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.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham

La Liga: Las Palmas stuns nine-man Valencia, Atleti settles for draw

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia

It’s never ideal when you finish a match with nine men, and that was the case on the day for third-place Valencia. Things were going according to plan for the visitors early on at the Gran Canaria when Santi Mina scored five minutes into the match.

However, goals from Jonathan Viera (22nd minute) and Jonathan Calleri (53rd minute) brought Las Palmas in front, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.

Gabriel Paulista‘s second yellow card, which set up Las Palmas’ penalty kick in the second half was the first sending off for Valencia, while Ruben Vezo joined his teammate in the locker room with three minutes remaining in regulation.

The victory moves Las Palmas into 19th place in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Girona

Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga will likely grow courtesy of Atletico’s inability to apply pressure on the Blaugrana. Antoine Griezmann’s first-half strike wasn’t enough to cushion the Atleti lead, and in turn, Girona equalized with 17 minutes left in regulation when Portu scored off of a great take out of the air.

Espanyol 0-3 Sevilla

Franco Vasquez got things started for the visiting side after just 15 minutes, and before halftime Sevilla managed to double their lead through Pablo Sarabia. For good measure, the sixth-place side added a third goal in the 90th minute as Luis Muriel finished off a pass from Sarabia.


Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 2-1 Levante


Sunday’s La Liga matches

Alaves vs. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.