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Premier League Power Rankings: Top three twist, as title race heats up – Week 29-30

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All change at the top!

Last Saturday truly was ‘moving day’ in the Premier League, as Manchester City flashed their title credentials with a gutsy win on the road, then Chelsea imploded at Aston Villa. Throw in massive derby wins for Liverpool and Arsenal, and the top of the rankings are all shook up.

Chuck in wins for relegation fodder West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, and you have a recipe for extreme excitement between now and the rest of the season.

(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 UP 1 Liverpool: 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford? Doesn’t get much better than that for Liverpool fans. Four points behind Chelsea in top spot with a game in hand, all of a sudden the Reds are one of the favorites for the title. If Suarez and Sturridge catch fire in the final few weeks, the crown could be heading to Anfield. (19-5-5)
source:  2 UP 1
Manchester City: The Citizens ground out a hugely impressive win at the KC Stadium against Hull. David Silva inspired City with a stunning solo display, as they bounced back after being knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League last week. All eyes on the Premier League title now, who will go top if they win games in their hand. (19-3-5)
source:  3 DOWN 2
Chelsea: A bad day at the office for Chelsea against Villa, as two red-cards and a late goal in a 1-0 defeat compounded Jose Mourinho’s misery. And oh yeah, the Special One got sent to the stands too. Can the rebound and beat Arsenal this Saturday? Which shall see. All of a sudden the pressure is getting to the Blues. (20-6-4)
source:  4
Arsenal: Big win for Arsenal away at North London rivals Spurs. A return to solid defending and relying on the quality they have will see the Gunners easily finish in the top four. Their title charge isn’t over yet either. Tough trips to Chelsea, on NBCSN this Saturday, and Man City coming up though. (19-5-5)

source:

5 UP 2
Everton: The Toffees have come unstuck in recent weeks, but a late, late win over Cardiff sees Robert Martinez’s men back in the swing of things. Ready to push all the way for a place in the top four, they may come up short but still a great season for Evertonians across the world to enjoy. (14-9-5)
source:  6
Tottenham: Spurs didn’t play that badly against Arsenal, but they still lost and Tim Sherwood’s time at White Hart Lane could be over before it even really gets going. Big home game vs. Southampton this weekend as Spurs can’t afford to lose three in a row. (16-5-9)
source:  7 UP 1 Southampton: Saints made it two wins from two, as they beat Norwich in a crazy game. For 85 minutes it was a comfortable win, with Pochettino’s men leading 3-0. Then Norwich scored twice in a minute, but a late clincher gave Saints a 4-2 win. Can they surge into the top six and cap off a memorable season? (12-9-9)
source:  8 DOWN 3
Manchester United: Oh dear, humbled at home by their massive rivals Liverpool undid all the good work from an impressive 3-0 demolition of West Brom the weekend before. Rumors of Moyes leaving Old Trafford continue to roll around, as any faint hopes of finishing in the top four are now over. (14-6-9)
source:  9
Newcastle: The Magpies were beaten away at Fulham and they could’ve snatched a point, but didn’t really deserve one in Alan Pardew’s first of three games banned from the stadium. Next up: Crystal Palace at home, which is a must win if the St. James’ Park side harbor any ambitions of finishing in the top six. (13-4-12)
source:  10 UP 1
Stoke City: Potters are pushing up the rankings, as they seek a top 10 finish under Mark Hughes. It has been a struggle at times this season, but a comprehensive 3-1 win over West Ham saw them creep up to 11th and they have a massive Midlands derby vs. Aston Villa on Sunday. (8-10-12)
source:  11 UP 2 Aston Villa: Another big win for Villa, as Paul Lambert’s men beat Chelsea 1-0 and have all but secured their top-flight status for another season. Solid as a rock in recent weeks, and they finally look like scoring. What a talent Fabian Delph has become. (9-7-13)
source:  12 DOWN 2
West Ham: The Hammers were outplayed by Stoke, and the result leaves them not entirely out of danger with the bottom teams winning this weekend. On the plus side Andy Carroll scored. Can they rub salt into the wounds of Man United at Upton Park this weekend? (8-7-14)

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13 DOWN 1
Sunderland: Bore draw at the Stadium of Light vs. Palace on Saturday, as Sunderland’s struggles in front of goal continue. One of these days they should play Fletcher and Altidore up top together. The USMNT striker came on as a half time sub and did well, but Sunderland are still entrenched in the relegation zone. Norwich away this weekend, my word that’s a big game. (6-7-14)
source:  14
Hull City: They failed to break down 10-man Man City at the weekend, but that wasn’t for a lack of effort. Just that final pass or finish is missing from the Tigers, as they continue to plummet down the standings. They can’t go down, can they? George Boyd is banned after spitting and the problems for Hull are mounting. (8-6-15)
source:  15
Crystal Palace: The Eagles drew away at Sunderland, not a bad result. But they really need wins at this time of the season. Tricky trip to Newcastle this weekend, but with a three-point lead over the relegation zone they have some breathing space. Just. Squeaky bum time at Selhurst Park. (8-4-17)
source:  16 UP 2
West Brom: Boing, boing! The Baggies finally got their first win under new boss Pepe Mel, and what a comeback it was. Suddenly the Hawthorns doesn’t seem to be that nervy, but there will be plenty of nerves around this weekend when WBA travel to Hull. A win would take them above the Tigers. Oh my. (5-13-11)
source:  17 UP 2
Fuham: A first win for Felix Magath in charge of the Cottagers too. Resilient 1-0 wins for the West Londoners will be the theme of the final few weeks, if they get it right. Still bottom of the standings, but just four points from safety now. (7-3-20)
source:  18 DOWN 2
Swansea City: The Swans look tired and mentally beat up after their Europa League exit, plus rookie manager Garry Monk has inherited a difficult situation. Can he steer the ship out of danger? Rocky waters ahead after that shock home loss to West Brom. (7-8-14)
source:  19 DOWN 2
Norwich City: Norwich’s leaky defense once again burst a pipe against Saints, and they’ve now let in 48 goals. That is worrying as they don’t score many. Huge home game vs. Sunderland this weekend, expect a real battle at Carrow Road as Chris Hughton is under serious pressure. (7-8-15)
source:  20
Cardiff City: Poor old Cardiff. Just when you thought things were turning round, they get hit with a cruel blow late on vs. Everton. A shank from Seamous Coleman flew into the top corner, and the Bluebirds suffered another defeat. Just three points from safety though, they have hope… but now much else. (6-7-17)

Report: Ronaldo, Mourinho involved in massive tax evasion system

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19:  Head Coach Jose Mourinho (R) of Real Madrid instructs Cristiano Ronaldo during the UEFA Champions League group G match between Real Madrid and AC Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 19, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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Wikileaks findings played a massive role in this year’s presidential election, and now “Football Leaks” could produce potentially damaging news regarding some of the world’s greatest soccer players.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines heading into the weekend ]

According to information obtained by various European media outlets, Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho are at the heart of a multi-million dollar tax evasion ring.

[ MORE: Who’s more important? Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero? ]

German outlet Der Spiegel is reporting that Ronaldo could have hidden as much as”hidden 150 million euros (roughly $160 million) in tax havens in Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands.”

Jorge Mendes, who serves as an agent for both Ronaldo, Mourinho and various other major soccer stars, is considered to have played a key role in the alleged wrongdoing.

Mendes reportedly helped Ronaldo and Mourinho conceal money in various offshore accounts, including in Switzerland, Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

In total, the alleged system implemented by Mendes amounted to a loss of “at least 185 million euros (roughly $197 million) of sponsorship income from the tax administrations.”

As more details emerge, follow PST for all the latest information.

Atlanta United adds U.S. U-19 forward Brandon Vasquez

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 07:  (L-R) Former professional soccer player Carlos Bocanegra, MLS Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, rapper Ludacris, Commissioner of MLS Don Garber, and former professional soccer player Darren Eales attend the MLS Atlanta Launch Event at SOHO on July 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for MLS Atlanta)
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As their entrance into Major League Soccer continues to draw closer and closer, Atlanta United keeps on adding young talent to its roster.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The 2017 Eastern Conference expansion side announced on Friday that they have signed U.S. Under-19 national team forward Brandon Vasquez after Atlanta claimed Vasquez as a discovery signing.

The 18-year-old joins Atlanta from Liga MX side Club Tijuana, while also having represented the United States at various levels of its youth setup. Vasquez played a key role in the U.S. U-17 national team during the 2015 World Cup, scoring two of the team’s three goals during the competition.

This year, Vasquez has bagged four goals in 2016 for the U-19 side.

Including Friday’s addition of Vasquez, Atlanta has now officially signed nine players to its MLS squad. Both expansion sides Atlanta and Minnesota United will have the opportunity to further their teams during the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft, which will take place on December 13.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham vs. Swansea City

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur takes on Angel Rangel of Swansea City during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City at White Hart Lane on February 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • Spurs had unbeaten run ended last Saturday against Chelsea
  • Tottenham has never lost to Swansea in PL (8 wins, 2 draws)
  • Swans have kept two clean sheets in first 13 matches

Tottenham looks to rebound from its first loss of the Premier League campaign on Saturday when the London side hosts Swansea City (10 a.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming via NBC Sports Live) from White Hart Lane.

For the first time in the PL this season, Tottenham has been defeated. Now, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side must quickly look past their road defeat against Chelsea and focus on Swansea City, who have taken points in back-to-back matches for the first time in 2016.

[ MORE: Kane signs new Spurs deal, ends Man United speculation ]

Spurs have now lost three of their last five matches across all competitions, and anything other than a win on Saturday against one of the league’s bottom sides could prove to be damaging to the club’s title aspirations. Tottenham currently sits fifth in the table on 24 points, already seven points off the pace set by league leaders Chelsea.

Last weekend’s 5-4 win for Swansea gave manager Bob Bradley his first win since joining the PL side, however, the Swans have much to do if they want to continue their success in England’s top flight.

Swansea sits firmly in the early relegation battle after taking just nine points out of their opening 13 fixtures. Despite facing a stiff test upcoming against Spurs, Bradley and co. should be looking to take advantage of the schedule that lies ahead, including matches against bottom-half sides Sunderland, Middlesbrough and West Ham all before the start of 2017.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino on Tottenham rebounding after Chelsea defeat: “Against Chelsea we lost but we recovered the feeling that we can play well. This week has been perfect because we could spend time together and train hard. We held a lot of meetings and the answer from the players was fantastic.”

Bob Bradley on Swansea’s thrilling victory over Crystal Palace“Last week was positive, but a stretch of good performances and results changes the conversation in a better way. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. But it is a real opportunity to go there, play our football. We have reminded the players of some of the things we will be up against, but what is more important is who we are, how we play and our mentality. We must never let the opponent take away from our confidence in our game.”

Prediction

The Swans will be riding in hot following last weekend’s historic and thrilling win against Crystal Palace, but Bradley’s side will face a hungry Spurs club looking to bounce back from their first defeat of 2016. It would be nice to see Bradley and co. build off of the impressive win but Spurs have proven to be a force at home under Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham’s only two losses at home this season have come against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, and I expect Spurs to get back on the winning side of things on Saturday. Tottenham 3-1 Swansea

Messi looking to end El Clasico scoring drought

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during a training session ahead of their La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid on December 2, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) There couldn’t be a better time for Lionel Messi to end his scoring drought than in the clasico against Real Madrid.

With Barcelona struggling and desperately needing a victory to stay close to its rival in the Spanish league, Messi could help turn things around on Saturday if he can find the net again after five scoreless games against Madrid.

Barcelona enters the home game at Camp Nou six points behind Madrid, and another setback could leave it in a difficult position to fight for a third straight league title.

[ MORE: Chapecoense crash survivor could play again ]

Messi hasn’t played badly in recent clasicos, but his last goal against Madrid came almost three years ago when he had a hat trick in a 4-3 win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

He hasn’t scored in the four games since, not even in the stunning 4-0 win at the Bernabeu last season, when Messi came off the bench in the second half after a long injury layoff. Barcelona has won two of the last five games against Madrid, but it’s been 400 minutes since Messi last scored.

Since that hat trick in March 2014, Cristiano Ronaldo has attracted most of the headlines in the clasico, having scored three times, including the late game-winner at Camp Nou last season that ended Barcelona’s record 39-game unbeaten streak.

“They’re two exceptional players,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Cristiano is doing exceptional, incredible things, I hope he carries on like this.”

Messi remains the all-time leading scorer in the clasico with 21 in 32 matches, but at Camp Nou it’s been Ronaldo who has thrived the most.

He has 10 goals in 12 games in Barcelona, including five in the last five matches and eight in the last nine. He failed to find the net only in four of those 12 games. Messi netted only five times in those same 12 encounters in Catalonia.

Ronaldo has scored in each of the last two league games between them at the Camp Nou. He has 16 goals in 25 clasicos, behind only Messi (21) and Alfredo Di Stefano (18).

[ MORE: Birnbaum spurns Europe for DC United ]

Messi has 15 goals in the 25 clasicos in which he and Ronaldo faced each other.

Ronaldo, who recently netted a hat trick in the Madrid derby against Atletico, is the Spanish league leading scorer with 10, one more than Messi. Ronaldo has eight goals in his last four league matches.

Messi also has been playing well recently, having scored five goals in his last four games. He has netted 16 in his last 11 matches.

Barcelona is coming off three consecutive draws, two in the league and one in the Copa del Rey.

Madrid is enjoying a 32-game unbeaten streak under Zidane.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni