Britain Soccer Premier League

Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool, Manchester City locked at the top – Week 33

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With five weeks to go until it’s all done and dusted, the Power Rankings are still chopping and changing at this pivotal point of the season.

Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City remain at the top, but the likes of Everton, Tottenham and Crystal Palace are surging up our rankings.

At the bottom Fulham and West Brom had big ones, while Cardiff and Sunderland seem doomed.

(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 Liverpool: The Reds gutted out a win against West Ham last weekend, as a stiff test away at Upton Park proved their title credentials are built on solid foundations. This week a title-decided against Man City awaits, as Anfield reflects on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. (23-5-5)
source:  2
Manchester City: Pellegrini’s side go into the title showdown in good form, five wins from their last six and seven unbeaten. The Citizens know if they win at Liverpool, they need six more victories to seal the title. Winning out is easier said than done. (22-4-5)
source:  3
Chelsea: The Blues easily dispatched Stoke last time out, and they completed a stunning turnaround vs. PSG in the Champions League in midweek. That success should spur Mourinho’s men on down the stretch, Swansea away this week. (22-6-5)
source:  4 UP 1
Everton: What a win for the Toffees, as they battered Arsenal 3-0 and look like the favorites to seal a place in the top four. Roberto Martinez’s side have won five on the spin and their front four are causing havoc. Tough trip to Sunderland to negotiate this weekend. (18-9-5)

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5 DOWN 1
Arsenal: Arsene Wenger’s side continue to falter away from home against their rivals, as Everton handed the Gunners a spanking. If the North London side slip up against West Ham in a derby next Tuesday, Everton could replace them in the top four with a game in hand. Season is unraveling at the Emirates, but at least Aaron Ramsey is back, and they have an FA Cup semifinal vs. Wigan. (19-7-7)
source:  6 UP 1
Tottenham: Tim Sherwood’s future still remains uncertain, but I was at White Hart Lane during Spurs’ 5-1 demolition of Sunderland on Monday and was impressed with what I saw. Passion and a leader, Sherwood may well be on the way out this summer but he should find another job easily. Away at West Brom this week, as the top four chase carries on. (18-5-10)
source:  7 DOWN 1 Southampton: Mauricio Pochettino could be heading to Spurs to replace Sherwood, but right now he’s still upset about the offside decision which cost Saints dear at Man City. Relegation favorites Cardiff City head to St. Mary’s this Saturday. (13-11-9)
source:  8 UP 1
Manchester United: The Red Devils are out of Europe after their defeat to Bayern, as David Moyes’ monumental rebuild has begun. What next for United? With UCL soccer off the agenda for next season, United need to freshen things up and finish the season well. No game this weekend. (17-6-10)
source:  9
Stoke City: Mark Hughes’ men lost at Chelsea but were well in the game for the opening 45 minutes. The Potters are surging toward their first-ever top-10 finish in the PL, as Newcastle await at the Brit this weekend. (10-10-13)
source:  10
West Ham: Heartbreak for the Hammers vs. Liverpool, as Sam Allardyce’s men dug in and battle hard against the league leaders. A questionable PK call cost West Ham a point, however they should be safe from relegation. Arsenal away next Tuesday for the East London club. (10-7-16)
source:  11 UP 1 Crystal Palace: The Eagles are soaring toward safety, as Jason Puncheon put on a masterclass to give the Londoners a big win away at Cardiff. Home game against Aston Villa gives Tony Pulis’ side the chance to all but secure their PL status for next season. He’s done a marvelous job. (10-4-18)
source:  12 UP 2
Hull City: This weekend Hull have an FA Cup semifinal on the mind, as they go to Wembley and are overwhelming favorites against Sheffield United. Last weekend they beat Swansea 1-0 in a crucial win, and Steve Bruce’s side are pretty much safe and sound. (10-6-17)

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13 DOWN 2
Newcastle: Magpies are in free-fall, as many are questioning Alan Pardew’s role as manager. Three-straight defeats for Newcastle, and they haven’t even scored a goal after shipping 11. Tough trip to Stoke isn’t what they needed. (14-4-14)
source:  14 DOWN 1
Aston Villa: Just when you think Villa are safe, they go and mess things up again. A damaging home defeat against Fulham sees the Midlands giant still not out of the relegation battle. They need to beat Palace this Saturday. (9-7-16)
source:  15
Swansea City: Speaking of relegation trouble, the Swans still aren’t out of it. They lost at Hull and now host Chelsea, as the Liberty Stadium faithful will be ‘nervous nellies’ heading into the final few weeks of this season. Can they upset Mourinho’s men? (8-9-16)
source:  16 UP 4
Fuham: A big win vs. Villa has re-ignited the Cottagers great escape, as they are now just five points from safety with five games to go. This Saturday’s match against Norwich is simply must win. If Felix Magath can conjure up a second-straight victory, the great escape of ’08 can repeat itself. (8-3-22)
source:  17 UP 2
West Brom: Pepe Mel’s boys delivered, big time, in a relegation six-pointer away at Norwich. They are still not home and dry yet, as Spurs await at the Hawthorns this weekend. Can the Baggies keep their head above water? (6-14-12)
source:  18
Norwich City: The Canaries decided to fire Chris Hughton with five games to go, in a move that smacked of desperation. Norwich are spiraling toward the Championship, and if they don’t beat Fulham they are in real danger of going down. Four tough games await in their final four matches, Neil Adams has a tough, tough job. (8-8-17)
source:  19 DOWN 2
Sunderland: The Black Cats have games in hand at the bottom, but they are seven points adrift with seven games to go. Gus Poyet knows he’s skippering a sinking ship, as he said the Mackems need a ‘miracle’ to stay up. (6-7-18)
source:  20 DOWN 4
Cardiff City: Another manager needing a miracle is Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, as his Bluebirds lost 3-0 to Palace. If they don’t beat Southampton on Saturday and other results go against them, it could be as good as over for the South Wales side. (6-8-19)

Inexperienced Southgate given first shot at vacant England job

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05:  Gareth Southgate the manager of England U21's looks on during a training session at St Georges Park on September 5, 2016 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) After the acrimonious departure of Sam Allardyce, England’s national soccer team is temporarily in the hands of a man who said just three weeks ago that he wasn’t ready for such a high pressure job.

Yet interim coach Gareth Southgate may end up keeping it given the paucity of top-class English managers around.

The English Football Association’s preference is that an Englishman coaches the national team, but there’s hardly a queue of top-quality candidates.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Picture gets clearer ]

Alan Pardew, Eddie Howe and Steve Bruce are high on the list of bookmakers’ favorites to be the next England coach, yet none of them have managed a so-called big club in the Premier League or coached a team in the Champions League. Pardew and Howe are in charge of unfashionable Premier League clubs (Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, respectively) and Bruce recently quit as manager of Hull.

Glenn Hoddle, England coach from 1996-99, is also on the bookies’ list and a popular call with ex-professionals even though he hasn’t coached in a decade.

So Southgate, who has been given the reins for England’s next four matches – against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain – can stake a claim for the role on a full-time basis should he impress as a caretaker coach.

Except this was the same man who said as recently as Sept. 5 that he needed more experience to be England manager, having coached only one club (Middlesbrough, from 2006-09) and been in charge of the England under-21 side since 2013. Southgate pulled out of the race to succeed Roy Hodgson after the European Championship for this very reason, with the job going to Allardyce.

“I’m pretty clear on what I’m comfortable with,” Southgate said then, “but also I know to take that role wasn’t something I think I’ve got the experience for.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

“I think it’s one of the ultimate jobs and you want every skill set possible when you go into it. I think with England, there are one or two other things that I would want to have had experience of before I took that role, to be going into it from a real position of strength. Maybe that happens in the future, maybe it doesn’t?”

Less than a month later, he’s been thrust into what some term “The Impossible Job.”

Clean-cut, well-spoken and with no baggage, the 46-year-old Southgate fits the bill for the FA in terms of image. He would be the last person likely to get caught up in the kind of newspaper sting that led to Allardyce losing his job on Tuesday. He also knows the FA and what the national body wants and expects, having been an employee for three years.

“Gareth Southgate will do a good job,” FA chairman Greg Clarke said. “He knows the people, he knows the team, he knows the setup at St. George’s Park. He’ll take over pretty seamlessly.”

Best known for missing a crucial penalty in England’s shootout loss to Germany in the Euro 1996 semifinals, Southgate was fired after three years at Middlesbrough following its relegation from the Premier League. He has repaired his coaching reputation with England’s under-21s and led the team to a first title in 22 years at the Toulon tournament this year.

[ MORE: Wenger excited at Arsenal’s chances ]

Bruce is the second-favorite with bookmakers, behind Southgate, and has to be a big contender considering he was interviewed by the FA for the job eventually given to Allardyce. The 38-year-old Howe, who guided unfancied Bournemouth into the Premier League and kept it there, is widely regarded as a future England coach but now may be too soon for him.

The problem for English coaches is they are rarely given the chance to prove themselves at the leading Premier League clubs, who prefer foreign managers. The FA has tried to address the lack of top English coaches by building the sprawling National Football Centre in central England in 2012 and using that as a base from where talented young coaches can be brought through. That will take time, though.

For now, the FA has given itself some breathing space and will look to have a new man in place by England’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in March.

“It wasn’t the plan we had,” Clarke said, “but we’ve now got to make the new plan work.”

MLS Snapshots: Montreal, DC strengthen playoff bids; TFC draws Orlando (video)

Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti, center, is congratulated by teammate Matteo Mancosu (21) following a goal against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of a soccer game, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
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For most of Wednesday’s trio of Major League Soccer matches we had a paucity of goals, Montreal’s potent attack the only thing assuring it wasn’t zero.

[ MORE: Tata chooses Atlanta United ]

But the final half hours in two of our three matches proved fruitful for the box scores.

Montreal Impact 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes

With Didier Drogba resting, the Impact still managed to strengthen their playoff plans while crushing San Jose’s hopes for the second season. Dominic Odoro buried a rebound early before MVP hopeful Ignacio Piatti made it 2-0 before halftime. Piatti later helped Johan Venegas put the game away late.

Chris Wondolowski scored his 11th goal of the season to pull San Jose within a goal with just under a half-hour to play, his 120th in MLS has him 25 behind Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy for the all-time record.

The loss leaves San Jose seven points shy of a playoff spot with four matches to play.

Toronto FC 0-0 Orlando City

There were chances, sure: Michael Bradley looped a gorgeous pass that Jonathan Osorio somehow hit over the net from inside the six, and Cyle Larin was denied by a diving Alex Bono at the other end.

Two yellow cards to Tosaint Rickets in a 14-minute span left TFC down a man for the final 20 minutes, but the Reds held on for a point at home. Orlando is now five points shy of the East’s final playoff spot, while Toronto used its game-in-hand to pull ahead of New York Red Bulls and New York City FC for the top spot in the East.

DC United 3-0 Columbus Crew

This one saw the chances evenly distributed but the ball mostly with the visitors. Fortunately for DC’s playoff hopes, Lloyd Sam’s third goal of the season opened up a 1-0 lead in the 71st minute off a slick feed from Luciano Acosta. Lamar Neagle had a classy finish to make it 2-0, then assisted Alvaro Saborio to end this game and Columbus’ playoff hopes.

Tata Martino on choosing Atlanta: Project “worth more than money”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Gerardo Martino of Argentina clls out against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Paraguay.

Newell’s Old Boys.

Barcelona.

Argentina.

Atlanta United.

That’s the career path for new Atlanta boss Tata Martino, announced Wednesday as the first manager in United history.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

It’s a fascinating hire for the club and its league, Major League Soccer, as United prepares to debut in 2017.

And it’s also interesting on account of the coach. The 53-year-old Argentine remains in his prime, a three-time Copa America runner-up who was organizing Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and company just three years ago.

Timothy Pratt filed a report on the hiring for the New York Times on Wednesday, one that speaks to Martino’s excitement at helping start a club from the ground up. The coach is excited to aid technical director and USMNT legend Carlos Bocanegra in guiding players from youth on up, similar to what Oscar Pareja has done at FC Dallas.

From NYTimes.com:

Martino underlined the importance of youth player development at his new club “based on how I became a player at Newell’s.” The club is known for grooming players, including a young Lionel Messi, who played for Martino with Barcelona and Argentina. “Working with the youth teams is fundamental for me, no matter where in the world I’m coaching,” he said.

“But the proposal they’re offering me — to install my style of play and build from the ground up — is worth more than money,” he said.

That’s the kinda hire that should be high-fived. Let’s see how it plays out.

Europa League: Mourinho says targeted Man Utd must win; Saints shorthanded

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United makes his way to the tunnel after the final whistle  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Europa League goes into its second day of group play with the onus on the biggest club in the tournament to pick up a win.

Don’t believe us? Ask Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

“To be honest, I think we have to win,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference. “If we don’t win, I would say we’d have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult, so I think it is very important that we win this game.”

[ MORE: Wenger excited at Arsenal’s chances ]

United fell 1-0 at Feyenoord to open the group stage, and now hosts Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday. He knows its the equivalent of a massive Cup match for the visitors.

“The Europa League is a competition Man United isn’t normally in, so when these teams have a giant like Man United in front of them, it’s a huge moment for them and they come to the game with incredible motivation.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start for United, as there’s a chance that Anthony Martial will rejoin the side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is out, and Wayne Rooney (back) and Luke Shaw (illness) may not play.

The other Premier League side in play is Southampton, as the Saints take a long flight to Israel for a 3:05 p.m. ET kickoff against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

[ MORE: Why is Walcott on fire? | Wenger on MiB pod ]

Saints handled Sparta Prague at home, and now face the Camels, who went to Inter Milan and won. Southampton is without Charlie Austin, Jose Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, and Steven Davis.

Should be a very decent match from Turner Stadium in Be’er Sheva.

Elsewhere

all times ET

Mainz at Gabala — 11 a.m.
Young Boys at Astana — 11 a.m.
Osmanlispor at Zurich — 1 p.m.
Red Bull Salzburg at Schalke — 1 p.m.
PAOK at Liberec — 1 p.m.
Qarabag at Fiorentina — 1 p.m.
Villarreal at Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m.
Nice at Krasnodar — 1 p.m.
Standard Liege at Ajax — 1 p.m.
Braga at Shakhtar Donetsk — 1 p.m.
Panathinaikos at Celta Vigo — 1 p.m.
Inter Milan at Sparta Prague — 1 p.m.
Konyaspor at Gent — 1 p.m.
Sassuolo at Genk — 3:05 p.m.
Zorya at Manchester United — 3:05 p.m.
Anderlecht at Saint-Etienne — 3:05 p.m.
Apoel Nicosia at Olympiacos — 3:05 p.m.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Dundalk — 3:05 p.m.
Feyenoord at Fenerbahce — 3:05 p.m.
Rapid Wien at Athletic Bilbao — 3:05 p.m.
Viktoria Plzen at Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m.
AZ Alkmaar at Zenit Saint-Petersburg — 3:05 p.m.
Astra Giurgiu at AS Roma — 3:05 p.m.