Kane bags three as Spurs cruise home

The score was 3-0. Harry Kane had two goals already when he found Dele Alli on the edge of the area. Alli, one of the most exciting players unearthed in England for years, received the ball and stopped, leaving the defenders who now crowded around him in limbo. From a standing start he lifted it over all of them, finding Kane with pinpoint accuracy. All Kane had to do was get a boot on it and allow it to trickle in. Ben Foster, in the West Brom goal, half-stuck out a leg to stop it. He had performed admirably, but now he had given up.

It would be hard to find anyone who could blame him. West Brom had started the match against Tottenham Hotspur hopeful of a good result, but in the end they were extremely lucky that they only lost 4-0. From the word go, Spurs played as if there was no opposition, dominating possession and cutting through West Brom’s stacked defence with almost contemptuous ease. Kane nearly scored in the first five minutes, getting on the end of a brilliant cross from Danny Rose and almost directing it into the bottom corner.

A few minutes later they were ahead, with Kane finishing after a brilliant pass from Christian Eriksen. He controlled it at close quarters before slotting it into the top corner, past a sliding Jonas Olsson and a diving Foster. Spurs had the lead, and they needed to stay in control.

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Collision: Jonas Olsson (right) attempts to block Kyle Walker’s attempt at a volley.

Things only got worse for West Brom after Spurs opened the scoring. The hosts were brimming with confidence, and they continued to hold the ball and sustain the pressure. Salomon Rondon, West Brom’s sole striker, was so isolated he may as well have celebrated every time he actually touched the ball. Worse still, he probably had the time. Meanwhile, Kane was in everything as Spurs forced a string of corners. Once he was tripped by Olsson as the long-haired Swede looked to hold him back at a corner. Referee Anthony Taylor called nothing. Kane had a chance when Victor Wanyama put a dangerous ball into the box, but Foster managed to deny him.

That the second goal was adjudged to be an own goal should take nothing away from Spurs. It started with Danny Rose, who beat a couple on the break before giving it to Eriksen. Both continued moving forward, and after Kyle Walker put in an excellent pass both Rose and Eriksen touched the ball before Eriksen’s shot was deflected past Foster by McAuley, the Northern Irishman who could not take a trick. Later on in the piece, he was clearly tripped by Walker, and when he complained to the assistant he was booked for dissent. It was that kind of day.

Kane, Alli and Eriksen, however, could do no wrong. Shortly after Spurs doubled their lead came the biggest disappointment of the match, when Alli had a goal disallowed for offside. Eriksen lifted it over the top, and Alli’s touch was sublime as he diverted it past Foster with the side of his boot. Unfortunately, it didn’t count for anything, but it still summed up the first half-hour perfectly.

Kane would have a couple more chances in the first half, but he was still yet to add to his first goal as the sides went to the break, West Brom down 2-0 and completely and utterly beaten. Tony Pulis made some changes at half-time, and they came out much improved, but things changed very little. Even with a bit more possession, their best chance of the game came when Darren Fletcher was presented with an open goal. An open goal from just inside halfway, that is.

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Too easy: Harry Kane (front) scores his third goal as Craig Dawson desperately tries to stop him.

Soon Spurs had worked out the change in shape, and they were back to their old ways. Alli was denied a penalty when he was pushed by Craig Dawson, and suddenly the chances were coming again. One Eriksen corner drew shots from Kane, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, and forced two great saves from Foster. Then Kane turned Olsson after an incredible display of skill from Alli, and Foster was forced into another brilliant stop.

Every time Spurs had the ball they looked as if they would score, such was their assurance in how they went about their business. Kane was fouled by Olsson as he looked to break through, a foul which may have drawn a red card if it had occurred closer to goal. Wanyama forced a great save from Foster, before Kane slotted his second.

Once again, it was Alli who started it, playing a long ball down the right wing which Walker pursued with vigour. McAuley got there first but was hurried off the ball, allowing Walker to put the ball in for Kane. Foster had inexplicably come off his line, and he was nowhere near it. Finally, the result was beyond all doubt.

Kane added his third shortly after, and received a much-deserved ovation as he left the game in the ninetieth minute, replaced by Son Heung-min. For Spurs, they put in a performance worthy of the title contenders that they are, and seem to be finding their feet as the end of the season creeps upon us.

London – White Hart Lane
Tottenham Hotspur 4 (Kane 12, 77, 82, McAuley 26 og)
West Bromwich Albion 0
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-2-1): Lloris – Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Davies 64); Walker, Wanyama, Dembele (Winks 83), Rose; Eriksen, Alli; Kane (Son 90).
West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Foster – Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt (McClean 54); Fletcher, Yacob; Chadli (Robson-Kanu 62), Morrison, Phillips (Field 90); Rondon.

Top 5
1. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Kane was everywhere from start to finish, bagging a hat-trick and allowing Spurs to ram home their early dominance with his excellent finishing. He combined brilliantly with Eriksen and Alli, and he fully deserved the standing ovation he received when leaving the field.
2. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Eriksen was in top form throughout, directing everything and creating huge problems for West Brom with his skill and vision. He was unlucky not to be credited with Tottenham’s second goal, and he will be looking to keep up his excellent form in weeks to come.
3. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Alli was on top of his game, showing incredible skill and setting up Kane’s third goal with a brilliant lofted pass. He had a beautiful finish disallowed for offside, and his combination with Kane and Eriksen was a key part of Tottenham’s success.
4. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Walker was excellent as a right wing-back, taking Matt Phillips out of the game and pressing forward to open up the midfield for Spurs. He assisted the third goal with an excellent cross, and his energy in both attack and defence was outstanding.
5. Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)
Foster was the main reason West Brom only lost 4-0, making a string of brilliant saves and keeping the lead at 2-0 for most of the match. He conceded a couple of goals at the end, but in a game where the presence of most of his teammates was non-existent he can hold his head high.

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2016-17 Premier League Preview – The Contenders

The Premier League season is fast approaching, and as clubs look around frantically to improve their squads I am going to assess how they are shaping up before the new season. This season promises to provide plenty of excitement, and after Leicester City’s historic title win last season the field is more open than ever. In the days leading up to the start of the season I will be looking at all twenty teams in depth, beginning with those sides who I think are in the hunt for the title. Enjoy.

Arsenal

Manager: Arsene Wenger
Captain: Laurent Koscielny
Ground: Emirates Stadium
Last Season: 2nd
Top Scorer: Olivier Giroud (16)
Most Assists: Mesut Ozil (19)
Prediction: 4th

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Wojciech Szczesny, 13. David Ospina, 26. Emiliano Martinez, 33. Petr Cech.
Defenders: 2. Mathieu Debuchy, 3. Kieran Gibbs, 4. Per Mertesacker, 5. Gabriel Paulista, 6. Laurent Koscielny, 16. Rob Holding, 18. Nacho Monreal, 21. Calum Chambers, 24. Hector Bellerin, 25. Carl Jenkinson.
Midfielders: 8. Aaron Ramsey, 10. Jack Wilshere, 11. Mesut Ozil, 15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 17. Alex Iwobi, 19. Santi Cazorla, 29. Granit Xhaka, 34. Francis Coquelin, 35. Mohamed Elneny.
Forwards: 7. Alexis Sanchez, 12. Olivier Giroud, 14. Theo Walcott, 22. Yaya Sanogo, 23. Danny Welbeck, 27. Serge Gnabry, 28. Joel Campbell, 32. Chuba Akpom, Takuma Asano.

Arsenal had a fairly strong season last time around, but while they did finish second they never really looked like mounting a serious challenge for the title. Not much has changed since, with Arsene Wenger staying fairly quiet in the transfer market. Granit Xhaka has been brought in from Borussia Monchengladbach, and he will be one of the leading candidates to match up with Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil (pictured) at the heart of a very strong midfield. Up front, Wenger is looking to add another striker, but Olivier Giroud’s strong form at Euro 2016 may convince him to stick with the French target man. Petr Cech has a very solid defence in front of him, and Arsenal are not likely to concede too many goals.

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The Gunners have a strong all round team and could lift the trophy come the end of the season, but they have not changed much and they may struggle to keep up. They have consistently finished in the top four over a prolonged period of time, and while they maintain a constant presence in the Champions League they have not really looked like lifting any silverware besides their two recent FA Cup wins. Ultimately, winning the title is not something which they expect to do anymore, and as such the big changes which would be required to match the biggest clubs are not being made. Arsenal will definitely be around the top of the table at the end of the season, but a title win looks highly unlikely.

Star Player: Mesut Ozil

Ozil is at the centre of Arsenal’s team, providing plenty of chances for the strikers with his ability to put good balls in behind the defence. The German star led the Premier League for assists last season, and he was just one short of breaking the Premier League record for most assists in a single campaign. He can also hit the scoreboard himself, and his brilliance in attack will prove crucial as Arsenal look to contend for the title once more.

Key Player: Laurent Koscielny

With Per Mertesacker out for five months it will be up to new captain Koscielny to be the rock at the heart of the defence alongside Gabriel Paulista, who is still relatively inexperienced. He has been in good form, and if that does not continue in the early stages of the season Arsenal could have some major problems down the track.

One to Watch: Hector Bellerin

Bellerin is still only 21, but he has firmly set himself at right back in Arsene Wenger’s team. He has incredible pace and he was the only Arsenal player named in the Premier League team of the season at the end of last campaign. He was left on the bench by Vincente del Bosque at Euro 2016, but he has plenty of potential and should develop further this season.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Cech – Bellerin, Koscielny, Paulista, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka; Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.

Chelsea

Manager: Antonio Conte
Captain: John Terry
Ground: Stamford Bridge
Last Season: 10th
Top Scorer: Diego Costa (12)
Most Assists: Cesc Fabregas (7)
Prediction: 5th

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Asmir Begovic, 13. Thibaut Courtois, 27. Jamal Blackman, Bradley Collins.
Defenders: 2. Branislav Ivanovic, 3. Papy Djilobodji, 5. Kurt Zouma, 6. Baba Rahman, 20. Matt Miazga, 24. Gary Cahill, 26. John Terry, 28. Cesar Azpilicueta, 30. Michael Hector, 34. Ola Aina, 37. Jake Clarke-Salter, 39. Fankaty Dabo, 43. Fiyako Tomori, Todd Kane, Kenneth Omeruo, Alex Davey.
Midfielders: 4. Cesc Fabregas, 7. N’Golo Kante, 8. Oscar, 10. Eden Hazard, 11. Pedro, 12. John Obi Mikel, 15. Victor Moses, 16. Kenedy, 17. Juan Cuadrado, 21. Nemanja Matic, 22. Willian, 29. Nathaniel Chalobah, 31. Christian Atsu, 33. Cristian Cuevas, 36. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 41. Charlie Colkett, Danilo Pantic, Isaiah Brown, Jordan Houghton, Lucas Piazon, Marco van Ginkel, Mario Pasalic, Marko Marin.
Forwards: 14. Bertrand Traore, 18. Loic Remy, 19. Diego Costa, 23. Michy Batshuayi, 42. Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke, Patrick Bamford, Islam Feruz.

After the high of a title win in 2014-15 Chelsea crashed back down to earth in a spectacular manner last season. Jose Mourinho was sacked after a shocking run of results in the first half of the season, and Guus Hiddinck was only able to get them as high as ninth place. Antonio Conte has come in to replace Hiddinck as manager, and the former Italian coach has already set about making his mark on the team. Michy Batshuayi has come in from Marseille, and the midfield has been bolstered by the signing of N’Golo Kante from title winners Leicester City. Conte has one of the best tactical brains in world football, and he is likely to use his trademark 3-5-2 formation with his new side. The formation will give Chelsea a massive defensive boost, and it should give Conte plenty of opportunities to use the squad depth he has at his disposal.

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While the arrival of Conte is sure to boost Chelsea’s chances of lifting the title, they will need plenty of improvement across the board. Thibaut Courtois will be looking to show the form he showed at the Euros, and the defence will need to lift in order to protect him. Eden Hazard (pictured) was incredibly disappointing last season, and if Chelsea are to win everything they will need him to regain his best form. Diego Costa is likely to retain his place up front despite an average season, and he will be looking to lift. If these players show some dramatic improvement then Chelsea will be very tough to beat, but there is no guarantee that this lift will occur. Conte is likely to need some time to adjust to his new surroundings, and another title is highly unlikely.

Star Player: Eden Hazard

Hazard has incredible technical ability, and when he is at his best he is incredible to watch. He can tear a team apart with his ability to dribble past defenders, and he is one of the top players in the Premier League when he is on his game. He struggled last season, and Chelsea fans will be hoping he can regain his touch.

Key Player: Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas was trained in the Barcelona academy, and his ability to distribute the ball from the centre of midfield is exceptional. He creates plenty of chances for the strikers, and while Conte will be looking for him to do this he will also be looking for more defensive solidity. Fabregas is the team’s main link between defence and attack, and Chelsea need him to be in top form.

One to watch: Kurt Zouma

Zouma moved to Chelsea from Saint-Etienne in 2014, and he will be groomed over the course of the season as a replacement for John Terry, who is approaching retirement. He may take Branislav Ivanovic’s place in the heart of defence as Conte looks to revert to a back three, and while he is unlikely to be a regular starter he is sure to get an excellent chance in the first team.

Likely team (3-5-2): Courtois – Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry; Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Kante, Willian, Hazard; Costa, Batshuayi.

Leicester City

Manager: Claudio Ranieri
Captain: Wes Morgan
Ground: King Power Stadium
Last Season: 1st
Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (24)
Most Assists: Riyad Mahrez (11)
Prediction: 6th

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Kasper Schmeichel, 12. Ben Hamer, Ron-Robert Zieler.
Defenders: 2. Richie de Laet, 5. Wes Morgan, 6. Robert Huth, 15. Jeff Schlupp, 17. Danny Simpson, 18. Liam Moore, 27. Marcin Wasilewski, 28. Christian Fuchs, 29. Yohan Benalouane, 30. Ben Chilwell, Luis Hernandez.
Midfielders: 4. Danny Drinkwater, 8. Matty James, 10. Andy King, 11. Marc Albrighton, 13. Daniel Amartey, 22. Demarai Gray, 26. Riyad Mahrez, 33. Gokhan Inler, Hamza Choudhury, Nampalys Mendy.
Forwards: 9. Jamie Vardy, 16. Tom Lawrence, 20. Shinji Okazaki, 23. Leonardo Ulloa, Ahmed Musa.

To call Leicester City’s historic title win last season a miracle would be an understatement. Under the guidance of experienced Italian manager Claudio Ranieri the Foxes exceeded all expectations, starting the season at the top of the ladder and holding on despite the odds. They have kept many of their stars from last season with the exception of N’Golo Kante’s departure to Chelsea, and while they may still lose Riyad Mahrez (pictured) they should line up much the same come the start of the season. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth are very solid down back, and new recruit Luis Hernandez should provide excellent cover in the case of injury. Danny Drinkwater is solid in midfield, and Mahrez is likely to provide plenty of goals and assists as he did last season. Jamie Vardy has a great eye for goal, and he will be ably complemented up front by Shinji Okazaki and Ahmed Musa.

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Leicester have been fairly active in the transfer market over the break, but they have not really improved their side and could struggle to keep up with the bigger clubs. They may be Premier League champions, but Leicester are still a comparatively small club, and their chances of lifting the trophy again are incredibly slim. They are a good side and should stay in the hunt, but if Mahrez departs it would cause huge problems. Ranieri is an exceptionally smart coach and could take his team to another title, but it is highly unlikely to happen.

Star Player: Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez, like so many of his teammates, came out of nowhere last season to set the Premier League alight. He scored 17 goals and assisted 11, showing great skill as he led his team to the title. Now one of the most sought-after players in Europe, the Algerian winger is sure to be tightly marked as Leicester look to go back-to-back.

Key Player: Wes Morgan

Morgan has plenty of experience, having played over 350 times for Nottingham Forest and having won over 180 caps for Leicester. He is the captain and it will be his job to marshal the defence, ensuring that not much gets through. He was at the top of his game last season, and he will need to return to his best if Leicester are going to get anywhere this time around.

One to watch: Nampalys Mendy

Mendy may not be well-known in England, but he is a top quality midfielder and he is an ideal replacement for the departed Kante. He has drawn comparisons with Chelsea legend Claude Makelele, and he came very close to joining Manchester United before swapping Monaco for Nice. He is still young, but he has plenty of experience and should slot effortlessly into Leicester’s midfield.

Likely team (4-4-2): Schmeichel – Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Mendy, Musa; Vardy, Okazaki.

Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Ground: Etihad Stadium
Last Season: 4th
Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero (24)
Most Assists: David Silva (11)
Prediction: 2nd

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Joe Hart, 13. Willy Caballero, 45. Ian Lawlor, 54. Angus Gunn.
Defenders: 3. Bacary Sagna, 4. Vincent Kompany, 5. Pablo Zabaleta, 11. Aleksandar Kolarov, 20. Eliaquim Mangala, 22. Gael Clichy, 28. Jason Denayer, 30. Nicolas Otamendi, 50. Pablo Maffeo, 53. Tosin Adarabioyo, 69. Angelino.
Midfielders: 6. Fernando, 7. Raheem Sterling, 8. Samir Nasri, 15. Jesus Navas, 16. Ilkay Gundogan, 17. Kevin de Bruyne, 18. Fabian Delph, 21. David Silva, 25. Fernandinho, 35. Oleksandr Zinchenko, 36. Bruno Zuculini, 42. Yaya Toure, 59. Bersant Celina, 62. Brandon Barker, 75. Aleix Garcia.
Forwards: 9. Nolito, 10. Sergio Aguero, 14. Wilfried Bony, 72. Kelechi Iheanacho.

Manchester City were disappointing last season, barely scraping past Manchester United on goal difference to sneak into the Champions League. Manuel Pellegrini is gone, and former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has been drafted in to replace him. He has inherited an excellent squad who are more than capable of taking home the trophy, and new additions Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan should slot effortlessly into the first team. Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva will provide plenty of chances for Sergio Aguero (pictured) up front, and Yaya Toure will combine with Fernandinho and Gundogan to provide solidity in midfield. Aguero is a proven scorer at both club and international level, and he will cause plenty of problems for opposition defences.

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Manchester City have the attacking power to penetrate any defence in the league, but there are still some defensive problems. Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta are very strong players, but Guardiola is still in need of another centre back. Nicolas Otamendi is not young, and the idea of using Fernandinho as a defender may not work. Similar issues exist at left back, where neither Aleksandar Kolarov nor Gael Clichy are sustainable long term options. Joe Hart is an experienced keeper, but he is nowhere near the best in the Premier League and lets in a number of unnecessary goals. Manchester City are the best attacking side in the Premier League and will be in the hunt, but their defensive issues may prove costly.

Star Player: Sergio Aguero

Aguero is a goal machine, having scored 102 Premier League goals in 150 games since joining Manchester City in 2011. He has plenty of place and an incredible eye for goal, and he provides plenty of problems for defenders. If Manchester City are to win the title they will need him to perform, as it is his ability to score which keeps them in the hunt every season.

Key Player: Yaya Toure

Toure has developed into one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, and his ability to anchor the midfield while providing the occasional goal will be key as Manchester City look to push for the title. He has plenty of experience at the highest level, and Guardiola will be hoping he can step up to take Manchester City to the next level.

One to watch: Kelechi Iheanacho

Iheanacho’s first season in the Premier League was a massive success, with the 19 year-old Nigerian playing 26 league games and scoring 8 goals. He still only has one season of professional football under his belt, and he will only continue to improve as he looks to take on a greater role under Guardiola. He is an exciting prospect and he will be great to watch.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Hart – Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Kompany, Kolarov; Toure, Gundogan; Silva, de Bruyne, Nolito; Aguero.

Manchester United

Manager: Jose Mourinho
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Ground: Old Trafford
Last Season: 5th
Top Scorer: Anthony Martial (11)
Most Assists: Wayne Rooney (6)
Prediction: 1st

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. David de Gea, 20. Sergio Romero, 32. Sam Johnstone.
Defenders: 3. Eric Bailly, 4. Phil Jones, 5. Marcos Rojo, 12. Chris Smalling, 23. Luke Shaw, 33. Paddy McNair, 36. Matteo Darmian, 38. Axel Tuanzebe, 43. Cameron Borthwick-Johnson, Tyler Blackett.
Midfielders: 8. Juan Mata, 14. Jesse Lingard, 15. Adnan Januzaj, 16. Michael Carrick, 17. Daley Blind, 18. Ashley Young, 21. Ander Herrera, 22. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 24. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, 25. Antonio Valencia, 27. Marouane Fellaini, 28. Morgan Schneiderlin, 31. Bastian Schweinsteiger, 44. Andreas Pereira.
Forwards: 7. Memphis Depay, 9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 10. Wayne Rooney, 11. Anthony Martial, 19. Marcus Rashford, 48. Will Keane, James Wilson.

Manchester United were disappointing last season, finishing fifth in the league and exiting the Champions League in the group stage. Victory in the FA Cup was not enough to save Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho has come in to replace the Dutchman. He has added Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (pictured) over the off-season, and French midfielder Paul Pogba looks set to join the club for a world record fee. Mourinho is sure to add some much-needed solidity to the defence, and with the potency of Ibrahimovic and Anthony Martial in attack there will not be any shortage of goals. Mkhitaryan will provide plenty of chances for the strikers, and Mourinho has many good options in the centre of the park.

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Manchester United have some excellent players all over the park, but they do not have any obvious starters in defence. Chris Smalling has not been in the best of form recently, and Phil Jones is not necessarily the right option either. This uncertainty in defence is a serious problem, and it could leave David de Gea with plenty of work to do. Wayne Rooney is listed as captain, but with the new arrivals he is no longer good enough to command a place in the starting line-up. He has been playing in attacking midfield, but Mkhitaryan is a better player who will have a greater impact. This leaves Mourinho with a serious selection dilemma, one of many he could face over the course of the season. Even still, Manchester United have the quality to win the title, and if Mourinho gets it right they could be unstoppable.

Star Player: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan has been brought in from Borussia Dortmund, where he developed into one of the best playmakers in the world. He led the Bundesliga for assists last season, and he is able to find the back of the net as well. He has brilliant technical ability and he will open up plenty of space for the strikers with his pace and his effective passing.

Key Player: David de Gea

Manchester United were minutes away from losing de Gea at the start of last season, but a failure to hand in paperwork proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Red Devils. The Spanish keeper has since developed into one of the best in the Premier League, and if Manchester United are to overcome their defensive weaknesses he will need to be at his best.

One to watch: Marcus Rashford

Manchester United have many great prospects coming through, but none are as exciting as Rashford. He scored after just three minutes on his international debut, and made two substitute appearances for the English at Euro 2016. He is still only 18, and he is sure to make plenty of progress over the course of the season.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): de Gea – Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo; Herrera, Blind; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial; Ibrahimovic.

Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pocchettino
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Ground: White Hart Lane
Last Season: 3rd
Top Scorer: Harry Kane (25)
Most Assists: Christian Eriksen (13)
Prediction: 3rd

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Hugo Lloris, 13. Michel Vorm.
Defenders: 2. Kyle Walker, 3. Danny Rose, 4. Toby Alderweireld, 5. Jan Vertonghen, 16. Kieran Trippier, 21. Federico Fazio, 27. Kevin Wimmer, 32. DeAndre Yedlin, 33. Ben Davies.
Midfielders: 6. Nabil Bentaleb, 8. Ryan Mason, 11. Erik Lamela, 12. Victor Wanyama, 15. Eric Dier, 19. Mousa Dembele, 20. Dele Alli, 22. Nacer Chadli, 23. Christian Eriksen, 24. Alex Pritchard, 25. Josh Onomah, 28. Tom Carroll, 29. Harry Winks.
Forwards: 7. Son Heung-min, 9. Vincent Janssen, 10. Harry Kane, 14. Clinton N’Jie.

Tottenham exceeded all expectations last season, challenging for the title and only finishing third after a bad run of results late in the season. They unearthed new stars in Dele Alli and Eric Dier, and they have developed Harry Kane (pictured) into one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League. Vincent Janssen has been added to the squad from AZ Alkmaar after he netted 27 times in the Eredivisie, and the Dutch youngster is sure to provide plenty of excitement for Spurs fans. Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Alli are sure to create plenty of opportunities for the strikers, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is backed up by an excellent defence. Fullbacks Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were rare bright spots in England’s campaign at Euro 2016, and Belgian centre backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are sure to provide plenty of solidity.

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Tottenham have an excellent squad, but they are still very young and inexperienced. Alli, Kane and Dier have only burst onto the scene in recent times, and before Janssen’s explosion in the second half of last season he was virtually unknown. Vertonghen suffered an injury at the Euros, and he is in doubt for the early parts of the season. Dier is likely to move into defence to replace him, but he has been playing as a midfielder for some time now, and he may struggle to adjust. Spurs have a lot of players in their starting line-up who are not yet proven at the highest level, and some of their young stars could crash back down to earth over the course of this campaign.

Star Player: Harry Kane

Kane has become a scoring machine, scoring 49 goals in the last two Premier League seasons and breaking down defences with power and pace. He was disappointing at the Euros, but he is an incredibly consistent scorer and he is likely to return to form very quickly. He is a strong presence up front for Spurs, and he will require plenty of attention from opposition defences.

Key Player: Toby Alderweireld

Alderweireld is a key presence in the Tottenham defence, and he has formed an incredible combination with fellow Belgian international Vertonghen. He is very experienced at the highest level, and he is capable of filling any defensive holes that may appear. He was a constant presence last season, and he will need to ensure that not much gets through.

One to watch: Vincent Janssen

Janssen burst onto the scene over the second half of last season, becoming the first player in 52 years to score 20 Eredivisie goals after the winter break. He is still only 22, and while he may take some time to adjust to the improvement in opposition he has developed well and has the potential to be a massive success.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Alli; Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli; Kane.

UEFA Euro 2016 Preview – Group B

Group B

Teams (world ranking in brackets): England (11), Russia (29), Wales (26), Slovakia (24)
Fixtures:
Wales vs Slovakia, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
England vs Russia, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Russia vs Slovakia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
England vs Wales, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
Slovakia vs England, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Russia vs Wales, Stadium Municipal, Toulouse

England

Head Coach: Roy Hodgson
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Previous Appearances: 8 (1968, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012)
Best Finish: Third Place (1968)
Qualified: 1st Group E
UEFA Euro 2012: Quarter-finals

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Joe Hart (Manchester City), 13. Fraser Forster (Southampton), 23. Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders:
2. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), 3. Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), 5. Gary Cahill (Chelsea), 6. Chris Smalling (Manchester United), 12. Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), 16. John Stones (Everton), 21. Ryan Bertrand (Southampton).
Midfielders:
4. James Milner (Liverpool), 7. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), 8. Adam Lallana (Liverpool), 14. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), 17. Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), 18. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), 19. Ross Barkley (Everton), 20. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur).
Forwards:
9. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), 10. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), 11. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), 15. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), 22. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

Form Guide

The English came out strongly after a disappointing World Cup campaign, and they were the only team to win all of their games in qualifying. They scored 31 goals in qualification, more than any other team, and only Romania conceded less goals throughout the campaign. The English have plenty of exciting new faces in their line-up and they are in exceptional form.

Strengths

The English have plenty of fresh faces in their side, and they have the potential to go a long way. Harry Kane is a star up front, and his combination with Jamie Vardy will be a source of great excitement for English fans. Joe Hart is solid in goal, and with Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill down back not much will get through. Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Jordan Henderson are just some of the exciting prospects that Roy Hodgson can call upon, and the English will be one of the sides to beat at the final tournament.

Weaknesses

The side is generally very young, and many of the players who have come into the side will not necessarily be used to the scrutiny they will receive from the English media. Hodgson’s side are carrying high expectations into the tournament after an excellent qualifying campaign, and the pressure that will be placed on them could prove too much. There is a general lack of experience in the middle that could be costly, especially with key player Jack Wilshere returning from a long-term injury which sidelined him for all but a few games of last season.

Star Player: Harry Kane

It is very tempting to write this section about Wayne Rooney, but Kane’s record in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons is incredible and he has developed into England’s premier scoring option. Only Sergio Aguero has scored more Premier League goals over the last two seasons, and he has the potential to set this tournament alight.

Key Player: Joe Hart

Hart is one of only three players in the squad with more than 50 international caps to his name, and he comes into this tournament firmly set as England’s first-choice keeper. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but if he is unable to play at his best then England could struggle in a group filled with dangerous attackers.

Verdict

The English are strong, and with fresh faces in Kane, Vardy and Alli they have the potential to go a very long way in this tournament. They had a flawless qualifying campaign, and as such expectations will be incredibly high, but if they can overcome the pressure then they have the team to do very well. If they are able to fire they should be around in the latter stages of the finals.

Russia

Head Coach: Leonid Slutskiy
Captain: Roman Shirokov
Previous Appearances: 4 (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012)
Best Finish: Semi-finals (2008)
Qualified: 2nd Group G
UEFA Euro 2012: Group Stage

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moskva), 12. Yuri Lodygin (Zenit), 16. Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moskva).
Defenders: 2. Roman Shishkin (Lokomotiv Moskva), 3. Igor Smolnikov (Zenit), 4. Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moskva), 5. Roman Neustaedter (Schalke), 6. Aleksei Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), 14. Vasili Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), 21. Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moskva).
Midfielders: 7. Igor Denisov (Zenit), 8. Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moskva), 11. Pavel Mamaev (Krasnodar), 13. Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moskva), 15. Roman Shirokov (Zenit), 17. Oleg Shatov (Zenit), 18. Oleg Ivanov (Terek Grozny), 19. Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moskva), 20. Dmitri Torbinski (Krasnodar), 23. Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moskva).
Forwards: 9. Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit), 10. Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar), 22. Artem Dzyuba (Zenit).

Form Guide

The Russians played well in qualifying, and despite two narrow losses to Austria they still managed to hold off a strong Swedish side to qualify automatically. They conceded just five goals throughout the campaign, and with eight goals from Artem Dzyuba their attack was very potent, netting a total of 21 goals throughout their campaign.

Strengths

The defence is full of experience, and the solidity provided by Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski mean that the Russians will be very hard to score against. Igor Akinfeev has plenty of experience in goal, and the midfield will be extremely strong. Roman Shirokov is an excellent player, and with Igor Denisov and Denis Glushakov patrolling the centre the Russians will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for Dzyuba and Aleksandr Kokorin up front. The Russians have a strong side, and they have the potential to go very far in this tournament.

Weaknesses

Dzyuba was prolific in qualifying, but half of his goals came in one match against Liechtenstein, and he cannot necessarily be relied upon again at the final tournament. More worryingly, only one of those goals came against a team who have actually qualified for this tournament, netting seven times against Moldova and Liechtenstein. There is a general lack of depth throughout the squad, and an injury to either Vasili Berezutski or Ignashevich could be a huge problem, as the replacements are not necessarily there.

Star Player: Roman Shirokov

Shirokov is the captain of the side and is the rock in the centre of midfield. He is very solid defensively, having been deployed as a centre back early on in his international career, and he has the ability to chip in with the occasional goal as well. He is a quality player, and his absence at the World Cup in 2014 was a huge blow to Russia’s chances.

Key Player: Aleksandr Kokorin

Kokorin is only 25, but he already has 11 international goals to his name with one in the World Cup. While Dzyuba was their top scorer in qualifying, Kokorin scored some very important goals, and he has stood up in these pressure situations before. These big game goals will likely be crucial to Russian success, and if he cannot find the net Russia will struggle.

Verdict

The Russians are a very strong side, and with a solid defence and consistent midfield they will certainly be a force to be reckoned with at the final tournament. They have the potency up front to succeed, and while there is a question as to Dzyuba’s ability against the top sides but they still have the ability to go a long way in this tournament.

Wales

Head Coach: Chris Coleman
Captain: Ashley Williams
Previous Appearances: None
Best Finish: N/A
Qualified: 2nd Group B
UEFA Euro 2012: Did not qualify

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), 12. Owain Williams (Inverness), 21. Danny Ward (Liverpool).
Defenders:
2. Chris Gunter (Reading), 3. Neil Taylor (Swansea City), 4. Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), 5. James Chester (West Bromwich Albion), 6. Ashley Williams (Swansea City), 15. Ashley Richards (Fulham), 19. James Collins (West Ham United).
Midfielders:
7. Joe Allen (Liverpool), 8. Andy King (Leicester City), 10. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), 14. David Edwards (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 16. Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), 20. Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), 22. David Vaughan (Nottingham Forest).
Forwards:
9. Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), 11. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), 13. George Williams (Fulham), 17. David Cotterill (Birmingham City), 18. Sam Vokes (Burnley), 23. Simon Church (Milton Keynes Dons).

Form Guide

The Welsh did not blow their opposition away in qualifying, but they were solid and Gareth Bale ensured that plenty of goals were scored. They toppled Belgium 1-0, and they sealed qualification with a couple of games to spare with a 0-0 draw against Israel in Cardiff. The Welsh have undergone some excellent improvement over the last few years, and they are well-placed to make an impact.

Strengths

Bale and Aaron Ramsey are both world-class players with plenty of experience. They both have an ability to find the scoreboard as well, and Bale’s seven goals in qualifying were crucial to the success of the team. Ashley Williams is a quality defender and on-field leader, and he marshals a defence which conceded just four times throughout the qualifying campaign. Ramsey, Joe Allen and Joe Ledley are all excellent players, and they are solid in the centre of midfield. Many of the players in the squad have Premier League experience, and the pressure should not be too much.

Weaknesses

The Welsh were frugal in defence during qualifying, but they were unable to hurt teams going the other way. In 10 games they only bagged 11 goals, and with Bale and Ramsey combining for 9 of those not many players contributed. Sam Vokes, Simon Church and Hal Robson-Kanu are all options, but these players are not very experienced at the highest level and may struggle at the final tournament. The result of this is a dependence on Bale which could well prove problematic if the Real Madrid star fails to fire.

Star Player: Gareth Bale

Bale became the most expensive player ever when he transferred from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for around 100 million pounds. He is the best player Wales have, and his experience of playing in the Champions League with Real will serve him well at the final tournament. He bagged over half of Wales’ goals in qualifying, and he will make life very difficult for opposing defences.

Key Player: Wayne Hennessey

Hennessey has plenty of experience at the highest level, coming from six seasons in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and Wolves. He has been capped 56 times by the Welsh, and his experience in goal will be relied upon at the final tournament. If he fails to perform then it will be exceptionally difficult for the Welsh to win games and progress.

Verdict

Wales have a fairly strong side, and the combination of Bale and Ramsey will be a nightmare for their opponents. While there are some problems in attack Williams will take control of a defence that proved impenetrable during qualifying. The Welsh have the ability to go far in this tournament, but the key will be finding some quality support for Bale, who is currently the only scoring option.

Slovakia

Head Coach: Jan Kozak
Captain: Martin Skrtel
Previous Appearances: None
Best Finish: N/A
Qualified: 2nd Group C
UEFA Euro 2012: Did not qualify

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Jan Mucha (Slovan Bratislava), 12. Jan Novota (Rapid Wien), 23. Matus Kozacik (Viktoria Plzen).
Defenders:
2. Peter Pekarik (Hertha Berlin), 3. Martin Skrtel (Liverpool), 4. Jan Durica (Lokomotiv Moskva), 5. Norbert Gyomber (Roma), 14. Milan Skriniar (Sampdoria), 15. Tomas Hubocan (Dinamo Moskva), 16. Kornel Salata (Slovan Bratislava), 18. Dusan Svento (Koln).
Midfielders:
6. Jan Gregus (Jablonec), 7. Vladimir Weiss (Al-Gharafa), 8. Ondrej Duda (Legia Warsaw), 9. Stanislav Sestak (Ferencvaros), 10. Miroslav Stoch (Bursaspor), 13. Patrik Hrosovsky (Viktoria Plzen), 17. Marek Hamsik (Napoli), 19. Juraj Kucka (Milan), 20. Robert Mak (PAOK), 22. Viktor Pecovsky (Zilina).
Forwards:
11. Adam Nemec (Willem II), 21. Michal Duris (Viktoria Plzen).

Form Guide

Slovakia began their qualification campaign in brilliant form, beating reigning European champions Spain 2-1 and winning their first six games before limping over the line with losses to Spain and Belarus and a scoreless draw against Ukraine. They managed to take automatic qualification in the last game after two Marek Hamsik goals gave them a 4-2 win in Luxembourg.

Strengths

With Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Peter Pekarik and Tomas Hubocan down back Slovakia have a back four with over 250 games worth of international experience. Throw goalkeeper Jan Mucha into the mix and Slovakia have a very solid defensive front. They don’t lack bite at the other end either, with Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss, Stanislav Sestak and Miroslav Stoch ensuring that plenty of chances will be created. Overall, Slovakia have plenty of experience, and their appearance at the World Cup in 2010 can only help.

Weaknesses

While the midfield and defence are solid, there are some issues up front. Hamsik was the top scorer in qualifying, and while Adam Nemec pitched in with three goals a vast majority of the goals were scored by individual midfielders going forward. When the Slovak side reached the round of 16 at the World Cup many of the current crop of players were still there, but these players are no longer in their prime and many have not played at that level since. With the exception of Hamsik and Skrtel almost none of the players are at big clubs, and there is generally a large gap in quality between Slovakia and their rivals.

Star Player: Marek Hamsik

Hamsik has made over 300 appearances for Napoli, and he is now the captain of the club. He is the highest quality player that Slovakia have, and while his versatility makes him particularly appealing he will play in attacking midfield, where he will probably serve as the team’s number one scoring option.

Key Player: Martin Skrtel

Skrtel has been at Liverpool since 2008, and in that time he has established himself as a very solid centre back. He is the captain of the side, and he will be relied upon not only for his defence but also for his leadership. While he cannot be expected to contribute to the scoresheet he is a first-class defender, and if he has a good tournament many other pieces will fall into place.

Verdict

Slovakia have some issues in attack, but they have a solid base and if Hamsik is able to perform goals should not be an issue. The side has plenty of experience, and they will know that if they play like they did in the World Cup they can succeed. While there is plenty of potential the team is relatively inexperienced at this level and they could face a struggle.

Prediction

The English are looking excellent going into the tournament, and they should be able to breeze through the group without much trouble. The other three teams will probably face an interesting battle, and the Welsh should go through thanks to their solidity down back and the boost provided by Gareth Bale. Russia may struggle to score as their attack is the weakest in the group.
1. England, 2. Wales, 3. Slovakia, 4. Russia.