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Premier League Power Rankings: Southampton surging, Manchester United sliding – Week 8

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This season just keeps getting worse for Manchester United, and so far Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are taking full advantage of their struggles by pulling away at the top. Plus, a few surprise packages are still hanging around.

One of those is Southampton, who are flying high, while their isn’t much movement further down as the midtable mediocrity crew cancel each other out.

Week 8 saw the highest number of goals, 34, as offenses finally exploded and plenty of teams look in dire straits at the back. Find out how it affected the Premier League Power Rankings below.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. Every Wednesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team, forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) 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-D-L 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.

RANKING

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1
Arsenal: A big win against Norwich showcased the Gunners’ attacking talents, with Aaron Ramsey coming off the bench to shine and Mesut Ozil running the show. Wenger’s side left it late to wrap up that win but they are loaded with attackers. Now they just need to stay healthy to keep the charge going. (6-1-1)
source:  2
Chelsea: The Blues went behind against Cardiff but looked strong in the second half as they surged back, with Eden Hazard scoring twice and Samuel Eto’o getting his first. Oscar hoping off the bench shows their strength, plus a big UCL win and goals for Torres helps. Mourinho is getting settled at Stamford Bridge. (5-2-1)
source:  3 UP 1
Manchester City: Rejoice! They finally broke their away day voodoo against West Ham, by confidently beating the Hammers 3-1. David Silva and Sergio Aguero turned on the magic, and Pellegrini’s men suddenly look like world beaters. (5-1-2)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Tottenham: Spurs are looking solid and dependable as they ground out yet another clean sheet in a solid win away at Aston Villa. And in Andros Townsend they’ve got a star winger who could possibly replace Gareth Bale. Maybe it’s too early for that, but Tottenham have a strong squad assembled. (5-1-1)

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5 UP 3
Southampton: The Saints are the big movers this week as Mauricio Pochettino’s men really should have beaten United at Old Trafford in the 1-1 draw. Southampton have come a long way in a short time, but after a win at Anfield and beating plenty of bottom half PL fodder, they look superb. Young talent, high-pressing and full of confidence... how long can they keep this up? (4-3-1)
source:  6 DOWN 1
Liverpool: The Reds are having a few growing pains here and there and they came up a little short at Newcastle. Grabbing a 2-2 draw against the spirited Magpies who were down to 10-men actually turned out to be a good result. But too many defensive lapses and giving the ball away cheaply hampered Liverpool. (5-2-1)
source:  7 Manchester United: Moyes’ United were outplayed by the Saints and they got lucky. Defensively they were struggling, as both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were out injured. The lack of depth for Moyes is worrying, especially as UCL action hots up. Problems persist as the slow start continues. (3-2-3)
source:  8 DOWN 2
Everton: Roberto Martinez’ men gutted out the win against Hull, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. Another good defensive display was made all the better thanks to a terrific finish from Pienaar with his first touch off the bench. Great start carries on. (4-3-1)
source:  9
Swansea: A resounding win at home to Sunderland showcased what the Swans are all about, pouncing after long-spells of possession to punish the opposition. They resemble more of a counter-attacking team this season, and with Bony getting amongst the goals more regularly, Laudrup’s team will keep threatening. (3-1-4)
source:  10
Aston Villa: A spirited yet pretty toothless display from Villa against Spurs summed up their season so far. Poor going forward but much better at the back than last year, a home game against Everton this week will show how far they’ve come. (3-1-4)
source:  11 Hull City: A battling display perhaps deserved more against Everton, and Hull are looking just fine in the PL. They held their own and sub Yannick Sagbo smashed home a great effort, but Spurs away this Sunday will not be easy to navigate. Scrappers who never give up, that’s the Tigers. (3-2-3)
source:  12 Norwich City: A poor loss at Arsenal showed up all of the Canaries weaknesses, as the Gunners tore their slow defense apart. They managed to grab a goal back and make things interesting, but ultimately their lack of guile going forward has, and will continue to, cost them. (2-1-5)

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13 West Brom: The Baggies were the better team for most of the second half vs. Stoke, and should have had a penalty when Youssouf Mulumbu was brought down. Steve Clarke’s men are another team that are solid, but lack quality going forward. Need to keep improving. Tricky trip to Anfield coming up. (2-4-2)
source:  14 UP 3 Newcastle: Newcastle are looking back to their best with a display full of energy, passion and drive vs. Liverpool gaining them a vital point after going down to 10-men. That fighting spirit should see them raring to for the derby against Sunderland on Sunday, can Pardew’s men deliver a win away to pile more misery on the Mackems? (3-2-3)
source:  15  UP 3
Fulham: What a difference a few weeks make, as Martin Jol’s men recorded back-to-back wins. They absolutely hammered Crystal Palace on Monday night, with Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell scoring screamers. That scrappy win against Stoke before the break could be the turning point when all’s said and done. (3-1-4)
source:  16  DOWN 1
West Ham: It was always going to be hard against Man City, but the Hammers made life hard for themselves with a poor defensive display. Add in a lack of belief going forward and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. Record signing Andy Carroll won’t be fit anytime soon, so ‘Big Sam’ has some big problems. (2-2-4)
source:  17 DOWN 3
Stoke City: Another game, another blank in the ‘goals for’ column for the Potters. How can Mark Hughes’ side get the creative juices flowing? Maybe bring in the likes of Brek Shea to mix things up… Anyway, Stoke have a solid foundation to build from, and that’s about all you can say so far. (2-2-4)
source:  18 DOWN 2
Cardiff: Things are starting to slip away from Malkay Mackay, especially with some unrest behind the scenes. All that nonsense aside, the Scotsman is seeing his side start games well, then peter off as Chelsea’s class showed the Bluebirds up. Fitness or concentration an issue? Massive game away at Norwich this week. (2-2-4)
source:  19
Crystal Palace: Who will lead the Eagles now? That’s the big question on everyone’s mind as Ian Holloway walked away from the early-season strugglers on Wednesday following the capitulation vs. Fulham. So many new faces have arrived, and with 30 games to go… Can anyone save this sinking ship? (1-0-7)
source:  20 Sunderland: Deja vu… “Another week, another defeat for Sunderland.” Gus Poyet has got a huge job on his hands with the Black Cats and he saw that on his debut with a poor second half in the 4-0 loss to Swansea. Are the Mackems ever going to win a game? A Tyne-Wear derby should get things going. (0-1-7)

Report: AC Milan negotiating new deal for keeper Donnaumma

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 13:  AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on February 13, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]

According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.

Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.

Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.

Baggio marks 50th birthday by visiting quake victims

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Roberto Baggio (L) is challenged by Diego Lugano during the Interreligious Match For Peace at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.

The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”

Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”

Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.

The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.

Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.

He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.

FA Cup preview: Spurs, Man United face Championship opposition

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United leaves the pitch with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick during the UEFA Europa  League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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As the Premier League sides have dwindled down in this season’s FA Cup, two of England’s big boys will hope to avoid upsets on Sunday.

At the moment, six PL clubs remain in the competition after Chelsea and Middlesbrough advanced on Saturday and Manchester City was held to a draw against Huddersfield. Arsenal will meet non-league affiliated side Sutton United on Monday.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Fulham vs. Tottenham — 9 a.m. ET

While Spurs have come away victorious in five of their six FA Cup encounters against Fulham in the past, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will face a tough test on Sunday. Fulham is currently battling to stay in the race for promotion next season to re-join England’s top flight but the Craven Cottage side will have a legitimate chance to make some noise after knocking off Hull City and Cardiff in the past two rounds.

Meanwhile, Spurs will likely be without striker Harry Kane, who picked up an injury in Thursday’s defeat against Gent in the Europa League. Tottenham has struggled away from home as of late, having won just two of their last 14 fixtures away from White Hart Lane.

Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

The two sides haven’t met in the FA Cup since back in the 1980s, a win for Manchester United, and Sunday’s encounter likely won’t be much a walk in the park for Rovers. Blackburn is fighting for survival in the Championship, making their performance in the FA Cup all the more critical for morale over the second half of the season. However, key suspensions to both Hope Akpan and Elliott Bennett will leave Blackburn shorthanded.

Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils will be missing several key players as well, including Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both of whom are injured. United has done well away from home recently, only falling once in its previous nine encounters away from Old Trafford.

Nice holds on to beat Lorient despite Balotelli’s red card

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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PARIS (AP) Nice striker Mario Balotelli has more red cards away from home than goals this season.

[ MORE: Marseille beats Rennes to stay in hunt for top four ]

The Italian has scored nine in the French league so far, but all have been at home. On Saturday he was sent off for the second time on his travels, and for the third time overall during his first campaign in France. However, despite his red card, Nice won at Lorient 1-0 to move up to second place behind Monaco.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

Balotelli returned to the side after missing last weekend’s action with a fever, but was shown a straight red following an altercation with Lorient defender Zargo Toure. From initial video replays, it seemed difficult to ascertain what Balotelli did wrong other than backing into Toure with his arms up as they challenged for a ball.

Nice coach Lucien Favre was no closer to an explanation after the game, although he suggested Balotelli may have spoken out of turn to referee Tony Chapron.

“I didn’t see what happened. All of a sudden he was coming off and I said to myself, `What’s happened?”‘ Favre said. “I didn’t see when he (the referee) gave the red card and I don’t know why. It seems that he talked back to the referee.”

Favre refuted any notion that Balotelli might be getting singled out unfairly by referees.

“He’s not on referees’ radars. They are totally neutral,” Favre said. “If there is reason to send a player off, then they will.”

Midfielder Wylan Cyprien scored his seventh in the league after being set up by right back Arnaud Souquet early on.

Nice is three points behind Monaco, and one point ahead of defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which is at home to Toulouse on Sunday. Lorient is in last place.

MARSEILLE 2, RENNES 0

Marseille showed it can cope without top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, as it maintained its push for a top-four finish and place in the Europa League next season.

Gomis has been Marseille’s best player, scoring 16 league goals, but injured a knee last weekend and is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

In his absence, wingers Clinton N'Jie and Florian Thauvin grabbed second-half goals as Marseille moved level on points with fifth-place Saint-Etienne and one point behind fourth-place Lyon. They are both playing on Sunday.

France playmaker Dimitri Payet went close three times – hitting the crossbar with a rasping shot – before starting the move that led to N’Jie’s goal in the second half.

Five minutes later, Thauvin scored a powerful swerving shot into the top corner from 20 meters after running onto a neat back heel from midfielder Morgan Sanson.

Inconsistent Marseille has won its last three home games but lost its last three away.

Next Sunday comes bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain, a must-win game in the eyes of the passionate Marseille fans at Stade Velodrome.

“We’re confident when we play at the Velodrome, but I’d like to us to do the same away from home,” Marseille left back Patrice Evra said.

OTHER ACTION

Mid-table Angers won 1-0 at home against Nancy, which is one place above the relegation zone.

Lille, down to 10 men, beat Caen 1-0 in Lille coach Franck Passi’s first match in charge. Attacking midfielder Anwar El Ghazi, who came from Ajax last month, struck shortly after Lille center half Adama Soumaoro was sent off.

Also, Metz drew with Nantes 1-1.

In Sunday’s other games, it is: Lyon vs Dijon, Montpellier vs. Saint-Etienne, and Bordeaux vs. Guingamp.