Week 3: Premier League Power Rankings – Liverpool on the up, Spurs go marching down

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Rivalry games took center stage in Week 3 of the Premier League, as Liverpool and Arsenal both scraped narrow 1-0 wins against arch enemies Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

Spurs lost Gareth Bale, Manchester United picked up Marouane Fellaini and Arsenal splashed the cash to bring in Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.

Transfers like that have had a big say in the Premier League Power Rankings this week.

Every Tuesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team. Forget about the official league standings, that doesn’t mean squat.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-L-D bracket shows each PL teams current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Please feel free to debate the Week 3 Power Rankings… that’s what they’re here for.

RANKING
source:  1 Chelsea: The Blues weren’t in PL action but narrowly lost on penalties to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup. Defensively sound, José Mourinho will hope Samuel Eto’o and Willian add an extra dimension going forward. Strongest squad in the PL by far this season. (2-0-1)
source:  2 UP 2 Manchester City: The Citizens struggled against Hull for 64 minutes before sub Alvaro Negredo headed home and Yaya Toure capped off the win. A labored victory but City kept their 52 game home scoring streak going as they bounced back following their shock defeat to Cardiff. (2-1-0)
source:  3 DOWN 1 Manchester United: Not many positives this week for United fans. Only Marouane Fellaini arrived in the transfer window and there was a disappointing 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Liverpool. The Red Devils haven’t scored for two games in a row. Is David Moyes’ approach too defensive? (1-1-1)
 source:  4 UP 1 Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers’ side are just grinding out wins to start the season, there is a real grit and desire about the Reds. Daniel Sturridge grabbed the game-winner again and Luis Suárez is close to returning. Three great signings in Sakho, Moses an Ilori on deadline day, too. (3-0-0)

source:

5 UP 1 Arsenal: The Gunners have responded with four-straight wins in all competitions since losing that opener to Villa and they ground out a 1-0 win in the North London derby against Spurs. The arrival of Mesut Ozil for a club record $60 million shows real ambition and the form of Flamini and Giroud is promising. Arsene Wenger will be a happy man at the moment. (2-1-0)
source:  6 DOWN 3
Tottenham: LAB (Life after Bale) begins at White Hart Lane, and a loss to your biggest rivals just across North London won’t make Spurs fan feel optimistic. However they should, seven terrific new signings are in with Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen the pick of the bunch. Tottenham will be fine but all these new names will take time to gel. (2-1-0)
source:  7 Everton: Another game, another draw for Roberto Martinez’ Everton side. This time against Cardiff they should have won but spurned chances for their second-straight 0-0. They lost Fellaini in the transfer window but added Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry. Decent business for the Toffees. (0-0-3)
 source:  8 UP 2 Swansea: Finally something to cheer about for those loyal Swansea City fans. A 1-0 win away at West Brom could have been by even more as the Swans turned on the style. Michael Laudrup’s team looked like the team everyone loved to watch last season. After a tough start, the only way is up. (1-2-0)
source:  9 West Ham: Everyone is allowed an off day, and Hammers boss Sam Allardyce described his team’s home defeat to Stoke as “the worst display since they’ve been back in the Premier League.” We will leave it at that. Nothing to worry about, plus Andy Carroll is back fit after the break. (1-1-1)
source:  10 UP 3 Stoke: Again the big movers as Mark Hughes’ team played West Ham off the pitch. It could have been more than the 1-0 win, thanks to Jermaine Pennant’s free kick, but the Potters won’t mind as they won back-to-back games. Can Stoke push into the top 10? (2-1-0)
source:  11 UP 3 Norwich: The Canaries have a star in the making as 19-year-old Nathan Redmond scored his first PL goal to beat Southampton for Norwich’s first-win of the season. They looked strong with Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson in midfield. Back to their stubborn best in the 1-0 win at Carrow Road. (1-1-1)
source:  12 DOWN 4 Southampton: The Saints are still struggling to score goals under Mauricio Pochettino. Defensively they look much better and only Redmond’s stunner got past them last weekend in the 1-0 loss. They just can’t seem to get things flowing in attack and new signing Daniel Osvaldo must deliver the goods. (1-1-1)
source:  13 DOWN 1 Aston Villa: No game for Villa this weekend after having their game vs. Chelsea rearranged. But they did sign Czech striker Libor Kozak from Lazio for $8 million. He will add another option up top to Christian Benteke and helps Paul Lambert prepare for the crucial stretch of games ahead. (1-2-0)
source:  14 DOWN 3 Fulham: Two defeats in a row for Martin Jol’s men and despite battling against Newcastle away from home, they hardly created any chances of real note. They were battered and almost grabbed a point. I’m wondering if Jol has signed too many ‘experienced’ players this summer as the Cottagers lack a cutting edge. (1-2-0)
source:  15 UP 2
Newcastle: Alan Pardew’s side finally scored their first goal of the season, and it produced a late win against Fulham. The Magpies looked like they were heading for a second-straight 0-0 draw at home but Hatem Ben Arfa curled in a beauty. Respite for the Geordies but still short of options up front. (1-1-1)
source:  16 Cardiff: The Bluebirds held on for a valiant point against Everton. Craig Bellamy had their best chance in the second half but Cardiff didn’t really threaten and goalkeeper David Marshall pulled off some great stops to deny the Toffees. Four points from three games is a great return for the Welsh side. (1-1-1)
source:  17 DOWN 2 West Brom: Only the deadline day signings of Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon stop the Baggies from sliding further down the rankings. They haven’t scored in three games this season and were torn apart by Swansea at the Hawthorns. Will they be in a relegation scrap this season? (0-2-1)
source:  18 Hull: If only the Tigers could take their chances, they’d have been 2-0 up against Man City. Strikers Sone Aluko and Danny Graham should have done better and despite a spirited display, Steve Bruce’s side were wasteful. Hull will give themselves a chance in most games this season. (1-0-2)
source:  19 UP 1
Crystal Palace: A much deserved first-win of the season against Sunderland at Selhurst Park. Dwight Gayle’s pace caused problems and Ian Holloway jig was a sight to be uphold. New additions give Palace hope of staying up. (1-2-0)
source:  20 DOWN 1 Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio’s men are struggling to get to grips with all the new signings as they lost to Palace on Saturday evening. A tough stretch of games coming up against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United won’t help matters. Fabio Borini arrived on loan from Liverpool, less minutes for Jozy Altidore? (0-2-1)

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”