Premier League Power Rankings: Chelsea the new favorites? – Round 22

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It’s tight at the top, very tight.

For the first-time in ProSoccerTalk’s PL Power Rankings, we have a three-way tie for top spot as Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea cannot be separated.

Some massive clashes are coming up between those three down the stretch, as they all have vastly different strengths that can see them lift the crown.

While at the bottom an almighty battle is playing out, as the strugglers scrap it out to stay above the bottom three.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

Each week 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

source:

1
Arsenal: A solid yet unspectacular 2-0 home win over Fulham proved Wenger’s men have got exactly what it takes to grind out wins. Cazorla is back on form, which is great news. Some tough fixtures coming up in February could knock the Gunners off top spot. Southampton away up next. (16-3-3)
source:  UP 1
Manchester City: Nothing to choose between City and Arsenal. The Citizens kept up their average of scoring four goals at home with a 4-2 win over Cardiff, and with Aguero back fully-fit we may see even more goals from Pellegrini’s men. Spurs away next will be a great test of their title credentials. (16-2-4)
source:  UP 2
Chelsea: The Blues’ 3-1 win over Man United was all about Eto’o’s opportunism and solid defending. You get the feeling Mourinho’s side are nowhere near the finished product, but they are still picking up huge wins. Along with Arsenal and City, one of these three will win the PL. Home game vs. West Ham next. (15-4-3)
source:  4 UP 2
Tottenham: Just like that, Spurs are back in the Champions League race. Tim Sherwood has kept it simple since stepping in and goals have come back to White Hart Lane. Adebayor has been in inspired form, and if that continues Tottenham will make the top 4. (12-4-5)

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5
Everton: The Toffees slipped up away at West Brom and looked a little out of sorts. A few injuries has seen Everton’s squad look a little thin, some business needs to be done in January if their top 4 hopes are to stay alive. Big Merseyside derby coming up. (11-9-2)
source:  6 DOWN 2
Liverpool: Speaking of the derby, Liverpool host Everton with a massive three points on the line. The Reds looked very frail at the back against Aston Villa last time out, and Brendan Rodgers needs to get his back 4 and GK settled for the run-in. Juicy tie at Anfield next Tuesday. (13-4-5)
source:  7 UP 2 Newcastle: The Magpies are looking extremely strong as injuries have been kind to Alan Pardew’s men this season. Yohan Cabaye has added goals to his game and bagged 2 in a great away win at West Ham. Can the Geordies really break into the top four? Trip to Norwich next. (11-3-8)
source:  8 DOWN 1
Manchester United: When it rains, it pours for United right now. Against Chelsea they played well in the first half… but were 2-0 down at the break. Moyes looked to have sealed a deal for Juan Mata and that will bring some respite as the Red Devils try to make the top four. Cardiff at home this week, will their old boy Ole come back to haunt them? (11-4-7)
source:  9 DOWN 1
Southampton: All the turmoil at Saints seems to have calmed down, for now. Pochettino’s side put in a tremendous 1st half display at Sunderland but somehow blew a 2-0 lead. No players being sold bodes well but Osvaldo’s training ground bust-up could see his days in England over. Saints host Arsenal next. (8-7-7)
source:  10 UP 4 Sunderland: Get a tissue, Sunderland are about to get a nosebleed. The Mackems have not been this high up the rankings, but with a resurgence in both the PL and the League Cup, the Black Cats are good value for this massive jump. Poyet’s men have added fighting spirit and their attacking talents are doing the business. HUGE home game vs. Stoke coming up. (4-6-12)
source:  11
Aston Villa: Paul Lambert’s side blew a 2-0 lead at Anfield last time out, and despite that the Villans are looking pretty good. Benteke looks back in-form up front and they could cause plenty of upsets. Midlands derby against West Brom at Villa Park should get the home crowd roaring. (6-6-10)
source:  12 Norwich City: The Canaries are getting back to their best, grinding out 1-0 wins. It was a massive win for them against Hull last weekend and Chris Hughton’s side have given themselves some breathing space from the relegation zone. Newcastle at home next. (7-5-10)

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13
Hull City: Fans of Hull are starting to get a little worried, as their sides slide towards the drop zone continues. Signing Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic in the window gives them extra firepower but Steve Bruce’s men need to use it. And quick. The Tigers should be okay, but every year one teams gets in trouble after a promising start. Could that be Hull? Big trip to Palace on Tuesday. (6-5-11)
 source:  14 DOWN 4 Swansea City: What’s going on with the Swans? Their winless streak continues after Spurs hammered them at the Liberty and a training ground bust-up proves tension is high in South Wales. Laudrup’s men host Fulham in a game that simply must win. (5-6-11)
source:  15
Stoke City: Like Hull and Swansea, Stoke possess some top players. But they aren’t quite performing with four defeats in their last five. That’s dangerous as the Potters can’t afford to not be firing on all cylinders. Mark Hughes’ men have a tough trip to Sunderland coming up. (5-7-10)
source:  16 UP 1
Crystal Palace: The Eagles are soaring at home and sealed yet another shutout win at Selhurst in true Tony Pulis fashion. Jason Puncheon sealed a 1-0 win over Stoke, as his side have a real chance of survival. Palace are a tough team to play and they will make life incredibly difficult for Hull at home next week. (6-2-14)
source:  17 DOWN 1
West Ham: The Hammers continue to struggle and were outclassed by Newcastle at home last weekend. Sam Allardyce is desperate for reinforcements and needs more firepower. The final week of the window will make or break West Ham’s survival hopes. Chelsea away on Wednesday will probably yield 0 points. (4-6-12)
source:  18
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds continue to bring in young Scandinavians to the club but Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is taking a massive gamble as the Bluebirds are entrenched in a relegation battle. A brave defeat away at City last week showed they are a good outfit. Can they beat Man United on Tuesday? (4-6-12)
source:  19
West Brom: Still just the one win in 10 games for the Baggies, as new manager Pepe Mel tries to stop this ship from sinking. He got a great point in his first game vs. Everton but Anelka’s possible suspension could hit WBA hard. Huge Midlands derby against Villa this week. (4-10-8)
source:  20
Fuham: The Cottagers are often their own worst enemies but against Arsenal last time they were resolute and could’ve nicked a point. But a lack of offensive output was their downfall in an all to familiar story. Can they beat Swansea away from home and move clear of the relegation zone? (6-1-15)

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC, HOU play to 1-1 draw… in Connecticut

Photo credit: New York City FC / @NYCFC
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The game in 100 words (or less more): New York City FC entered the weekend having dropped just 12 points (two losses, three draws) at home all season. That, of course, is their record within the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, the third-year MLS club’s temporary home for the foreseeable future. In truth, it was a minor miracle NYCFC hadn’t been forced from their home in the Bronx before Saturday’s clash with the Houston Dynamo, which ended a 1-1 draw at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. Attendance suffered, rightfully so. With the Yankees scheduled to play a make-up game Monday night, NYCFC were made to work out alternative stadium arrangements due to the amount of time required to convert Yankee Stadium into a baseball field once again. Anyway, Maxi Moralez and Mauro Manotas scored the goals, each inside the game’s opening 16 minutes. The point does very little for NYCFC (52 points), who remain 10 points off the pace of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading Toronto FC, and just four points clear of third-place Chicago Fire; Houston (39) are buoyed a bit more, as they move ahead of Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff place (for the time being).

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Moralez rises up, heads NYCFC ahead — Chances are, when the shortest player on the field scores from a header, somebody missed their marking assignment.

16′ — Manotas beats Johnson off the quick FK — Chances are, when the opponent scores from a quick free kick, somebody fell asleep and wasn’t paying attention.

89′ — Deric protects the upper-90 to preserve a point — Jack Harrison probably thought he’d beaten Tyler Deric into the upper-90, but the Dynamo goalkeeper kept his side level with a stunning Save of the Week nominee.

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

Man of the match: Tyler Deric

Goalscorers: Moralez (6′), Manotas (16′)

PL Sunday preview: Newcastle shoot for top-4 place at Brighton

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures offers up a meeting of two newly promoted sides in the only game of the day.

[ PL roundup: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Newcastle’s return to the PL had all the makings of another spectacular flame-out and an immediate return to the Championship — owner Mike Ashley promised manager Rafa Benitez a busy summer of signings, but that never materialized; Benitez’s discontent was widely reported, some going so far as to say he had considered stepping down; the Magpies lost their first two games of the season, failing to score in either — until Jamaal Lascelles decided he was having no more of it.

Lascelles, Newcastle’s 23-year-old captain and star center back, has helped Benitez’s boys to three straight victories, in which they’ve conceded just one goal (in last week’s 2-1 victory over Stoke City), has united a group of players which seemed headed for self-destruction just four short weeks ago. The key, according to Lascelles, is accountability evenly shared by every player in the dressing room.

[ MORE: Pochettino — “I am in love with Harry Kane” ]

“A couple of seasons back, we’d go a goal down or concede a goal and heads would drop,” Lascelles said. “We’d be looking at each other like, ‘who’s going to step up?’ But everyone steps up, the 11 of us. This group of boys are excellent, we just keep going.”

Three points on Sunday would see Newcastle leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, two sides level on 11 points and presently fighting over fourth place, to finish the weekend in the PL’s final Champions League place (after six of 38 games, of course).

[ MORE: Mourinho bewildered by sending-off; Man United beat Southampton ]

As for Brighton, returning home to Falmer Stadium is a welcome development after losing twice at Bournemouth (first in the PL, then in the League Cup) in the span of four days. In charge of Brighton is another former Newcastle manager, Chris Hughton, who guided his new club to promotion from the Championship last season (just as he did for Newcastle in 2010). Brighton held the league lead heading into the season’s final days before the Seagulls faltered and Newcastle pounced, but Hughton says there isn’t any ill will onto which to be held.

“There shouldn’t be, because they deserved it,” Hughton said. “We had opportunities in the last three games to clinch the title and we weren’t good enough at that particular moment to do that. All credit goes to Newcastle for doing it and certainly there’s no revenge. We are up against a good team that’s in good form at the moment.”

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Steve Sidwell (back), Sam Baldock (calf), Beram Kayal (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Izzy Brown (hamstring) | Newcastle — OUT: Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspended), Paul Dummett (hamstring), Florian Lejeune (ankle), Karl Darlow (ankle)

Klopp, Henderson: Coutinho shows he’s “highest quality player”

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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As it turns out, it was with good reason that Liverpool refused to lose superstar midfielder Philippe Coutinho this summer, despite big-money advances from Barcelona, and the player’s admission that he himself wanted to make the move.

[ PL roundup: Goals galore on a wild Saturday ]

On Saturday, the 25-year-old Brazilian made his second straight in Premier League play, and reminded everyone just why a club like Barcelona would pursue him with unrelenting vigor. He started with an assist to Mohamed Salah for the game’s opening goal, and chipped in a score of his own, a stunning free kick (WATCH HERE), to double the lead a few minutes later. The Reds would hang (just barely) for a 3-2 win away to Leicester City.

Following the game, Liverpool manager was full of praise for Coutinho, calling him “the highest quality player,” which is something he believes was never in doubt — quotes from the BBC:

“Nobody was in doubt about this. It is clear he is the highest quality player. We are happy to have him around.”

As for the performance overall, Klopp was largely pleased, even if being so required him to completely ignore the (continued) defensive frailties of his side:

“It is not a time to be completely cool but overall I was happy with our performance. The boys deserved the three points. The free kick for the first goal was not a free-kick and it was a foul on Simon [for the second goal].

“At the start of the second half we played the same football like Leicester — kind of hectic. Simon saved the penalty and then I think we really deserved the win.

“I really thought in a moment like this so many things are positive. The three points are the proof for the public that we are still here, everything is good. Let’s make the next step together.”

Captain Jordan Henderson joined Klopp in his praise for Coutinho, echoing similar sentiments about the best player employed at Anfield since the departure of Luis Suarez:

“Coutinho is a fantastic player. He produces magical things at crucial times of the game. This will give us good confidence going forward.”

Bundesliga wrap: BVB stays red hot, Hoffenheim goes second (video)

Bernd Thissen/dpa via AP
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Borussia Dortmund is alone atop the Bundesliga table with 16 points and a plus-18 goal differential, while Hoffenheim moved ahead of Bayern Munich for second place on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]


Borussia Dortmund 6-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

It wasn’t the Christian Pulisic show this time, as star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged a hat trick, Maximilian Philipp added two goals, and Julian Weigl’s knuckling shot from distance rounded out the scoring. Lars Stindl scored for the visitors.

Pulisic went 64 minutes for the hosts.

Hoffenheim 2-0 Schalke

A second-straight start for American central midfielder Weston McKennie unfortunately yieled a second-successive loss, as Dennis Geiger scored in the 13th minute and Lukas Rupp salted away the win in the 90th. McKennie went 74 minutes, won seven tackles, and covered 9.47 kilometers in the loss.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Jean-Kevin Augustin and Timo Werner gave last season’s upstarts a 2-0 before Ante Rebic set the stage for a promising final quarter hour with a 77th minute tally.

Elsewhere
Bayern Munich 2-2 Wolfsburg — Friday
Stuttgart 0-0 Augsburg
Mainz 1-0 Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen 0-0 Freiburg
Hannover vs. Koln — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hamburg — Noon ET