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Five trends of the 2014-15 Premier League

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Reflecting on an exciting first half of the German Bundesliga season

The ESPN FC crew discuss Borussia Dortmund's domestic struggles after a 2-1 defeat to Werder Bremen, finishing 2014 joint-bottom with Freiburg in the Bundesliga.

"2014 was a year that made all our wishes come true," said German FA president Wolfgang Niersbach this week. But the World Cup party from Germany's win this summer, couldn't go on forever, of course. Domestically, the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign brought more trouble than festive cheer for all but a handful of clubs.

These were the main storylines of the typically eventful, unpredictable first half of the season after "that night in Rio."

1. Borussia Dortmund come off the rails

No other place to begin...

Three Points: Raheem Sterling the hero as Liverpool edge Burnley

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE: Raheem Sterling (62') Burnley 0-1 Liverpool

BURNLEY, England -- Raheem Sterling's second half goal was the difference as Liverpool picked up a valuable 1-0 away win at Burnley. Here are three quick points from their Boxing Day clash at Turf Moor...

1. Sharp Sterling helps Liverpool win ugly

Brendan Rodgers is a proponent of the beautiful game but there can be little doubt that his side won ugly at Turf Moor. Liverpool were nowhere near as fast or as fluent as they had been in possession against Arsenal on Sunday, let alone as potent as...

Mark Payne Manchester Utd  By Mark Payne

Player Ratings: Wayne Rooney is in his best form for five years at United

Wayne Rooney was in fine form, scoring twice for Manchester United in their win over Newcastle.

Manchester United's attacking riches gleamed under the rain at Old Trafford with a 3-1 victory over an ambitious Newcastle side. Some of the home side's movement in the final third was outstanding and this win consolidated an ascendant period for Louis van Gaal.

Chelsea and Manchester City will be fully aware of the juggernaut gaining speed just behind them.

Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK David De Gea, 8 -- Not the busiest of afternoons but...

John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Three Points: Wayne Rooney sparks Man United's dominance vs. Newcastle

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE: Wayne Rooney (23') Manchester United 1-0 Newcastle United

MANCHESTER -- A trio of observations on Manchester United's 3-1 win against Newcastle in the Premier League on Boxing Day.

Manchester UnitedManchester United
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1. United roll back the years

Thrilling forward play and deadly counterattacks are what a younger generation of Manchester United fans were brought up on. If this season's Premier League title looks beyond Louis Van Gaal's team, Old Trafford is being presented with a vision of an imminent future in which their team might soon compete with Chelsea and Manchester City.

United...

 By Peter Thorne

West Ham's Champions League ambitions checked by Chelsea

Sam Allardyce watched his West Ham side lose to Jose Mourinho's Chelsea on Boxing Day.

"Champions League? You're having a laugh" was the inevitable taunt from the Chelsea supporters to West Ham after the Blues stretched their unbeaten home run with a 2-0 Boxing Day win.

It may be the season of goodwill, and it may say much about the Hammers' wonderful first half of the season that allows the home supporters to even use the chant -- but it's difficult to argue with that assessment post-match.

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West Ham were never totally outclassed or humiliated, but there was little doubt of the gulf...

 By Tim Vickery

Will 'Premier League fatigue' ruin the 2015 Copa America?

Midway through the season, the FC crew discuss who will make the top 4 and who won't be in the Premier League next season.

Despite feeling somewhat bloated after the Christmas festivities, South American football fans can crash out in front of the Premier League, pretty much the only football show in town at this time of year. This, of course, is a huge marketing gain for English football but there is a price to be paid, and this year more than any other, South America may end up footing some of the bill.

The intense style of play and the financial strength in depth of the competition make the Premier League a grueling...