Which English city produces the best players? London, Liverpool and others do battle

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Okay, here’s something I’ve been pondering for a little while.

Earlier this week much debate was caused within soccer circles in the US, as journalists began to compare the different states in the USA and speculate which had the upper hand in producing current soccer talent.

California and Texas seem to have come out on top, and this whole debate has been thrown up after the Canadian province of Quebec is competing in soccer as a non-FIFA nation.

So, that got me thinking. What if we looked at the birthplaces of current Englishman playing in the top divisions across the globe and see which cities came out on top?

Intrigued? Well, check this out.

Below is a list of four of the top soccer player-producing cities in England, with the North East the exception as the major conurbations in that part of England (including Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough) have been grouped together.

London has produced more professionals than any other city, most people would have guessed that. But would a team from London beat a side full of homegrown players from Liverpool or Birmingham?

I’ll leave that to you. So anyway, below is a starting lineup for each city and then a list of any substitutes or reserves who could fill in. And remember this list only includes players currently playing soccer in the top divisions, not those who have retired or moved to the lower-leagues.

London (4-3-3):  Robert Green; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole; Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker; Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Ashley Young

Subs: Luke Shaw, Mark Noble, Steve Sidwell, Kieran Richardson, Steven Caulker, Jonjo Shelvey

Birmingham (4-3-3): Ben Foster; Joleon Lescott, Ben Turner, Ashley Williams, Craig Gardner; Peter Whittingham, Luke Moore, Gabriel Agbonlahor; Emile Heskey, Daniel Sturridge, James Vaughan

Subs: Nathan Delfouneso, Matt Watson

Liverpool (4-4-2): Tony Warner; Ryan Taylor, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly, Leighton Baines; Callum McManaman, Joey Barton, Steven Gerrard, Leon Osman; Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert

Subs: Kevin Nolan, Jon Flanagan, Ross Barkley, Jack Rodwell,

North East (4-4-2): Fraser Forster; Steven Taylor, Michael Carrick, Andrew Taylor, Jack Colback; Adam Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Lee Cattermole, Stewart Downing; Danny Graham, Andy Carroll

Subs: Shola Ameobi, Steve Harper, James Morrison, Sammy Ameobi

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It is also worth noting that the cities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have all produced a high number of players that have graced the EPL and top leagues across the world, but not quite enough to each make a full team.

So which city do you think produces the best soccer talent in England? Personally, London still wins hands down. Chelsea’s trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole highlight the capital’s dominance.

I could have included a second and third team of players who hail from LDN. However the quality of the players from the North East and Liverpool is extremely high. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard are the stars from Liverpool, while Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson and Jordan Henderson all hail from the North East.

Maybe one day games between the top soccer player-producing cities in England can be arranged? That would be something I’d pay money to go and see. Local pride on the line as battles between North vs. South, affluent vs. poor and long ball vs. possession soccer play out.

When can we arrange this?

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

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.