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Ten potential breakout stars for the 2014-15 Premier League season

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Good luck defining the term “breakout star” in a way that makes everybody happy. Only slightly less difficult: Coming up with a list that satisfies all those definitions. When you’re talking about potential, it’s all hypothetical.

So notice the little trick (read: cop-out) in the headline? This isn’t the 10 players who could breakout. It’s just 10 players, a nod to the 15-20 names left on the scratch pad.

Ultimately, we’re trying to find players who will make a leap in 2014-15. These are players who will play decisive roles – talents who were either elsewhere or struggling last season.

Players like Diego Costa, who we all know are going to be good? There’s no breakout there. That under-the-radar signing from Mexico, or the guy who earned more playing time this summer? They’re what this list is about.

And we start with somebody who captured headlines today:

(Players listed in alphabetical order.)

Christian Atsu, Everton (above, on loan from Chelsea) – The Ghanaian international failed to meet expectations on loan at Vitesse last season, scoring only five times in 28 games in a league that hands out goals like second grade Valentine’s cards. Under Roberto Martínez’s tutelage, Atsu should be able to harness the talent that convinced Chelsea to buy him from Porto.

Ryan Bertrand, Southampton (on loan from Chelsea) – Under Roberto Di Matteo, Bertrand worked his way into the England set up, competing with Chelsea’s then-first choice Ashley Cole in the process. Now, the 25-year-old is set to get some much need reps, with Ronald Koeman giving him the opportunity to put up some impressive numbers.

Remy Cabella, Newcastle – No team is making better use of France than Newcastle, who dipped back into Ligue 1 in search of a replacement for Yohan Cabaye. The 24-year-old Cabella is a different type of player but capable of having a similar impact. Though he won’t replicate his 14-goal season, Cabella should make Newcastle less dependent on goals from its forwards.

source: Getty ImagesFraser Forster, Southampton (right) – For some people, the England international is too established for a breakout. For others, four years in the Scottish Premier League doesn’t mean much. Back in England for the first time in since, Forster has a chance to prove his Champions League highlights can translate into saves on the south coast.

Danny Ings, Burnley – Ings’ Championship breakout was one of the keys to Burnley’s surprise success. With talk of an England callup accompanying the 22-year-old’s first year in the top flight, the Clarets’ leading goal scorer could breakout on multiple new levels.

Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur – One of the biggest disappointments of Spurs’ post-Bale splurge, Lamela became a forgotten man around White Hart Lane. After an impressive preseason, the former Roma standout looks set to make his first impact in the Premier League. He may be the most talented player in Spurs’ squad.

Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City – One of the most sought after young defenders in Europe, Mangala is making the jump from Portugal’s Liga to the top of the Premier League. Though City has cover should that transition slow, Mangala’s talent and physicality could make him a significant boost to the Citizens’ title hopes.

Jefferson Montero, Swansea City – The Ecuadorian will take some time to adjust to the Premier League, but once gets a feeling for which spaces he can exploit, Montero will be one of England’s best one-on-one players. Garry Monk just needs to figure out how to harness that talent.

John Stones, Everton – Fresh off a new five-year deal, Stones is ready to claim a permanent spot in the middle of Everton’s defense. Only 20 years old, the England international is expected to establish himself in the Three Lions’ setup this cycle. This year gives the Barnsley product a chance to take that next step.

Connor Wickham, Sunderland – Two years of frustration after leaving Ipswich Town ended dramatically at the end of last season, with a goal-scoring run from the Black Cats’ 21-year-old proving crucial to the club’s Premier League survival. If Gus Poyet can continue nurturing the England U-level talent, double-digit goals is not out of the question – something that could up the price for a player whose in the last year of his deal.

New reports claim Mourinho in talks with Manchester United

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New reports from various outlets in the UK claim that Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have held talks about him becoming the new man in charge at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Klopp missing with illness ]

Mourinho, 53, has been out of worked since being fired by Chelsea back in December, but rumors have been rife that he will land at United.

The latest gossip claims that Mourinho and his agent, Jorge Mendes, have held talks with the United hierarchy about replacing current boss Louis Van Gaal this summer.

Van Gaal, 64, has a contract through the end of the 2016-17 Premier League season, but with United currently languishing five points off the top four and knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage, the Dutchman’s time appears to be running out.

After spending $375 million on new talent over the past 18 months, LVG’s team have blown hot and cold and this season have struggled to score goals or entertain fans on a regular basis. In the recent defeat to Southampton at home Van Gaal and his players were booed and jeered throughout but they’ve won two-straight games in the league and cup since then, scoring six goals and conceding just once.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

That said, with crosstown rivals Manchester City announcing that the most sought after coach on the globe, Pep Guaridola, will be arriving as their new boss in July on an initial three-year contract, United may feel the need to hire Guardiola’s old sparring partner from their days back in Spain coaching Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Manchester United vs. Manchester City is already pretty spicy. Imagine adding the Iberian passion of Guardiola vs. Mourinho to the mix. It’s gone off in the past when these two have met and having the two most successful coaches in the game today coaching in the same city would be something to behold.

Let’s see if this latest round of rumors is just that, or if United will make their move.

It was widely expected that Mourinho would take over from Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 when he retired but reports claimed that the directors at United didn’t want Mourinho, despite his resume as a winner wherever he has gone.

United needs to be rebuilt and Mourinho needs to rebuild his reputation after being fired by Chelsea just seven months after he delivered the Premier League title, his third in five full seasons in charge of the Blues.

Klopp to miss Liverpool vs. Sunderland through illness

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
AP
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has suffered a bout of suspected appendicitis and will not be at Anfield for the clash against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Klopp, 46, will miss his first game since joining the Reds last October and it comes on the same day supporters groups are planning a mass walkout in the 77th minute to protest against new tickets prices for the 2016-17 season which were released earlier this week.

Liverpool Football Club released the following statement confirming Klopp’s absence:

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will be absent from today’s Barclays Premier League fixture against Sunderland at Anfield, after suffering a suspected bout of appendicitis.

First-team duties will be overseen by the remaining members of the coaching staff, including Zeljko Buvac, Peter Krawietz, Pepijn Lijnders and John Achterberg.

A win against Sunderland would momentarily move Klopp’s side up to seventh place in the Premier League table and see them on 37 points for the season.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Leicester City (Lineups, Live Stream)

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and Joe Hart of Manchester City in discussion after the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Manchester City host Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) in a huge clash between the top two teams in the Premier League table.

Leicester, the surprise package of the season by far, lead the way and are three points ahead of Man City heading into this monster clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Both teams are in sensational form, with the home side unbeaten in seven games and Leicester without a defeat in six. Will Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez torment City’s banged up back line? Or can City’s expensively assembled squad show their class and put the Foxes in their place?

In teams news City start with Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis at center back, while Raheem Sterling starts out wide in support of lone forward Sergio Aguero. Leicester line up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation with Vardy and Shinji Okazaki leading the line.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Demichelis, Kolarov; Delph, Fernandinho; Sterling, Toure, Silva; Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Fernando, Garcia, Iheanacho, Celina

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez, Albrighton; Okazaki Vardy. Subs: Schwarzer, King, Gray, Ulloa, Dyer, Wasilewski, Chilwell

3 things we learned from the USMNT win over Canada

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - NOVEMBER 17: Jermaine Jones #13 keeps the ball in play during a World Cup Qualifier between Trinidad and Tobago and USA as part of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for Russia 2018 at Hasely Crawford Stadium on November 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo by Ashley Allen Getty Images)
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The United States played to a disjointed and sloppy win over Canada to wrap up January camp. It was promising at times, but mostly a cringe-worthy display by both sides. Here are the key notes from the 90 minutes at StubHub Center in California.

1) Jermaine Jones should never play CB again

Look, this probably wasn’t ever the plan, and it probably never is. It’s the “break glass in case of emergency” option. With Matt Miazga likely supposed to start one or both these games before he left for Chelsea, and the departure of Michael Orozco and Brad Evans, the U.S. was thin at the back.

Still. Yikes…

Jones was flat out awful. Just days after he played well in a midfield distribution position against Iceland, he was a total mess at the back. Jones was miserable on the ball, giving it away with ugly touches, he lunged in on challenges including one on Cyle Larin early that very well could have resulted in a Canadian penalty. And he charged forward – something a central defender can never do – leaving his teammates caught out at the back. This ended with Matt Besler getting a yellow card:

Please, Jurgen. Never again.

2) Jordan Morris is developing into a useful player

In his first cap since signing a professional contract with the Seattle Sounders, Morris gave his critics much to think on. Many said the 21-year-old would come and go without much staying power, but he partnered well with Jozy Altidore. There wasn’t much service up front during his time on the field, but when there was, Morris drew defenders off Altidore, and he provided a solid foil to his bigger partner with his speed and precision. He didn’t have many opportunities, but when he did, he made his presence known.

3) Playing players out of position very rarely bears fruit

Soccer coaches often have two choices at their disposal when building a lineup: either pick the best 11 players and position them into a formation that fits their skills best, or pick a formation and then select the 11 players that fit that formation the best. Klinsmann prefers neither. Instead, recently he’s been picking 11 players he wishes to play, choose a formation he feels will fit the opponent, and then tries to force the players he chose into the formation he selected.

It hasn’t worked, especially not today. He tried to force 3 center-backs onto the back line. He tried to force three central midfielders (and Zardes) into a flat four midfield that occasionally looked like a flat diamond. Neither worked. It’s an experimental environment, sure, but the benefits of his choices aren’t entirely clear.

We know what doesn’t work, but we still don’t really know what works, and isn’t the latter what January camp was for?

4) Jozy Altidore needs to work on his heading…oh

Bonus! So, as the game wound down, I had written that Jozy needed to work on his heading in front of net. The 26-year-old had a few headed opportunities in the box throughout the game, and he failed to capitalize. He looked to drill it into the ground on multiple occasions, but from the distance most of his efforts came from, he likely should have looked to aim his headed shots rather than use the ground pound technique.

Then, you know, he scored the late winner on a header. So, yeah. Never mind. But still. Yeah. Whatever.

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