A different take on the beautiful game.
My Premier League All Star 5-a-side team

Having played a lot of 5-a-side football myself, I know how many different ways you can set up a team. For my Premier League All Star 5-a-side I am going to use a diamond, which should bring a lot of goals to the side.

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Goalkeeper- Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

Reina is, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper around in the Premier League today, and his distribution skills are amongst the best in world football. The main reason I have picked him is because he is so adept with his feet, sometimes acting like an old-fashioned sweeper at the back for Liverpool. He just pips Joe Hart and Petr Cech to make my side.

Defender (at the back of the diamond) - David Luiz (Chelsea)

Ferdinand is not a rock at the back like another centre-back Nemanja Vidic, but he plays like a libero, similar to Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling. His ability to bring the ball out of the back is why I have picked him, and he can score some crackers too. He used to play as a holding midfielder, so would be very used to this position, and his pace would be needed in 5-a-side football.

Right-sided midfielder - Carlos Tevez (Man City)

Not his normal position, I admit, but definitely one he could play in this side. He is the leading scorer in the Premier League over the last two seasons, so is clearly good enough attacking-wise, and he often played as a right-sided forward for Argentina in the Copa America and beforehand. One reason he has been picked is that he never stops running, and hassles his opponents constantly, which is why he is so popular amongst the Manchester City fans (although maybe not for much longer). Theo Walcott just misses out.

Left-sided midfielder - Michael Essien (Chelsea)

Again I haven’t picked him in the position he plays for Chelsea, but as this is 5-a-side, the players will be constantly swapping positions so that is not much of a problem. Pace and power are two of his greatest attributes, as is his ability to score some stunners (remember this one?). He just beats Gareth Bale to this position, mainly due to his tackling skills   (and Bale is too attacking in my opinion, even though he used to be a left back).

Striker - Wayne Rooney (Man Utd)

It could only be him, couldn’t it? Out of all the strikers in the Premier League, I think Rooney is the most skilful and he has the ability to make chances for others, an attribute that is very useful in 5-a-side football. You don’t need an old-fashioned centre-forward in 5-a-side, rather a more complete player who can switch positions with ease. Dimitar Berbatov, Rooney’s fellow striker at Man Utd, is the one to miss out here, although he would be very useful with his skilful style of play.

"You guys line up alphabetically by height."
—Bill Peterson

Most football teams are temperamental. That’s 90% temper and 10% mental.”
—Doug Plank

"When a player makes a mistake, you get a yellow card, a suspension or a fine. When a professional referee does it, nothing happens. They can go home, sit down on the couch and scratch their balls!"
— Michael Svensson

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

—George Best

In Lille’s defense.

At Lille, the attack is often lauded as the best in the country, with its two agile winger, Eden Hazard and Gervinho, working in tandem with the league’s top scorer, Moussa Sow (19 goals), reborn since his move from Stade Rennais FC, and indeed its two substitutes, Pierre-Alain Frau and Tulio de Melo. Their midfield is also praised as hard-working, dogged and talented. This consists of the trio Balmont-Mavuba-Cabaye, or sometimes Obraniak in case of an injury. The experienced goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau, who is currently being hailed as the best in the league and who is maintaining his legendary status by stopping penalties and performing some incredible saves. The defense? Often forgotton. It’s a grave error. A blatant injustice. The stats are revealing. Lille have only conceded six goals in their last 11 league games, including those against Lyon (1-1) and Marseille (2-1). Only Rennes, who own the best defense in the league, can boast a greater record in the same period of time (5 goals conceded). Of course, Lille did not do too well in the Europa League, conceding 5 goals in 2 games while getting knocked out against PSV Eindhoven. But they had a largely depleted side and therefore they were underdogs from the start. In the league, however, the defense has been outstanding this season. It is strange to think that the back-line was exactly the same last season, and yet nowadays they are far more stubborn.

It seems as if the default formation for the manager Rudi Garcia is a 4-3-3. The trigger for the switch in formation was surprisingly a victory against Lorient on 4 December 2010 (6-3). Since this match, they haven’t ever conceded more than one goal in any match. But what exactly happened after this success? The system was the same and so were the players. A switch to 4-2-3-1 against Valenciennes accomodated Pierre-Alain Frau in the hole (due to an injury to Balmont), who turned out to be totally ineffectual.

The centre backs Rami and Chedjou have been phenomenal. 5 years ago, Rami was playing semi-professional football and he is now the defensive rock for club and country. Rami plays the role of ‘stopper,’ whereas Chedjou resembles the old-fashioned ‘libero.’ The latter’s vision and ability to play the ball out of defense complements Rami’s confidence in the tackle and anticipation.

The full-backs have usually been Debuchy and Beria, both of whom provide substantial width and have contributed numerous assists this term. Finally, the holding midfield player is Rio Mavuba, there to shore up the defense and to sweep up opposition attacks with ease. He has made a remarkable improvement on the beginning of the season, when he seemed very much out of his depth. Now the ex-Bordeaux player is constantly putting in some very high performances from his anchorman role.

Spain’s problems grow ever larger.

Spain play Czech Republic and Lithuania in the upcoming week, not seemingly two of the most daunting prospects they have ever faced, but there seems to be (I can’t believe I’m actually writing this) a shortage of class up front at the moment. Now when I say that, I mean a lack of quality players in form, not simply quality players, whom they have in abundance. This was apparent in last month’s match against Colombia, where the lack of a cutting edge showed up more than the 1-0 scoreline suggested. 17 goals in 28 games for David Villa would seem to indicate a man on form, but he has not scored since a rather easy 3-0 victory against a depleted Mallorca side on the 26th February. For the national team, he is tuck on 44 goals (the same number as Raul) and perhaps is having diffuculty on the mental side of things, trying to overcome this barrier. Fernando Torres, meanwhile, kicked out of the national team’s starting line-up towards the end of the World Cup, has done little to suggest he merits regaining his place. His barren streak extends even further than his teammate’s, with his last goal coming in a routine 3-0 win over Wolves (he actually got two in that game), then the Premier League’s bottom side. ‘The Kid’ has had a total of 99 shots in the league this season, with merely 9 finding the back of the net. In fact, in his last five matches for Chelsea, the club for whom he signed for £50m on the last day of the January transfer window, he has had one, yes, one shot on target.

The solution? Fernando Llorente. Very different in style to his two strike partners, with Villa prefering to cut in from the left and Torres playing as a complete striker, Llorente appears to be a tall, bustling traditional centre-forward. The 26-year-old struck two goals in October as Spain beat Lithuania 3-1. His aerial prowess is invaluable, but also deflects from the fact he has a considered touch and all-round awareness (the player himself has confessed to being a hot-heeled winger in his youth, before a growth spurt shifted him into the central striking position). So, if Spain want to play to feet, they can use Llorente to build up attacks, but can also feed the play wide - more options make them less obvious to anticipate.

The stats are firmly stacked against a Czech Republic victory in this game, with their only away win against Spain coming in 1988, a time when ‘Faith’ by George Michael was topping the charts. Their last win against their Iberian opponents in a 3-2 victory for Czechoslovakia in a UEFA European Championship qualifier in Prague on November 14, 1990. Spain have also won their last nine competitive fixtures since losing 1-0 to Switzerland in their opening game of last summer’s World Cup finals. However, there is one reason for the Czechs to be optimistic. Spain’s record in 13 games against Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic reads W5 D1 L7.

It might seem like an easy game on paper, but with their two best strikers out of form to say the least, Spain may just have to rely on the firepower of Fernando Llorente to get them through this game.