By now you should know the drill, as every Wednesday 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.
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 team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.
Arsenal: The Gunners just keep getting better, and Mesut Ozil looks like more of a bargain each and every week. A spirited 2-1 win at Swansea sees them top of the table at top of our standings. When will they lose? (4-1-1)
Chelsea: I saw the Blues live on Saturday, they weren’t at the races in the first half vs. Spurs, but should’ve been out of sight in the second. Fernando Torres’ red card swung the game away from them, but he was superb, so was Mata. Mourinho’s men starting to click… (3-1-2)
Tottenham:Have to say, I wasn’t sure if Spurs were going to be able to hang with the big boys this season. I think they will prove me wrong. Against Chelsea they were unlucky to not be winning 2-0 or 3-0 at HT, they’re just missing a clinical goalscorer to round things off. (4-1-1)
Manchester City:What is going on away from home? Pellegrini’s side have yet to taste victory away from the Etihad, with two defeats and a draw after their second half collapse vs. Villa. Tough game at home to Everton this week. Defensive solidity needed. (3-2-1)
Liverpool: Another great win for the Reds and Luis Suarez is back, scoring twice on his PL return. If they can keep him and Sturridge fit, they could be the best partnership in the PL. They should beat Palace at home, right? (4-1-1)
Everton:The Toffees are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League, and they hammered Newcastle in the first half on Monday, 3-0 up at HT. They hung on to win, just, but that’s what you get with Roberto Martinez in charge. Lukaku is a beast. (3-0-3)
Manchester United: The Red Devils are sliding, fast. An embarrassing home defeat to West Brom shows just how frail David Moyes’ team are, and things may get worse. Moyes needs to buy big in January as his side sit 12th and face Sunderland away on Saturday. (2-3-1)
Southampton: The Saints go marching up the rankings, as they beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to make it two wins in a row, three unbeaten, and have four clean sheets from six games so far. Swansea at home on Sunday will be a big test. (3-1-2)
Swansea: They battled hard against Arsenal, but were just too sloppy at the back and let the Gunners score to easily. The rigors of Europa League action are starting to show in their squad. Can Laudrup hold things together? (2-3-1)
Aston Villa: The Villans are gradually finding their feet again, with two wins in two catapulting them up the table and that massive comeback win over Man City will give them plenty of confidence. Can they beat Hull and make it three from three? (3-3-0)
Hull City:Like Villa, many people weren’t expecting Hull to be on a potential three-game winning spree. But they are. A solid win at home to West Ham last week sees the Tigers comfortably in the top half of the table. By far the best of the promoted teams. (3-2-1)
Norwich City:The Canaries went to Stoke City and won… not many teams do that. And all credit to Chris Hughton’s men for bouncing back after their home defeat to Villa. They have Chelsea on Sunday so will have to crank it up a few notches. (2-3-0)
West Brom: The Baggies pulled off the shock of the weekend as they beat United at Old Trafford, two wins in two have brought a sigh of relief around the Hawthorns. Young Englishman Berainho looks a real player. Arsenal at home on Sunday. (2-2-2)
Stoke City:The Potters are crumbling after their good early start, with Mark Hughes’ men struggling to create anything against Norwich. A trip to play struggling Fulham is going to be a massive encounter. Can they bag an away win? (2-3-1)
West Ham:Down the Hammers go, after yet another scoreless display away at Hull. In fairness, they probably should have nicked a point at the KC Stadium but they’re missing Andy Carroll massively. No plan B for Sam Allardyce spells trouble. A London Derby at Spurs will yield 0 points. (1-3-2)
Cardiff:A great win away at Fulham for the Bluebirds, but boy, they left it late. Craig Mutch’s wondergoal gave them a great three points and they host Newcastle on Saturday in a very winnable game. Malkay Mackay’s boys looking good. (2-2-2)
Newcastle:The Magpies defense really let them down on Monday against Everton, but their potent offense nearly grabbed them a point. You have to love Newcastle’s spirit late in games, but they are digging holes for themselves in nearly every game. (2-3-1)
Fulham:How much more can Cottagers fans take? Bad, bad loss to Cardiff. Many believe if they don’t beat Stoke this weekend then Martin Jol will be fired. Too early? Not really. They labored through the second half of last season and haven’t gelled this year. Tough times ahead. (1-3-1)
Crystal Palace: The effort is always there from Palace… but they lack real quality up front. Southampton easily beat them on Saturday, and now the Eagles face a daunting trip to Anfield to face Liverpool. What can Ian Holloway do? (1-5-0)
Sunderland: Another week, another defeat for Sunderland. The Black Cats are still in search of a new manager, and it’s hard to see who would want this job. They worked hard against Liverpool, but that’s not goo enough. Next up… Manchester United. (0-5-1)
Pique: For first time in career, Barca star feels “inferior to Madrid”
And for the first time in his life, he thinks Barca is a step behind its El Clasico enemies. From The Telegraph:
“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” Piqué said. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”
Barcelona looked very poor in the second leg of the Super Cup, though the club did hammer the woodwork on multiple occasions. Real is the best team in the world, which makes being its rival a real hassle.
In fact, both clubs have been 1-2 in the world for some time, which has to make it extra perplexing when you’re No. 2 to only the club you despise more than any other.
“Naturally, nobody is happy about not playing international this year,” center back Benedikt Howedes told ProSoccerTalk. “During the week we currently have more time to focus on the next opponent. We will battle the European positions with many teams this season. I think, the race is up in the air. The Bundesliga is very balanced.”
Schalke’s tumulutous 2016-17 season started poorly and never really found its footing. The club lost its first five league matches under Markus Weinzierl, who was fired in June, and saw marquee transfers Naldo, Breel Embolo, and Coke miss a lot of time through injuries.
In the case of Nastasic, who won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2013-14, his 24 years carry a lot of experience. He’s thrived at Fiorentina, become a staple of the Serbian national team, and rebounding from his injury-hit time at City and is a leader at Schalke.
And those young guys can learn from Nastasic, who’s seen it all at 24.
“When I just arrived in Italy I was only 18 and it was the first year out of my country,” Nastasic told PST. “I didn’t expect at the beginning that I would play that much. Then I changed to England, and it was totally different. Italy is more tactical. Football in England is physical with a lot of tempo and running. I was young also without so much experience but when I was fit I think I played good.”
Schalke will need its young attack to find more goals. Its defense was Top Five in goals conceded last season, but its 45 goals was mid-table.
“Everyone knows that last season was not as good as we had expected,” Howedes said. “With our new coach, we want to improve our game and make our fans happy again. We are training hard and I am sure, that we will be more constant and improve our performances this season.”
“From the team I expect a much better season than last year,” Nastasic adds. “We are not playing international games so maybe that’s an advantage for us. We can concentrate on the Bundesliga.”
Both Nastasic and Howedes heaped praise on McKennie, as well as American teammate Haji Wright, who will spend the season on loan to Sandhausen, and the game overseas in general.
“Haji Wright started spectacular,” Howedes said. “For young players the most important thing is to play. On loan in Sandhausen the chance is greater than here. I rejoice for him he get this opportunity. The step in the 2.Bundesliga can be a good beginning of his career.
“The American soccer is really developing the last years. It is no coincidence that a lot of great players like Kaka and Gerrard joined Major League Soccer. And who knows, I also can imagine to play there some day in the future.”
Different champs (but probably not different champs): Bayern Munich will neither have Xabi Alonso nor Philipp Lahm this season, but that doesn’t mean they are runaway favorites to claim its 27th title and sixth-straight since Borussia Dortmund’s two-year reign ended with the 2011-12 crown. Carlo Ancelotti has reloaded with James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, and will be favored to hold off BVB for the crown.
Here’s to the new Bosz: USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic is already making an impact in the mind of his new coach, Peter Bosz, and the manager will be pleased to note that reports say Pulisic has no interest in looking into his future until after the 2018 World Cup.
Sleepers? Eintracht Frankfurt dropped into 11th last season, and may benefit from not finishing in a European place. The club has added Mexican national teamer Carlos Saucedo, Dutch star Jetro Willems, and well-traveled Jonathan De Guzman for its new season.
Americans Abroad: John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Julian Green (Stuttgart)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen *expected to be sold)
Caleb Stanko (Freiburg)
Old faces, new places: Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich)
Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund, from ‘Gladbach)
Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, from Ingolstadt)
Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen, from BVB)
Marcel Heller (Augsburg, from Darmstadt)
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Hamburg, from Bayer)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg, from Hertha)
Paul Verhaegh (Wolfsburg, from Augsburg)
Holger Badstuber (Stuttgart, from Bayern)
New faces, new places: James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)
Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC) Reece Oxford (Gladbach, on loan from West Ham)
Jonathan de Guzman (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt) Viktor Fischer (Mainz)
Opening weekend Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Hamburg vs. Augsburg — Saturday
Hertha Berlin vs. Stuttgart — Saturday
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Mainz vs. Hannover 96 — Saturday
Schalke vs. RB Leipzig — Saturday
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Koln — Sunday
FC Barcelona wants to express its profound sorrow and utter disgust at the terrorist attack that has hit the heart of our city, la Rambla de Barcelona. The Club wishes to send our support and thoughts to the victims, their families and friends as well as the people of Barcelona and its visitors.
As a mark of respect, the flags will fly at half-mast at the Club’s facilities and the players from both teams will wear black armbands in all the Club’s matches this weekend.
On Sunday, before the 2017/18 La Liga opener against Betis, the Camp Nou will hold a minutes silence in recognition and memory of the victims.
MILAN (AP) Juventus’ six-year Serie A domination could end this year.
AC Milan has reinforced its squad, Inter Milan has had some much-needed stability after four managerial changes last season, while Napoli looks set to mount an even stronger challenge this time around.
Lazio could also be surprise contenders after Simone Inzaghi’s side withstood a late comeback to beat Juventus 3-2 and win the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday.
However, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned the rest of Serie A that it will be a very different performance from his team in Saturday’s season opener at home to Cagliari.
“We cannot and must not play like that in the league,” he said. “This defeat brings us back to earth. Some of the players aren’t fully fit yet, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy … but starting on Saturday you’ll see a different Juve.”
Allegri also took encouragement from the last time Juventus played Lazio in the Super Cup, in 2015.
“We beat Lazio in Beijing for the Super Cup two years ago and then had a bad start to the Serie A season, so hopefully we’ll do it the other way round this time,” he said.
Juventus has dominated Italian soccer for nearly a decade, winning three successive league and cup doubles and it will be tricky for anyone to prevent the Bianconeri from extending their league record to seven straight Serie A titles.
Milan was the last team other than Juventus to win the title and, despite having last finished in the top three in 2013, it looks the likeliest to depose the Turin-based club.
The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash and splashed out more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason.
As well as signing Italy’s top defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, Milan also brought in forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).
Fourth place in Serie A now guarantees qualification to the Champions League and that will be the minimum requirement for Vincenzo Montella’s team. But, if the new team gels quickly, there is the feeling that Milan could make a strong challenge for the title.
Bonucci was playing down his new side’s chances.
“Juve remains favorite and Napoli has a great chance of fighting for the title,” Bonucci said in interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. “As we are now we’re still a step below both, but we shouldn’t put limits on ourselves. After those two, I see Milan, Inter and Roma as equal.”
Napoli has finished in the top three in four of the past five seasons but even a record number of points last campaign still left it third, five points behind Juventus.
However, talk of the `scudetto’ is no longer a taboo for Napoli, which hasn’t won the title since 1990.
But, while it didn’t make any big signings in the transfer window, its biggest success of the offseason has been in keeping its band of talented players together.
It sold Ezequiel Lavezzi in 2012 and Edinson Cavani the following year – both to Paris Saint-Germain – while Gonzalo Higuain moved to Juventus in 2016.
This year Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have signed new contracts, while Marek Hamsik is just three goals away from breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.
Mertens was reportedly pursued by a number of clubs – both in Italy and abroad – but the Belgium international, who scored more than 30 goals for Napoli last campaign, opted to extend his stay with the southern side.
“I stayed here because the team plays very beautiful football and doing that we can get a lot of joy,” said Mertens, who scored again as Napoli beat Nice 2-0 in the first leg of its Champions League playoff on Wednesday.
Napoli played arguably the best soccer in Italy last season and its attacking flair saw it score 94 goals, but it faltered against teams in the lower half of the table and coach Maurizio Sarri is hoping to have corrected that by the time it kicks of its Serie campaign at Hellas Verona on Saturday.