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)

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”