Chelsea

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)

Arsene Wenger “99.9 percent confident” new players will arrive at Arsenal

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger is just teasing Arsenal’s fans now.

[ MORE: UCL changes announced ]

With the Gunners reportedly closing in on a double swoop for Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez which will cost them almost $70 million, Wenger seems very confident that the deals will get done very shortly.

Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger confirmed they are closing in on new signings ahead of the summer transfer window shutting on Aug. 31.

“We are working on the deals. We are not close enough to announce today that they will sign for us, and will we sign anybody before the end of the transfer window? I am 99 per cent confident.”

The deal for 24-year-old Mustafi has been rumbling on for some time now with Valencia driving a hard bargain for the German international defender. However, it is believed a fee of $46.2 million has been agreed for the center back and he is now on his way to London to complete a medical.

[ MORE: Europa League draw tough for United, Saints ]

As for Perez, the 27-year-old striker from Deportivo La Coruna has emerged as a late target for Arsenal after Everton had tracked him for most of the summer. It is believed Arsenal has met the $22.5 million release clause in his contract after Lucas scored 17 goals in La Liga for Deportivo last season. He will challenge Olivier Giroud for the central striking position at the Emirates Stadium but can also play in a variety of positions in the attacking unit.

If both of these deals go through as expected then Arsenal will have actually spent the third-most of any PL club this summer on new players, trailing only Manchester City and Manchester United in spending. They also signed Swiss international midfielder Granit Xhaka for $40 million earlier this summer.

Wenger joked about now being branded a big spending this summer and told one journalist “it is a shame you are not my friend. You will see I spend a lot of money,” when asked about the perception that Wenger doesn’t like to spend much in the transfer market.

Arsenal’s manager also revealed that Calum Chambers is likely to leave on loan before the window shuts with Mustafi taking his place, while the Gunners will have Gabriel back soon to join youngster Rob Holding, Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny as center back options. There is also club captain Per Mertesacker but he center back is out with a long-term knee injury and won’t be back until January.

UEFA Europa League group stage: Man United, Saints handed tough draws

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with Paul Pogba during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on August 19, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Premier League clubs Manchester United and Southampton were both handed tough, but exciting, draws in the 2016-17 group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

The draw, which took place in Monaco on Friday, saw Jose Mourinho’s United placed in Group A as they face Turkish giants Fenerbache, Dutch powerhouse Feyenoord and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk with some big games coming up at Old Trafford.

United’s manager was happy with the tough tests for his squad: “It’s a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam – it’s good for us,” Mourinho said.

Saints, who have reached the group stage of the Europa League for the first-time in club history, face mouth-watering clashes against Inter Milan, while they also have tough games against Czech giants Sparta Prague and the champions of Israel Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

48 teams who had qualified for the Europa League group stage were split up into 12 groups of four teams with some other big ties cropping up as Group G looks particularly strong as it contains Ajax, Standard Liege, Celta Vigo and Panathinaikos.

The Europa League final will take place in Stockholm, Sweden at the Friends Arena on May 24, 2017.

Below is the draw in full, with the opening group games taking place on Thursday Sept. 15. There are six group games in total for each team and you can see the full schedule by clicking on the link above.


GROUP A
Manchester United
Fenerbache
Feyenoord
Zorya Luhansk

GROUP B
Olympiakos
APOEL FC
Young Boys
FC Astana

GROUP C
Anderlecht
St Etienne
FSV Mainz 05
Gabala

GROUP D
Zenit St Petersburg
AZ Alkmaar
Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Dundalk

GROUP E
Viktoria Plzen
AS Roma
Austria Wien
Astra Giurgiu

GROUP F
Athletic Bilbao
Genk
Rapid Wien
Sassuolo

GROUP G
Ajax
Standard Liege
Celta Vigo
Panathinaikos

GROUP H
Shakhtar Donetsk
SC Braga
Gent
Konyaspor

GROUP I
FC Schalke 04
FC Salzburg
Krasnodar
Nice

GROUP J
Fiorentina
PAOK FC
Slovan Liberec
Qarabag

GROUP K
Inter Milan
Sparta Prague
Southampton
Hapoel Beer-Sheva

GROUP L
Villarreal
Steaua Bucharest
FC Zurich
Osmanlispor

UEFA: Top four leagues guaranteed four teams in UCL from 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  UEFA  Champions League trophy is seen ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The UEFA Champions League will see a big change for three seasons from the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

On Friday it was announced by UEFA that several changes, most notably the way teams qualify for the UCL, had been approved and will take place in the next competition cycle.

The biggest change and the one everyone is talking about is that from 2018 the teams who finish in the top four of the four highest ranked UEFA nations will automatically qualify for the UCL group stage.

[ MORE: Analyzing UCL draw for PL teams ]

That means no more UCL play-off for teams who finish fourth in the Premier League.

In a statement on their website, UEFA’s General Secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis revealed everyone is happy with the changes.

“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions. We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”

Some argue that having 16 places guaranteed to teams from the top four nations in Europe — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — is a monopoly and limits the chances of smaller clubs from smaller nations from qualifying.

UEFA also revealed a new coefficient system with clubs no longer having a country share tacked on to their coefficient under most circumstances, plus historical success will be weighted in the coefficient rankings to take into account past UCL and Europa League titles won.

For example, Liverpool’s coefficient will likely increase despite not playing in Europe this season as instead of the coefficient being solely made up of how they and other English teams have performed in Europe over the past few years, now their five previous UCL titles will be weighted and their coefficient will improve due to past success.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

[ MORE: Bundesliga season primer ]

Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.