Vote: Who do you want to see in the 2017 MLS All-Star starting XI against Real Madrid?

The 2017 MLS All-Star game is rapidly approaching. The best of MLS will take on La Liga and Champions League winners Real Madrid at Soldier Field in Chicago on Wednesday night (8:30 ET/01:30 BST). But who do you want to see in the 2017 MLS All-Star starting XI?

Real Madrid are the first Spanish team to play in the MLS All-Star game. Their squad is graced with world class talent. The likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Isco all set to play on Wednesday night.

The All-Stars have long-time European stars such as Bastian Schweinsteiger. US national team stars such as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. And emerging MLS talents in Kellyn Acosta and Miguel Almiron.

But who do you want to see in the 2017 MLS All-Star starting XI? Vote below now, or use this link.

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Three players Mourinho needs to drop at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s start to life as Manchester United manager has not been as smooth as he would have hoped. While this is not a time to press the panic button, it was apparent his side were lacklustre and out of ideas in the 4-0 loss at Chelsea. Lewis Addley explores some potential changes he can make to freshen things up and stop his side from carrying passengers…

Being coached by Mourinho is something a whole host of the world’s best players have enjoyed since he put his name on the map as Porto manager 14 years ago, but the same cannot be said at this moment in time, as his ongoing struggles at Manchester United are not improving.

Mourinho admitted himself that life in Manchester has been difficult to adapt to and his time away from football is something he is not familiar to, living in a hotel and separate from his family.

While United are only six points off the top of the Premier League table in what already looks set to be the most competitive season ever, there is plenty of work to do to get the 20-time champions firing again.

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A number of Mourinho’s marquee summer signings haven’t yet clicked into place and the squad appear to be disjointed and out of ideas, even more so apparent after going 1-0 down to Chelsea without touching the ball on Sunday.

Mourinho has a squad full of talented players and just three changes could potentially make a difference in terms of unpredictability, solidity and energy.

So let’s have a look at those three potential changes…

Forward play: 

Regardless of how many career titles and goals he has to his name, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has struggled in his last few appearances. He started the season well, scoring four goals in his first four games, but the big Swede needs a rest. He clearly has the ability to cause havoc to any opposition defence, but he seems to be getting lost and committing more fouls than creating chances.

He will be the last thing defenders want to see if Mourinho gives the 35-year-old legend a rest and brings him into a couple of games on the bounce with half an hour to go after some of his younger, more energetic teammates have worn down the opposition.

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Verdict: Rest Ibrahimovic and play Rashford in his natural position as a striker. The Englishman will bring in more energy and pace to the attack, leaving the option for Ibra to swoop in for the kill later in the game.

In the middle: 

Everybody knows Mourinho loves a holding midfielder to dominate games with strength and the ability to break up play. But at the moment, the United midfield as a whole have failed to get to grips with fast-paced games, and they’re not being streetwise enough to stop counter attacks as well as creating moves of their own.

Mourinho should look at pulling Marouane Fellaini out of the side. Yes, the big man can cause chaos in the box offensively, but he isn’t doing it. Fellaini has features of his game that make for a player who can have an influence, but he is not a controlling midfielder, he doesn’t dominate games and doesn’t bring an atmosphere of calm to the side.

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Verdict: Drop Fellaini for Michael Carrick or Bastian Schweinsteiger. Mourinho won’t want to backtrack on his decision to ostracise Schweinsteiger from the squad but these two players have unparalleled experience compared to their teammates and can instil a sense of calm to any top-class midfield.

The world’s most expensive player:

An awful lot has been made of Paul Pogba’s slow start to life back in Manchester and it is so obvious he needs some help. While he may be the most expensive player in the world, the Frenchman didn’t ask for that price tag and it is weighing him down. The pressure becomes more intense in each game he underperforms.

Pogba will clearly become a great, he has the talent, personality and is likeable, but he needs a bit of time out of the side to find his feet again. His confidence has been rocked and now is the time for Mourinho to offer him support, like he has done down the years with key players everywhere he has been.

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Verdict: Make Pogba work for this place by pulling him from the starting XI, get an arm around him to make him feel valued and under less pressure. Bring Juan Mata back in, he has plenty of Premier League experience and the creative edge to his game Pogba hasn’t yet shown.

There is work to be done at United, but if they can get on a run of form they will soon silence their critics and despite some poor results, they can close the gap on the title chasing pack.

Should Mourinho make these changes at United? Who do you think should be recalled to the starting XI?

Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

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In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

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At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

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Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

Predicted New York City FC starting XI if the league began today

New York City finally have a proper squad ahead of their debut season in Major League Soccer after bulking out the numbers through yesterdays MLS Expansion Draft.

Jason Kreis now has 18 players to choose from as his side is starting to take full shape. More names will be added before the start of play in 2015, but if the league were to begin today, this is what the starting lineup would probably look like.

The current team’s players means that a 4-1-2-1-2 formation is the best option due to the lack of wide midfielders, and high number of central playing midfield men.

Goalkeeper: Ryan Meara

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Ryan Meara has joined the club from the New York Red Bulls in a loan deal that saw Expansion Draft pick Sal Zizzo move the other way on a permanent basis. Meara is a young ‘keeper at 24, but Jason Kreis may have him down as his starter between the sticks after moving to secure his services so quickly.

Right-back: Josh Williams

Josh Williams joined the club in a trade from Columbus Crew on Monday and is the only recognised right-back in the squad at the moment. He made 71 appearances for the Crew over the past five seasons and adds some much needed MLS experience to the side.

Centre-back: Jason Hernandez

New York City picked Jason Hernandez with the third pick in the Expansion Draft and he the veteran will likely slot straight in at centre-back due to his vital experience of the league. He has been in MLS for ten years and has played at least 20 times in eight of those campaigns.

Centre-back: George John

George John missed the 2014 campaign with FC Dallas but should be ready to go by the start of the new season. The 27-year-old has made 119 appearances in the league since 2009 and is another who adds much needed experience to the backline.

Left-back: Chris Wingert

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A pattern is forming across the defence here. Chris Wingert is another veteran defender with vast amounts of experience. He played under Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake and will be a regular with NYCFC next year.

Defensive-midfield: Andrew Jacobson

Andrew Jacobson is a solid defensive midfielder who will be able to sit deep and stop opposition attacks before they develop. He has played six seasons in MLS and will need to step in and produce some solid displays with New York City next year.

Centre-midfield: Ned Grabavoy

Jason Kreis selected Ned Grabavoy with the first pick in the Expansion Draft, having worked with him at Real Salt Lake. He will be a mainstay in midfield and offers even more valuable experience to the side, having been in the league since 2004.

Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard

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The key man in midfield will be England star Frank Lampard, when he eventually joins up with the squad. Manchester City are trying to extend his loan but expect Lampard back in New York for the new season. Will need to be at his best throughout the year.

Attacking-midfield: Thomas McNamara

The eighth pick in the Expansion Draft, Thomas McNamara joins the club from DC United. He only moved to DC a few weeks ago after the Dispersal Draft but could be set for a chance to prove his worth with New York City. He score one goal in six appearances for Chivas USA last term but a more experienced playmaker could be brought in before the start of the 2015 campaign.

Forward: Patrick Mullins

Patrick Mullins was arguably the most exciting pick from the Expansion Draft. The rookie enjoyed an impressive season with New England Revolution and made a real impact in the MLS Cup Final last weekend. The 22-year-old netted four goals in 14 appearances and should be star with NYCFC.

Forward: David Villa

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Mullins will be playing alongside Spanish star David Villa next year in what should be a great partnership. Villa will be expected to light up MLS with goals, goals, and more goals. And he should deliver.

Who do you think will be in the starting lineup for New York City on the first day of the 2015 season?