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Ranking Player of the Year candidates

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In recent weeks Nick Mendola and l (Joe Prince-Wright) have put forward a shortlist of contenders to win the 2018-19 Premier League Player of the Year award.

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With the international break giving us a breather and time to focus on which star player deserves this accolade, below we dig a little deeper and rank the top six contenders.

Here it goes…


1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
His mix-up with Alisson against Fulham was one of the most surprising moments of the season so far. Up until that point VVD hadn’t put a foot wrong and has been a colossus and the main reason Liverpool are in this title race. The stats since he arrived at Anfield last January back up their incredible improvement in defense and the Dutchman will win this award at a canter, as long as Liverpool win the title…


2. Sergio Aguero (Man City)
The main trying his best to stop Van Dijk and Co. winning the title is Aguero. The Argentine striker is already a City legend as their all-time leading goalscorer, and he has returned to his best form in recent months. Aguero leads the PL with 18 goals this season and if he finishes as the top scorer you’d fancy City to win the title. Aside from his goalscoring, Aguero’s overall game has improved and he now presses with the intensity Pep Guardiola demands.


3. Raheem Sterling (Man City)
Taking about another play who has improved under Guardiola, Sterling has had another fine campaign for City. The English winger is showing maturity on and off the pitch this season and it is easy to forget he is still just 24 years old. Aside from his 15 goals and nine assists in the PL, Sterling has been a constant threat and unlike some of City’s other attackers he is one of the first names on the teamsheet. Mahrez, Sane and even Aguero can be rested, but Sterling must start on current form.


4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Undoubtedly Liverpool’s main man this season, Mane has cranked through the gears in recent weeks with 11 goals in his last 11 games for the Reds. Jurgen Klopp‘s side were carried by Mohamed Salah this season, but Mane has improved his finishing and has his best-ever PL return of 17 goals with seven games to go. The searing pace of the Senegalese attacker means he is perfectly for Klopp’s system. We knew that over the past two seasons, and he is proving indispensable season.


5. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Okay, so he missed a big chunk of Spurs’ season through injury but there’s still no doubting Kane’s quality. He has stepped up time and time again as Tottenham have kept battling this season in the Champions League and PL. Kane has 17 goals, and probably would have at least 22 had he not missed almost two months through injury. Spurs’ top four hopes revolve around him, and Kane is not disappointing. Again, his all-round play is improving each season and he is now one goal away from scoring at least 25 goals in all competitions in each of his last five campaigns. Remarkable.


6. Fernandinho (Man City)
A proper unsung hero, the Brazilian is coming towards the end of his career. But that doesn’t mean he is getting any less important to City. If anything, the opposite is true. Like a fine wine, Fernandinho has got better with age as his passing range has improved and his ability to read the game and time his tackles to perfection launches so many of City’s attacks. At the age of 34, Guardiola knows he will not go on forever and the fact he has picked up plenty of injuries this season proves that. Fernandinho is always a 7/10 guy and he is a valuable, and key, cog in City’s imperious machine.

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

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In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

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First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

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Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.

Zero.

The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.


This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.

Bayern Munich batter Fortuna, go 10 points clear at the top (video)

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Bayern Munich are waltzing their way to an eight-straight Bundesliga title as they battered Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday at the Allianz Arena to record an eight-straight win in the German top-flight.

[ MORE: Schalke lose again; Saturday recap ]

An own goal, two from Robert Lewandowsk and a goal each from Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies did the damage to Fortuna as Bayern Munich are now just three wins away from securing the title, as they have five games left in the season.

Hansi Flick has now won 22 of his 25 games in charge of Bayern Munich after he took charge in November with the German giants struggling under Niko Kovac. Now, they are rampant and are one of the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League.

The Bavarian giants dominated early on as USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales made an important clearance but Mathias Jorgensen was so lucky a few moments later.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule, stats

A ball into the box found Benjamin Pavard and his scuffed effort was going wide before it hit Jorgensen and went into his own goal.

Bayern then doubled their lead as Thomas Muller’s shot was pushed wide and from the resulting corner Pavard nodded home to make it 2-0.

Lewandowski made it 3-0 before the break as he has now scored against all of the current Bundesliga clubs and had previously gone without a goal in five outings against Fortuna.

Kimmich’s surging round saw the loose ball find Muller and his pass to Lewandowski was perfect as he swept home to an empty net.

Lewandowski was at it again just a few minutes after the break as he finished off a slick Bayern move as the Bavarian giants put their foot on the accelerator.

Alphonso Davies made it 5-0 as he bulldozed his way through the Fortuna defense and slotted home, while Muller and Pavard went close to adding a sixth and Fortuna had the odd chance on the break.

In the end, the victory was as routine as possible for Bayern Munich who have more than one hand on the Bundesliga title.

USMNT’s Weston McKennie honors George Floyd with armband

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Schalke and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie has released a statement after he wore a personalized armband with the message ‘Justice for George’ on it to honor George Floyd.

McKennie, an American international who has played in the Bundesliga for the last four seasons at Schalke, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He wore the armband in Schalke’s defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Weston McKennie released the following statement after wearing the armband at the weekend to honor George Floyd:

“To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on to long feels good!!! We have to stand up for what we believe in and I believe that it is time that we are heard! #justiceforgeorgefloyd #saynotoracism

Here is a photo of McKennie wearing the armband which he put on before the game kicked off and wore on his left arm.