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)

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal

Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal ]

In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).