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Who would make an all North West Premier League XI?

Ruari Macneil



Photo: Getty Images

The two most successful English clubs in history are now being joined by a new side rewriting the history books with their stunning football.

With the Premier League champions, probable Champions League finalists and FA Cup finalists all coming from the North West this season, the region remains the most dominant in the country.

The three teams are of course Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City. As a result, the trio dominate our North West Premier League XI.

Of course, Everton and Burnley are worthy of a mention, with some useful players of their own. Burnley have done incredibly well this season to rival Arsenal for a place in the top six. However, when it comes down to quality, the three Premier League giants cannot be overlooked.

The following players are those we believe would make a Premier League fantasy XI, if all selected from teams in the North West.

Goalkeeper – David de Gea

Spain number one David De Gea was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the fifth season this term, and has well and truly cemented himself as the world’s best goalkeeper.

Many pundits have suggested it, but if it were not for De Gea, Manchester United may well be scrapping for a place in the top four, as opposed to currently sitting comfortably in second due to the incredible work of their star man.

De Gea is world class, and you could even argue that he is the best footballer in the Premier League. His value to Manchester United is priceless, and his inclusion is an obvious one, having kept out an astounding 80% of the shots he has faced.

Right Back – Antonio Valencia

United’s Antonio Valencia just pips City’s Kyle Walker in this XI. The Old Trafford captain has been brilliant again this season and his ability, to not only hold his own but excel in his new right-back position, has come from nowhere.

Traditionally, having always played as an advanced attacking winger, Valencia has seamlessly transitioned further back on the pitch and looks as accomplished a right-back as you will find in Europe.

Centre Back – Virgil van Dijk

World record defender Virgil van Dijk has had a huge impact since joining Liverpool from Southampton in January. The Dutchman netted the winner on his debut in the Merseyside derby and has not looked back since.

He is the defensive rock that the Reds have been needed for quite some time, and he may well help lead his new club to European glory if they can pull off one of the greatest campaigns of any underdog in the history of the Champions League.

Centre Back – Nicolas Otamendi

Nicolas Otamendi has come under some severe criticism for his performances in a City shirt in the past, but this season the Argentine silenced his critics as a regular starter for Pep Guardiola’s men.

The defender has played nearly every game for the league champions this campaign and has featured alongside a number of partners in a back two, which has not fazed him whatsoever.

Perhaps still not considered to be the ideal Premier League centre-half, Otamendi only needs to look at the medal around his neck on trophy presentation day to know that he can be proud of his efforts.

Left Back – Andrew Robertson

Arguably the bargain of the season, Scottish international Andrew Robertson has been a serious hit at Anfield through his dedicated, but more importantly high-quality, performances.

Robertson has made the left-back position his own under Jurgen Klopp, and is the exact type of player that any fan wants to see line-up for their team each week.

Along with van Dijk, Robertson has really helped shore things up at the back for Liverpool, and the club look to have discovered a potential left-back option for the best part of the next decade.

Central Midfield – Kevin De Bruyne

Once again, Kevin De Bruyne has set the league alight with his stunning displays from midfield alongside teammate David Silva.

The Belgian international has provided more assists than any other player in the top flight this season, and has netted 11 goals of his own.

His contribution to Pep Guardiola’s championship winning side has been massive, and the Belgian was highly unlucky to miss out on the PFA Player of the Year award to Mohamed Salah.

Central Midfield – David Silva

Like De Bruyne, David Silva’s contribution to City is invaluable and, despite the forward trio getting the plaudits, the two men in the middle of the pitch are at the heart of everything positive the side does.

Silva has been tremendous for City since joining all those years ago, and has been somewhat of an unsung hero in the past, but this season, he has fully gained the credit he deserves.

Somehow, this year was only the second season that Silva was named in the PFA Team of the Year, but regardless, he was surely one of the first names on the team sheet.

Central Midfield – Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic has once again proved himself to be one of the best players in his position after solidifying the Manchester United midfield following his move from Chelsea. It seemed a strange decision by Chelsea to let the Serbian go, as it felt like the West London club were gifting their rivals the final piece to their puzzle with United having been crying out for a Matic-type player for a number of years.

Still with the chance to win the FA Cup, Matic has been one of United’s top performers this campaign, and his sometimes quiet work sitting in front of the defence should not be undervalued.

Right Wing – Mohamed Salah

Nothing much needs to be said about this man, and his inclusion in this side is perhaps the most obvious.

The PFA Player’s Player of the Year has netted an unbelievable 40-plus goals this season and still has the chance to be crowned European champion in his first season at Anfield.

In short, the Egyptian star has probably played the best football of any player in the world this season.

Should he continue his form in the seasons to come, he may well rival the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar for the Ballon d’Or.

Left Wing – Roberto Firmino

The second member of the mesmerising Liverpool front three to be included in this side, Roberto Firmino has enjoyed another excellent season in a Reds shirt.

The Brazilian is closing in on a tally of 30 goals for the first time in his career, with his previous highest tally standing only at 22.

Unselfish for a forward, Firmino is a true team player and embodies the spirit of a Jurgen Klopp side.

If Klopp can keep Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane in the coming years, they will be a real threat to Manchester City and Manchester United for the Premier League title.

Centre Forward – Sergio Aguero

Somehow, Sergio Aguero was included in the PFA Team of the Year for only the first time in his career, having averaged 28 goals a season in his seven years in English football.

The Argentine has been massive for City on their title winning run, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer along the way.

Aguero’s City future looked in doubt after the arrival and rise of Gabriel Jesus. However, the forward has done all of his talking on the pitch, reminding everyone of just how good a player he really is.

If Aguero was to leave City, there are not many clubs worthy of a centre-forward of his quality, and his consistency of quality means he picks himself for this North West XI.

Life long lover of sport in general with a soft spot for football. A consistent defender of Scottish football as a spectacle. Desperately waiting to see my country qualify for a major tournament.


On this day: Leeds cash in on Wood, Coutinho told he’s staying and Seri’s Barca links

What were the big stories in football a year ago today? Including Leeds United, Liverpool and Fulham.

Mathew Nash



Chopping Wood

One year ago today and Leeds United lost their talismanic striker Chris Wood to Burnley. After a tumultuous summer of rumours and conjecture, the club’s leading scorer left in a club record £15 million deal.

In his two seasons at Leeds the New Zealand international scored an impressive 44 goals in 88 games for the Whites.

Leeds were desperate not to lose the player and ended up paying for his absence. They failed to replace him, with nearest replica Pierre-Michel Lasogga falling short of expectations.

Wood has since gone on to establish himself at Burnley, scoring 11 goals in 26 games during his first season at Turf Moor.

Leeds now have Kemar Roofe firing and also signed Patrick Bamford this summer.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Chris Wood of Burnley celebrates after scoring a penalty during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Burnley and Leeds United at Turf Moor on September 19, 2017 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

No-go Coutinho

A year ago today and Liverpool had managed to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian had been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona throughout last summer.

However, as reported by Sky Sports a year ago, Liverpool made it clear Coutinho was going nowhere.

In the end, it proved to just be a stall. Coutinho completed the inevitable switch to Barcelona in January for a fee of £146 million.

However, many Liverpool fans would perhaps argue the club are now performing better than they ever did when Coutinho was at Anfield.

Seri-ous money

Signed by Fulham this summer, a year ago today it seemed Jean-Michael Seri was on his way to Barcelona.

Marca suggested that Barcelona had met the apparent £36.6 million release clause in his contract at Nice. Unfortunately, that clause had expired.

With Barcelona not willing to pay more, they moved on.

Seri joined Fulham this summer for a club record fee.

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Crystal Palace

One winner, one loser as Crystal Palace suffer defeat to Liverpool

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

On Monday night Crystal Palace produced a spirited display against Liverpool but ultimately fell to a 2-0 defeat at Selhurst Park.

The Eagles gave the Reds a run for their money all night, yet James Milner’s penalty and Sadio Mane’s breakaway finish handed Liverpool all three points.

Here is one winner and one loser from the final match of the Premier League week, as the performance spelled good news for Palace’s season but will be a blow for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Winner: Crystal Palace’s top-half ambitions

Just a week earlier, Liverpool had dealt West Ham a harsh footballing lesson by thrashing the east Londoners 4-0 at Anfield. The Reds’ front three was unplayable and the new-look squad appeared to have genuine title ambitions.

(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

But when the Merseyside club made the trip to SE25, they found a far more difficult opponent in Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s side made life uncomfortable all match for Liverpool, playing an aggressive style that denied Liverpool time on the ball and resulted in numerous chances for Palace to take the lead.

In the end, Liverpool only made a breakthrough by way of a penalty, after Andros Townsend had rattled the bar earlier. And although Palace went down to ten men and let in a second goal, the Eagles nonetheless continued to attack and pile on pressure.

Although Crystal Palace took no points from the match, their encouraging performance against one of the league’s top sides is reason to believe they can crack the upper half of the table this campaign.

(Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The 20-year-old right back continued right where he had left off against Fulham, turning in a brilliant display in the opening half against Liverpool. His superb pace held Mane in check and his adventurous attacking play was a lethal combination with Townsend on the right wing.

Yet unfortunately for the youngster, his night ended prematurely when he took down Mohamed Salah as the Egyptian was through on goal late in the match. A three-match ban will follow, cruelly denying Wan-Bissaka a run in the team just as he was hitting outstanding form.

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Three selection headaches for Jurgen Klopp ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Brighton



Photo: Getty Images.

After labouring to a convincing win over Crystal Palace, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has decisions to make ahead of returning to Merseyside and facing Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday in the late kick-off.

The Reds have remained unchanged in their two Premier League games to date, but the German could make changes to his side in the third league fixture of the campaign despite two consecutive defeats without conceding.

Here are some of the toughest calls that he may have to make…

Should Georgino Wijnaldum continue in midfield?

Few expected Georgino Wijnaldum to be starting both of Liverpool’s first two Premier League fixtures after the signings made this summer, and with Jordan Henderson having built up fitness after returning to training late after the World Cup and with Fabinho itching to make his debut, the Dutchman is under pressure.

It would be harsh to say that the former Newcastle man has put a foot wrong in his two appearances to date, in fact he was one of the stand out performers at Selhurst Park, but he knows that retaining his place won’t be easy.

Could Dejan Lovren return?

Dejan Lovren’s call up for the Croatia squad has led to speculation that a Liverpool return may be imminent after a spell on the sidelines with a stomach problem. Joe Gomez was impressive against West Ham and again against Crystal Palace, but knows that Lovren may surpass him upon his return.

With Joel Matip also returning to the bench on Monday night, Klopp has a decision to make in central defence alongside Virgil Van Dijk, even if it is too soon for Lovren to come into the team.

An opportunity to rest?

It may still be early on in the campaign, but Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield should, on paper, be one of the easier fixtures on Liverpool’s calendar. Providing a rest to the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who have come straight from a World Cup campaign, may be an investment for the long term.

With the likes of Jordan Henderson, Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge all on the bench and itching to get on, Klopp could consider making some changes to a team which he is yet to alter in the Premier League.

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