Rooney

Premier League Top 5 Forwards heading into 2014/15 season

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Goals, goals, and more goals. That’s why we watch the game, right?

Well, not always, but here we give love to the part of the game that returns the most glory for a player’s effort – and sometimes the most heat when things go bad.

Even with last year’s leading scorer Luis Suarez gone to the Spanish league, there’s still oodles of firepower in the English top flight and they are sure to dazzle crowds both in the stands and on the television.

Last year’s champions Manchester City have gobs of attackers, but we’ll spread the wealth around the league since there’s enough of it to go around.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool

Liverpool last year owned the league’s two highest goalscorers. With one of them shipped off to Barcelona, Daniel Sturridge is now the man at Liverpool. If you don’t think things will go well without Suarez, just look back to last season when the Uruguayan missed the first six matches of the year thanks to his 2nd biting suspension. Sturridge scored five goals in those six matches, including one in each of the first four. He’s entirely capable of not only taking over the Liverpool attack as the head man but also taking over the Premier League. This team is poised for another top-four finish, and the 24-year-old will lead the way.

2. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

Kün Aguero would be the outright best striker in the Premier League if it weren’t for his spotty health.  While Sturridge and Suarez were lighting up the back of the net at Anfield, Aguero cashed in a cool 17 times last year, good enough for third on the overall list and with a better goals-per-minute number than both the star Liverpool strikers. As skillful as he is, and benefiting for a Manchester City attack bursting at the seams with talent and pace, the 26-year-old is no use to his club on the sidelines. If he wants to be the best in the league, he has to do better than the 23 appearances he made last Premier League season. He also will want to make sure he’s on the pitch for a Champions League run, considering he missed the first leg of City’s eventual defeat to Barcelona.

3. Robin van Persie – Manchester United

Another one who struggled mightily with injuries last year, the former League top scorer is over the 31-year-old mark now and it’s showing. But when healthy, we were reminded in the World Cup just how dangerous he can be.  Unfortunately, the biggest knock to van Persie’s game when he’s on the pitch is he requires service and struggles to create his own chances.  But in the new Louis van Gaal system that promises to be heavy on the attacking play, the Flying Dutchman

will absolutely get his service, and it could more than likely lead to a rise back up the table for the Red Devils.  If van Persie can keep his legs intact, United fans are sure to be delighted with his return.

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Costa is a safe bet to be Chelsea’s leading scorer this season with plenty of service.

4. Diego Costa – Chelsea

The lone new boy on the list, Diego Costa has arrived at Chelsea after a torrid season at Atletico Madrid. Making it all the way to the Champions League final and winning La Liga outright, Costa was on top of the world…until the World Cup, wherein he inexplicably came hurtling back down to Earth as Spain was eradicated from the tournament in the group stage.

Costa is now tasked with revitalizing the Chelsea attack, which last year featured plenty of midfield and wing play but was devoid of a true striker.

With Eden Hazard to his left, Andre Schurrle to his right, and the combination of Oscar, Willian, and Cesc Fabregas behind him, Costa has no excuses if he isn’t able to repeat his 27-goal tally from last year’s La Liga play.

Some have said he will fail, arguing that Chelsea plays more of Spain’s style of passing build-up rather than the free-flowing Atletico Madrid or Costa’s home country of Brazil.  Time will tell, but as of now, he is one of the most dangerous finishers in the Premier League, able to create chances both on and off the ball, and finish with lethal accuracy.

5. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United

A Premier League staple since 2002, Wayne Rooney has a new accessory to add to his wardrobe this season – the captain’s armband. Newly dubbed the on-field skipper by incoming boss van Gaal, Rooney has arguably more pressure to succeed this season than he’s ever faced before. Tasked with captaining his side to a Champions League return, Rooney will have to lead by example.  Last year he was Manchester United’s best player by far, and he’ll need much more help than he got from his teammates in the most recent campaign.  But if he can put his mental lapses and occasional moping behind him and put the team on his back, he can be the star of the season.  He’s good for at least a few highlight reels a year, so it’s almost a guarantee we’ll be seeing plenty of Mr. Rooney this campaign.

Honorable mention: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Loic Remy (Queens Park Rangers).

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.