Tag Archives: Mason Mount

The England lineup that should start against Scotland at Euro 2020

England look to secure qualification into the round of 16 at the first attempt at Euro 2020 with a win over Scotland in match day 2.

Raheem Sterling’s goal in the second half gave the Three Lions a well deserved 1-0 win over Croatia in their opening game, in a performance that did the country proud.

Manager Gareth Southgate will now need to make some tough decisions in the team against Scotland, with England expected to control possession more and their home nation rivals likely to line up in a very defensive manner.

Does Southgate stick to a winning formula or make some changes to keep everyone in the 26-man squad on their toes and in rhythm? This is the England team that should start against Scotland for us.

Jordan Pickford (GK)

The Everton stopper’s number one shirt was in doubt before the original tournament in 2020 but he kept his shirt for the opener when Nick Pope went down injured and was ruled out of the tournament before the squad was picked.

His position is even further cemented now with Dean Henderson’s withdrawal from the squad, so he is now comfortably the best keeper available and should start.

Kyle Walker (RB)

Walker had a good performance against Croatia in the opening game and with Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson being deployed in a wing-back role, Walker’s pace and strength will be needed to ensure he doesn’t get a free ride out wide all night.

He’s good in possession against low block sides too, with his experience playing for Manchester City and as the best full-back in the squad he deserves to start again.

John Stones (CB)

Harry Maguire of England looks on during the England Training Session at St George's Park on June 17, 2021 in Burton upon Trent, England.

He was the best fit centre-back England had in the first game and he turned in a performance to back it up too. Great ability on the ball, fantastic aerially in both boxes and a very good one-on-one defender, barring the odd brain fart he gets he’s got the tools to be one of the best England have.

His ability on the ball will see him be key to England building up play from the back and he’ll be a threat at set-pieces too, so he starts again.

Harry Maguire (CB)

He’s missed around a month of action with an ankle ligament injury, but after training for the last week since the Croatia game Maguire is available to play and therefore should start.

Southgate says he will play a part but is unsure of if he’ll start yet, but he’d be better off starting when the intensity is higher to really see if he is fit enough to play. Mings was excellent against Croatia in the opening game so England can trust that they have a solid deputy if needed but it’s the perfect game to give Maguire a start in.

Luke Shaw (LB)

Kieran Trippier got the shock nod at left-back in the opening game, but against a side likely to play a low block stretching the pitch will be key.

That means a natural left footer should play at left-back and Shaw was the best left-back in the country last season and therefore deserves his shot at starting in a major tournament. His partnership at club level with Maguire will be helpful too but his pace and passing going forward will help England unlock the Scottish defence.

Declan Rice (CM)

Gary Neville described Rice as one of the two undroppable players in the England team along with Harry Kane and while I don’t necessarily agree, he is hard to replace.

Quite comfortably the best defensive midfielder England have, Rice’s positioning and tackling go hand-in-hand with his reading of the game and make him a key part of the jigsaw of a Southgate team. He’ll need to be better on the ball in a game like this, with more progressive passes and bravery, but his reliability defensively adds some protection to an otherwise attacking team.

Jude Bellingham of England gets between Josip Brekalo and Luka Modric of Croatia during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England...

Jude Bellingham (CM)

This will seem harsh to many because of just how good Kalvin Phillips was against Croatia, but this is the type of game where I want someone in a deeper midfield role with more of a natural attacking burst.

Bellingham has the ability to help out defensively where needed but also has a killer pass on him, ability to drive past players and can score goals too. Getting players into a rhythm in case they’re called upon is key for a tournament and Bellingham is good enough to get a start and make a difference.

Raheem Sterling (RW)

Most people didn’t have Sterling starting the opener, but he turned in a great performance where he was the most dangerous attacker and got the only goal of the game.

The confidence he’ll take from that game will be big for the rest of the tournament and he should be allowed to ride that momentum into this game too. Pace, direct running, a great dribbler and excellent movement from out-to-in make him the perfect outlet for England against the Scotland back five and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him score once again.

Mason Mount (CAM)

Ideally I probably wouldn’t play Mount in this game and certainly not in this position, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s going to start so I’ve included him.

Raheem Sterling of England celebrates with Mason Mount after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match...

He’s a top player, with an excellent touch and lots of intelligence around the way he moves around the pitch with and without the ball but against Croatia he looked quite flat after a bright start. In a game like this he will need to be at his brilliant best (which is more likely than not to be fair) and his combination play with the front three around him will be key to opening Scotland up.

Jack Grealish (LW)

There was general shock around the exclusion of Grealish from the starting team against Croatia after his performances in the warm-up games, but I expect him to come back into the side here.

Phil Foden got the nod in that game but aside from hitting the post early on he was quite ineffective in the opening game. Grealish’s direct running and ability to slow a game down then flick a switch to up the tempo is exactly what England need in a game such like this, where Scotland will set up deep and look to frustrate them.

Harry Kane (ST)

He starts when he’s fit and available and rightly so. England’s best striker in a long time but also arguably one of the best in the world, he has every type of finish in his arsenal and is also one of the best creators in the squad so you’d be silly to have a team without him in the starting lineup.

The England team that should start against Croatia at Euro 2020

It’s finally here, England’s opening game of Euro 2020 takes place in a little over 48 hours.

After the 2018 World Cup run that saw Gareth Southgate’s side make it all the way to the semi-finals, there is revenge on the mind as they take on Croatia once again at Wembley on Sunday in the opening game of Group D.

With Harry Maguire ruled out through injury, the manager has a decision to make based on fitness and system of who will start the important fixture with a good start paramount to any success they chase.

With that said, lets take a look at the starting lineup that should be fielded by Southgate and England against Croatia.


Jordan Pickford (GK)

The goalkeeper position seemed to really be up for grabs at the start of the season, with Pickford’s place in jeopardy because of bad form.

But Nick Pope’s injury ruled him out of the tournament and with Dean Henderson not nailing down a number one spot with Manchester United and Sam Johnstone getting relegated, Southgate will keep the faith with the Everton stopper.

Kyle Walker (RCB)

No Maguire means England are likely to revert to their three/five at the back system that got them so far in Russia.

Kyle Walker of England and John Stones of England celebrate at the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Sweden and...

That means a return to centre-back for Manchester City’s first-choice right-back, who provided great cover and ability on the ball from the right side of the three during that tournament. While his pace would be missed out wide, England full-back options are so strong that the decision won’t be nearly as thought about as it was back then.

John Stones (LCB)

The Man City man enjoyed the best season of his career this past year, proving essential to the winning mahcine in central defence.

While he’s far more comfortable on the right hand side, he’s good in one-on-one duels and is good with the ball with both feet. He’s a far better defender and footballer than Tyrone Mings so despite the Villa man being a left-footer, Stones gets the nod on this side for me.

Conor Coady (CB)

The central position would have been Maguire’s almost certainly, but without him it should go to the Wolves captain.

I personally didn’t have Coady in my squad because I think there are better English defenders than him available, but his experience playing in the centre of a back-three for Wolves could be essential here. He’s comfortable on the ball playing out from the back, but also happy to throw his body on the line and is a natural leader. He gets the nod for me.

Reece James (RWB)

Fresh off winning the UEFA Champions League in this position, James has to get the nod here.

A supreme athlete, James is strong as a bull and quick enough to completely nullify Raheem Sterling during the final last month. He’s great defensively when in one-on-one situations and is good in the air, plus his composure on the ball has seen him play in central midfield in the past.

He has a great delivery too which will only help Harry Kane in attack, so it’s position to lose.

Declan Rice (CM)

A stellar campaign for West Ham United saw Rice just miss out on Champions League football with his club, but he has earned plenty of praise from the big boys in the country.

England's Mason Mount and Declan Rice at the end of the game during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier match between England and Bulgaria at Wembley...

A solid defensive midfielder, Rice is great defensively. He reads the game very well, intercepts attacks and is a great tackler while also being able to carry the ball forward in a counter attack if necessary. With that said, his passing through the lines is a bit iffy and he’ll need someone more attack minded next to him but he deserves his starting spot.

Mason Mount (CM)

Chelsea’s player of the year and the man who provided the match-winning assist in the Champions League final, Mount has earned his place in the England side this summer.

High energy, a great presser, comfortable on the ball in tight spaces and creative Mount is a perfect partner in central midfield alongside his childhood best friend Rice. While not a natural central midfielder in a two he has all the attributes to play the role and adds a bit more of an attacking intent to the lineup in a defensive formation.

Luke Shaw (LWB)

England’s best left-back this season by a distance, Shaw has fought his way back in from the wilderness to be his nation’s first-choice. Despite Ben Chilwell’s performances helping Chelsea’s European successes, Shaw should start.

He was brilliant from about November onwards and had a career-best season in terms of goals and assists, registering more assists than any other defender in the Premier League in 2021. He has great pace, power, is a solid passer of the ball and is high on confidence and would be my pick to start.

Jack Grealish (CAM)

The man of the year, the people’s champion. Jack Grealish HAS to start for England this summer.

He had a true breakout season in the Premier League with Aston Villa this year and was in the conversation for player of the year before a shin injury saw him miss 12 games of the season at a crucial period.

England player Marcus Rashford celebrates his goal with Jack Grealish during the international friendly match between England and Romania at...

Since returning from injury though he has shone in both warm-up games for England with his ball carrying ability, his passing and his creativity and it would be a crime if he wasn’t rewarded with a starting place for the tournament opener.

Marcus Rashford (CAM)

Maybe a controversial pick, but Rashford has to start for me. 22 goals and 15 assists for Manchester United this season is a remarkable output for a 23-year-old attacker and he has proven he really is one of the best attackers in the league.

With the formation selected, England will have plenty of width from their wing-backs and with Grealish dropping deep to collect the ball and create, Rashford’s pace and directness will be key for England to create any openings.

He’s a good finisher and his one-on-one abilities against defenders will have Croatia worried, so he should get the nod as one of the two behind Harry Kane.

Harry Kane (ST)

The captain and the best player the country has, if one position in the team is a lock it’s Kane’s.

The Spurs man is coming off the best season of his career domestically with his club, where he won the golden boot and the playmaker award for most goals and assists in the Premier League. He has a propensity to drop deep which would allow him to create and link with other attacking players but also create space for Rashford to run in behind too. He starts so long as he’s even half fit.

Manchester City vs Chelsea – UEFA Champions League Final prediction

The final game of the club season takes place this weekend as Manchester City look to make history in their first ever Champions League final against 2012 winners Chelsea, in an all-Premier League affair.

Man City are the champions of England and current Carabao Cup holders, after a stellar campaign saw Pep Guardiola’s side clinch a third title in four years while also ensuring a run of four consecutive years with a trophy.

Chelsea on the other hand came fourth in the league and lost in the FA Cup final earlier this month to Leicester City, but have proven increasingly tough to beat since manager Thomas Tuchel took charge in January.

It’s been a tough road to the final for both sides too, earning their place in the final with big wins over European heavyweights.

City won five out of six games in their group to finish top, with a draw against Porto the only game that the club haven’t won in this years competition. They dispatched of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the round of 16, before edging past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and then Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals, winning home and away in all six games.

Chelsea’s run has been similarly difficult but also successful. They navigated the group stages with Frank Lampard as the manager, finishing top with four wins from six. They then beat newly crowned La Liga champions Atletico Madrid both home and away before a tight game against FC Porto saw them win 2-0 in the away leg but losing 1-0 in the home leg. They then took on Real Madrid and drew at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium before a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge to set up the final.

Over the last few months both sides have met domestically in tight, tactical encounters. In the FA Cup semi-finals Chelsea were able to stay tight and compact, using the counter-attack impressively to come away with a victory thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s goal.

Guardiola used a weakened team in the clash but they still went toe-to-toe and just lacked the killer edge in the final third. The Premier League game earlier this month was just as close, with the Catalan gaffer deciding to go for a peculiar tactical setup.

This time City took the lead and then were awarded a penalty, only for Sergio Aguero to attempt a panenka penalty that went horribly wrong. From then on, Chelsea were able to take over the game and after Ziyech scored an equaliser they stole all three points in injury time thanks to Marcos Alonso.

The psychological edge is certainly with the west London side with two wins from two games, however their setup is quite predictable at this stage. Personnel is likely to change, but the three-at-the-back system with wing-backs high up the pitch and defensive midfielders supporting the technical attack is something Guardiola will for sure have been working on over the last few weeks.

City took Chelsea to the edge in both games and never really got out of second gear in either game, without using their strongest team too. Guardiola’s pure strength in depth make his tactical setup and team selection much tougher for Tuchel to try and figure out.

Add to that the fact that Pep Guardiola has won 14 of 15 cup finals he’s been in and that they ended the season strongly while Chelsea limped over the line in the Premier League tells me that this trophy will have a new name on it at the end of the night.

Defensively they have been one of the best teams in Europe this season and going forward they have so much quality and intensity to their play that Chelsea will struggle to keep them at bay if forced to defend for long spells.

Mason Mount and Phil Foden will be the keys to success for each team, but the difference is that if Foden has a tough game then Guardiola can call upon Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or Aguero to lead the charge. Chelsea have shown in large spells that if Mount doesn’t turn up, the rest of the team struggle to step up in his absence.

Guardiola will have his team heavily motivated to make history and while Chelsea will put up a good fight, City will just have too much for them and will be crowned champions of Europe for the first time ever.


PREDICTION
Man City 2-0 Chelsea

My 26-man England Euro 2020 squad

Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.

UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.

That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.

GOALKEEPERS

Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.

Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.

Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.


DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.

Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.

Harry Maguire of England celebrates victory with team mate Luke Shaw following the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Albania and...

Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.

Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.

Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.

Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.

John Stones: Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.

Fikayo Tomori of Ac Milan gestures during the Serie A match between Ac Milan and Cagliari Calcio. The match ends in a draw 0-0.

Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.

Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.


MIDFIELDERS

Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.

Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.

Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.

Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.

Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.

Phil Foden: England’s best young player since Wayne Rooney, he was key to Manchester City winning the league and making the Champions League final and is pushing for a starting spot never mind a place in the squad.

Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.


FORWARDS

Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.

Harry Kane celebrates with Jadon Sancho of England during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on November...

Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.

Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.

Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.

Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 1-0 with Marcus Rashford during the Premier League match between...

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.

Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.

Tap Ins & Tap Outs Premier League Team of the Year 2020/21

We’re entering the final weeks of the Premier League season and everything is all but settled already for the first time in a while.

Manchester City are set to be crowned champions for a third time in four seasons, while it’s already confirmed that Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham will be playing their football in the Championship next season.

Top four is the only thing left to play for at this point, although Leicester and Chelsea currently have a decent sized cushion above their rivals with only a few games left to play.

That means it’s time for the awards to come out for the players and managers, including the team of the year. 11 players who have stood out the most in their respective positions to make up the best team to have taken part over the course of the entire season.

There are always a few locks in every team, but there are also always a few positions up for grabs that spark debate. With that said, here is the official Tap Ins & Tap Outs Premier League team of the year for the 2020/21 season.


GOALKEEPER: Edouard Mendy
Honourable mentions: Ederson, Emiliano Martinez

The Chelsea stopper joined the club right at the end of the summer transfer window but has taken to the English game like a duck to water. Using his size well to command his area and claim crosses, Mendy has done well with the ball at his feet and has gone on two long streaks of clean sheets this season including six games immediately after signing.

He has been a huge difference to a Chelsea side that conceded over 50 goals last season, conceding just 23 goals in 29 league games and keeping 16 clean sheets – a tally only bettered by Manchester City’s Ederson.

RIGHT BACK: Joao Cancelo
Honourable mentions: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Vladimir Coufal

Without a doubt the best right back in the country this season, Cancelo has shown why Manchester City were willing to spend around £60m and send Danilo to Juventus in order to sign him.

Flying down the wing all season but also tucking in and taking up a midfield role in possession, the Portuguese international has been a key cog in the reason why the Cityzens are going to be crowned champions this season. His passing, pace, reading of the game and brilliance on the ball has seen him rack up three assists and a goal in the league this season but his overall effect on the team is deserving of the spot more than his numbers.

FBL-ENG-PR-BURNLEY-MAN CITY : News Photo

CENTRE BACKS: Ruben Dias and John Stones
Honourable mentions: Wesley Fofana, Harry Maguire, Lewis Dunk

The defence is very blue up to this point but it’s with good reason because of just how good this duo have been this season. Together they have formed a near perfect partnership, helping City to concede a league-low of just 26 goals this season.

Dias has without doubt been the signing of the season, with his impact likened to that of Virgil Van Dijk, while John Stones has resurrected his career after looking likely to leave last summer.

Brilliant aerially, impenetrable in one-on-one scenarios and tremendous on the ball, these two have been the stand-out defenders in the Premier League this season and deserve all the credit they get after leading their side to another title.

LEFT BACK: Luke Shaw
Honourable mentions: Aaron Cresswell, Kieran Tierney

There was only ever going to be one pick for this position and it had to go to Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

After a tough spell at Old Trafford since signing back in 2014, Shaw has finally found his groove in the famous red shirt and this season has been absolutely sensational at both ends of the pitch. He’s picked up a career-high six assists this season while also scoring once and has been absolutely vital to the great performances United have managed this season.

He’s stayed fit and worked his way back into the England squad for Euro 2020 too, where he should start based on form.


CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Tomas Soucek and Ilkay Gundogan
Honourable mentions: Youri Tielemans, Declan Rice, Paul Pogba

It’s been an interesting season in midfield, with games coming so thick and fast that small injuries could see you miss five or six games simply due to the schedule. That has made it hard to choose between some players, but I’m comfortable in my choices of West Ham’s Soucek and Man City’s Gundogan.

Soucek has been a revelation since signing from Slavia Prague and has almost acted as David Moyes’ new Marouane Fellaini. With great defensive awareness and positioning, he has been key to helping West Ham challenge for a top four place and also chipped in with a fantastic nine league goals this season.

Alongside him is the top scorer for the champions elect, as Gundogan has had the best season of his career overall. He has stayed fit throughout the season and while his goals have been incredibly important his overall influence to a City team that played without a striker for the most part has been essential to them winning as much as they have done.

Manchester United v Liverpool: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round : News Photo

ATTACKING MIDFIELD: Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount
Honourable mentions: Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden

Two attacking midfielders who get into the team despite fiercely different numbers in the goals and assists department for their team, but their influence just as big as each others.

Bruno Fernandes continued his incredible impact from last season and has hit a startling 17 league goals with 11 assists in the league this season as of writing, making him one of only three players to have 10+ in both departments. His creativity, leadership, drive and determination have been key in seeing the Red Devils lose a league-low of just four games this season and as the team’s top scorer and arguably most influential player he deserves his spot.

As for young Mount, he has six goals and five assists this season but has been by far and away the best player in a blue shirt for Chelsea this season. His wonderful technique, great vision, creativity and drive have seen him win the hearts of fans and pundits alike and even potentially a starting spot for England at Euro 2020. What he lacks in the final third this season he has made up for with influence and it shows with Chelsea being much worse off without him for the most part. He is well deserving of his spot in this team.


FORWARDS: Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son
Honourable mentions: Mohammed Salah, Marcus Rashford, Patrick Bamford

One of the locks I mentioned earlier in this article is that man Harry Kane, who has hit 20+ league goals for a fifth time but also this season has led the assist charts since the early weeks of the campaign. The England skipper has become the league’s MVP this season and a move away from Tottenham is now likely as he continues to improve in search of trophies.

With his partnership with club teammate Heung-Min Son producing more goals than any other duo in the league this season whichever way you swing it, it was hard to leave Son out with the South Korean front man being the third player to have double digits for goals and assists.

Pace, ability with both feet, great passing, creativity, ability to beat a defender and the composure to finish both these forwards deserve their place among the team of the year and player of the year candidates.

Chelsea turn in masterclass to set up all English Champions League final

Chelsea turned in a brilliant performance at Stamford Bridge to beat Real Madrid 2-0 and cruise into an all-English Champions League final against Manchester City.

Madrid started well, controlling possession and passing the ball around the pitch really well but failing to create any real clear cut chances. Chelsea threatened by having a goal ruled out for offside, but not long after Kai Havertz was put in and dinked the ball over Thibaut Courtois off the crossbar, allowing Timo Werner to head home on the goal-line unchallenged.

From then on Chelsea controlled the game without the ball, with Madrid failing to create anything of note and the Blues missed a hatful of chances. Havertz missed a big one on one, while Mason Mount fired over the bar when he was put through on goal.

Chelsea however finally wrapped up progression to the final with five minutes to go, as man of the match N’Golo Kante nicked the ball high up and found substitute Christian Pulisic who squared to Mount to tap in under pressure and make it 2-0.

The French midfielder had one of the best performances of his season, covering every blade of grass and showing that trademark energy and defensive efficiency to completely nullify the Real Madrid midfield and attack.

Defensively the entire Chelsea team was brilliant with Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger completely dominant as Thomas Tuchel’s side continued their brilliant defensive record under the German’s tutelage this year.

They’ll come up against an incredible Manchester City side in Instanbul on May 29th, with Pep Guardiola’s side assuring their own place in the final with a dominant win over Paris Saint-Germain both home and away.

These two teams met recently in the FA Cup semi-final and it was Tuchel who got the victory on that occasion, winning 1-0 thanks to a Hakim Ziyech goal on the counter.

While Chelsea are likely to set up in a similar manner in the Champions League final, Guardiola is likely to look for a way to counter that set up and claim the third victory of this trophy of his career. Tuchel of course lost in the final last season with PSG, with Bayern winning 1-0 in Lisbon.

The job he has done at Stamford Bridge shouldn’t be understated. He took over from Frank Lampard in January with the club languishing in mid-table outside the top four and as underdogs against Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of this competition.

Since then he has overseen a complete overhaul in style but also in mentality. It was in January when Lampard stated that “Chelsea is not a club ready to compete,” yet just four months later they find themselves in the top four and in two cup finals.

No new signings since his departure, no exits, just pure tactical nous and coaching ability. It’s a credit to him that he has become the first manager ever to lead two different clubs to Champions League finals in consecutive years.

He drafted in the likes of Rudiger from the cold, with the defender being one of the best performers for the club this season while he has managed to get Havertz performing at a much better level too. Small tweaks to the team like that have got the place buzzing once again and there is a feeling that something special is happening in west London once again.

Chelsea and City will have a dress rehearsal of the final this weekend when they meet in the Premier League, with City knowing a win for them will clinch the title while Chelsea look to secure a top four spot.

FC Porto vs Chelsea – Champions League quarter-final predictions

The UEFA Champions League is back with some absolutely mouth watering ties as we enter the quarter-final stage of the competition.

The biggest opportunity for an upset comes in this fixture as the champions of Portugal FC Porto take on 2012 European champions Chelsea in the last eight of the competition, with the Premier League side heavy favourites to make it through to the next round.

Porto pulled off a huge upset in the last 16 when they took on Juventus, defeating them 2-1 at the Dragao Stadium in the first leg before securing a stunning away goal in extra-time at the Allianz Stadium to eliminate Cristiano Ronaldo and co from the competition with a 4-4 aggregate win thanks to the away goals rule. Chelsea on the other hand were solid and pulled off an upset of their own in some ways, beating Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid both home and away without conceding a goal for a 3-0 aggregate win.

Both teams have had interesting campaigns domestically too, despite their successes in Europe.

Porto currently sit in second place in the Primeira Liga, seven points behind league leaders Sporting CP having played a game more than their rivals. Chelsea on the other hand find themselves outside of the top four following a humiliating 5-2 defeat to West Brom at the weekend, the first time they’ve tasted defeat under Tuchel since he joined in January.

The result at Stamford Bridge seemed to undo a lot of Tuchel’s good work at the club since his arrival. The team had conceded only twice before then and only once by an opposition player with Takumi Minamino standing alone in that regard.

Despite taking the lead, when Chelsea went down to 10 men Tuchel seemed to show a stubbornness defensively by refusing to change his system away from five at the back throughout the entire game. It’s also worth noting that Chelsea have hardly been peppering their opposition with goals either, with the Blues failing to score more than two in any game under the German coach.

Porto will take great encouragement from that, with their tremendous defensive record this season the cornerstone to their success. They were able to hold Juventus off for much of the first leg before a fine wonder goal from Federico Chiesa, while in the second leg most of the Serie A side’s chances came from crosses into the box with Alvaro Morata scuffing them.

Olivier Giroud could be the most useful option in the sense, but Tuchel seems to favour using his German counterparts in Kai Havertz and Timo Werner in the most attacking role on the pitch.

Being possession heavy as they are, Porto will be happy to sit back and invite the pressure from Chelsea and look to hit them on the counter attack with influential playmaker Sergio Oliveira likely to have a big say if they are to be successful.

For Chelsea, Mason Mount continues to be their best and most influential player this season and his performances tend to have a big say on the Blues’ performances. He was rested for the West Brom game at the weekend and only came on at half-time, with the side already 2-1 down and playing with only ten men.

His energy, drive and use of the ball are his best attributes and if he can become more polished in the final third then he could really elevate his game to become a top attacking midfielder. For now though, he is the man who is in charge of getting the ball from midfield to the most attacking players who can make things happen.

Porto will need to shut him down to stop Chelsea and with the likelihood of Tuchel continuing to play with a three-at-the-back system, they will need to be clinical once again with any chances they get.

Overall, Chelsea’s quality should shine through. Juventus had been horrendous all season and while they were still favourites it wasn’t the biggest surprise when they struggled. It would be a shock if Chelsea were unable to eventually break Porto down considering Juventus scored four over the two games and extra-time, while defensively they have been solid for the most part under Tuchel taking last weekend’s game off the table.

I think both games will end up being quite tight affairs with minimal chances, but the Blues’ added quality in the attacking third and fact they’re so dominant in possession should see them be successful.


PREDICTION

FC Porto 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-1 FC Porto
(Chelsea to progress 3-1 on aggregate)

What is England’s likely lineup for Euro 2020 now?

England made it three wins from three heading into the European Championships this summer as they top their World Cup qualifying group following a 2-1 win over Poland at Wembley.

After beating San Marino and then Albania, Gareth Southgate’s men came back to their home to take on the Robert Lewandowski-less Poles. Harry Kane’s penalty gave them the lead too, making the Spurs man the player to score the most penalties in national team history with ten so far.

Poland fought back well in the second half and applied lots of pressure, forcing an error from John Stones to equalise through Jakub Moder with a fine strike into the top corner. England struggled to really create any chances but did find a late winner, when Stones headed a corner back across goal and found Harry Maguire who emphatically volleyed the ball into the roof of the net.

The result means with just 71 days to go until the Euros kick off, England are five points clear of Poland at the top of their World Cup qualifying group for the following year.

Southgate made it clear during this international break that he knows his starting lineup for the Euro’s and although a few players were missing, the lineup seems pretty obvious now.

In goal, Jordan Pickford will be the man. The Everton stopper undoubtedly has is flaws, but he has earned the trust of the England gaffer and with Nick Pope not having much to do to be able to impress, he’ll return to understudy duties if Pickford is fit.

England v Poland - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier : News Photo

In defence, Harry Maguire and John Stones have cemented their places. Maguire has had his place guaranteed for a while but Stones had lost his place following some inconsistent seasons with Man City. With Joe Gomez emerging with Liverpool, he seemed most likely until his injury ruled him out of the tournament. With Tyrone Mings the next most likely to get a starting spot, Maguire and Stones’ performances will have convinced Southgate.

Full-back is probably the positions most up for grabs currently. Reece James and Kyle Walker got plenty of game time each, while Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t make the cut this time around. The way they end their individual seasons could have a big say, but as it stands I think the pace and versatility of Walker will get him the nod. On the left, Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are competing for a spot and currently I think the Chelsea man has the advantage having started two of the three games. Shaw was given a chance to impress and did, yet Chilwell still got the nod in the next game and that leads me to believe he will get the nod a the Euros too.

Midfield seems pretty set in stone at this point too. Despite an abundance of attacking talent, Southgate seems intent on lining up with two defensive minded central midfield players – even doing so against San Marino.

Jordan Henderson will almost certainly start alongside Declan Rice if he is fit, but there are doubts about whether or not he will be available. That should leave opportunities for the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and others to make an appearance but Kalvin Phillips started all three games during this break and that tells me he will be the man to get the nod once more.

Albania v England - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier : News Photo

Mason Mount is another who could start in central midfield but Southgate seems to prefer him in a more advanced number ten role. He has started each of the last eight international games and is regularly on the receiving end of praise from the manager, so his inclusion is near certain now.

Harry Kane is an obvious pick up front as he continues to score goals and perform well for England, while also being the man selected to wear the captain’s armband. Flanking him, Raheem Sterling is just as sure of his place.

The Man City man started on the left wing for this international break but has regularly been used on the right for the national team and is more likely to return there for the Euros. England have most of their depth in the left-wing position but the position is likely sewn up, fitness permitting.

Despite the fantastic form of Jack Grealish this season and his excellent performances for England, as well as Foden’s ability to perform in wide positions too and Jadon Sancho’s obvious quality, it’s Marcus Rashford who will get the starting berth.

His direct running, skill and goal threat are things he has over his opposition for the position but most importantly it’s the pace he possesses that sets him apart from the all. He has earned the trust of Southgate and his performances for both club and country mean it can’t be argued about too much either.

Mason Mount rises to international level as England beat Albania

England made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying as a Mason Mount inspired performance gave them a 2-0 victory in Tirana.

Albania were an organised outfit in the opening exchanges as England looked to create opportunities, but it was a Luke Shaw cross that found Harry Kane to break the deadlock in the first half.

England controlled the possession throughout the game with 71% of the ball and it was the 22-year-old Chelsea midfielder who broke through and lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to double the lead and seal the three points.

Mount was starting his seventh international game in a row and made it four goals from 15 caps as he turned in a top drawer performance from a central midfield position.

Gareth Southgate lined his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Declan Rice holding at the base of the midfield with Kalvin Phillips and Mount just ahead of him. Mount did a great job of breaking forward and making third man runs, but also did his own dirty work in midfield too in what was a great box-to-box performance.

He completed 60/69 passes for an 87% success rate, but also made a game high three successful tackles made and won two of his three aerial duels too.

There was a level of maturity and quality in his game that was also shown in the win over San Marino last week, to show that he is truly taking to the international stage remarkably well. While the level of opposition isn’t the highest, it goes without saying that you can only play what is in front of you and is worthwhile remembering it was Mount who got the winner in England’s recent win over Belgium.

Mount’s constant inclusion at both club and international level had been met with criticism earlier in the season, but he has shown throughout the campaign that he is capable of performing well even with all eyes on him and he seems to thrive in that.

England manager Southgate addressed that criticism after the game, coming to his defence.

“I was saying in the autumn he is a very good player. Now Thomas Tuchel picks him, everyone agrees. When Frank Lampard did it, it didn’t count for some reason.”

While the comment is unlikely to win over any doubters or naysayers that both Mount and Southgate have, he has got a point. There was a lot of negativity around the relationship between Lampard and Mount but a lot of it was seen to be aimed at the player when in reality it was aimed at the manager.

Lampard’s refusal to use Mount in his best position due to his versatility was a hinderance to the team. He also just didn’t want to rest him which led to a dip in form and drew criticism also. As for Southgate, he had a tendency to bring Mount up out of nowhere when the conversation was based on another player – namely Jack Grealish – which angered fans.

What Mount has been able to do though is turn many of his naysayers into believers and his performances continue to rightfully earn him praise and potentially a starting lineup place for Euro 2020.

Champions League last 16 predictions: Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

It’s Champions League time once again as the last 16 is back and the second round of fixtures commences.

Last week we saw the first eight teams compete, with some thrilling fixtures to take us through to the second leg and this week we’ll be hoping for more of the same – starting with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid taking on the Premier League’s Chelsea.

Diego Simeone’s side currently sit at the head of the table, with a six point lead over closest rivals Real Madrid. Their recent form has seen them struggle massively though, with just two wins in their last five and this past weekend they suffered their first home defeat of the season courtesy of Levante.

Chelsea on the other hand have struggled this season and replaced manager Frank Lampard with Thomas Tuchel in January. Since his appointment the Blues had won five in a row and conceded just one goal prior to this weekend, before they were held to a 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Both teams have suffered with injuries and COVID-19 problems during the season so far. The west London side were without Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi at different points of the season while Atletico’s breakout has seen them contend with the absence of the likes of Joao Felix, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar and Moussa Dembele.

Atletico de Madrid v Levante UD - La Liga Santander : News Photo

Despite that though, it’s injuries that have hampered Simeone’s side in recent weeks. Defensively they are without Jose Maria Gimenez, Kieran Trippier (suspension), Sime Vrsaljko, Yannick Carrasco and Hector Herrera which has seen them become more open despite their switch to a 3-5-2 system this season.

The incredible form of Marcos Llorente further forward started at this stage of the competition last year when he scored against Liverpool at Anfield, but he is likely to be used as a wing-back in this game because of the injuries which softens them up going forward too. Luis Suarez has been clinical this season, but his lack of physicality owing to his age means he’s often in and out of games rather than bossing them like he was once able to.

Chelsea’s lack of cutting edge going forward could prove costly. There is arguably no better time to face Atletico than right now but with Tuchel’s side struggling to create clear-cut chances despite keeping the ball for the large majority of games, whether they can take advantage of Atleti’s problems is up for debate.

Both teams will line up with three at the back but Simeone’s side will be content to let Chelsea have the ball. They will rely extensively on the attacking output of Suarez and Felix, while Angel Correa’s pace could also be used to help on the counter attack.

It should be an intriguing tactical clash between two of the more meticulous managers in the game but considering one has been at their club for much longer and has implemented their ideas more I think this tie will go the Spanish side’s way.

Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League : News Photo

Defensively we’ve seen the level they can reach, especially when motivated, and they will be keen to do what they can to win a maiden Champions League trophy this season. We still don’t know how good Chelsea can be going forward under Tuchel and that just means it’s hard to pick them in this tie.

The fact that Atletico’s home leg isn’t in Spain could work against them, but no fans means it’s less of a blow than it would normally be. Despite that, I expect a tight first leg that Atleti nick with a typical dogged display. The second leg will be more open but I think they should have some injured players back by then and at full strength they’re too much for the Blues and should progress.

PREDICTIONS:
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Chelsea
Chelsea 1-1 Atletico Madrid
(Atletico Madrid to progress 2-1 on aggregate)