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Morata admits difficult adapting to Conte’s system last season

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Alvaro Morata, coming off one of the worst 12 months of his career, is off to a fast start.

If you ask the Spanish striker, it’s thanks to the manager.

Speaking to Chelsea TV, Morata described how he struggled during the 2017-2018 season thanks to former manager Antonio Conte‘s more direct style of play, which forced Morata to play more with his back to goal and control long balls in the air.

[READ: Bale powers Real Madrid to win]

“I think for me the most important thing is the mode we play,” Morata said, praising the 4-3-3 formation the Blues play now under Maurizio Sarri. “Last year it was direct, I had to protect the ball in the air and that’s not my best quality. Now I can attack the spaces, play one-touch and go into the area for the crosses which is better for me.

“The last year was very hard for me, not just with confidence. The injury [last season] was very bad for me and my head, but when the ball goes into the net everything changes. Your mind isn’t blocked anymore and I hope now I can score a lot of goals.”

Morata provided a cool turn and finish for Chelsea in its 3-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday, a classic touch after a season in which Morata didn’t look like himself. It kept Morata home for the summer, having missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign, which ended in defeat on penalties in the Round of 16 to Russia. Perhaps a Morata high on confidence could have helped them.

With Olivier Giroud more suited to play a game in the air or a hold-up game, it appears that Morata is in position to take advantage of the change of playing style, and we could see his best this season for Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney to captain England in farewell

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Wayne Rooney will captain England in his farewell game against the U.S. national team on Thursday.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT ]  

Rooney, 33, will win his 120th and final Three Lions cap at Wembley against the USMNT, with the English FA inviting the D.C. United striker back to play in one last game after he retire from the international game in August 2017.

Many have questioned the decision for Rooney to return but England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed he will captain the team when he comes on as a second half sub against the USMNT and that the entire squad felt “it is a fitting tribute” for Rooney.

[ MORE: USMNT’s star trio align at Wembley

England’s all-time leading goalscorer will also wear his famous number 10 jersey, at the request of the playing squad.

The friendly against the U.S. has been named the “Wayne Rooney Foundation International” and Fabian Delph, who will captain England at the start of the game, confirmed he will hand the armband to Rooney and that the players will give him a guard of honor when he comes onto the pitch.

It is sure to be an emotional night for Rooney and his family on Thursday and his farewell game will be a fitting tribute to his 13-year England career.

USA’s star trio align for USMNT v England

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LONDON — Christian Pulisic. Weston McKennie. Tyler Adams.

Those three U.S. national team players are 20, 20 and 19 years old respectively and after coming through the youth ranks together, the USA’s game at Wembley against England on Thursday is set to be the first time the trio will play together for the senior national team.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT ] 

The future of the USMNT lies in their hands and all three are eager to lead the U.S. moving forward as they’ve been fast-tracked into the squad after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Pulisic said. “I mean, I have played with so many of these guys before so it doesn’t even feel that unnatural. It’s just going to be a normal game for us. It’s great to have these guys together and we are looking forward it.”

And all three will soon be playing in the Bundesliga and testing themselves at the highest level in Europe.

Pulisic is already a star at Borussia Dortmund who top the German league, McKennie is carving out a wonderful career for himself at giants Schalke and Adams is expected to join RB Leipzig from the New York Red Bulls in the January transfer window.

With their career paths all taking a similar trajectory, McKennie believes they can look back on lessons they’ve learned together in their days with the U.S. youth national teams.

“It is something we’ve talked about and we’ve all looked forward to it,” McKennie added. “It is always nice to play with people you know and people you are familiar with and have been playing with since you were 15 years old. If we look at the journey we went through, Tyler and I didn’t go through the journey Christian did, but back in residency days Tyler and I shared some moments and it is always nice to step on the field together.”

After missing the friendly against Bolivia in May, where Pulisic and McKennie played, Adams is eager to get the band back together too.

“It hasn’t happened quite yet and everyone is talking about it a little bit, we are excited to play together. We haven’t played together in a while now,” Adams smiled. “They played together in the Bolivia game and they did well, so it is going to be exciting to step out on the field with them.”

When the trio — who are all expected to start at Wembley on Thursday — do step onto the field, they are not youngsters who will be ushered into the game.

They are expected to lead the USMNT against England, with McKennie and Adams likely to play in central midfield and Pulisic playing as a no.10 or off the flank.

At 20 years of age both Pulisic and McKennie realize that with their already strong careers in Germany’s top-flight they’ve been thrust into leadership roles extremely early on in their international careers.

They are ready to embrace it.

“Leadership really doesn’t have anything to do with age, I don’t think,” McKennie said. “Leadership is how you carry yourself on and off the field and how you represent yourself on the field also. You could be quiet off the field and on the field you could be bossing people around and giving commands and saying ‘here, left, right, that way’ and I guess the way you present yourself on the field, people that are watching the game can tell if you’re a leader or not. I think I am a person that can be a leader and Christian is also a person that has a leadership role. We have many guys on this team that vibe off each other and we listen to. It is a big opportunity for us to take on and I think we are doing a good job of it.”

Their opponents on Thursday, England, have been through a monumental squad rebuild of their own in recent months under Gareth Southgate. That resulted in a run to the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and a fourth-place finish. Adams believes the USMNT can look to the Three Lions for inspiration between now and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“It is a similar blueprint, for sure, you see a lot of young guys doing well and a lot of young players in England doing well in Germany and vice versa,” Adams said. “A lot of guys are getting opportunities now and that is the same as we want to do. The more experiences we have in big games like this, the better it will be for the future.”

In terms of Adams following his buddies to the Bundesliga, the New York Red Bulls star was coy on any upcoming move but he is looking forward to stepping up to the next level with his close friends.

“Anytime you can challenge yourself against the best players in the world and showcase yourself and your talent, whoever could be watching, it is exciting,” Adams said. “For me, I am focused on what I’m doing right now with MLS and obviously we are at an important part of the season. After that, should be exciting. I am excited for it.”

Everyone connected with the USMNT are excited to watch Adams, McKennie in Pulisic in action together for the full national team.

Premier League player Power Rankings: Week 12

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Our latest batch of Premier League player Power Rankings are here, as we’ve had a little time to digest the displays from last weekend over the early stages of the international break.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

There are plenty of new entries at the top of our rankings due to some big weeks for players finding their feet with new clubs.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Raheem Sterling (Man City – Even
  2. Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) – New entry
  3. Fernandinho (Man City) – Up 13
  4. Salomon Rondon (Newcastle United) – New entry
  5. Bernd Leno (Arsenal) – New entry
  6. David Silva (Man City) – Up 1
  7. John Stones (Man City) – New entry
  8. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – Up 12
  9. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Up 5
  10. Sergio Aguero (Man City) – Up 1
  11. Lucas Torreira (Arsenal) – Down 6
  12. Anthony Martial (Man United) – Down 10
  13. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
  14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Down 2
  15. Erik Lamela (Tottenham) – Down 2
  16. Felipe Anderson (West Ham) – Down 11
  17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  18. Sol Bamba (Cardiff City) – New entry
  19. Lewis Dunk (Brighton) – New entry
  20. Callum Paterson (Cardiff City) – New entry

USMNT, Wigan defender Robinson out injured

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U.S. left back Antonee Robinson will miss Thursday’s exhibition at England and next week’s match against Italy after spraining his right ankle in training, an injury expected to sideline him for four weeks.

[ MORE: Pulisic ready to lead USMNT

The 21-year-old defender was hurt during training on Tuesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

Robinson plays for Wigan in England’s second-tier League Championship. He made his U.S. debut in May and has six international appearances.

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