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Five Young Players Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2015/16

31/07/2015 17:42 BST | Updated 31/07/2016 10:59 BST

There are sub-plots aplenty in the Premier League's upcoming season. Will Harry Kane repeat his incredible performance from last season? Will Chelsea be the first team to retain the title since Manchester United in 2009? Will Tim Sherwood's head fall off under the weight of his concentrated smugness?

Putting those aside for a second, let's have a look at the youngsters. There are a few, Patrick Bamford on loan at Palace for example, who could have breakout seasons. We're ignoring them too.

This is about the players who can't afford to fail. The ones for whom a poor season means a major step back in their career, rather than just a poor season.

5. Raheem Sterling - Manchester City

Raheem Sterling was going to be facing a big season in 2015/16 whatever happened this summer, but his astronomical transfer fee (you can justify it as much as you want, and you might even be right, but it's huge) means that he's got even more to prove than ever.

He put in a number of good performances last season, but didn't actually press on from his headline-grabbing 2013/14 form. He scored fewer goals despite getting nearly 50% more time on the pitch and looked a little less explosive.

In his third full season as a Premier League starter, this is where Sterling needs to step up and show that he's more than just a spoilt kid with some fancy footwork.

4. Phil Jones - Manchester United

​If you were putting together an ideal Premier League centre-back, it might look quite a bit like Phil Jones. He's the right side of six foot tall, he's strong and he's a lot quicker than he looks.

And yet, there's something about him that just doesn't quite inspire confidence. He's clearly getting better, but at 23 it's make-or-break time for Jones. A series of high-profile screwups this season would likely see him leave Old Trafford for a mid-table side. A series of brilliant performances could see him cement his place in the heart of the United defence in years to come.

3. Saido Berahino - West Bromwich Albion

Harry Kane's explosive form last season might be the best thing that could possibly have happened to Saido Berahino. Another brilliant, young England-qualified goalscorer taking the attention away from the West Brom youngster, while giving him a benchmark to aim for. It couldn't have worked out better.

​Kane taking some of the pressure of Berahino gives him a little much-needed room to breathe. It's less than a year since he was prosecuted for drink-driving and he's no stranger to falling out with club management.

If he stays at the Hawthorns for one more trouble-free season and actually grows up a bit without the bright lights of the bigger clubs' media attention on him, it could do him the world of good. Berahino's a special talent and this season could decide whether or not it all goes to waste.

2. John Stones - Everton

Stones' future is a tricky one. It's not clear whether or not he'll be playing for Chelsea next season - although it's worth a semi-educated punt that he won't be.

Unlike most of the players above, Stones' season is slightly out of his hands. His last season was wrecked by both injury and at the start of the season, the baffling presence of the prehistoric Sylvain Distin ahead of him in the starting lineup.

If Stones can keep fit this season, then he'll be able to learn a lot from Phil Jagielka alongside him and before long, surely begin to direct the defensive efforts by himself. Stones has pretty much everything, now he's got to show he can use it.

1. Emre Can - Liverpool

​Emre Can could end up being a victim of circumstance at Anfield. He'd only played one season of first-team football before being tossed right into the middle of some very choppy waters at Liverpool as they slumped to sixth in the league after the departure of Luis Suarez.

Can came in as a young midfielder and ended up getting shunted all over the pitch as Brendan Rodgers panicked, only playing five games in midfield over the entire season.

Things seem to be a little bit calmer at the club now, but the departure of Steven Gerrard leaves a gaping hole in the midfield. Can has been promised a midfield role this season by Rodgers and he'll have to take the chance to prove himself in his 'best' position - both for himself and for the team.

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