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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Copa America trip helped convince Lodeiro of Sounders move
Nicolas Loderio is getting set to play in the MLS Cup finals, something that only came to pass with a team visit to the United States, and the assistance of Luis Suarez.
According to Seattle Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey, he spoke with Lodeiro often in his attempts to bring the 27-year-old from Boca Juniors to Major League Soccer. The moment that swayed him was a trip to the US. A business trip.
With Uruguay competing in the Copa America Centenario, it allowed the two to speak more frequently, but when the Uruguayan became frustrated with his own handle of the native language, a friend stepped in to help. He asked national teammate Suarez to help translate, and thus the transfer came to pass.
“You don’t have body language, it’s harder than it is straight to the face and so he just got frustrated that he couldn’t understand everything that I’m saying,” Lagerwey told MLSSoccer.com’s radio show. “And so he says, ‘Hold on, speak to my friend,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and I have no idea what’s happening. And Luis Suarez gets on and says, ‘Hi, this is Luis Suarez, how are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Morning, Mr. Suarez, how are you?’ And he was our translator.”
Lodiero has been a revelation for the Sounders since joining in the summer. A creative force all season, the Uruguayan has scored four goals in five playoff matches, bursting onto the national scene on the biggest stage.
“It was just funny. Nico and I, we talked fairly regularly during the process, in part because it took four months for the thing to play out,” “And he was in the US for the Copa America with Uruguay, obviously, and in hindsight that ended up being a big deciding factor for him, because he brought his wife and his little son and they got to see America and I think liked it and developed a comfort level with it. And I think that’s what ultimately pushed them to make the leap, but I was talking and Nico’s English is actually pretty, pretty good, but he isn’t always so comfortable on the phone.”
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane is one match away from coaching Real Madrid to a new unbeaten record.
When Zidane replaced Rafa Benitez midway through last season, the inexperienced former midfield standout got off to an auspicious start with a 5-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
Eleven months and one Champions League title later, Madrid faces Deportivo again at home on Saturday with the chance of surpassing its longest unbeaten run since the club was founded in 1902.
On Wednesday, Madrid equaled a club record of 34 games without a loss set in 1989 under coach Leo Beenhakker when it drew 2-2 with Borussia Dortmund.
“It’s important to continue to make history and continue our good run,” Zidane said after the match. “I don’t think it’s very important for me to leave my mark. What interests me the most is to continue with this great run that we’re on.”
Last season, when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez tapped Zidane to take over a struggling team, the decision smelled of desperation.
A fan favorite from his playing days as part of Madrid’s “galaticos” bunch, Zidane was promoted from coaching the reserve team to take over a side that was lurching from one embarrassing episode to the next.
Madrid’s 2015-16 campaign had started with Perez flubbing his play to sign away Manchester United goalie David De Gea. The team was then disqualified from the Copa de Rey for fielding an illegible player, and it endured a 4-0 defeat from Barcelona at home as it failed to click with Benitez.
Perez needed to make an impact move. But instead of searching for a veteran manager, he charged the unproven Zidane with turning around Madrid’s group of talented underachievers.
At first, the team remained erratic, and even looked set to bow out of the Champions League after a shocking 2-0 loss at German side Wolfsburg.
But that defeat on April 6 proved to be a catalyst. The team hasn’t lost since, recovering to claim its 11th European Cup and almost nip Barcelona for the Spanish league crown, before roaring out to lead la Liga this season.
Zidane, whose top-tier coaching experience had been limited to his stint as an assistant under Carlo Ancelotti, has now reached the half-century mark as head manager. During that 50-match period, he has overseen 37 wins, 11 draws and only two losses. That other loss came at Atletico Madrid in February.
“The players have to be congratulated. They’re the ones out on the pitch, it’s them who run, fight and dig in,” Zidane said. “We also have to thank the fans, who always get behind the team and support us. They’ve got to take some credit for what the team is achieving”.
Gifted with world-class stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, Zidane focused on getting more from Madrid’s supporting cast. He put a new emphasis on defense in his midfield by favoring Mateo Kovacic and Casemiro over flashier playmakers James Rodriguez and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, and he has helped the little-known Lucas Vazquez blossom into an important piece of its attack.
“(Zidane) has gotten us to work hard and for things to go well for us, and that is paying off with this run of 34 unbeaten games,” defender Dani Carvajal said. “Everyone on the team has words of praise for him.”
Whereas the draw with Dortmund was disappointing because it cost Madrid a first-place finish in its Champions League group, its 1-1 stalemate earned last weekend at Barcelona tasted of victory. The “clasico” draw kept Madrid six points clear of Barcelona at the top of the Spanish table.
After it plays Deportivo, Madrid heads to Japan for the Club World Cup.
If Zidane sets the new club mark, his next goal would be the milestone held by Barcelona under counterpart Luis Enrique, whose 39-game unbeaten run was ended by Madrid last April.
Top 5 Premier League storylines for Week 15: Chelsea top, Leicester tested
This weekend is absolutely critical for the Premier League. Last time out, the top of the table kept pace and little changed. This time around, there is danger lurking for much of the top. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Spurs all have difficult tests, but can Tony Pulis be the one to pin Chelsea back?
Spurs and Manchester United 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday, NBCSports.com) meet with both teams clawing for scraps from those above them. These two teams very well could be battling it out for a final Champions League place at the end of the season, meaning this matchup could go a long way in building a true gap in the table.
The bottom of the table is fascinating as well. Bob Bradley has his biggest chance yet to pull the Swans off the bottom against Sunderland amid the noise, while Hull City and Crystal Palace have a key meeting.
1. Moving day for Chelsea
Chelsea vs. West Brom — 7:00 a.m. ET Sunday, NBCSports.com
Chelsea is in the best form of any Premier League team in years. Their clean sheet streak predictably ended two games ago, but it hasn’t stopped the Blues’ fine run. They’ve won eight in a row and look impossible to stop. Can Pulis-ball keep the Blues at bay? They’re three points on top of the table, and another win would likely give them even more space considering tough matches for the other top teams.
2. Any magic left in the tank for Leicester City?
Leicester City vs. Manchester City — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSports.com
The Foxes topped their Champions League group, but things continue to look more and more bleak in league play. Claudio Raneiri admitted they’re in a relegation battle with the Foxes just two points above the drop. But we’ve learned not to count this team out already, and a win against Pep Guardiola‘s stumbling team could be more than just three points.
Speaking of Manchester City, Pep was pipped by fellow first-time Premier League manager Antonio Conte last weekend, and then held to a 1-1 draw with Celtic in midweek Champions League action. However, City has taken care of business so far this season against weaker opponents, and the Foxes certainly seem to be just that at this point.
For all the heat the Gunners have (unfairly?) taken this season, Alexis Sanchez has them just three points off the top. For Arsenal to still be one game off Chelsea despite the Blues’ fabulous run is somewhat remarkable, and for them to have thus far weathered the storm, it would be truly something to see them capitalize on a slip-up from Conte.
However, Stoke has been here before. The Potters have conceded just three goals in their last seven matches, including a pair with clean sheets; if anyone can stop Sanchez’s amazing form, it’s the Mark Hughes and the defensively stout Potters. A win for Stoke could potentially see them jump as high as sixth, could they go on the road and halt the Gunners? It’s possible, but a 315-minute shutout streak vs. Stoke for Arsenal puts things squarely in Arsene Wenger‘s favor before kickoff.
4. Bob Bradley’s golden opportunity
Swansea City vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday, NBCSports.com
Bob Bradley has taken plenty of flak at Swansea City, and rightly so. Since his anointment as the first American manager in England’s top flight, the Swans have picked up just five points and still sit bottom of the table, two points back of anyone else. But to be fair, the competition has been tough. The four losses since his appointment have come against Arsenal, Stoke City, Manchester United, and Tottenham, and he picked up a pair of points against 8th placed Everton and 11th placed Watford. Now is his chance to pick the Swans off the bottom with a win against those directly above him.
Sunderland visits Wales sitting in 18th, and should Swansea win, they would jump above the Black Cats. The task is no given, however, with Sunderland owning three wins in its last four, meaning they’ve picked up nine of their 11 total points in the last month. Bradley fended off much criticism the past week, and if he’s going to silence those calls for his job after just two months, this is a must-win.
5. West Ham finishes gauntlet stretch
Liverpool vs. West Ham United — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday, NBCSports.com
The Hammers are in the midst of a brutal run of matches where they have just two points, putting them a single point above the relegation zone. The teams they’ve played? Everton, Stoke City, Spurs, Manchester United, Arsenal. Yikes. And yet, if West Ham aspire to the heights they reached last season, Slaven Bilic will expect better. Can the Hammers get a result against the high-flying Reds? Liverpool sits four points off the top, but goalkeeper Loris Karius was exposed last week in the stunning Bournemouth comeback, and it’s possible that disappointment leaves a lasting impact. Who will prevail?
Leeds United may be making a push to return to the Premier League, but they’ll have to do so without their owner.
Massimo Cellino, who took over Leeds in February of 2014, has been banned for 18 months by the English FA for his involvement in the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham later that summer. He was also fined $315,000 and required to complete a course outlining the duties and restrictions for owners in the English league.
During McCormack’s sale, a significant payment was apparently paid to unlicensed agent Barry Hughes, facilitated by McCormack’s official licensed agent Derek Day, who was also banned for 18 months, although 11 of those are suspended, leaving him sidelined for seven months should no other infractions arise.
This likely will only serve to accelerate the current potential sale of Leeds to Andrea Radrizzani, with both sides having publicly acknowledged discussions are ongoing.
Leeds is currently in fourth in the Championship table, having won five of their last six matches. McCormack, meanwhile, scoring a whopping 42 goals in 100 appearances over two years before making a big-money move to Aston Villa this past summer, where he has slumped at Villa Park, owning just two goals over 13 Championship appearances this season and losing his place in the team. To be fair, he struggled in his early days at Fulham as well, scoring just twice in his first 15 matches before exploding in his second season at Craven Cottage with 21 league goals.