 
In the second half of last season, Newcastle struggled to create any chances, meaning their strikers like Papiss Cisse where having to feed off scraps. This was mainly due to the departure of midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who left the club to join Paris Saint-Germain in January. Although Loic Remy's goals from the first half of the season ensured that the Magpies did not have to get involved in the relegation dogfight, this summer Alan Pardew had to address this major issue. Finally, Newcastle landed Ajax's captain, Siem de Jong, someone who has shined in the Eredivisie for a long time. Although the Newcastle supporters will be a bit uncertain of him, as his brother's stint in Tyneside proved to be a waste, they should rest assured because Siem de Jong is a fantastic player and should be able to excel in his role as Cabaye's replacement. Having already scored a wonderful goal on his debut, Siem de Jong has already given a glimpse of his potential during pre-season to the Geordies. 

All of the aforementioned players have an important season ahead of them. Who do you think will outshine the rest in the upcoming Premier League season?

Article written by Mayank Tiwary. Follow me on Twitter: @VanPerseing

 England is the country that created the lovely game of football. This should suggest that they would naturally be the dominant force at international level, but as we have witnessed over the past few years, this is certainly not the case.

England manager Roy Hodgson

Every time a world cup comes around, the whole nation gets excited only to be left heartbroken by a series of dismal performances by their team again. This pattern has been repeated quite a few times now, and it seems that it does not matter which players are representing their country, or which man is at the helm, England are bound for failure at the big stage. But when we look at the group of individuals in the squad that England possess, they were undoubtedly one of the strongest sides in the world cup on paper. So what went wrong?

The only thing wrong with the Three Lions is their manager, Roy Hodgson. The fact is, simply, Roy Hodgson is not good enough to be in charge of the team. No matter how you look at him, you will find faults, be it in a tactical, motivational or man managing way.

First off, Hodgson made some ridiculous gambles with his team at the world cup. Firstly, Roy played Gerrard in a two man midfield alongside Jordan Henderson, which turned out to be suicidal as expected. Gerrard does not have the legs to play in that role, and this clearly affected his performances, as we saw him create two clear cut scoring chances for the wrong team, both of which Luis Suarez gratefully slotted home to win the match. Secondly, Hodgson played Wayne Rooney as a winger against Uruguay, despite starting Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling in the same match. Rooney, a lethal centre forward or central attacking midfielder, was deployed on the wings. As expected, Rooney had a dismal match despite picking up an assist. The reason that Rooney cannot play as a winger is because tracking back is not Rooney’s best quality, nor does he have the pace to get up and down the pitch in an instance, which both Welbeck and Sturridge have. Rooney should have been played centrally, or not been played at all, because there were better ‘wingers’ on the bench, like Lallana.

Motivation was also virtually non-existent, and Hodgson failed to lead his team to make a comeback. We often see managers shouting at their players to inject some urgency into the play, but Roy usually looked relaxed in the dugout despite his team playing lifeless football.

When you look at how the players play for their clubs in the Premier League, and compare it with how they play while representing England, the transformation is mind-boggling. The quality in the players is present, but unfortunately the manager just does not know how to utilize it.

After the disastrous world cup campaign, the head of the FA publicly backed Roy Hodgson. This is a nice thing to see, especially when most managers’ stints are quite brief nowadays, however the question remains whether or not the FA are backing the right person.

The English media claimed that Hodgson and the team should draw their inspiration from Germany, but that would not be possible, simply because the English team does not have the depth or quality of the squad that Germany do. England can, and certainly should, however, draw their inspiration from lesser teams who were not expected to do anything at this world cup.  An example of this would be Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA, who played neat, attractive and pretty football at this world cup, which ultimately got them farther than Hodgson’s England. Klinsmann did not have many big named players at his disposal, with the only real well known players being Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore. He did, however, manage to make his team play in an efficient manner, where they kept the ball and usually managed to create some golden scoring opportunities. Even teams like Algeria managed to stick to their manager’s ideals when they played a compact formation against Germany, which almost paid off.

Looking towards teams like Germany would be foolish, because at the moment England are playing worse football than the likes of USA and Costa Rica. But England certainly do have a quality squad, and a group of players who will only get better as they gain experience and mature. Should Roy manage to get the team playing in an efficient, neat and tidy manner, England have a great chance of going head to head with some of the elite international teams and come out on top. But is that really possible with a tactically inept manager in charge?


Article contributed by: Mayank Tiwary

Twitter:  @ VanPerseing.

Frank Lampard and the rest of the England team thanking their fans for their support.

England will go home with no win in their World Cup campaign as Costa Rica clinched top spot in Group D. Costa Rica surprised everyone after winning over Uruguay and Italy to secure their berth in last-16.

The pre-tournament outsiders found themselves in the unexpected position of being able to leave plenty in the tank in Belo Horizonte - an admirable achievement that did not make for an engaging spectacle.

England started with only one striker, the Liverpool man Daniel Sturridge, who got the most number of chances in the game for England. For Costa Rica, Celso Borges had a first-half free-kick hit the crossbar.

Joel Campbell second-minute shot got deflect wide but gave Costa Rica a lot of confidence to go on.

At the 12th minute, a brilliant play by Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere followed by Sturridge's shot on goal, which was not wide by much distance, was their first attempt on goal. England claimed for a penalty at the 27th minute, which got rejected.

England got closest to scoring in the 65th minute when Sturridge exchanged passes with Wilshere and wasted his clearest opportunity.

England brought on Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in the final 20 minutes in an attempt to avoid a first winless World Cup campaign since 1958. Rooney's chip was tipped over by goalkeeper Navas with time running out and proved to be England's last genuine chance.

Costa Rica fans rooting for their team



Costa Rica had the chance to become the first CONCACAF team to win all three group stage matches.

Costa Rica line-up vs England:

Starting XI: Navas, Gonzalez, Borges, Duarte, Campbell, Ruiz, Brenes, Diaz, Gamboa, Tejeda, Miller.
Substitutes:Pemberton, Cambronero, Umana, Francis, Myrie, Acosta, Granados, Barrantes, Cubero, Calvo, Urena, Bolanos.
Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

England team line-up vs Costa Rica:

Starting XI: Foster, Jones, Cahill, Smalling, Shaw; Milner, Lampard, Wilshere; Barkley, Lallana, Sturridge.
Substitutes:  Hart, Forster, Johnson, Jagielka, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling, Welbeck, Rooney, Lambert.
Manager: Cesare Claudio Prandelli

This is how the group D table looks like after all the matches:

Group D standings


Here are some of the wonderful pictures from the match:

A women holding a banner asking for ex-England and Chelsea skipper John Terry's number.



There were some funny memes getting noticed on the social media.



England fans laugh off World Cup woes with superb banner vs Costa Rica.


And finally, Costa Rica have arrived!



To watch highlights, video on demand, skills and dribbles, and live streams from the FIFA World cup 2014 visit livsports.in now

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England manager Roy Hodgson confirms his 23-man squad and seven standby players for the tournament in Brazil. Here is the list of all the players

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Ben Foster and Fraser Forster

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Adam Johnson, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling

Midfielders: Barkley, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling and Jack Wilshere

Forwards: Paul Lambert, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.

Ashley Cole and Kyle Walker were two names which were surprisingly not a part of the squad list.
After getting this news, Cole announced his retirement from International football via twitter.
Reports suggest that he was asked if e was fine with his name being put up on the stand-by list, but Ashley Cole declined the proposal and it was followed by his retirement announcement.


The stand-by list includes Michael Carrick, Andy Carroll, Tom Cleverley, Jermain Defoe, Jon Flanagan and John Ruddy.

Roy Hodgson also said that John Stones will replace Phil Jones in England squad if the Man Utd defender fails to recover from injury.

England squad for the 2014 World Cup

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