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Southgate: Kane, Sterling setting England example on, off the field

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Perhaps Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling aren’t leaders in the most traditional sense — grizzled veterans who have been around the block and seen everything there is to see — but nevertheless, they’re the ones setting the example for England’s next generation of young stars, many of whom aren’t so much younger than they are.

[ MORE: Eric Dier out of England squad, back at Spurs with another injury ]

It’s clear for all to see that Kane and Sterling are leading and inspiring the Three Lions with their on-field performances, for club and for country — they have 55 goals and 19 assists between them since August — but to hear Gareth Southgate speak of their leadership off the field, one can’t help but feel the England program has been entrusted to very safe hands — quotes from the Guardian:

“To have such a top striker, like Harry, who has such humility and such a low ego, has a huge impression on the whole group, because at the moment he is the star player. You wouldn’t know it from the way he conducts himself, you wouldn’t know it from his application to training and the way he is disciplined with his preparation and his focus.

“Equally, that’s the same for Raheem. You see his focus in training, his preparation for those things, so for young players coming on it’s an easy equation: if I do the things those two do, there’s a good chance that I’ll get the performances that they are putting in.”

It’s certainly a new concept that players could be the undisputed leaders of the England squad at 25 and 24 years old, respectively — particularly to Southgate, who came through the England setup in the 1990s — but it’s something he’s been quick to embrace.

“I think young people in all walks of society have a little bit more belief. I think bosses in all industries are less draconian in the way they work, and I think that helps youngsters to come in and be more creative and believe they can make a difference. They don’t baulk at anything. I just think, generally speaking, given an opportunity, they’ll go and surprise people.”

“(During Southgate’s career) You were told: ‘Don’t get carried away, you’ve got to earn your right to play, you’ve got to earn your right to do this. Did that get the most out of us? Probably not. There were some great qualities that gave us, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose that, because respect is important, as is appreciation of what you’ve got, but equally, we want to let talent have its head.”

In particular, 17-year-old Jadon Sancho already views Sterling as a hero, a mentor and a friend. Asked whether Sterling “was now one of the daddies of the team”:

“Yeah,” the 18-year-old replied, his face lighting up as he began his eulogy. “His numbers are crazy this year, and he’s showing all the youngsters what it’s about. I’m just happy that I’m sharing a pitch with him.”

Who’s in the running for Premier League Player of the Year?

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The Premier League Player of the Year is missing its easy winner this go-round.

There’s no Mohamed Salah running away with the scoring record, no Eden Hazard or N'Golo Kante as the clear best player on the champion.

[ MORE: Key games left in the PL season ]

So let’s take a look at where the race stands heading into the final international break of the season.

The contenders

Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool: Like N’Golo Kante before him, there’s a massive underdog status to a non-striker winning the Premier League’s Player of the Year (and you might want to argue that Kante deserved a Ballon d’Or finalist position). Flub against Fulham aside, few Premier League defenders have made their case in the past as well as Van Dijk has this season. Due to his status on a team who has a lot of the ball, it’s difficult to find super gaudy defensive numbers to make his case. Still, when taking into account Premier League center backs to play more than half their teams’ matches this season, no one on advanced stats site WhoScored is close to VVD. He also doesn’t have a “times dribbled past” per-match average on the site.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea: For years, Chelsea has gone as Eden Hazard. The Belgian is unquestionably one of the most talented players in the world, and is effervescent in attack. Sure, Chelsea’s also suffered through periods of head-scratching results and effort — nothing new at Stamford Bridge and he’s one of the only players to be a part of the downfalls of Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and presumably Maurizio Sarri — but his 13 goals and 11 assists make him the only player to reach double figures in both categories this season. And imagine how high that assist total could be with Alvaro Morata or Gonzalo Higuain finishing at an average or above-average clip.

Raheem Sterling, Man City: At Liverpool a few years ago, it would’ve been accurate to call Sterling, “the kid with the abysmal second touch.” But the Englishman has become better and better by the season, and he’s actually the most economical star in the running for the PL’s Golden Boot; His 2.1 shots per game is less than Sergio Aguero (3.7), Mohamed Salah (3.4), Harry Kane (3.6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2.6), Hazard (2.6), and Sadio Mane (2.4). Only Hazard and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser have more assists.

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: His average second-half of the season is going to make it difficult for him to repeat as PL Player of the Year, especially considering he has just one goal with no assists in eight matches since Jan. 30 (and four of those were 0-0 or 1-1 draws). Yet it’d be wrong to discount his 17 goals and six assists through 24 matches, and a strong finish could make him a Golden Boot, Premier League, and Champions League winner. That’s not crazy.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City: Eighteen goals and six assists make him one of four players to combine for 24 goals of production this season, and the 30-year-old may be get sympathetic votes given his surprising lack of honors during a torrential tenure in the Premier League. His three hat tricks should live in the memory of some voters, too, especially since two came against Arsenal and Chelsea. He’s there when you need him, that’s for sure.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur: Right in the Golden Boot race despite missing four matches with torn ankle ligaments, Kane has 17 goals and four assists for Spurs this season. Not that the League Cup should come into play in a PL season vote, but Spurs’ star could well be holding silverware in voters’ minds if he hadn’t been hurt before the second leg against Chelsea. Three matches against Pep Guardiola and Man City in the next few weeks will either help or hurt his argument (again, only one of those comes in league play).

FINALLY, “THE WILD CARD” — He’s not going to win this award, and probably won’t be on any short lists besides this post, but spare a though for Raul Jimenez of Wolves. The Mexican striker has been a part of 18 league markers for Nuno Espirito Santo (12 goals, six assists) during his first ever Premier League season.

He’s scored against Chelsea twice, Spurs twice, and assisted versus Manchester United, and Arsenal. Wolves are 10W-4D-2L when he gets a goal or an assist, and 2W-3D-9L when he doesn’t produce magic.

And let’s be honest: Is one of the key players above leading their team to a title as impressive as what Jimenez has done keeping his newly-promoted side in the race for a Europa League place (even given what Wolves spent around him)?

Honestly, he’s in my Top Three with Sterling and Van Dijk. Hazard is probably fourth, with Kane, Aguero, and Salah a bit behind.

Saints overwhelm Spurs in comeback win (video)

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  • Spurs dominate 1st half, get Kane opener
  • Saints flip script in second with Valery equalizer
  • Ward-Prowse with beauty free kick to win

Yan Valery and James Ward-Prowse scored second half goals as Southampton’s splendid second half was enough to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Harry Kane gave Spurs a halftime lead, but Europe-weary Spurs had little offer in the second half.

Saints move to 30 points, good for 16th, while Tottenham remain third with 61 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Harry Kane was very much the story of the first half, nearly scoring early and then seeing a would-be assist to Lucas Moura slid off the Saints post by a desperate defender.

Christian Eriksen then beat the wall and keeper but stuck the bar with a 23rd minute free kick.

It was Kane who’d deservedly put Spurs ahead, though, with Dele Alli supplying fantastic service on the opener.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League box scores, lineups, stats ]

Jan Vertonghen missed with a side volley attempt after Kane won a corner in the 52nd minute.

Saints hadn’t quit, though, and substitute Shane Long picked out Nathan Redmond for a shot screwed wide of the post in the 56th.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was busy in the next phase of the match, including a left-footer over the bar.

Redmond missed another in-tight shot moments later, but Saints’ wait for an equalizer arrived via Valery in the 77th minute after Danny Rose let a loose ball go through his legs for the youngster to run onto and finish.

And Stuart Armstrong could’ve put Saints ahead moments later when taken down by Kyle Walker-Peters, but only a free kick was given by referee Kevin Friend.

Then James Ward-Prowse did what he often does from a dead ball situation, swirling a free kick past a flying Hugo Lloris and into the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

AT HALF: Cardiff ahead, Saints trail; Goals in five matches

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Brighton’s comeback win at Crystal Palace featured three goals, and the five 10 a.m. ET kickoffs around the Premier League are providing more.

[ MORE: Stream the second halves live ]

Cardiff City 1-0 West Ham United

Junior Hoilett scored in the fourth minute and the visitors might honestly still be in London.

Huddersfield Town 0-1 Bournemouth

Callum Wilson profited from some David Brooks and Ryan Fraser work to put the Cherries ahead at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Leicester City 1-0 Fulham

Wilfred Ndidi turned Fulham over at midfield, and Jamie Vardy laid off to Youri Tielemans for his first Premier League goal.

Southampton 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Kane has been at his best, and collected his 200th goal for club and country off a feed from rejuvenated Dele Alli.

Newcastle United 0-2 Everton

Goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are sandwiched around a Jordan Pickford conceded-and-saved penalty at St. James’ Park.

[ MORE: Premier League box scores, lineups, stats ]

Lloris: Spurs ‘don’t want to stop’ with Champions League quarters

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It’s fair to assume that Mauricio Pochettino is feeling vindicated after expelling his UEFA Champions League demons this season.

[ RECAP: BVB 0-1 Spurs ]

Spurs beat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at the Westfalenstadion on Tuesday, advancing past the Bundesliga side 4-0 on aggregate to make their first quarterfinal since 2011.

“We are in the quarter-finals,” Pochettino said. “I’m so happy for the players, and the fans. It’s an important victory. Of course we suffered a bit but it’s ok and we fully deserved to be to be in the quarter-final.”

Spurs were under duress for most of the first half, as BVB knew it needed a big win at home having fallen 3-0 at Wembley Stadium.

But Harry Kane broke through in the 48th minute to ease any concerns of anything “Spursy” befalling Pochettino’s men.

“Especially in the first half, it was tough,” Kane said. “It’s always difficult when you have a lead like we did, you don’t know whether to defend or attack. The crowd here was amazing and it was difficult for us. … (The goal) was what we needed. We said at halftime we needed to pick up the tempo a bit more, squeeze up the pitch a bit more. Moussa put a great ball through.”

The star of that first half was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who Pochettino called “great,” and the Frenchman collected his 100th clean sheet. He’s aiming big picture, though.

“As expected, they pushed the first 20 minutes, half an hour. We stayed strong together and that’s why we go through. We don’t want to stop. We want to carry on, and enjoy this moment.”

The video of Lloris and Kane speaking after the match is below, and you cannot help but note the goalkeeper marveling at the away support.