Premier League Power Rankings: Final week of 2013-14 season arrives

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Manchester City have peaked at the right time of the season as the Citizens have one hand on the Premier League title.

As for Liverpool, the exact opposite can be said as Steven Gerrard and co. have let their hand slip off the shiny trophy. It has been a monumental collapse from Liverpool which has let City in to storm back to the top and needing a point from the final game.

The three relegated teams are all but sealed but there is still plenty of records and pride to play for across the PL, see how that impacted out final PL rankings of the campaign.

(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
Manchester City: One game from greatness for City’s players as they know a draw at home to West Ham will clinch the PL title. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have outlasted Liverpool and their experience has shown in some massive wins. Do City deserve to win the Premier League title? (26-5-6)
source:  2 UP 2
Arsenal: Good finish to the season for the Gunners as they stormed clear of Everton to take the fourth and final UCL spot. Now Arsene Wenger’s side have an FA Cup final to look forward to and will rest players vs. Norwich. (23-7-7)
source:  3 DOWN 1
Liverpool: Catastrophic. Devastating. Soul-destroying. Those words could sum up Liverpool’s monumental collapse in their last two games, as they followed up their 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea by blowing a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace with 11 minutes to go. They need to win vs. Newcastle and hope City lose to West Ham if they’re going to win the PL. So close for the Reds… (25-6-6)
source:  4 DOWN 1
Chelsea: Jose Mourinho’s men hung in their almost until the end but a 0-0 draw vs. lowly Norwich ended Chelsea’s faint title hopes. Likely to be a third place finish and a UCL semifinal appearance. Is that special enough from the “Special One?” The finish up at Cardiff on Sunday. (24-7-6)

source:

5
Tottenham:  Spurs were beat at West Ham after Younes Kaboul was sent off early on and they didn’t recover. Tim Sherwood’s side can still seal a Europa League spot by beating Villa at home on the final day. Not a bad season after all of the upheaval. (20-6-11)
source:  6
Southampton: Great finish to the season for Saints who have won three of their last six and are unbeaten in three. However the future of manager Mauricio Pochettino’s and his star players Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw hangs in the balance. Best ever PL finish and points tally say Saints are on the brink of something special. Man United at home to finish. (15-10-12)
source:  7
Everton: The Toffees put up a brave fight against Man City but were outclassed in a 3-2 defeat. Roberto Martinez’s side have run out of steam at the wrong time of the season. Three defeats from their last four but they will still be in Europe next season for the first time since 2009. Hull away on Sunday. (20-9-8)
source:  8 UP 3
Sunderland: My word. What a finish to the season for Sunderland as four-straight wins against Chelsea, Cardiff, Manchester United and West Brom has kept them up. Gus Poyet asked for a miracle last month… he’s got it! A nice relaxing game vs. Swansea on Sunday. (10-8-19)
source:  9 DOWN 1
Manchester United: 12 defeats in a PL season for United. 12. They lost at home to Sunderland, then beat Hull City in their final home game of the season which included an emotional goodbye from Ryan Giggs. What capacity will he be back in next season? They can still clinch a Europa League spot if they beat Saints and Spurs lose to Villa. Nightmare season is almost over. (19-6-12)
source:  10 DOWN 1 Stoke City: Another week, another win for Stoke as they’ve finished off the season in style. This time the Potters battered Fulham 4-1 and they have really clicked into gear late in the season. Mark Hughes has done a top job and they are all but guaranteed a first top-10 finish in the PL whatever happens vs. West Brom. (12-11-14)
source:  11 DOWN 1
Crystal Palace: Palace looked jaded against Man City in a 2-0 defeat but they conjured up supreme strength late on against Liverpool to dash their opponents’ title hopes. 3-0 down with 11 minutes left, Dwight Gayle struck twice and Damien Delaney got the other. Tony Pulis has worked wonders and Selhurst Park is a fortress. Fulham away across the capital to finish off. (13-5-19)
source:  12
Hull City: The wheels have come off for Hull, as all their attention is on trying to overturn Arsenal in the FA Cup final. Can the Tigers regroup and beat Everton at home on the final day to set themselves up for Wembley? That will give Steve Bruce some big selection headaches. (10-7-20)
source:  13
Swansea City: Swans were unlucky to lose against Saints as a draw was probably a fair result. At least their PL status is secured and so is the future of young manager Garry Monk, who has been handed a three-year deal. Away trip to Sunderland on Sunday (10-9-18)
source:  14 UP 3
Newcastle: Finally a win for Newcastle, as they hammered Cardiff 3-0 and stopped the rot of six-straight defeats. The home fans still retaliated and walked out to protest against the owners. Not sure if Alan Pardew will see out the summer as boss. (15-4-18)
source:  15 UP 3
Aston Villa: Villa’s fans can breath a huge sigh of relief, as they beat Hull 3-1 to seal their PL status for another season. Paul Lambert’s project has stalled once again this season and uncertainty remains in the air around Villa Park with American owner Randy Lerner rumored to be selling up. (10-8-18)
source:  16
West Ham: The Hammers beat Spurs in a fierce London derby and secured their PL status. Not a vintage year for Big Sam down at Upton Park, as his side have underachieved and underwhlemed the home fans. Will West Ham’s owner settle for another season of stale soccer in East London? They can scupper Man City’s title chances on the final day… (11-7-19)
source:  17 DOWN 3
West Brom: Pepe Mel’s side aren’t mathematically safe going into the final day but it would take a 17 goals swing to send them down. They are safe but have stumbled over the line. You wonder whether or not there will be another change of manager this summer. (7-15-15)
source:  18 DOWN 3

Fuham: ‘The Great Escape’ proved just too much for the Cottagers as they were hammered at Stoke. The real damage was done in their 2-2 draw with Hull City at home after leading 2-0 a few weeks back. Now Felix Magath’s men prepare for life in the Championship. (9-4-24)
source:  19
Cardiff City: Ole Gunnar Solksjaer had the impossible task of keeping Cardiff in the PL and he failed. The Bluebirds spent just one season in the top flight and eccentric owner Vincent Tan has a lot to answer for with his erratic ownership. (7-9-21)
source:  20

Norwich City: The Canaries need to beat Arsenal on the final day, West Brom to lose and a 17 goals swing in their favor to stay up. It was a valiant effort against Chelsea to draw 0-0 last week, but that meant they were all but down. Awful finish to the season. (8-9-20)

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.