Daily Star

Chelsea can have their Phil


WHO have been the top Premier League performers this season?

The indication­s are that at some point in the coming months this campaign will be played to a conclusion, with the champions to be crowned, European qualificat­ion to be earned and relegation decided.

But with football suspended until April 30 at least, it seems the ideal opportunit­y to highlight the most influentia­l stars of the season so far, and then whittle them down into a team of the season.

So I have tried to thrown in some curve balls. I want to pick a team of players who I feel have contribute­d to their clubs and are at the top of their game.

The influencer­s who have not just put their side in touch with winning honours, but players who have helped their team rise to new heights, or saved them from a relegation battle.

That said, there are plenty of Anfield superstars in there, as well as representa­tives from Leicester, Sheffield United, Watford, Manchester City and even Crystal Palace.

Here’s my top three keepers and top 10 defenders. The midfielder­s, strikers and my team of the season will be revealed later this week.

He is top dog. He missed 10 weeks through injury but the difference from when he is in the team to when he is not is scary. How much more secure do Liverpool look when the Brazilian is playing? He stops one v ones, he’s commanding in the box, his distributi­on is class. He’s got the lot. The whole back four settle down when he’s there.

Ben is in purely in terms of consistenc­y. I can only count on one mistake he made for Watford – at Manchester United – this season. He performs better at a place like Watford, in that type of environmen­t. Rather than having high pressure and

expectancy every minute of the day, he is better in their environmen­t. The fans love him, players respect him. He’s getting better by the year.

He is the best right-back in the world right now. He has to be. Everyone tries to throw shade on him because of his defensive abilities, and he is not Aaron Wan-bissaka. But naming the greatest rightbacks, they are people like Cafu, Zanetti, Dani Alves. All players that were hugely creative. Trent is exactly the same. He dictates a game of football from right-back. It is kind of unheard of in terms of Premier League football.

Again, it has been a better season from him. I am loving his increased arrogance. He’s understand­ing he is the best in the world at such a young age, which is unbelievab­le.

He’s in because you thought Liverpool’s defence last season, with Joel Matip in, was their settled back four. Gomez looked miles off last year after recovering from injury. But since getting in, he has been as calm as Van Dijk – and as good as him at times. He’s good on the ball, quick, strong. He’s the first centrehalf I’d pick for England.

He has had his best season in a City shirt. I think Pep Guardiola earmarked him to be eased out. Last season the rumours were Pep wasn’t happy with him. Kyle will take that stuff personally. And he needs that. That can drive players on. Not the hate, but the competitio­n. The minute they brought Joao Cancelo, Kyle went ‘no, no, no’.

This is one of the best bit of businesses in football history, to sell Harry Maguire for £80m and replace him with this guy. It was about taming him. He was reliant on his pace and power and could make silly errors. He doesn’t dive in as much now, wins his headers and is absolutely solid. I am not seeing much of a difference between him and Maguire, who I’m a fan of.

Eyebrows were raised when he joined Palace, but he was the perfect signing for Roy Hodgson and his pragmatic style. He has bodies around him and that’s made him a better player. He is still one of the best in the league. He has improved the defence 100 per cent, including the mentality.





PHILIPPE COUTINHO has been offered to Chelsea as Barcelona look to cash in on their £142m flop.

But the Blues would only want him on loan, with other targets taking a priority.

Chelsea tried hard to sign Coutinho from Liverpool before his move to Spain in January 2018. But they have cooled their interest following the 27-year-old’s nightmare spell at Barca.

Coutinho was loaned out to Bayern Munich this season and his form picked up slightly with nine goals and eight assists in 32 appearance­s. But Bayern have decided not to exercise their purchase option.

Chelsea have not ruled out Coutinho but are focused on other targets, including Borussia Dortmund’s £100m-rated Jadon Sancho.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini has told Chelsea misfit Emerson he wants the full-back to return to Serie A for the sake of his internatio­nal career.

Emerson, 25, has been unable to establish himself as a first-team regular since moving to Chelsea from Roma in January 2018.

The Blues are looking at Leicester’s Ben Chilwell or Benfica’s Alejandro Grimaldo as a possible replacemen­t.

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 ??  ?? FLOP: Coutinho
FLOP: Coutinho

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