EPL Team of the Year, what do you think?

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After the official EPL Team of the Year was announced on Sunday evening, much debate ensued about the selections.

Title winners Manchester United led the way with four players selected, however, there were some notable absentees as the likes of Michu, Christian Benteke and David Luiz all had stellar campaigns.

But let’s take a few moments to discuss the players who made it, and of course, lets us know who you thought should have been named in the team of the year in the comments section below.

Goalkeeper – David De Gea (Manchester United)

After a shaky first season in the EPL, the young Spanish stopper has come flying back into contention as one of the world’s top young ‘keepers. His slight frame is still an issue in the hustle and bustle of the English game, however a string of fine saves and unconventional stops using his feet has seen De Gea’s stock rise this season. Fergie put so much trust in the youngster and after a terrific campaign, the former Atletico Madrid star is firmly the No. 1 at United.

Right Back – Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Solid, steady and ever dependable, the Argentine right back has had another stellar season with City. He has added a few goals and some asissts to his play, with lung-bursting runs from defense being his trademark. He has marshaled City’s backline — the best in the EPL after conceding just 31 goals all season — expertly and often cleans up others mistakes with consummate ease.

Center Back – Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

The veteran defender won this award because of two things. Number one, he is back to his imperious best. Number two, he’s stayed healthy. For many, many years now lingering back issues have threatened to derail Ferdinand’s illustrious career at United. But this season he has been fit and raring to lead the charge for the title. With plans for a testimonial coming up and a new contract in negotiations, Rio should stay put for at least another two to three seasons on this form.

Center Back – Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

The big Belgian defender came with a great pedigree, having captained Dutch side Ajax at a young age. His reputation has risen tenfold after a sensational first season in the EPL. He has chipped in with goals as well as showing off his versatility with composed displays at center back and left back. The conveyer belt of top talent from Belgium just keeps on coming.

 Left Back – Leighton Baines (Everton)

Lauded by many as England’s left back for years to come, the Everton full back has had a great campaign. Many just expect solid performances from him week after week, but Baines has also created more scoring chances than any other EPL player this season. Quite remarkable.

Right Midfield – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Bit of a surprise pick, but another Belgian star who has impressed in his first EPL season. Hazard hasn’t been without his controversies — banned for an altercation with a ball boy in the league cup semifinal with Swansea City –but on the pitch his fast feet and direct style of play has seen Chelsea’s attacking impetus improve as the season has worn on.

Centre Midfield – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

The diminutive Spaniard has quietly been the hero at Stamford Bridge this season, 14 goals and 18 assists has seen Mata become the heartbeat of every Chelsea attack. His chances with Spain’s national team are on the up and his trickery alongside the likes of Oscar and Hazard has seen Chelsea become one of the leading attacking outfits in the EPL.

Center Midfield – Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

Quietly going about his business, many believe this season United have won the title because of Carrick’s consistency. His vast array of passing and workmanlike displays have seen the Red Devils grind out 1-0 and 2-1 wins at their mercy, as Carrick’s covering in front of the back four has allowed United’s flair players to express their talent. Well deserved inclusion.

Left Midfield – Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

The man of the moment, Bale’s inclusion was a foregone conclusion. He has played across the midfield and forward line, wrecking havoc wherever he popped up. Scoring 22 goals and setting up numerous chances for teammates with his pacey, incisive runs, Bale has become the complete player for Spurs. They will do well to hold on to his talents.

Forward – Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

He had to be in here. But not many will like it. 23 EPL goals and a wonderful player, Suarez is let down by his crazy antics on the pitch. After receiving a 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez’ time in the EPL may be coming to a close. If it is, he has ended it (playing wise) on a high with a superb season that has rescued Liverpool from mid-table obscurity.

Forward – Robin van Persie (Manchester United) 

A very, very close second in the Player of the Year race, RVP has scored 24 goals to lead United to the EPL title. He was brought by Ferguson to score crucial goals at crucial times, and that is what the Dutchman has done in abundance. He can go on to spearhead the Manchester United attack for the rest of his career, with an EPL title under his arm and an “I told you so” smirk on his face for Arsenal fans.

Report: Liverpool to escape punishment over Van Dijk pursuit

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The Times states that Liverpool will not be punished further for pursuing Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

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Earlier this month the Reds issued a public apology to Southampton and stated they had ended their interest in the 25-year-old Dutch defender following allegations that Van Dijk was flown to Blackpool (just north of Liverpool) to meet with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and their manager messaged VVD “regularly” as they chased the Dutch international.

Southampton, as you would expect, were far from happy about this so-called “tapping up” from Liverpool and reported the Reds to the Premier League by making an official complaint.

Liverpool’s apology was then followed by a preliminary investigation, but reports state that there will be no further action taken against Liverpool by the PL with “insufficient evidence” to support the claims surrounding the alleged “tapping up” of Van Dijk and unless new evidence arrives then the case will be closed.

Regardless, this whole episode has been incredibly embarrassing for Liverpool, especially when you take into account their current ban from signing academy players when a similar case cropped up over chasing a youngster in Stoke City’s academy.

Klopp has not only lost the chance to sign Van Dijk (at least, that’s the way it seems for now) but Liverpool have also lost some respect for the way they supposedly went about this business. American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) went to great lengths to apologize for this situation and are keen to stress they always conduct their business in a respect manner.

Now, we would all be a little naive to believe that this type of thing doesn’t happen a lot in soccer. A player (usually through his agent) will perhaps gently let another team know he’s interested in a move to them, and the ball gets rolling from there. Of course, the two clubs are supposed to agree a fee for the player first and then said player can meet with his potential new club to square away the details.

Southampton are said to still be furious about the approach from Liverpool to Van Dijk, so much so that if they were to sell their star player and captain this summer (they maintain he’s not for sale) they’d rather take less money from another club (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all said to be interested) than let him leave for Anfield for over $70 million.

After Liverpool plucked Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane from Saints in the past few years, it’s easy to understand why the South Coast club are now standing firm and saying enough is enough.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup