The ELVN F.C. Rising Stars Challenge.

The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge (3:00 a.m, Saturday. West African Time) is the League’s annual showcase of its premier, young talent. In its current format, it pits two teams, comprised of Rookies and Sophomores (first and second year players, respectively) against each other. Each team gets a full selection of starters, and a bench, and the bragging rights go to the eventual victors. The Rising Stars Challenge gives people a chance to get a good look at the future of the league, as, more often than not, these are the players who go ahead to become the next generation of All-Stars.

The ELVN F.C. Rising Stars Challenge:

Since players are drafted into the NBA, their debuts are usually synchronized and it’s much easier to keep track of who the Rookies and Sophomores are.

In football, a player can come into a league at any time, as long as they’ve been offered a professional contract by one of the participating teams, this means it would be nigh impossible to keep proper track of the “Rookies and Sophomores”. Instead, for our version, we’ll be making selections from the list of players who were aged 23 or under, at the beginning of the season (the age of eligibility for the Young Player of the Year Award). Players who, in football terms, are still considered to be “Rising Stars”. Some of them might have already started to outgrow their “promising young player” labels, but the fact that they’re still so young suggests that their best days are yet to come.

As will be the norm for the rest of the series, our competition format will be “EPL vs. Europe” (i.e. players selected from the English Premier League, versus a combined team of players selected from the other four of Europe’s top 5 leagues). Now that we’ve cleared all that up, let’s get started.

Stats are very important in the All-Star selection process, so we’ll be quoting statistics from major sources, including whoscored.com

EPL Rising Stars:

These are the players who would represent the English Premier League, in this fantasy scenario.

Goalkeeper & Defence.

Jordan Pickford:jordan-pickford-sunderland

Age: 22, Team: Sunderland.
  • Got injured on Boxing Day, still ranks 4th in the League in saves made (73).
  • His 4.6 saves made per game is still the highest mark in the League (and all of Europe).
  • Conceded 27 goals and won 4 games with the struggling Sunderland (16 appearances), they’ve conceded 19 and won just 1 without him (9 games).

Hector Bellerin:hector-bellerin-arsenal

Age: 21, Team: Arsenal.
  • Key member of the Arsenal back-line; so far, they’ve conceded 0.88 goals per game in the 17 League games he’s completed and 1.25 per game in the ones he hasn’t.
  • 84.4% passing accuracy, 0.7 key passes and 1.5 dribbles per game.
  • 1.4 interceptions and 1.5 clearances per game.

Calum Chambers:calum-chambers-middlesbrough

Age: 22, Team: Middlesbrough (on loan from Arsenal).
  • Part of Middlesbrough’s surprisingly efficient defence (4th best in the League, and the best in the lower half of the table).
  • 2.2 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, 1 block and 7.6 clearances per game (all in the top 3 for defenders aged 23 and under), 2.6 aerial duels (5th).
  • 1 goal (with Arsenal) and 1 assist (Middlesbrough).

Eric Bailly:eric-bailly-manchester-united

Age: 22, Team: Manchester United.
  • Transferred from Villareal for around £30 million.
  • 2.4 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game (highest ranking defender, 23 & under), 5.4 clearances (4th).
  • Won 61% of his aerial battles.

Michael Keane:michael-keane-burnley

Age: 24 (started the season at 23), Team: Burnley.
  • Started all of Burnley’s games, this season, starring in their impressive home defence.
  • 7.6 clearances and 4.1 aerial duels won per game (highest among all eligible players and top 10 in the entire league).
  • 2 interceptions and 1.4 blocks per game.
  • 1 goal and 1 assist.
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