Liverpool launched themselves ahead, as their midfielders flew out of the traps.

Premier League Power Rankings: Two way tussle for top spot – Week 35

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With just three matchdays to go, the Premier League title race and relegation battle is still wide open.

Although Liverpool can take a huge step towards winning their first-ever PL crown by beating Chelsea this weekend. Following the Blues’ shock defeat to Sunderland last time out, it now looks like a two-horse race for the title between Liverpool and Man City.

At the bottom wins for Sunderland, Cardiff and Fulham this weekend would mean they could finally climb out of the bottom three with just two games to go. Sunderland play Cardiff, in what could be a relegation decider.

Could this season get any more exciting?

(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 Liverpool: Another week, another entertaining win for Liverpool. A nail-biting win away at Norwich last Sunday means that seven points from their last 3 games guarantees the title. The small matter of Chelsea at home beckons this Sunday. Can the Reds hold their nerve? (25-5-5)
source:  2 UP 1
Manchester City: The Citizens slipped up at home to Sunderland last week, yet recovered to grab a late point and then beat West Brom. If they win out and Liverpool lose to Chelsea this Sunday, City could win the PL title on goal difference. Palace away this weekend. (23-5-6)
source:  3 DOWN 1
Chelsea: Chelsea have lost at home in the PL under Jose Mourinho. I repeat, Chelsea have lost at home under Mourinho. The Blues suffered a shock late defeat to Sunderland, as the 77-game unbeaten streak is finally over. Injuries are mounting up, as Mourinho plans to play his “B” squad at Anfield this Sunday with a UCL semi vs. Atletico looming. (23-6-6)
source:  4
Arsenal: Last week was a good one for the Gunners, as two blowout wins saw them take fourth place by the scruff of the neck. Podolski scored four times (doubling his season’s tally) and Ramsey is back to his best after injury. Beating Hull handsomely in the FA Cup final dress rehearsal is a boost, as Newcastle await at the Emirates on Monday. (21-7-7)

source:

5 Everton: The Toffees put in a masterful display against Man United to end Moyes’ reign at Old Trafford, as Robert Martinez’s men were electrifying. The only stumbling block was the defeat to Palace at home a few days earlier. Can the Toffees beat Southampton on Saturday? (20-9-6)
source:  6
Tottenham: Spurs are keeping pace with the top four, but only just. A hard-fought 3-1 win over Fulham saw Tim Sherwood’s side get back to winning ways, now they face Stoke City away. Lose and their UCL dreams are all but over. (19-6-10)
source:  7 Stoke City: The Potters will aim to keep their top 10 push going by beating Spurs at the Britannia this weekend. Mark Hughes’ men were unlucky not to beat Cardiff away last time out. Just one defeat in eight for Stoke. (11-11-13)
source:  8 UP 1
Crystal Palace: Five wins on the spin, as the Selhurst Park faithful are in dreamland. Tony Pulis’ men are officially safe with three games to go, who would’ve predicted that? Surely the Eagles can’t make it six in a row by beating Man City this weekend… (13-4-18)
source:  9 DOWN 1
Southampton: Saints drew 0-0 with Aston Villa last time out as they keep missing glorious chances. They are superb in and around the box, but finishing has been their Achilles heel of late. Silky soccer will be on display against Everton at St. Mary’s this Saturday. (13-10-12)
source:  10
Manchester United: The Red Devils have had a tumultuous week. First they lost to Everton, then they fired David Moyes and put Ryan Giggs in charge on an interim basis. What now for United? Giggsy’s first game in charge is at home to Norwich. Can he get off to a winning start? (17-6-11)
source:  11 West Ham: The Irons’ season is in danger of petering out, as they lost at home to Palace last weekend. Sam Allardyce’s men are creating chances but Andy Carroll isn’t putting them away. West Brom away provides a good chance for three points. (10-7-18)
source:  12
Hull City:  The Tigers still aren’t out trouble, yet something pretty spectacular must happen for them to go down. A heavy defeat to FA Cup final opponents Arsenal wasn’t ideal last weekend, can they beat Fulham away to all but seal their safety? (10-6-17)
source:  13
Fuham: Speaking of Fulham, the Cottagers now face a must-win match at home to Hull in their desperate battle against the drop. Against Spurs last weekend they were unlucky not to get something from the game, but that extra bit of quality has alluded them. Can Magath’s men do the business? (9-3-23)
source:  14 UP 2
Swansea City: Garry Monk is a relieved man as the Swans left it late to clinch a valuable three points away at Newcastle. Wilfried Bony, so often Swansea’s savior, scored a late PK as the South Wales side have almost clinched they ticket to the PL next season. Home game vs. Villa this weekend. (9-9-17)
source:  15

Newcastle: The Magpies lost for the fifth-straight time and Alan Pardew’s time on Tyneside looks to be coming to an end. Still in the top 10, Newcastle are finishing the season with a whimper and could slip further down the standings. Arsenal away this weekend. (14-4-17)
 source:  16 UP 3
Sunderland: Huge week for the Black Cats as they drew away at City (where they led until the final moments) and then shocked everyone by beating Chelsea. Those results have breathed new life into their relegation battle. Three points from safety, the game against Cardiff is absolutely massive this weekend. (7-8-19)
 source:  17 DOWN 3
Aston Villa: Unrest, poor results and a worrying slide continues at Villa Park. Paul Lambert got rid of his two assistants after issues off the field, then they somehow mustered a 0-0 draw with Saints at home to stop the rot following four-straight defeats. Trip to Swansea this week. (9-8-17)
source:  18

Cardiff City: The Bluebirds missed a great opportunity to climb out of the drop zone last weekend as they failed to break down Stoke City. Cardiff now travel to Sunderland knowing their season is on the line. (7-9-19)
source:  19 DOWN 2
West Brom: Pepe Mel’s men are struggling, big time. A defeat at Man City leaves them just three points above the drop zone with plenty of teams closing in behind them. Will the Baggies go down? West Ham at home is a must-win this weekend. (6-15-13)
source:  20

Norwich City:  A brave effort to only lose 3-2 to Liverpool last Sunday but that’s four-straight defeats for the Canaries who sit just two points above the drop zone. They are everyone’s favorites to go down. Can they beat Man United to give their survival hopes a boost? (8-8-19)

Arsenal’s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, buys $725 million Texas ranch

Jeff Fisher
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Well, Arsenal fans, you know that big splash in the transfer market you were hoping for? Umm, this is awkward.

[ MORE: Leicester fan set for huge bet win ]

Okay so maybe the majority shareholder of the Gunners, American billionaire Stan Kronke, isn’t directly responsible for pumping Arsene Wenger‘s transfer war chest full of money but imagine if he’d offered to give Arsenal $725 million rather than buying this incredible ranch in Texas?

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Kroenke sealed the deal for the legendary Waggoner Ranch in Texas — the largest ranch within one fence-line — and he now owns over 865,000 acres of land which easily placed him among the top 10 largest landowners in the USA.

That land also equates to three times the size of the City of Los Angeles which is the city, coincidentally, that Kroenke has just moved his Rams NFL franchise to from St. Louis.

SO, what do you get for $725 million at the Waggoner Ranch? 14,000 cows, 500 horses and 1,100 producing oil wells to start with. It also lies in six counties, has 30 cowboys on the property and 120 employees overall.

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

What would you get in the soccer world for $725 million? Well, Wenger could probably sign Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo plus pay their wages and still have some cash left over.

Don’t get carried away though, Arsenal’s sustainable business model has seen them rise up the rankings in Forbes’ rich list and there will be no haphazard spending anytime soon. Much to the annoyance of every super-ambitious Arsenal fan out there.

That includes you, Piers Morgan…

Here’s a few pictures of what Kroenke has just bought. Preseason tour to Texas for a but of lassoing with Alexis Sanchez, Mr. Wenger?

Solo: USWNT finding new identity ahead of Olympic qualifying opener

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With the U.S. women’s national team set to kick off their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament on Wednesday (Watch live, 8:30 p.m. ET online via Live Extra) against Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas, goalkeeper Hope Solo knows the reigning World Cup and Olympic champs will have to reinvent themselves.

She’s been here before.

[ STREAM: Olympic qualifying live ]

Following the retirement of several key players — Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday and Lori Chalupny among them — after their 2015 World Cup win in Canada, Jill Ellis’ team has been trying to create a new identity over the past few months.

It’s something that’s easy to say but a lot tougher to do.

“It’s really interesting. I’ve been on this team for quite some time and I’ve heard many times ‘let’s create a new identity. We have to find our own identity, this team moving forward,” Solo said. “It’s something I’ve heard quite a bit but it’s never easy to do. We’ve lost some big name players, a lot of players have retired. We have young players coming in and the Olympics are right around the corner. We have to find a way to play to the best of our ability with some older players, brand new players and everybody in-between. It’s not easy but it is not foreign to us.”

Despite all the upheaval the USWNT are still the favorites to win their fourth Olympic gold on the spin at Rio 2016 this summer.

Placed in Group A for CONCACAF qualifying for the 2016 Olympics — the top two teams from the eight-team tournament advance — alongside Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Mexico, the U.S. should breeze into the knockout rounds where they will likely face old foes Canada in the final.

Remember, over the next 11 days you can stream all 15 games live online via NBC Sports Live Extra with up to four games also shown on NBCSN.

Here’s the full schedule as Solo and Co. aim to seal their spot in the 2016 Olympics with minimum fuss.

Leicester fan will win $50,000 from $10 bet if Foxes win Premier League

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring against Manchester United, his eleventh consecutive goal in the Premier League, during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Vardy becomes the first man to score in 11 consecutive English Premier League soccer matches after finding the back of the net against Manchester United today.(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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As their odds of winning the Premier League title continue to be slashed, tales of Leicester City fans set to win an incredible amount of cash continue.

The latest story is a beauty.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired” ]

On the eve of the 2015-16 Premier League season one Leicester City fan, Chloe Cope, decided to put $10 on her side to win the title. The odds were 5,000 -1. So, with the Foxes five points clear at the top of the table with just 13 games to go, the first league title in Leicester’s 132 year history would not only bring unbeliavable amounts of jubilation to the East Midlands city but also plenty of cash for its fans. $50,000 for this Miss Cope, in fact.

The story gets even better. Check this out.

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Miss Cope’s flutter on her beloved Foxes was actually her first-ever bet. She opened up an online betting account last summer in the UK with Sky Bet and was rewarded a free $30 bet which she used to make a bet that Leicester would finish in the top six this season. That’s virtually assured so she will win another $637.

The two bets she made back on August 7 2015 are shown in the Tweet below via Jacqui Oatley.

A few other Leicester fans are also in line to win plenty of cash, but this one seems to have the most riding on it.

Will big changes in Europe threaten UEFA Champions League’s future?

FC Barcelona, 2014-15 UEFA Champions League winners
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With talk of the UEFA Champions League being threatened by a “super league” of some sort, that notion has been undermined by some of Europe’s top teams.

For now.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI?

On Wednesday in Paris the European Clubs’ Association (ECA) met at its 16th annual congress and confirmed it will seek to change the way the UEFA Champions League and Europa League is run when the current term of agreement cycle expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

With over 200 member clubs the ECA represents many of the biggest teams on the planet with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Chelsea all included.

In the past there has been a growing notion for a European “super league” to replace the Champions League and that perennial European giants should not have to rely on qualifying for Europe via their domestic competitions.

That is one of the factors currently being discussed by the ECA, as they released the following statement after the congress in France this week.

“In light of the upcoming 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle, the clubs are currently discussing the future of UEFA’s main club competitions, namely the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. As in the past, the clubs are in constant dialogue with UEFA to further develop and improve both competitions. All ECA Member Clubs have gathered in informal working groups to exchange initial thoughts and ideas.”

[ MORE: Reports claim Mourinho to United is “done deal”

The current ECA chairman and chairman of Bayern Munich, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, also spoke about the need to revamp both club competitions.

“I believe both ECA and UEFA are interested in an evolution of the competitions. Stagnation means regression,” Rummenigge said. “We have always jointly looked into ways to further develop and improve the competitions. It is important to find a good and balanced solution for everyone involved.”

So, overall, it seems that for now both ECA and UEFA is willing to work together to improve the current format of the UCL rather than go their separate ways and the ECA member clubs beginning their own competition, as had been mooted by Rummenigge and other high-ranking officials in the past.

What changes could be discussed for the 2018-21 UEFA Club Competition Cycle?

For me, it seems like it would be a good idea to somehow reduce the number of UCL teams who enter the group stage. That would help it preserve its elite status and potential shave two matchdays off the schedule to lessen the pressure on teams. Currently 32 teams qualify in eight groups of four teams and a total of 78 teams from across UEFA’s 54 member nations qualify for the UCL each season. 46 fall by the wayside in the qualifying rounds and many of those teams are too small to ever dream about getting anywhere near the group stages.

[ PHOTOS: New PL logo released

Perhaps just having one playoff round to make the UCL and limiting the number of spots for nations with lower UEFA coefficients is the way to go. That way those nations would back their teams competing in the Europa League and that competition will gain more prestige as a direct correlation between teams performing well in the Europa League will lead to certain nations being granted places in the UEFA Champions League. That’s the case now, but adding extra emphasis to the Europa League should be a big part of the next cycle.

The biggest situation the ECA seem to want to sort out here is how some of Europe’s biggest teams did not qualify for the UCL. The overriding notion seems to be that the ECA wants them to qualify each year. Even though the likes of past UCL winners Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund weren’t involved in Europe’s elite competition this season, did the tournament really suffer because of it? In terms of gate revenue, perhaps, but it seems that the ECA is conflicted about the best way to get as many of its member teams involved in the elite competition as possible.

Another idea I’m just throwing out there could be to hand teams a spot in the UCL based on their current coefficient which takes into account their previous performances in UEFA Club Competitions. Perhaps four spots per season could be reserved for teams who don’t qualify for the UCL domestically, but have the highest coefficient of the non qualifiers. Just a thought.

There’s clearly plenty to sort out but it seems like — for now, at least — we haven’t seen the end of the UEFA Champions League. But tweaks will need to be made to stop it regressing.