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)

Stream Live: Manchester City host Everton

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Manchester City welcome Everton to the Etihad Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with two Barcelona legends colliding on the sidelines.

[ LIVE: Stream Man City-Everton ] 

Both teams will be looking to make it two wins from two to kick off the season as their new-look, expensively assembled squads have plenty of expectation on their shoulders.

Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman will put their friendship to one side for this game.

In team news Man City bring in Leroy Sane for Danilo, while Everton move Davy Klaassen to the bench and have new club-record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson alongside him.

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Manchester City

Everton

Geoff Cameron reaches Premier League milestone

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Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron has become just the sixth American in history to make 150 appearances in the Premier League.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Cameron, 32, started at center back as Stoke beat Arsenal 1-0 at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday with the Potters defense holding firm to seal a big early-season win.

The U.S. national team star has been a mainstay at Stoke since arriving from the Houston Dynamo in 2012 and he is now only behind Clint Dempsey in terms of appearances made by an outfield player in the Premier League.

Selected 46th overall in the 2009 MLS draft by Houston, Cameron’s career has gone from strength-to-strength since joining Stoke and the USMNT center back signed a new two-year contract extension at the end of last season which will keep him with the Potters until at least the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

Therefore it is not inconceivable that given his great recent form and his versatility to play at center back, in central midfield or a right back, that he will rack up close to another 90 appearances over the next two seasons to overtake Dempsey’s total of 218 appearances.

Cameron has quietly moved ahead of the likes of Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna and other U.S. legends in terms of appearances and his longevity in the PL, at perhaps its most competitive era in history, should be applauded.

With only Danny Williams and DeAndre Yedlin likely to play consistently elsewhere in the PL this season, Cameron is one of the few players still flying the American flag.

Here’s a look at who is ahead of him and when he can move further up the list of Americans to appear in the PL.

  • Brad Friedel – 451 appearances
  • Tim Howard – 399 appearances
  • Clint Dempsey – 218 appearances
  • Kasey Keller – 201 appearances
  • Brad Guzan – 153 appearances
  • Geoff Cameron – 150 appearances

PL Playback: Man United ready to roam freely

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MAN UNITED’S MOMENTUM

So far this season Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United look ready to bolt from the barn whenever matchday rolls around.

In a good way.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

United blew away Swansea City 4-0 on Saturday, using an explosive 3 minute and 41 second period to score three times at the end of the game.

Mourinho’s stable of powerful attacking players are on the pitch and on the bench, with Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial running riot late in the game.

“I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you’re winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely,” Mourinho told the BBC after the game.

The depth in this United squad is considerable with Martial coming off the bench to score twice and assist on another goal in the opening two games of the PL season. Lukaku has scored four goals in his first three official games for United, while Pogba has a goal in each of his first two PL games this season. Everything is looking rosy for United who sit top of the table after two 4-0 wins to open the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

But hold your horses. No disrespect to West Ham and Swansea, but United should beat them convincingly. Yet they seem to have put aside their problems from last season where they dominated teams but couldn’t put them away, which led to a league-high 15 draws from 38 games. They’ve kept more clean sheets than any other PL team in 2017, so conceding hasn’t been the issue.

The balance is now better with attackers able to roam freely and interchange further up the pitch. In truth, they played similarly for large spells of last season but they couldn’t finish. Now the confidence is flowing and scoring goals seems like the easiest thing in the world.

Mourinho seems to have instilled newfound confidence in his team and with the players now having a whole season of the Mourinho experience under their belt, they understand what he wants. Also, the second-season syndrome (we all know what happens in year three) under Mourinho always seems to get the best out of his methods. There is a real feel-good vibe around United right now and their early-season schedule will allow this to build.

Despite all of the positives surrounding United’s opening victories, what if Romelu Lukaku goes down injured? Can Marcus Rashford, who has looked dangerous out on the left, fill his void up top? Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic will arrive on a short-term deal but the forward issue is one which will still concern Mourinho, even though his attacking unit is purring right now. Injuries hit United hard last season but they had more games with their Europa League campaign, EFL Cup success and deep run in the FA Cup. This season should be easier to manage.

Mourinho’s team now seem able to shut opponents down and limit their chances and the balance of this team is spot on. Nemanja Matic‘s arrival has been lauded and he allows Pogba to roam free in support of Lukaku, Rashford, Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was sublime once again, taking his assist tally to four in 173 minutes for the season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The diminutive duo of Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan perfectly compliment the powerful trio of Pogba, Lukaku and Rashford in attack and all of a sudden you can see why Mourinho was shown pretending to smoke an imaginary cigar before the game when the cameras caught him chatting with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

So chill.

Mourinho will let his horses roam free for the opening months of the season as United do not face a top six opponent until Oct. 14 when they head to Liverpool and then they face Chelsea and Tottenham in two of their next three games, while the UCL group games will also come thick and fast around that time.

That’s when the real tests will start to arrive but United already have a ruthless streak about them which wasn’t there last season.


CHELSEA’S WEMBLEY GRIT

It wasn’t the best display Chelsea will put in, but it had buckets of desire and determination as they became the first team to beat Tottenham at home (yes, it was Wembley) in 19 Premier League games.

[ MORE: Can Spurs get over Wembley jinx? ]

After being at the London derby, the first-ever Premier League game at Wembley, I wrote about Spurs’ struggles at their temporary home, and that was a big part of this.

Chelsea rode their luck but without the injured Eden Hazard, exiled Diego Costa, the suspended duo of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, plus new signings Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko all taking time to settle in as they made their first starts for the club, it was one heck of a result.

[ MORE: 3 things learned from Chelsea’s win ]

Tottenham were wasteful in attack against Chelsea’s revamped 3-5-2 system which saw David Luiz become a colossal in central midfield and youngster Andreas Christensen more than hold his own in central defense. They hit Spurs on the counter expertly as Willian hit the post and then Marcos Alonso scored a late winner which sent the 3,000-plus away fans wild at Wembley.

Antonio Conte ran to the away section after the game punching the air with delight as the Italian coach looked to be unloading plenty of the pressure which had been piling up on his shoulders over the summer and the early weeks of this season. That was understandable following the Costa saga, Nemanja Matic being sold to Man United, the FA Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and a shock loss to Burnley.

“This is a perfect response of the champions,” Conte said. “We won the league last season, winning 30 games, and that is not easy. We lost in the final of the FA Cup. We have arrived in some problems with bans and injuries but we must be ready to work and focus on the pitch. The club is trying its best in the transfer market to improve our squad but I must be happy.”

With the chips down, Sunday’s London derby win proved the reigning champs won’t give up their crown without a fight.


EARLY SEASON HEROES, STRUGGLERS

We are only in Week 2 but there are already plenty of heroes and vllains around the Premier League.

Huddersfield Town have won their first two Premier League games with David Wagner‘s side beating Newcastle United 1-0 on Sunday at a raucous John Smith’s Stadium.

Aaron Mooy was the hero as the Australian midfielder cut inside and bent home a beauty into the far corner to become Huddersfield’s hero. In truth, every Terriers player was a hero, just like they were in Week 1 at Crystal Palace.

Wagner’s men are six points closer to the magic 40-point marker to avoid relegation and the Yorkshire club are loving life in the big-time. They are the new darlings of the PL.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are five teams at the bottom of the Premier League table who have yet to grab a point this season, and four of those have yet to score a goal.

They aren’t panicking, but a slow start is far from ideal.

Newcastle United were lackluster in attack in their defeat at Huddersfield and Rafael Benitez looks frustrated on the sidelines with funds from owner Mike Ashley not as forthcoming as he’d hoped. The Magpies need major work in the final weeks of the window.

So do fellow new boys Brighton & Hove Albion and Chris Hughton‘s side barely created anything at Leicester City in their second 2-0 defeat to open the season. Bournemouth, surprisingly, have lost two games to open the campaign with Eddie Howe‘s men also yet to score as Watford dominated the game at the Vitality Stadium. The alarm bells are ringing in Dorset.

Crystal Palace put in a dogged display away at Liverpool but Christian Benteke missed a glorious chance and Frank de Boer’s men conceded late on with Sadio Mane grabbing the winner and West Ham have now conceded seven goals to open the season with two defeats from two for Slaven Bilic‘s side.

At least West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez hasn’t had a slow start to the season even though his team lost 3-2 at Southampton in a dramatic game. Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer netted two typical close-range goals but his side were undone by giving away two penalty kicks and having Marko Arnautovic stupidly sent off.

Like the other teams struggling at the start of the season, the Hammers are creating problems for themselves. How would Hernandez sum up their start and the current mood at West Ham?

“Difficult, we knew that with three away games. The last two with Manchester United and then at Southampton we played a really good game in the second half with 10 men, we had a lot of effort and were so close to getting one point and maybe even three points, you never know. It has been a little bit sad but we are getting there,” Hernandez said. “We need time to keep working, to keep improving. We need to look forward, we need to be positive. We can not stay in the good memories or bad memories. That’s the good thing about football, you have a chance of revenge every weekend.”

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Transfer rumor wrap: Messi to Man City; Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Manchester City are said to have “stepped up” their interest in Lionel Messi.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

A report from the Daily Record claims Man City met with representatives of Messi, 30, last week with the Argentine superstar reportedly unhappy with life at Barcelona after watching Neymar leave, plus legend Andres Iniesta yet to agree to a new contract.

The report goes on to claim that Messi’s new contract last month was announced before it was signed and it has yet to be formalized with Barca offering him wages over $1.4 million per week.

With Neymar leaving Barca for PSG, anything now seems possible and Man City certainly hold the ace if Messi was to ever leave Barcelona with Pep Guardiola on board.

Would the deal for Messi be a new world-record transfer deal, surpassing Neymar’s move to PSG? It is mooted that the deal could be a free transfer if Messi doesn’t sign the new deal and he could join for free ahead of the 2018-19 Premier League season.

After Barcelona lost 5-1 to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup to open up this season and they continue to struggle to bring in Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele to replace Neymar.

Will Messi leave Barcelona? It always seems highly-unlikely. Yet, with Pep around and Man City able to afford to pay him whatever he wants, if he leaves Barca they seem like the most likely club he will join.


In what could be another big-money move to the Premier League, Chelsea target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted he is still thinking about leaving Borussia Dortmund.

Earlier this summer it appeared that Aubameyang, 28, was heading to the Chinese Super League while Chelsea and AC Milan were both reportedly interested.

However he remained at Dortmund and the Bundesliga’s golden boot winner last season scored in their opening day win against Wolfsburg on Saturday and has five goals in three official games for BVB to kick off 2017-18.

Speaking to Radio Montecarlo Italy, the Gabon international said the following about his future.

“I am still reflecting on whether I should leave or not. This club and these fans are incredible, but if I want to grow, I feel I need to leave,” Aubameyang said.

Intriguing.

With Chelsea still trying to offload Diego Costa, who is currently exiled in Brazil and staying away from the club, they will soon have an open slot up front. Costa is likely to join Atletico Madrid before the transfer deadline on Aug. 31, with a loan move elsewhere to be arranged until January when Atleti’s transfer ban ends.

Judging by Alvaro Morata’s rusty display for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, plus only having Michy Batshuayi in reserve, Antonio Conte will want to strengthen his forward options considerably. Aubameyang ticks all the boxes and it is expected Dortmund would accept an offer of around $90 million for the forward.