The Top Ten in ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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(Nos. 11-19 are here …)

10. FC Dallas – Talk about hanging on in the playoff race by your chinny-chin-chin. That’s FC Dallas, which got out-muscled in the end of that crazy 3-3 weekend draw with San Jose. Brave and worthy as it was, a result against the league’s best won’t mean a thing of David Ferreira and Co. cannot take all three points this week at the league’s worst, Chivas USA. Rookie center back Matt Hedges (pictured) rose to the challenge in George John’s absence last week.

9. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s crew had three matches at home down the stretch and desperately needed to maximize points against three teams already out of it for 2012. So, one down and two to go. But it wasn’t as smooth as all that, as the goals came late and even later in a 2-0 win over New England. There’s still something not quite right about Houston at the moment.

8. D.C. United – This site points out that United needs four points from its next two matches reach the playoffs (for the first time since 2007). Can they get there? Things look good, as the loss of talisman Dwayne De Rosario has hardly proved to be the crusher it could have been. Ben Olsen’s club posted close wins over New England, Philadelphia and Chivas USA lately and a managed a 1-1 draw on the road at Portland, which is playing better lately. A betting man might reckon that Columbus, not D.C. United, will be the odd man out of this playoff debate.

7. Real Salt Lake – Is Real Salt Lake rising at just the right time? Fabian Espindola was a creative monster in a showy 4-0 win over Chivas USA. Alvaro Saborio did his share of damage with a hat trick. On the one hand, it was Chivas USA, easily the league’s worst side at the moment. On the other, RSL is 5-1-1 across two competitions lately, and that’s not bad. Nat Borchers is not getting a lot of mentions in 2012, but the veteran center back is still performing at a high level.

6. Chicago Fire – How big does that game in hand look in the MLS Eastern Conference standings? It certainly helps take some of the bitter sting from last weeks’ 2-0 loss to conference-leading Kansas City. Beyond the standings and playoffs and such, the organization celebrates its 15th anniversary Wednesday. What better way to celebrate than with a win over Philadelphia that scoots the boys from Bridgeview right back up the backside of first-place KC?

5. New York Red Bulls – I got some heck for referring to Thierry Henry as “King Henry” after last week’s commanding performance, with a goal and three assists in the 4-1 result over beleaguered Toronto FC. But you know what? Who cares. A man delivering such a commanding performance as that one deserves a royal moniker. Goalkeeper Luis Robles looked sharp in his MLS debut.

(MORE: Looking at the Red Bulls best midfield combo)

4. Seattle Sounders – Like Chicago, Seattle has a game in hand that looks enormous in the three-team jostle. At stake is second and third place, which is highly preferable to finishing fourth or fifth and playing one extra post-season contest (and a perilous one). For this week’s Cascadia Cup clash against rival Portland, club officials have opened up all 66,000-plus seats – and you can bet your lucky green scarf they’ll all be full. That means Sunday’s nationally televised match will set a club record, and will likely be the second largest MLS crowd in 17 years that’s not a part of a doubleheader.

source: Getty Images

3. Angeles Galaxy – “Paging Tommy Meyer – you are on the spot, son.” Meyer appears to be the man tapped for replacement duty following A.J. DeLaGarza’s injury. Otherwise, things look sunny in So Cal, with David Beckham (pictured right) back on the field for Sunday’s 1-1 draw outside Denver. Becks was far from his best, and he said as much, but there’s a month to go before the playoffs, so just getting back into the lineup was the important mile marker here.

(MORE: DeLaGarza apparently done for the regular season)

2. San Jose Earthquakes – A 3-3 draw at home with FC Dallas exposed the best and the worst in Frank Yallop’s men of high drama. They keep falling behind. But they absolutely, positively never believe they won’t make up the deficit. Stephen Lenhart was the late hero this time. One point will seal the deal in the West, but the Earthquakes clearly have something more grand in mind: the Supporters Shield.

1. Sporting Kansas City – Did Sporting KC show a little vulnerability late in last week’s sizeable clash with second-place Chicago, dropping a notch over the last 30 minutes as the visitors, overrun early, worked steadily into the game? Or was it down to spot-on tactics, with high-pressure providing the early goal, followed by a wise dropping-off later? Either way, well done, ye men of SKC. This late-season change in defense – volatile All-Star center back Aurelien Collin out, Lawrence Olum in – is interesting, isn’t it?

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”