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

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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)

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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)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.