Everton's Deulofeu celebrates scoring during their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal at The Emirates in London

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)

Premier League Playback: Ranking the chance of relegation

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With 12 games to go in the Premier League season, the bottom seven teams are starting to get cut off from the rest of the league.

Just like at the top of the table, this is the “business end” of the campaign and strange things start to happen.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Team who looked dead and buried start to rise (see: Hull and Swansea, already) and others start to sink from midtable and towards the abyss with Bournemouth and particularly Leicester City struggling.

[ MORE: Premier League standings | Schedule

Below is a look at the seven main contenders for the three relegation spots, focusing on the toughest games they have remaining, their reasons for optimism and a percentage chance of relegation.

[ MORE: Full PL Playback archive ]

Even if you have points on the board right now, momentum means everything at this time of the season…


Bournemouth

Points: 26
Reason for optimism: The quality Eddie Howe‘s side possess on the ball will see them create chances, so there’s that. However, they have to score two or three goals a game recently to get a win. They have four of the the current top six coming up, then finish the season with four of their last five games against relegation rivals. That will test the nerve of this talented yet inexperienced team.
Toughest games remaining: at Man United (Mar. 4), at Liverpool (Apr. 5), vs. Chelsea (Apr. 8), at Tottenham (Apr. 15)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Swansea City

Points: 24
Reason for optimism: Things are looking much more solid in defense since Paul Clement arrived. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente continue to score and assist, plus the Swans look dangerous on the break. Plenty of reasons to believe they’ll continue to pull away from the bottom three. Will complacency set in though? Swans next four games are against Burnley, Hull, Bournemouth and Boro. Huge few weeks ahead and then an easier finish to the season, on paper.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Tottenham (Apr. 4), at Man United (Apr. 29), vs. Everton (May 6)
Relegation percentage: 20%

Middlesbrough
Points: 22
Reason for optimism: They’ve got the fifth defensive record in the PL, so they can hang in there. That’s a good trait to have when the pressure is on. They just need a goalscorer to pop up with the goods. A run of three games against relegation rivals at the beginning of April is likely to decide their fate with four very tough games to finish the season.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Man United (Mar. 19), vs. Arsenal (Apr. 15), vs. Man City (Apr. 29), at Chelsea (May 6), at Liverpool (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Crystal Palace
Points: 22
Reason for optimism: Big Sam has never been relegated as a Premier League manager. Simple. That said, this task is tougher than he thought. The 1-0 win against Boro proved they can grind out a victory when they need to. Still, they have five of the current top six left to play in their final 12 games of the season. It will be a flip of the coin for the Eagles.
Toughest games remaining: At Chelsea (Apr. 1), vs. Arsenal (Apr. 8), at Liverpool (Apr. 22), at Man City (May 6), at Man United (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 50%

Leicester City

Points: 21
Reason for optimism: Scrapping the barrel here… Their incredible runs to safety in 2015 and then for the PL title in 2016 (that did happen, right!?) gives them experience in high-pressure situation. One big marquee win can help get momentum going again, either in the PL or by getting past Sevilla in the return leg. Claudio Ranieri‘s sacking could give the Foxes the jolt they badly need but it must happen soon.
Toughest games remaining: vs. Liverpool (Feb. 27), at Everton (Apr. 8), vs. Tottenham (Apr. 22), at Man City (May 13),
Relegation percentage: 50%

Hull City

Points: 21
Reason for optimism: Marco Silva’s side are much improved and have just two games remaining against the big boys. So many relegation scraps coming up. They look tough to break down and dangerous on the break. That’s a great combo at this point in the season. They have momentum among the teams at the bottom.
Toughest games remaining: at Everton (Mar. 18), at Man City (Apr. 8), vs. Tottenham (May 21),
Relegation percentage: 30%

Sunderland

Points: 19
Reason for optimism: Well, just look at pretty much the last four seasons. Down and out time and time again, somehow Sunderland survive. That’s the only reason for optimism. Oh, and Jermain Defoe‘s goals. David Moyes needs a miracle, especially what those remaining games…
Toughest games remaining: vs. Man City (Mar. 5), vs. Man United (Apr. 8), at Arsenal (Apr. 22), at Chelsea (May 21)
Relegation percentage: 70%


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.

VIDEO: Remembering Jamie Vardy’s magic vs. Liverpool

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Just over 12 months ago Leicester City beat Liverpool on a raucous evening at the King Power Stadium to ignite real belief into their Premier League title charge.

We all know how that turned out…

[ PREVIEW: Leicester host Liverpool

A year on and boy, Leicester could use some magic from Vardy as they host Liverpool on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Foxes fired Claudio Ranieri last Thursday and the reigning champions have slipped into the relegation zone over the weekend as they’re in freefall with five defeats on the spin and they’ve failed to score in their last six PL games.

Click play on the video above to see Vardy’s wonderful volley from distance as the England international was in full flow on his way to 24 goals for the season. He has just five in the PL this season, three of which came in the 4-2 win against Manchester City at the KP back in December.

Again, caretaker Craig Shakespeare needs some magic from somewhere on Monday if the Foxes are going to gain momentum in their battle against relegation.

Report: Jordan Henderson out with foot injury

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool embraces Jordan Henderson of Liverpool after the Premier League match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on December 27, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson for the clash at Leicester City on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) according to multiple reports.

[ PREVIEW: Leicester host Liverpool ]

Sky Sports are reporting that Henderson suffered a “badly bruised foot” injury in training over the weekend and will not be available to lead Jurgen Klopp‘s side against a Leicester side in freefall.

Henderson has struggled with injuries recently, missing two weeks in January with a heel injury.

The 26-year-old has become the main holding player in Klopp’s fluid 4-3-3 system and has built up a formidable partnership alongside Georginio Wijnaldum. Henderson provides energy and a wide-range of passing and he would’ve been key against a Leicester which will be fired up following the departure of manager Claudio Ranieri last week and having slipped into the relegation zone over the weekend.

In his absence either Emre Can or Lucas Leiva will seamlessly slot in to the lineup, both can play Henderson’s more defensive role admirably and provide balance to Klopp’s somewhat top-heavy time when you think of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ahead of them.

Klopp has options but it’s still far from ideal to lose your captain after two weeks off and following a break to Spain for training.

Why Mourinho needs Zlatan to stay at Man United

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United congratulates Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on December 14, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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LONDON — Following Manchester United’s EFL Cup Final victory on Sunday, Jose Mourinho laughed off a question about Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s future at Old Trafford beyond this season.

He shouldn’t be laughing. He should be taking this situation very seriously. United need Zlatan. End of.

[ MORE: United, Mourinho get lucky

Ibrahimovic, 35, scored twice in the 3-2 win against Southampton at Wembley, including the game-winner with a late header, to hand Mourinho his first piece of major silverware as United’s boss. The veteran Swedish striker has now scored 26 goals in 38 games in all competitions this season, including six in his last four games.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

The incredible stats aside, his impact and influence on this team is clear for all to see. That’s why Zlatan needs to remain at United for at least one more season, and he could probably go on for longer. That said, he isn’t giving anything away about where he will be next season.

“We have another two months of the season to go,” Ibrahimovic said. “Let’s see how I feel, the situation. Somebody made up a story that if we don’t qualify for the Champions League I will not extend. It has nothing to do with that.”

Mourinho thinks otherwise.

“One day, Zlatan decided to [leave me and Inter Milan to join] Barcelona, I was very sad, but I did nothing to try to stop him to go, so I don’t beg for players,” Mourinho said. “But, if needed, maybe United fans can go to the door of his house, and stay there all night, if needed. We all want, and believe, that he is going to stay another season.”

It simply has to happen.

Zlatan has a contract until this summer with United with an option to extend it for another year. Mourinho has suggested in the past Zlatan will stay but we’ve never had too much of a definitive answer from the player himself.

Right now, aside from his play on the pitch, Zlatan is having a massive impact on the confidence and belief levels of his teammates. He has scored the game-winner on eight occasions this season and comparisons are being made about Eric Cantona and the impact he had.

Zlatan’s aura is helping United win games at the moment and even at the age of 35 he has played more Premier League minutes than any other United outfield player, plus he’s played in more games this season, in all competitions, than any other PL player.

He can play until he is 40. Mourinho said it last week and he’s right. Zlatan doesn’t rely on pace to play the game. He has always had power, panache and predatory instincts in abundance.

With United’s creative talents and other pacey forwards, not to mention the potential arrival of Antoine Griezmann in the summer, he not only brings the best out of them on the pitch but off it too. Mourinho clerly needs to rebuild parts of his defense to take United from top four hopefuls to title contenders next season and beyond, but without Zlatan’s goals this season they’d be in midtable.

United and Mourinho need Zlatan to stay next season, even if Griezmann arrives. Ibra knows it. He’s playing the game.

It would be a huge shock to see him anywhere other than Old Trafford next season. It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him score the winner for United in the FA Cup and Europa League final this season, and then lead them to even greater glories next season and beyond. After his latest trophy, the 22nd of his playing career, Zlatan revealed he keeps all of his medals in one of his houses. He was also asked if United are building something special under Mourinho?

“I came. That’s special,” Ibrahimovic said.

Anyone who doubted Zlatan’s ability (something he has never done) last summer ahead of his move to the Premier League will be scratching their heads. Like United right now, he seems to always find a way to score goals and get the job done. In that sense, Mourinho needs him to be the focal point of United’s attack for as long as Zlatan can play.

And also, well, he’s Zlatan. In this mammoth rebuild of a roster and self-belief, he’s the X-Factor Mourinho can’t do without.