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Week 1: Premier League Power Rankings – Don’t doubt the Champions

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

The Premier League season has begun and there have already been a few upsets here and there on the opening weekend (ahem, Villa) but plenty of results went as expected.

This time of year also means we will be rolling out plenty of new series’ at ProSoccerTalk, and here is the latest.

Premier League Power Rankings.

In case you’re new to our Power Rankings and don’t know how they work, here’s a quick refresher. Basically, each Tuesday we will put our neck on the line each by ranking each Premier League team by how good they really are. Forget about the official league standings. That doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, great displays but still losing and plenty of other variables that the black and white of an PL standings table do not.

So please feel free to debate the Week 1 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

Ranking
source:  1 Chelsea: A comfortable win at a canter against newly promoted Hull City won’t have impressed José Mourinho too much, but positive signs were there as Oscar and Hazard linked up well. (1-0-0)

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2 Manchester United: Everyone has written David Moyes’ men off… then they go and hammer Swansea and the doubters disappear. Great start for United. (1-0-0)
 source:  3 Manchester City: A resounding home win over 10-man Newcastle was to be expected. Manuel Pellegrini’s side will grow into themselves this year. great defense plus added offensive weapons equals success. (1-0-0)
 source:  4 Tottenham: Not the most inspiring display against a poor Palace side. But Andre Villas-Boas side have a new midfield solidity I really like. Just above Arsenal and Liverpool early on. (1-0-0)

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5 Liverpool: Created chances galore against Stoke, but they nearly paid the price for their wastefulness in the 1-0 win. If Suárez does stay a concerted push for Champions League is on the cards. (1-0-0)
 source:  6 Arsenal: They need new signings, and they need them now. Poor performance against Villa where everything went wrong. Two penalties conceded and a red card. But hardly vintage Arsenal before that. (0-1-0)
 source:  7 Everton: An exciting start to the season. Not many teams go to Norwich and get something but they had to work for this. Great going forward, suspect at the back. Roberto Martinez’ tactics used at Wigan are certainly surfacing again. (0-0-1)
 source:  8 Swansea: A hiding from the reigning Champions on opening day isn’t a true reflection of the Swans. But they do need some extra cover in defense before the end of the window. New striker Wilfried Bony is a fine player. (0-1-0)
 source:  9 Southampton: A great opening day win at West Brom for the perennial slow starters. With Italian international striker Pablo Osvaldo joining for a club record $22 million on Monday, the Saints are marching up the rankings. (1-0-0)
 source:  10 West Ham: An routine win for the Hammers against a Cardiff side devoid of ideas going forward. Sam Allardyce’s men were direct and their wingers gave the Bluebirds plenty of issues. Solid start. (1-0-0)
 source:  11 Fulham: Bit of a smash and grab win for Fulham at the Stadium of Light on opening day. But they’ll take it. Martin Jol’s men have quietly added some good players, Scott Parker will be a good buy. (1-0-0)
 source:  12 Aston Villa: The Villans played really well at the Emirates. They rode their luck at times and Brad Guzan was in tremendous form to thwart Arsenal, but a confidence boosting win to start the season always helps. (1-0-0)
 source:  13 Norwich: They had a real go against Everton but looked a bit short in midfield and were over run by Fellaini and Barkley. Chris Hughton may need to strengthen there. (0-0-1)
 source:  14 Newcastle: Poor display from Alan Pardew’s men against City. But what can you do when your 2-0 down and down to 10 men at the Etihad at half time? Regroup and go again for the Magpies. (0-1-0)
 source:  15 West Brom: Bit of a blah performance from Steve Clarke’s side. The Baggies were out-possessed by Saints and were definitely second best. Another top striker is needed at the Hawthorns. (0-1-0)

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16 Stoke: They could have snatched a late point at Anfield but Walters fluffed his lines. The Potters will be solid as always, but I struggle to see where the goals will come from. (0-1-0)
source:  17 Sunderland: It will take time for Paolo Di Canio’s 10 new signings to gel. They looked great in spells vs. Fulham but gave up a sloppy goal and paid the price. Another team who will struggle to score. (0-1-0)
 source:  18 Hull: Despite going 2-0 behind in the first half, acquitted themselves well and stuck to the task. Hull won’t be anything special, but with two solid banks of four they can grind out 1-0 wins at home and pick up draws on the road. (0-1-0)
 source:  19 Cardiff: I worry for Cardiff. They’ve spent big money this summer but I’m not sure if it’s on the right players. Against West Ham there was no cutting edge. Another forward is needed. (0-1-0)
 source:  20 Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway’s men battled hard at Selhurst Park against Spurs, but apart from a few flurries near the end they didn’t look like threatening. The Eagles need a top striker. (0-1-0)

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.