Premier League XI: Valentine’s Day darlings

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There are four Premier League games on Valentine’s Day this year including an intriguing clash between Arsenal and Leeds, as well as West Brom coming up against Manchester United. Big Sam will surely be celebrating with a pint of champagne in the evening if the Baggies can pull off an upset. Here’s an XI made up from players who pulled out all the stops on Valentine’s Day. 


Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
A cold Craven Cottage on a Monday night might not have been the perfect setting for a romantic Valentine’s, but the home fans were at least close to witnessing their side upset reigning Premier League champions Chelsea in 2011. The Blues couldn’t break down Fulham and the game looked to be heading for a draw until Clint Dempsey won a penalty for the hosts in the dying minutes. The American stepped up to take the spot-kick but Petr Cech guessed the right way and earned Carlo Ancelotti’s men a point. If you fancy a goalkeeper challenge, try naming the former Aston Villa goalkeeper who will have fond memories of Valentine’s Day 2000, as it marked his first and only Premier League appearance.


Centre-back: Igor Stimac
1997 saw Derby County fans wave goodbye to the much-loved Baseball Ground and welcome in a new era at Pride Park. After finishing in mid-table in their first ever Premier League campaign, Jim Smith’s men were desperate to make the first year at their new stadium a memorable one. By Valentine’s Day ’98, the Rams were mounting an unlikely assault on the European spots and faced an Everton side looking to pull clear of a relegation fight. Duncan Ferguson wasn’t keen on Paulo Wanchope’s affections early in the match, with the Scottish striker going for an early bath after elbowing the Costa Rican. Derby made the most of their one-man advantage just six minutes later, cult-hero Igor Stimac heading home from a corner to set his side up for all three points.


Centre-back: Kolo Toure
Liverpool faced Aston Villa on Valentine’s Day 2016, looking to rouse themselves after a limp defeat to champions-elect Leicester City and a frustrating draw with relegation candidates Sunderland. Bottom-of-the-table Villa proved to be the perfect opponents for Jurgen Klopp’s men to rediscover their rhythm, with the Reds indulging in the joy of six at Villa Park, dominating their hosts throughout. The match marked the first time Liverpool registered six different goalscorers in a Premier League game and Ivorian centre-back Kolo Toure was the man to net the final goal, heading in unmarked from a Jordan Henderson corner to make 6-0.


Centre-back: Hermann Hreidarsson
After finishing in the top-half of the Premier League and winning the FA Cup at the end of the 2007/08 season under Harry Redknapp, Portsmouth struggled the following campaign, with new boss Tony Adams failing to impress and receiving his marching orders in February. Valentine’s Day marked the side’s first game without him and Pompey fans hoped Adams’ absence would make the player’s hearts grow fonder, inspiring them to a win over newly-minted Manchester City. Hermann Hreidarsson’s header sealed victory at Fratton Park to finally give the devoted home supporters something to cheer about.


Winger: Jose Antonio Reyes
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Chelsea at the start of the 2004/05 season saw the Portuguese muscle in on Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson’s long affair with the Premier League title to create a fascinating love-triangle at the top of the league. Arsenal went into the campaign as reigning champions following their invincible season, but they were struggling to keep up the pace come Valentine’s Day ’05. A dominant performance over Crystal Palace gave the Gunners some renewed hope, with Jose Antonio Reyes scoring once and setting up two in the space of ten minutes to help his side to a resounding 5-1 win.


Central midfield: Christian Eriksen
Christian Eriksen’s love for Tottenham looked to have diminished long before his departure at the start of last year, but back in 2016 the Danish midfielder’s flame was still burning bright. Mauricio Pochettino’s side faced fellow top-four contenders Manchester City on Valentine’s Day and the game looked to heading for a 1-1 draw before Eriksen coolly slotted the ball past Joe Hart with just seven minutes remaining to give Spurs fans hope of a maiden Premier League title.


Central midfield: Matt Le Tissier
There was no greater love than the one Southampton fans held for Matt Le Tissier in the nineties and he certainly had fans at the Dell swooning over him in the 1993/94 season. A dreadful start to the campaign saw the Saints look like certainties for the drop but Alan Ball’s arrival as manager in January ’94 marked a turnaround, with Le Tissier playing perhaps the finest football of his career under the 1966 World Cup winner. The Guernsey born star bagged a hat-trick against Liverpool in the first ever Valentine’s Day Premier League match and the 4-2 win helped Southampton pull clear of the relegation zone.


Winger: Luis Garcia
That Valentine’s Day in 1994 may have left Liverpool fans feeling unsatisfied but 2006 provided some pleasure, with a 1-0 win over top-four rivals Arsenal at Anfield. Jens Lehmann had an excellent match for the Gunners and kept his side on level terms after keeping out a Steven Gerrard penalty in the first half, but the German international’s save from fellow countryman Dietmar Hamann late in the game fell straight into the path of the onrushing Luis Garcia. The Spaniard’s match-winning strike sent his side ten points clear of Arsenal in the race for the Champions League spots.


Striker: Julian Joachim
Aston Villa faced Middlesbrough at the Riverside on Valentine’s Day in 2000 and despite the famous England internationals on display for the home side, it was the uncapped Julian Joachim who made the headlines. Gary Pallister, Paul Gascoigne and Paul Ince all featured for ‘Boro, as well as the much-loved Juninho, but Joachim got the ball rolling for Villa after just eleven minutes, capitalising on a Gianluca Festa mistake to play in Benito Carbone for the opener. Joachim helped to create the second before finding the back of the net twice in the space of five minutes in the second half to make it 4-0 to the away team.


Striker: Michael Owen
There was young love in the air for Liverpool fans in the 1997/98 season, with teenage star Michael Owen’s performances in-front of goal giving them hope of pushing for the title. Roy Evans’ side faced Sheffield Wednesday on Valentine’s Day and found themselves 3-1 down with just twenty minutes remaining. Owen had already scored for Liverpool in the first half and added two more in the space of five minutes to register his first Premier League hat-trick and ensure his team ended up with a share of the spoils.


Striker: Danny Welbeck
Arsenal left things until the last minute on Valentine’s Day in 2016, with Danny Welbeck scoring the winner for them against Leicester City in extra time. The Foxes held a five-point lead at the top of the table going into the fixture and Jamie Vardy gave them the lead after earning and converting a penalty in the first half. Olivier Giroud teed up Theo Walcott for the equaliser after the break before Welbeck headed in a Mesut Ozil free-kick to give the Gunners hope in a titillating title race.


James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs


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