Premier League Power Rankings: Everton flying, Manchester United nosedive – Week 14-15

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In the past seven days we’ve seen two Premier League matchdays take place and there’s been so many surprises that’s it hard to keep track.

Manchester United’s continuing fall from grace has been the main storyline, but Everton’s terrific displays, Chelsea’s struggles and a revival from basement boys Crystal Palace and others  is also worth nothing.

There’s been so many changes in the rankings this week, as teams begin to position themselves accordingly for the busy festive period on the horizon.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. 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.

Let’s get to it!

RANKING
Up/Down

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1
Arsenal: First slip up of sorts for the Gunners, as they were outplayed by Everton for most of their 1-1 draw. Flamini isn’t their best player but certainly the most important and they looked a much better outfit when he came off the bench. Mental toughness will be huge for Arsene Wenger’s team over Christmas. Massive test away at City this week, can they take points from Pellegrini’s men at the Eithad? If Ozil Cazorla and Ramsey are on form, yes. (11-2-2)
source:  2 UP 2
Liverpool: The Luis Suarez show continues to take center stage at Anfield, my word this man is something else. Five goals in his last two games (and another two efforts which were deflected in as own goals) shows how much of a menace he really is. Brendan Rodgers’ men need him now more than ever with Daniel Sturridge out. Huge test away at Spurs, do we fancy Suarez to keep his red-hot form going? (9-3-3)
source:  3
Manchester City: Away from home, City have been feeble this season and they dropped more points and could’ve easily lost in their 1-1 draw with the Saints. Eight points from eight games away from the Etihad says it all. Luckily this week they’re at home, but they do host league leaders Arsenal. This will be an intriguing battle which will see City try to make up some ground on the Gunners as Pellegrini’s title credentials will be on full view. Will Aguero and Negredo continue up top? Or will he pack the midfield? (9-2-4)
source:  4 UP 2
Everton: The big movers this week, the Toffees impressed me, amongst many others, at the Emirates. Ross Barkley is a future superstar in midfield and the solid defense ushered by Tim Howard means they always give themselves a chance to win games. They left Arsenal with a 1-1 draw after a pulsating clash as they Toffees came racing out of the traps. But they need to score more goals as they create so many chances. This weekend against Fulham they need to do something similar. (7-7-1)

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5 DOWN 3
Chelsea: Defensive lapses and conceding boat loads of goals, this isn’t a Jose Mourinho team is it? Oh, it is… that’s awkward. A shocking 3-2 defeat away at Stoke on Saturday highlighted the Blues weaknesses and Moruinho admitted afterwards that he doesn’t like what he’s seeing from his defense after they leaded six goals in two games last week. Inconsistency has riddled Chelsea all season, will they bounce back against Palace? (9-3-3)
source:  6 UP 2
Tottenham: A return to form, of sorts, as Spurs won back-to-back games away from home 2-1 and showed steely determination by coming from behind to win both. Andre Villas-Boas was delighted and his side face Liverpool at home this week knowing a win could see their top four hopes given a massive boost before the Christmas break. Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and others were benched, there’s no way AVB should change his settled side. (8-3-4)
source:  7 UP 2 Newcastle: A poor defeat away at Swansea was followed up by the Magpies first win at Old Trafford since 1972, when they beat Manchester United thanks to Cabaye’s second half strike. Newcastle were solid, organized and rode their luck a little in the win. But Alan Pardew’s team has a real chance of pushing on and challenging the top four. They face Southampton at home this weekend, in a game the ‘Toon Army’ will expect them to win. (8-2-5)
source:  8 DOWN 1
Southampton: Speak of the devil, or, the Saints in this case, Mauricio Pochettino’s men make the long trip North to Newcastle knowing they’ve stopped the rot following three-straight defeats. Injuries haven’t been kind to the Saints but they dominated Man City at St. Mary’s and an in-form Daniel Osvaldo (his goal vs. City is an early contender for goal of the season) could see them push into the top six once again. (6-5-4)
source:  9 UP 1

Swansea City: A good week for the Swans overall as they beat Newcastle 3-0 and drew with Hull to move back into the top 10. Michael Laudrup’s men have a massive Europa League game coming up against St. Gallen this week as their squad will once again be stretched to the limit. Can the South Wales club push on from their promising start to December? (5-4-6)
source:  10 DOWN 5
Manchester United: What is up with United? We could write a novel on David Moyes’ trials and tribulations so far and we’re not even halfway through the season! Two 1-0 home defeats to Everton and Newcastle, their first successive home losses since 2002 in the league, have everyone questioning Moyes again and his side just don’t look confident or able to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Attacking impetus is badly needed, so expect plenty of new names to come in during the January window. (6-4-5)
source:  11
Hull City: The Tigers are plateauing out after a good start to the season but they’re still sat comfortably in midtable. A narrow defeat away at Arsenal and then a solid draw at Swansea proves they are extremely difficult to to beat. Stoke at home this week is a massive chance to get back into the top 10. (5-3-7)
source:  12 UP 3 Norwich City: Superb win away from home vs. West Brom for the Canaries and two wins from their last three has seen them surge up the standings. Gary Hooper is back scoring and defensively, Chris Hughton’s side look much more solid. Home game v Swansea is a chance to keep the good run going. (5-2-8)

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13 Aston Villa: Villans had a mixed bag after they beat Southampton away with a great display of counter-attacking play before losing at basement boys Fulham. Paul Lambert’s side haven’t got much strength in-depth and Christian Benteke’s lack of form is worrying. Man Utd at home this weekend… Can they pile more misery on Moyes? (5-4-6)
source:  14 UP 2 Stoke City: The Potters grabbed just their second win in 10 league games by beating Chelsea late on thanks to Assaidi’s wonder-goal. Mark Hughes’ side have been battling away and now have just one defeat in six games. A trip to Hull could see them build on an impressive win. (4-5-6)
source:  15 UP 3
Crystal Palace: Can Pulis really save Palace? Of course he can. Two wins in a row at home have seen the Eagles join the pack above them and there’s real hope in South London. A tough trip across the capital to face Chelsea awaits this weekend. But now could be a good time to play them. Hope. (4-1-10)
source:  16 DOWN 4
West Brom:The Baggies are dropping back, and alarmingly so after no win in five games and three defeats on the spin. Steve Clarke’s side are now just two points off the relegation zone and I think it’s safe to say West Brom could get dragged into the battle for survival this season. Hold on to your hats. (3-6-6)
source:  17 UP 2
Fulham: Two spirited displays in Rene Meulensteen’s first two games in charge saw the Cottagers finally ended their run of seven-straight defeats as they beat Aston Villa 2-0 on Sunday. Dimitar Berbatov is back hungry and ready to lead Fulham out of trouble. Promising times are back, for now, down by the bank of the Thames. (4-1-10)
source:  18 DOWN 4
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds were very poor against Palace and the lack of goals they’ve scored this season, just 11, should be worrying for Malkay Mackay. No win in five shows theirs struggles and a big home game v West Brom is coming up in the Welsh capital this weekend. Home win?  (3-5-7)
source:  19
West Ham: Chants of “Allardyce Out” are already beginning to emanate from the stands at Upton Park, as the Hammers poor run of form continues. Still no recognized striker staring most games means no attacking nous and bland soccer has taken over. Four defeats in their last five has seen Big Sam’s men plummet and a relegation battle is on. (3-4-8)
source:  20 DOWN 3
Sunderland: Gus Poyet lifted everyone at Sunderland when he arrived as the new manager… now he has to do it again. The Black Cats have now lost three of their last four and despite spirited displays in narrow defeats to Chelsea and Spurs, silly defensive mistakes are costing the Mackems. At the moment they’re playing like a side destined for the drop. (2-2-11)

PL title & FA Cup in sight, Conte says Chelsea still rebuilding

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Antonio Conte might be just seven games away from guiding Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double this season, but the Blues’ first-year Italian manager insists his squad is nowhere near being a finished product.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking after Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, Conte insisted that the team he inherited last summer, after a disastrous 10th-place finish in the PL, is “in a period of transition” and that “[they] need time” as the club moves on from an accomplished, foundational generation — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I think that now at Chelsea we are in a period of transition. In this season, we have lost (Branislav) Ivanovic, (John Obi) Mikel and next season we lose John Terry.

“We are talking about players who wrote the history of this club. They won a lot. Now we have to find the right substitutes for these players and then work to put these players at the same level.

“I think that in the period with Carlo (Ancelotti) — and Carlo is the best Italian coach, I have great respect for him — he arrived at Chelsea when they had a really strong squad. Now we are building. We are building something important. We need time.”

[ MORE: Kante takes home PFA Player of the Year | Dele wins Young Player ]

Conte is doing two things with the above comments: 1) he’s tempering expectations for next season, when Chelsea will be back in the UEFA Champions League and automatically expected to repeat as PL champions — not to mention, taking a bit of pressure off in these final two months of the 2016-17 season; and, 2) pointing out just how impressive his work to date has been, the fact he’s potentially seven games away from lifting two trophies in seven days’ time next month.

Ligue 1: Mbappe, Falcao fire Monaco top again

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PARIS (AP) Strikers Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe continued their fine form with a goal each to help Monaco secure a 2-1 win at Lyon and reclaim top spot in the French league on Sunday.

Monaco moves above defending champion Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference, with Monaco having played a game less. PSG has four games left.

“It wasn’t easy and it was a big win for us tonight,” Monaco center half Andrea Raggi said. “We all play for each other and it’s now or never.”

It has been an astonishing season for Monaco, which has now scored 143 goals in all competitions and remains on course for the treble. Monaco faces PSG in the French Cup semifinals next Wednesday.

Falcao and Mbappe scored in midweek when Monaco beat German side Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal to reach the last four 6-3 on aggregate.

Lyon also did well in Europe, going through on penalty kicks away to Turkish club Besiktas to reach the last four in the Europa League.

Falcao and the 18-year-old Mbappe have combined for 51 goals.

Falcao put Monaco ahead in the 36th minute with a header from close range – his 28th goal of the season – and Mbappe made it 2-0 just before halftime with a trademark surging run and cool finish for his 23rd.

“I just try and give my best whenever I play,” said Mbappe, who has recently been called into the France team. “I wasn’t playing much at the start of the season, so I’m still quite fresh and I hope I can help us win the remaining games.”

PSG beat Montpellier 2-0 at home on Saturday with Edinson Cavani scoring his 31st league goal of the season and 44th overall.

Nice has already guaranteed third place and a spot in the qualifying round for next season’s Champions League.

But with four games remaining, it is six points behind Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. Nice hosts PSG next Sunday.

Striker Corentin Jean gave mid-table Toulouse the lead in the 57th minute. Midfielder Valentin Eysseric continued his fine form with the equalizer three minutes later.

The game was briefly halted early in the first half after a group of Saint-Etienne supporters forced themselves into the stadium.

The match was supposed to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for unruly supporters during Saint-Etienne’s local derby against Lyon.

After a brief delay for police to remove the fans, Slovakia striker Robert Beric put the home side ahead in the 39th and center half Edson Mexer leveled just before the break.

Saint-Etienne is in seventh place, while Rennes is ninth.

Serie A: Napoli waste chance to go 2nd; Juve win big (again)

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MILAN (AP) Arkadiusz Milik scored his first goal since his lengthy injury layoff but it wasn’t enough to prevent Napoli from drawing 2-2 at Sassuolo on Sunday and missing the chance to move second in Serie A.

Milik scored two minutes after coming off the bench to rescue a point for Napoli and move it to within one point of second-placed Roma, which visits bottom club Pescara on Monday.

Second spot in Serie A secures automatic entry into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finishes third has to go through a playoff.

“The road to second spot has got more difficult, we have to hope our rivals slip up,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We have a point more than last season, even though we played in the Champions League, even though we lost (Gonzalo) Higuain at the beginning of the season and Milik for four months, so I think the team has had an extraordinary season until now.”

After an even first half, Napoli broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break thanks to a rare header from Dries Mertens. It was the diminutive Belgian’s 22nd league goal of the season – as many as he had scored in total in his three previous seasons at Napoli.

However, Napoli gifted Sassuolo the equalizer seven minutes later as Marek Hamsik’s terrible headed backpass to Pepe Reina was intercepted by Domenico Berardi, who fired home from close range.

Mertens almost immediately restored his side’s lead but saw his free kick come off the crossbar, while Lorenzo Insigne’s effort also hit the inside of the post for Napoli.

Sassuolo took the lead 10 minutes from time following a superb save from Reina to deny former Napoli hero Paolo Cannavaro, but Antonino Ragusa hooked the ball back in from the byline for Luca Mazzitelli to drive into the bottom right corner.

Milik was brought on in the 82nd and immediately leveled. Jose Callejon’s corner was knocked down by Raul Albiol and the Poland international spun to fire in from close range for his first goal since he was injured on World Cup duty in October.

AC Milan missed a penalty as the new era at the famous Italian club continued without a win.

Milan drew 2-2 at city rival Inter Milan last weekend in the first match since the $800 million takeover of Milan by Chinese-led Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg ended Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign.

Sunday’s defeat saw Milan remain in the last qualifying spot for the Europa League, two points above Inter.

“If we relate everything to the result, it didn’t go well but I shouldn’t do that,” Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said. “We created 15 chances, it’s difficult to create more in Serie A.”

Empoli took a surprise lead five minutes from halftime when Levan Mchedlidze headed in a corner.

Milan should have leveled shortly before the hour, after Lukasz Skorupski pushed over Mario Pasalic, but the Empoli goalkeeper made up for his error by keeping out Suso’s penalty and then parrying a follow-up effort from Gianluca Lapadula.

Empoli doubled its lead in the 67th when Massimo Maccarone nodded on the ball for Mame Thiam to score his first goal in Italian football.

Lapadula reduced the deficit five minutes later, curling into the bottom corner and Milan had a good chance to level when it was awarded an indirect free kick six yards out from goal after Skorupski got the ball, put it down and picked it back up again.

However, with all the Empoli players on the line, Milan couldn’t equalize.

Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma kept his side in the match with a fantastic one-handed save to deny Maccarone and it almost proved decisive as Lucas Ocampos volleyed off the crossbar at the other end.

Keita Balde Diao notched a five-minute hat trick as Lazio crushed Palermo to move back into fourth in Serie A.

Ciro Immobile scored two in as many minutes to put Lazio 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, before Keita’s quickfire treble – including a penalty – ensured the match was all but over with less than half an hour played.

Lazio relaxed and Palermo threatened an unexpected comeback with two goals from Andrea Rispoli in five minutes at the start of the second half.

But Luca Crecco extended Lazio’s lead in the final minute with his first ever senior goal.

Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive Serie A title by routing Genoa 4-0 to move 11 points clear of Roma.

Ezequiel Munoz scored an own-goal in the 17th and magnificent strikes from Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic put the hosts 3-0 up at the break. Leonardo Bonucci scored another stunning goal in the 64th after sprinting forward from inside his own half. Juventus also hit the woodwork three times.

Crotone kept its faint hopes of survival alive with a surprise 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

The result left it five points behind 17th-placed Empoli and safety with five matches remaining.

Elsewhere, Torino won 3-1 at Chievo Verona, while Udinese beat Cagliari 2-1.

MLS Snapshot: Sounders cruise, 3-0, as Galaxy struggles continue

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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy’s midfield remains… nonexistent, to put it very nicely. It was a problem in 2015; it was a major problem in 2016; and it remains a problem early in 2017. On Sunday, Curt Onalfo’s side (as a quick aside, no, his seat isn’t yet getting hot) sat by and watched — almost literally — as the Seattle Sounders found the back of the net three times in the first half at StubHub Center.

Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris scored the goals for Seattle, to go with an own goal from Ashley Cole. It’s LA’s fifth loss in seven games, while Seattle have their second win of the season and put to bed a three-game winless skid.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

29′ — Dempsey heads into an open net for 1-0 — Nicolas Lodeiro floated the cross toward the back post, and Dempsey made extremely easy work of it with Brian Rowe scrambling through no man’s land.

35′ — Cole applies the finish into his own net — If it happened at the other end of the field, we’d have said it was a cool, calm, composed finish. Alas…

44′ — Morris fires past Rowe for 3-0 — The counter-attack was quick, what with no one stepping to the ball as Seattle covered two-thirds of the field. The finish wasn’t so simple for Morris.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey

Goalscorers: Dempsey (29′), Cole (OG – 35′), Morris (44′)