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).

Manchester derby “the game of the season”

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Whatever way you slice it up, Thursday’s Manchester derby is huge.

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Manchester City host Manchester United (Watch, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola‘s side just one point ahead of United in the Premier League table.

City currently occupy fourth spot and the final UEFA Champions League qualification berth but are coming off the back of a damaging FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal after extra time.

United and Jose Mourinho haven’t lost in 23 Premier League games, the longest current unbeaten streak across Europe’s top five leagues, and are in the UEFA Europa League semifinals as their banged up squad have stood tall in the final months of the campaign.

Speaking ahead of the derby, one of United’s stars this season believes everything comes down to this one game.

“It is going to be the game of the season,” Ander Herrera said. “We are one point behind them. If we win we have the chance to finish in the top four, if they win it is going to be very difficult. It is the game of the season.

“Make or break? Probably. Both teams are in a good moment so if one of us wins the game we are not going to lose a lot of games, or make mistakes after that. Us or them. It is going to be key. I don’t know the ‘winner takes all’ expression but it is going to be a massive game. We are in a very good moment, a very good run and we respect them but we are doing a lot of good things and we have to show it on Thursday.”

Herrera’s comments say it all.

It is fair to say that both Manchester clubs have flattered to deceive for much of this season with Guardiola’s tactics yet to flourish in England and Mourinho’s rebuild hampered by injuries and a lack of goals at crucial moments.

On Thursday there will be a raucous atmosphere at the Etihad as both teams are aware of what is at stake.

More of the pressure may well be on City who now have just a place in the top four to focus on and with many previously giving United no chance of finishing in the top four, a win at City would take them above their “noisy neighbors” and into the UCL spots.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.