Declan Rice

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10 players set for breakout seasons in 2019-20 PL

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Every season, a handful of previously unknown — or even unexpected — players turn in performances of the highest quality and find themselves being talked about as the Premier League’s latest “breakout player.”

This will undoubtedly be the case again in 2019-20, but will it be? Here are 10 players primed to reach new heights over the next 10 months…

[ MORE: 2 days to go until new PL season: Is it a 2-horse race again? ]

Miguel Almiron, Newcastle United — Here’s the thing about the former Atlanta United star: he can really play. It didn’t take long for the Paraguayan to flash his skill and promise after moving to Newcastle last January. Now, try to imagine what he can do with a full offseason and preseason under his belt… if only the departure of Rafa Benitez doesn’t derail this freight train.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Mason Mount, Chelsea — With the Blues suffering through a two-window transfer ban, new manager Frank Lampard will have no choice but to rely upon a handful of academy players, beginning with the 20-year-old midfielder with whom he worked at Derby County last season. Eight goals and five assists in a solid haul for a teenager, and Mount has made the most of his every chance this preseason.

Reiss Nelson, Arsenal — After a season on loan at Hoffenheim (seven goals), Nelson faces an uphill battle for playing time in a thoroughly stacked Arsenal attack, but he’s got the complete package, plus the versatility, required to force his way into regular minutes.

Lloyd Kelly, Bournemouth — Smart clubs in the PL’s bottom half will have done extensive scouting on EFL Championship players ready to make the jump to England’s top flight, only to be held back by employment at a smaller club. Lloyd Kelly can play left back and center back, and he was outstanding for Bristol City last season. He’s one of a few potential answers to the question “who’ll be the next $60-million British defender?”

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/WBA FC via Getty Images)

Max Aarons, Norwich City — How does a PFA Championship Team of the Year, EFL Team of the Season and EFL Player of the Year campaign sound for a potential breakout star? Norwich City’s Max Aarons achieved all of the above last season, at the age of 18 and 19, in his first season as a professional.

Morgan Gibbs-White, Wolverhampton Wanderers — The same age as Aarons, Gibbs-White is already a seasoned professional with three seasons under his belt. Now that Wolves are on the path to the Europa League group stage, Nuno Espirito Santo will be forced to rotate his team far more than last season, and he undoubtedly find that Gibbs-White is a handy option in midfield.

Moise Kean, Everton — Kean is fairly well known among those who follow the rest of Europe somewhat closely, but PL-only fans are in for a real treat when the 19-year-old Italian attacker gets his feet under him at Goodison Park.

Youri Tielemans, Leicester City — How Tielemans tumbled this far down the transfer pyramid (all due respect to Leicester, of course) is truly a mystery. It’s not as though he was unknown in any way, or that he’s untested in the PL (he spent the second half of last season on loan to the Foxes), or that any number of PL club could have used a midfielder of his caliber.

(Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City via Getty Images)

Declan Rice, West Ham United — Sure, Rice announced himself onto the PL stage last season, but 2019-20 feels like the time when he’ll go from “good young player” to “how much will Man City or Liverpool or Man United have to pay for him next summer?” West Ham being more consistent as a team and pushing for top-seven wouldn’t hurt Rice’s stock one bit.

Phil Foden, Manchester City — Is this the year Foden finally pushes his way into Pep Guardiola‘s regular rotation? We’ve been waiting for him to do so for two seasons now, yet he won’t turn 20 years old until after the 2019-20 season ends. Central midfield is still relatively thin at Man City, though that hasn’t stopped Guardiola from refusing to rotate and give Foden chances in the past.

Declan Rice apologizes for pro-IRA comments on social media

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Ahead of his potential debut for the England national team on Friday, Declan Rice has had to apologize for his past comments on social media. 

Rice, 20, switched his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England last month after his rise to stardom in the Premier League over the past 12 months.

The West Ham academy produce made three friendly appearances for the Ireland senior team, as well as playing for their U17 side, but was born in England and FIFA approved his switch to represent the Three Lions.

Rice has apologized for the comments he made on social media in 2015 in response to his Irish teammates as he responded “up the RA” which is short for the IRA and “Wait until we get England” on Instagram.

“I am aware that a poorly-expressed comment I made when I was a junior player has been circulated on social media,” Rice said. “I recognise now that my attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time could be negatively interpreted. While my naive words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologize for any offence caused.”

Rice was called up to the England national team for the first time on Mar. 13 and is in line to play against the Czech Republic on Friday and against Montenegro next Monday in the Three Lions’ EURO 2020 qualifiers.

Declan Rice gets first England call-up after winning Irish award

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On Tuesday, it was announced that Declan Rice had been selected for Ireland’s Young Player of the Year award, though he will not be present to celebrate his honor at an awards ceremony on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pep Guardiola loving life as “bold” Man City advances in UCL ]

That’s because the 20-year-old will be with the England team after receiving his first call-up after switching international allegiances earlier this year. The call came from Gareth Southgate‘s Three Lions on Wednesday and will have Rice in camp for EURO 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

“His form warrants it,” Southgate said of West Ham’s rising star. “It’s been a well-publicized situation with Declan. We’ve tracked him for quite a while … His form has been excellent. We like what we see. … There aren’t many players of his age playing as well as he is in the Premier League.”

England’s 25-man squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

FIFA approves Declan Rice switch for Ireland to England

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LONDON (AP) FIFA has approved defensive midfielder Declan Rice switching his international allegiance from Ireland to England.

With Irish heritage but born in London, the 20-year-old Rice has said he considers himself “to be of mixed nationality.”

The West Ham player last month ended months of uncertainty over which national team he would commit to by announcing his plans to play for England.

Rice has played three times for Ireland, but only in friendlies rather than competitive games. That allows for the nationality switch.

FIFA told The Associated Press on Tuesday that “the change of association has been approved.”

England reached the semifinals at last year’s World Cup and will play in the UEFA Nations League final four in June.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

West Ham rides early goals to beat Newcastle

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  • Rice scores early header
  • Noble converts penalty
  • West Ham move 9th, four back of 7th

Declan Rice and Mark Noble scored first half goals to lead West Ham United to a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle United on Saturday at the London Stadium.

West Ham United has closed ground on Wolves in the race for 7th with the win.

Newcastle United remains six points clear of 18th place with nine matches to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham struck early through Rice, who lost Federico Fernandez while jockeying for position pre-corner and put a simple header past Martin Dubravka.

Ayoze Perez was offside for a 28th minute equalizer bid. Sean Longstaff then played a beautiful diagonal ball into the West Ham box to no avail.

West Ham earned a penalty, when Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was taken down in the box by Florian Lejeune. Noble went to the spot and finished well for 2-0.

Fabian Schar nearly turned a second chance off a corner kick into a goal in the fifth minute of first half stoppage, but it was blocked out for a corner and the Irons saw their lead into halftime.

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Perez’s shot across goal could’ve easily been 2-1, but it was too wayward to be a goal and too hard to meet a receiver.

Arthur Masuaku cued up Hernandez with a diagonal beauty, but the Mexican’s first touch wasn’t enough.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]