Declan Rice

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Report: Chelsea eyeing Declan Rice signing next window

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A number of top Premier League clubs are almost certain to line up for Declan Rice‘s services during the next transfer window — whenever that may be, whether this summer or closer to fall — with Chelsea the first known suitors, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi “feeling fine and back to his usual self” ]

According to the report, defensive midfield is high on Frank Lampard‘s list of priorities when the Blues participate in their first transfer window since January 2019. Chelsea were handed a two-window ban which prevented them from making any signings last summer, and though the ban was reduced by half they still signed no one in January.

Rice, a player who Chelsea had in their youth academy from ages 7-14, would likely cost north of $60 million, if not significantly higher. He also remains close friends with Chelsea first-teamer and academy graduate Mason Mount. At just 21 years old, Rice has quickly become West Ham United’s most important, if not also their best, player.

[ MORE: Transfer rumors: Aubameyang to Man United, Skriniar to Man City ]

Playing alongside the likes of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mount, Rice would seem to fit right into Lampard’s team from day one. Not only would he fill out perhaps the thinnest area of the squad, but he would add immense quality to a perennial top-four contender and PL title hopeful.

2019-20 Premier League Best XI so far

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With the coronavirus shutdown of all major European soccer, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the players who have stood out to this point as the table begins to truly take shape. Liverpool is just a hair away from securing the 2019/20 title, but not everything is about the Reds – although a lot of it still is.

[ MORE: Possible end dates | PST roundtable ]

With that in mind, here’s the frontrunners at each position for Premier League Team of the Season, with the players who could also make a leap into the conversation with a strong finish to the campaign, if they ever get the chance.

Premier League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Also considered: Alisson Becker

Harsh on Alisson, who is leading the way for one of the best back lines in Premier League history, but Dean Henderson has been just as brilliant in far more difficult circumstances. The Manchester United loanee has starred at Sheffield United, prompting talk that the Red Devils should cut his loan short and instill the 23-year-old’s loan short and bring him on to take over for a struggling David De Gea. While many have labeled the shot-stopper “England’s future number one,” it’s entirely possible that Henderson would have been the starter had Euro 2020 not been postponed until next season, and it’s certainly fathomable that the youngster could still be first-choice once the tournament arrives. There are recent rumors among English tabloids that Manchester United is preparing a new contract for Henderson worth nearly $120,000 a week, which would be more than backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero currently makes and about equal with new midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Ederson is normally considered part of this list as well, but he just hasn’t performed up to the level required this season considering how he sparkled in Manchester City’s title campaign last time around.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson
Also considered: Ben Chilwell, Lucas Digne, Jonny

While Robertson doesn’t burst off the page like his fellow full-back teammate Alexander-Arnold (more on that in a moment), he is still far and away the best left-back in the league. The former Hull City man who joined Liverpool for just $9 million back in 2017 has flourished into one of the world’s best, and his chemistry with Alexander-Arnold is growing the two into a legendary pairing. He is a long-ball master, delivering 2.4 per game, the most of any left-back in the league and third among full-backs to just Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Also considered: Ricardo Pereira, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did you know the Premier League was absolutely stacked at right-back? If not for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is quickly establishing himself as the best full-back in the world and has a shot at a place among the greatest of all-time should he maintain this form for a number of years, the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Aaron Wan-Bissaka would actually have a legitimate shot at this award. Pereira’s performance this season has been so good he’s earned himself links to Real Madrid, and both he and Wan-Bissaka are tackle masters who are blowing away the rest of the league in that category (both are the only men not named Wilfried Ndidi to average over 4 successful tackles per match). Throw in Kyle Walker and wing-back Matt Doherty, and the ranks of Premier League right-backs are loaded. Too bad TAA trumps them all, with a gargantuan 12 assists this season and 2.6 key passes per game, more than double the total of any other right-back.

Center-Back: Virgil Van Dijk, Harry Maguire
Also considered: Caglar Soyuncu, Wily Boly, James Tarkowski

Selecting one of these players is a no-brainer. Virgil van Dijk is far and away the best center-back in the Premier League, and maybe the world. Selecting his partner is far more difficult.

WhoScored’s second-highest rated player at the position this season is Wily Boly, but like Scott McTominay, thanks to injuries he has not played enough this season to qualify. Caglar Soyuncu is another popular choice, and the youngster no doubt has been a pleasant surprise next to Jonny Evans at Leicester City, one of the league’s rising stars at the position. But Harry Maguire lived up to his price tag this season and that’s no small feat as the world’s most expensive defender. His positioning is exquisite, and while he hasn’t displayed van Dijk levels of domination – a slight slip in form through the months of October and November prove that – he has done fabulously at Manchester United, racking up a complete 2,610-minute Premier League season to this point and playing significant minutes through the other Cup competitions as well while the Red Devils struggle with injuries all over the pitch.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Also considered: Scott McTominay, Declan Rice, Jorginho

Wilfred Ndidi is a midfield destroyer the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since N’Golo Kante did it first at Leicester City just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the otherworldly performance that Ndidi has put forth this season, given that Kante earned himself Ballon d’Or nominations for his performance in Leicester City’s title-winning season. See this from November:

Ndidi is completing 4.4 successful tackles a game, only second to Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy who has only appeared in 12 games this season. He is doing so in a vicious pressing system that centrals around the Nigerian’s ability to cover an insane amount of ground, easing the pressing load on the other players as to not tire them out. Need an idea how important Ndidi is to the team? Of the five matches he missed in 2020 due to a knee injury, Leicester City won exactly zero of them, with three losses and two draws. He’s so important to the squad that Pep Guardiola game-planned for him successfully.

Scott McTominay has been a revelation this season, taking the next step into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, but he missed too many games due to injury. Declan Rice continues to push forward as one of West Ham’s best assets, but has been unable to assert the same table-climbing effect on his side that Ndidi exerts on Leicester City.

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne
Also considered: Joao Moutinho, John Fleck

Kevin de Bruyne is everyone’s first choice on this squad. Leading the league 17 assists and producing scintillating displays nearly every week. The Belgian has displayed positional flexibility, often best sitting behind the striker in an attacking midfield role but also moving back into central midfield to receive the ball deeper or shifting out wide to make use of his crossing technique. De Bruyne will likely battle with van Dijk for Player of the Season should the awards eventually end up given out.

On the other end, Jordan Henderson is a perfect foil for de Bruyne. The Liverpool captain has been gargantuan this season, moving from cult hero to widespread household name. Henderson is a lynchpin of the highest order, calming the side and bringing structure to the buildup while helping defensively when Liverpool is hit on the counter.

The others considered from this position deserve to be mentioned. Joao Moutinho, along with midfield partner Ruben Neves, has turned the Wolves midfield into a dominant force no matter who they play. While they don’t necessarily hold the ball for endless spells of possession, they have been vicious when moving forward and relentless when shielding the back line. John Fleck, meanwhile, has been the other Sheffield United standout this season alongside Henderson, and his performance this season must be mentioned given where the Blades sit in the table.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Grealish
Also considered: James Maddison, Mason Mount

As far as players who are the most important to their team, Jack Grealish is unquestionably tops of that list. The Aston Villa midfielder has produced spectacular performance after spectacular performance this season, often the best player on the field despite Villa’s overall struggles. With his current club potentially going down should the season be concluded, Grealish is being linked with teams scattered across the top of the Premier League table and rightly so. At just 24 years old, Grealish has grown into a flourishing attacker who excels at taking players on and creating chances out of nothing.

Mason Mount has been fabulous for Chelsea this season, but injuries have hampered his campaign. The Blues should nonetheless be encouraged about the bright future of their young star. James Maddison has been equally fantastic for Leicester City in a similar role with freedom around the pitch, but he doesn’t quite carry his team like Grealish does. The youth on this list should be encouraging for the long-term health of attacking systems in the English top flight.

Forward: Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy
Also considered: Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Adama Traore

Absolutely the most difficult choice of any position here, some high-profile players have missed out on a place in the team, but there’s just no way to leave out the two men at this spot. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals, and while things have dried up somewhat until his brace against Aston Villa last time out, his goal conversion rate is still at historic levels. The dry spell has lowered his xG that at one point sat above the +6 mark, but he still has converted chances at a +4.76 rate this season, bagging 19 goals on a 14.24 xG mark. While Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah have also been prolific goalscorers, they just haven’t finished at the absurd rate that Jamie Vardy has produced.

Those two also just don’t equate to the importance that Sadio Mane presents to Liverpool. The presence of Gabriel Jesus means that Sergio Aguero could be missed and Manchester City hardly misses a beat, and while that shouldn’t take away from what the Argentine means to the heartbeat of that squad, it just doesn’t stack up to Mane’s vital presence at Liverpool. Adama Traore has burst onto the scene the second half of the campaign, injecting life into an occasionally stagnant Wolves attack and earning himself a place on this list, but he still struggles with consistency and doesn’t quite equate to the massive stature of the Liverpool winger.

Premier League players told to train at home

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Players from multiple Premier League clubs have been told to stay at home and train, a day after most returned to training as normal at their training grounds.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new measures on Monday as the UK changed its strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson said that “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,” and added that people “should avoid pubs, clubs, theaters and other such social venues.”

Man United, Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Southampton are among the PL clubs who have sent their players home with a special workout plan as the players are in constant contact with medical and fitness staff.

Plenty of teams have given their players time off and many are not returning to training until March 23 or 24, as Arsenal will return on the latter date as they self-isolate due to manager Mikel Arteta testing positive for coronavirus. Newcastle will not return until Mar. 30, while Tottenham’s players will only train on weekdays.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad have now been advised to follow individual fitness and conditioning programmes from home. Club medical and sports science staff will remain in regular contact with players and ensure they have the necessary equipment to maintain their fitness,” Southampton said in a statement.

Players from Chelsea are currently training in self-isolation due to Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive for coronavirus but Mason Mount has apologized to Frank Lampard after ignoring those rules after being spotted playing five-a-side with West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice in London over the weekend.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

How are players staying fit amid coronavirus outbreak?

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MADRID — Standing in his living room with family photos in the background, the fitness trainer for Spanish soccer club Leganes started the day’s online session.

[ MORE: Mini-tournament for Champions League, Europa League? ]

Using an elastic band, a couple of large water bottles as weight and a chair, Pol Lorente began demonstrating the exercises players had to do back home while in a lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Spain.

Monday’s live session was transmitted online through the Twitch app, and the club opened the feed to anyone who wanted to participate.

“The idea was to work a bit with the players, and since the state of emergency was declared, the club thought it would be good to open the session for everyone else who wanted to follow it,” said Lorente, using a Leganes training uniform and wearing glasses that perfectly fit the “harrypottercdleganes” username in which the online session was streamed.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos posted a video of himself training at his home gym with his three kids playing by his side, while Barcelona showed goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen jumping ropes and doing other exercises in the backyard.

Spain entered a lockdown on Saturday, with the government limiting people’s movements across the nation to try to contain the rapid spread of the virus that has infected more than 169,000 people and caused 6,500 deaths worldwide.

The outbreak prompted the suspension of sporting events around the world, and forced athletes to find ways to stay fit. Quarantined countries like Spain were the most affected ones, and teams have taken steps to keep players active while stranded at home.

[ MORE: National League joins rest of world in (belatedly) suspending play ]

Barcelona, leading the Spanish league and still in the Champions League, said it prepared individualized training guidelines for its players and was monitoring them remotely.

“The coaches will be in constant contact with the players to supervise and monitor sessions,” the club said. “At the moment, these training programs are scheduled for the next seven days and will be renewed until a return to group training.”

Barcelona said players will have to continue to “follow the nutritional guidelines they have already maintained throughout the season,” and each player “has been following an individual plan.”

“It is an exceptional moment and we have to follow all the recommendations from the health authorities and public authorities,” Lionel Messi said in a message posted on his Instagram account. “That is the only way that we can fight it effectively. It is time to be responsible and stay at home.

“Let’s hope we can turn this situation around, the quicker the better.”

The Spanish soccer federation had said before the lockdown that teams should stop any group activities. Some players and team members of first-division teams have been among those infected by the virus, including Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay.

The entire Real Madrid squad entered self-isolation last week after a player from the club’s basketball team, which shared training facilities with the soccer squad, tested positive.

[ MORE: Gremio players protest, walk onto the field with face masks ]

Leganes, a small team based in southern Madrid, suspended its training sessions last week after the club’s general director tested positive.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

In England, Premier League team Chelsea was among those in quarantine after winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive last week. The club posted a video of its striker, Tammy Abraham, exercising on a stationary bicycle, apparently at home.

Not every Chelsea player got the memo, though. Mason Mount was pictured on Sunday in north London playing soccer with friends, including Declan Rice, a midfielder for West Ham — a Premier League team that isn’t in lockdown. Chelsea reprimanded Mount and also took the opportunity to remind the rest of the squad about its responsibilities.

Other clubs in England were training according to their normal schedule, while waiting for more announcements from the league and the British government. Manchester United put some restrictions at its training ground, though, particularly around first-team areas.

Liverpool find another way to win in West Ham comeback

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Sadio Mane punched in a back-post winner as poor Liverpool found a way to keep its unbeaten Premier League season alive with a 3-2 defeat of West Ham United at Anfield.

The Reds improve their record to 26-1, leading second-place Manchester City by 22 points.

[ MORE: Klopp reacts to comeback ]

West Ham threw away a 2-1 lead when star goalkeeper Lukasz Fabinaksi fumbled an easy save, and Mane made the most of the disorganized Irons defense late in the match.

The Irons remain a point off safety with 24 points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Team of destiny Liverpool again wins while miles off its best: Liverpool center back Joe Gomez and to a lesser extent his partner Virgil Van Dijk had poor days, and Jurgen Klopp‘s attackers’ finishing touches were largely absent. Still, the defiant league leaders found their way to three points are now 11 matches from history.

When you can play way off your standard and still out-attempt a Premier League side 25-7, well, you’re pretty good.

2. Fabianski gifts Reds equalizer: Lukasz Fabianski has saved West Ham so, so many times, and he made some nice saves on the day including a wonderful stop on Trent Alexander-Arnold. But his howler of the highest variety on Salah’s tepid low shot is about as bad as it gets for a keeper short of turning and firing into your own goal.

3. Amazing Alexander-Arnold: The right back was again phenomenal an easy Man of the Match in assisting two goals. He would’ve had three if Mane stayed onside in a late lapse of judgment.


If a game had the makings of a 4-4, it was this one; Liverpool has quality players, obviously, but has been prone to lapses. There are fewer of the former and more of the latter for West Ham, but the attackers have high potential.

Liverpool took the leader when Wijnaldum turned a header inside the near post, but Issa Diop answered with a header of his own off a corner kick. The West Ham center back started in the six and darted back in front of Joe Gomez to nod home.

Chances for Sadio Mane after fooling Robert Snodgrass with a dribble and Trent Alexander-Arnold from the right led to near misses.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Roberto Firmino was sent through by Trent Alexander-Arnold and missed a chance badly to start the second half, and Mohamed Salah soon saw a shot blocked by West Ham.

West Ham was stout at the back and looked prepared on the counter, but Liverpool can only blame itself for the second goal. Fornals hung out between Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, with Fabinho also in the vicinity of Declan Rice‘s cross.

Lukasz Fabianski made a wonderful flying save on an Alexander-Arnold knuckler outside the box, and Liverpool move into the final half-hour up one.

The keeper made a huge error to allow to Liverpool 2-2, a Salah shot squirting through the player’s hands and legs.

Michail Antonio flubbed a 72nd-minute point blank chance.

Liverpool blew chances to make it 3-2 through Van Dijk and Salah as the match reached the final quarter-hour.

Alisson collected a low drive from Sebastian Haller.

Alexander-Arnold set Mane up for a back post finish to put Liverpool ahead, and the same pair saw a fourth goal chalked offside as the Senegalese lazily lost his focus.

Substitute attacker Jarrod Bowen was saved by Alisson when Antonio played him through in the 88th minute.

West Ham had a few more big chances, Noble seeing a rip deflect wide for a final corner. It was cleared by Andy Robertson.