‘No one comes close’ – Jamie Redknapp names his Premier League player of the season Advertisement Jamie Redknapp’s six-man shortlist 1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)3. David Silva (Manchester City)4. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)6. Harry Kane (Tottenham) Metro Sport ReporterSunday 3 Feb 2019 11:50 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link2.3kShares Virgil van Dijk has helped Liverpool climb to the top of the table (Picture: Getty)‘Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kane — Salah’s golden boot rivals — also have to be included.‘Aubameyang has been prolific in an Arsenal team who have struggled for creativity while Kane remains Spurs’ most important player.‘His goals have been worth six points to Spurs — more than any player — and his late strikes against PSV salvaged their Champions League campaign.‘At Manchester City, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva have all enjoyed excellent seasons but I would argue that David Silva should be on the shortlist.More: FootballBruno Fernandes responds to Man Utd bust-up rumours with Ole Gunnar SolskjaerNew Manchester United signing Facundo Pellistri responds to Edinson Cavani praiseArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira moves‘Now 33 and without Kevin De Bruyne alongside him for most of the campaign, he has been the heartbeat of Pep Guardiola’s side.‘Chelsea may have blown hot and cold, but you cannot discount Eden Hazard. He is our league’s most naturally talented player and is in double figures for goals and assists.‘With this award, timing is everything. This time last year De Bruyne was the clear favourite, only for Salah to storm into the running. But looking at the season so far, these six are the outstanding candidates.’Premier League leaders Liverpool face West Ham at the London Stadium on Monday evening.MORE: Jamie Carragher slams Shkodran Mustafi after Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester City Comment Advertisement Jamie Redknapp has named his stand-out players of the season (Picture: Getty)Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is on course to be crowned the Premier League player of the year, according to Jamie Redknapp.Netherlands international Van Dijk has played a huge role in helping Liverpool climb to the top of the table this season.Before last weekend’s 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace, Liverpool had conceded just nine goals in the league.Redknapp says ‘no one comes close’ to Van Dijk, although the former England international suggested five other players in with a shot of ending the season as player of the year.ADVERTISEMENTMore: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man City‘No one comes close to Virgil van Dijk,’ Redknapp told the Daily Mail.AdvertisementAdvertisement‘He has transformed Liverpool into a rock-solid team who are favourites to win their first league title for 29 years.‘His team-mate and reigning player of the year Mo Salah must fancy his chances of defending the crown.‘He has followed up a record-breaking first season at Anfield by topping the scoring charts with 16 goals.
Yet, the pace offered by Bale and Marco Asensio, who has scored in his last three matches against Barca, could prove decisive in the second-half.Ronaldo and Suarez back in formBetween them Ronaldo and Barca’s Luis Suarez had a pitiful return of a combined four goals in La Liga until mid-November as age appeared to be taking hold of both now in their 30s.However, Ronaldo and Suarez now look like their old selves to add plenty more firepower to a fixture never short on goals.Ronaldo has eight in his last seven games, including the winner in the Club World Cup final last weekend.Suarez, meanwhile is now La Liga’s joint third highest scorer thanks to six in his last five league games.Is Barca’s new defence for real?Ernesto Valverde’s version of Barca may lack the same spark as those coached by Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique over the past decade, but the results are just as good thanks to an exceptionally mean defence backed up by the brilliance of Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.Valverde’s men have kept 17 clean sheets and conceded only eight goals in total on their 24-game unbeaten run.The real test, though, comes at the Bernabeu, especially with Thomas Vermaelen expected to deputise for the injured Samuel Umtiti at centre-back.Barca have kept just one clean sheet against Madrid in their last 24 meetings.Brazilian brute forceOf all the stars on show, Brazilian international duo Casemiro and Paulinho may not be the most pleasing on the eye but both bring a physical edge to the midfield battle that make them vital components to their respective sides.Casemiro is Madrid’s destroyer who creates the platform for Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Isco to create.However, he will have to keep a close eye on his compatriot, whose ability to time his runs into the opposition area has seen him register six goals in 15 La Liga appearances and quickly quieten the critics who questioned his 40 million euro signing from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande.Share on: WhatsApp Madrid, Spain | AFP | Real Madrid realistically need to end Barcelona’s 24-match unbeaten run to maintain hopes of retaining their La Liga title when Spanish football’s two behemoths meet in El Clasico on Saturday (1200GMT).Barca lead fourth-placed Madrid by 11 points at the top of the table, albeit Real do have a game in hand.However, it was at the Santiago Bernabeu that Barca last tasted defeat in August as Real cruised to a 5-1 aggregate win in the Spanish Super Cup.Here, AFP Sports looks at five keys to deciding who will end the year victorious.Messi-Alba connectionBarca have overcome Neymar’s departure with relative ease thanks to left-back Jordi Alba’s return to form, in large part caused by the Brazilian’s absence on the left side of Barca’s attack.“I have a lot more room to go forward and in all honesty for me it is much better,” admitted the Spanish international.Lionel Messi has also benefited with three of Alba’s six assists this season setting up the Argentine.The Alba-Messi connection also gave Barca a famous 3-2 win as Messi scored with the last kick of the ball at the Bernabeu in April when Neymar was suspended.Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal has played just five games since September due to a long-term virus and a lack of cover offered by Madrid’s narrow four-man midfield could give Alba plenty of space to exploit.‘BBC’ finally fit to return?Madrid’s famed ‘BBC’ front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have yet to play a single minute of action together this season, largely due to Bale’s injury problems.However, the Welshman scored on his return to action to help Real win the Club World Cup last week leaving Zinedine Zidane spoilt for choice with his starting line-up.Zidane is expected to stay loyal to the side that started the Champions League final in May with Bale only featuring from the bench.
In this May 25, 1965 file photo, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/John Rooney, File)“I don’t have to be what you want me to be,” Ali is shown telling reporters the morning after his first fight with Sonny Liston in 1964, when he announced to the world he was a follower of the Nation of Islam.Boxing fans were already wary of his involvement with the Black Muslim movement, but he became a pariah to even more when he refused induction to the Army at the height of the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, famously saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.”Banned from boxing and facing five years in prison, he spent three prime fighting years on the sideline while the courts debated what to do with him. Once the heavyweight champion of the world, he became a speaker on college campuses to make a living and keep his cause before the public.“You’re talking about a man being hit with the war situation and taking a stand along with his involvement with the Nation of Islam. It was new turf,” said Khalilah Camacho-Ali, his wife at the time, who is interviewed in the film. “He was comfortable making his decisions, but the thing that was hard to bear was whether he would fight again. It didn’t look like a hopeful battle.”Ali would eventually win the battle, and go on to not only regain the heavyweight title but become the most famous athlete of his time. The U.S. Supreme Court finally took up his case and reversed his conviction on a technicality in 1971 in a decision that surprised some considering the tenor of the times.The decision itself is also the subject of a drama that airs Saturday night on HBO. “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” uses actors including Christopher Plummer, Ed Begley, Jr. and Peter Gerety to play Supreme Court justices, but Ali himself is taken from the clips of the era at his oratorical best.“Why tell his story when he tells it himself?” said Shawn Slovo, the movie’s writer.But tell a story the HBO movie does, though some liberties are taken for entertainment’s sake. Among them are the justices being shown at one point gathering in the basement of the Supreme Court building to watch sex movies for a case before them on pornography, and a clerk smoking marijuana in a court bathroom.It’s surprisingly engrossing, though, for a movie that revolves almost entirely around the legal process inside the court building. At the center of it is a clerk for Justice John Harlan II, who convinces him to switch his vote so that Ali’s conviction would be overturned on a technicality and he would not have to go to prison.The movie and the documentary aren’t related except that they both feature Ali. They do, however, share funny clips from when Ali — complete with big Afro and beard — is shown singing in the 1969 Broadway musical “Buck White.” A man had to make a living, but Ali’s days as an actor were numbered when the play closed after seven performances.Camacho-Ali, who was married to Ali from 1967-77, said she never gave up hope during her husband’s dark period that he would be allowed to fight again, though Ali himself had his doubts.“My frame of mind was more positive than his was and it helped keep him afloat,” she said. “The best thing for Ali at the time was to keep him focused on his family life. That’s all we had to work with.”Camacho-Ali hasn’t seen her former husband — now married to his fourth wife, Lonnie — since they both attended Joe Frazier’s funeral in 2011. But she still feels protective of Ali, who she had four children with, and believes the documentary is a way of educating people to the times they lived in and what they went through.“I’m tired of people giving the wrong information,” she said. “You’re talking about one of the most famous people in recent history. The facts should be correct.” This undated publicity photo provided by HBO shows Frank Langella, left, and Christopher Plummer in a scene from “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” directed by Stephen Frears. The drama about the Supreme Court decision on the boxer’s conscientious objector status, debuts Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, on HBO and stars Plummer, Langella and Benjamin Walker. (AP Photo/HBO, Jojo Whilden) In this June 19, 1967 file photo, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali has a “no comment” as he is confronted by newsmen as he leaves the Federal Building in Houston during a recess in his trial for refusing induction to the army. (AP Photo/Ed Kolenovsky, File)by Tim DahlbergAP Sports ColumnistHe is now so much a part of the nation’s social fabric that it’s hard to comprehend a time when Muhammad Ali was more reviled than revered.Barely past the opening credits of a new documentary about Ali, though, we get a glimpse of how many Americans felt about him during a tumultuous time in the country’s history. In this Feb. 25, 1968 file photo, former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago. Seated behind Ali is Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. (AP Photo/File)“I find nothing amusing or interesting or tolerable about this man,” television host David Susskind said, nearly spitting his words out in a 1968 broadcast as Ali looked on. “He’s a disgrace to his country, his race, and what he laughably describes as his profession.”The scene in “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” — now playing in selected theaters — is then juxtaposed with one of President George W. Bush giving Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. From draft-dodging pariah to hero, Ali’s long and sometimes painful journey was finally complete.For those who didn’t live in the time and are only faintly aware of the tale, it is a remarkable one. For those who grew up in the era and know well Ali’s impact on a country just beginning to come to terms with race relations, it’s a refresher course, complete with clips of Ali at his bombastic — and to some, scary — best.