Nacer Chadli

Premier League Power Rankings: Familiar faces jostle for the top spot – Week 1

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The mighty Power Rankings are back for the 2014-15 Premier League season.

“All hail the power…” Okay, sorry, got a bit carried away there.

After 180 minutes of action, now is a good time to give all 20 PL teams a quick judgement on their performances so far and see where they stack up. Remember, no sweeping judgments are being made just yet. Let’s do that after Week 3! Just kidding. Sort of.

[Archive: Premier League Power Rankings]

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
Manchester City: Five goals scored, one conceded. A tough away win at Newcastle and then a convincing home victory over last seasons runners up Liverpool. Same old story as the reigning champs begin the new season in imperious form. (2-0-0)
source:  2 Chelsea: Two wins from two for Chelsea so far too, as Jose Mourinho’s rebuild has gone swimmingly thus far. New guys Costa, Fabregas and Courtois have looked superb. They’ve beaten the two new boys. Next up is a tough trip to Everton. (2-0-0)
source:  3 Tottenham: Another club who has six points from six, Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival has been like a breath of fresh air. Tottenham’s players are thriving under the Argentine. Five goals scored, zero conceded and a place in the Europa League group stages secured. Great start. (2-0-0)
source:  4 Swansea City: The Swans are flying high too. Garry Monk’s men beat Manchester United away on the opening day and then ground out a win at home to Burnley. New additions are settling in well as the South Wales side stick to their philosophy of spraying the ball around. Lovely to watch, plus it’s getting results. (2-0-0)

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5
Arsenal: The Gunners have labored at the start of the season, but much of their attention has been on UCL qualification. Now they’ve done that, back to the PL. A narrow win over Palace was followed up by a last-gasp draw at Everton. Decent start, but how will they cope without Giroud? (1-1-0)
source:  6 Liverpool: A narrow opening day win at home to Saints was followed up by a 3-1 defeat at City. Without Suarez they look less deadly but if Balotelli can hit the ground running vs. Spurs this weekend, Reds will get a big boost. (1-0-1)
source:  7 Everton: The Blues are still looking for their first win and could do with a boost after collapsing from 2-0 up against Arsenal. In both games Roberto Martinez’s side have squandered leads late on. That needs to stop. With Samuel Eto’o on board, maybe he can help ease the pressure on Romelu Lukaku. (0-2-0)
source:  8 Sunderland: Like Everton, two draws from two for the Black Cats who look very solid under Gus Poyet. An away draw at West Brom was followed up by a spirited 1-1 draw vs. Manchester United at home. Jack Rodwell looks to be a good buy. Should be fine this season. (0-2-0)
source:  9 Aston Villa: Okay, Villa aren’t going to be the most exciting team you watch this season. They beat Stoke 1-0 on the opening day, then drew 0-0 at home vs. Newcastle. Solid but unspectacular. Home game vs. Hull is very winnable this weekend. (1-1-0)
source:  10 Stoke City: One point from two games after a bit of a shaky start for Stoke. Mark Hughes has struggled to add some players in the summer but they have a gem in Bojan if they can get him playing. Tough trip to Man City this weekend will probably yield zero points. (0-1-1)
source:  11
Newcastle: Same return for Newcastle. They battled vs. Man City at home in their opener, then drew a blank away at Villa. They have yet to score and you wonder where the goals will come from. Alan Pardew made need to buy a striker before the window shuts. Palace at home this week. (0-1-1)
source:  12
Hull City: Decent start to the season for Hull, who beat QPR 1-0 despite being outplayed and then held Stoke to a draw despite having 10-men for most of the match. They went out of the Europa League at the last qualifying stage on Thursday on away goals. Poor old Tigers. (1-1-0)
source:  13
Southampton: Very much a work in progress at St. Mary’s. Ronald Koeman has brought in so many new players to replace those lost in the mass exodus. They need time to gel, but must do so quickly and they look a bit lackluster in attack. Saints travel to West Ham this weekend. (0-1-1)
source:  14 Leicester City: The new boys have given a good account of themselves so far. A 2-2 opening day draw vs. Everton was followed up by a battling 2-0 defeat at Chelsea where they could have gone ahead. They host Arsenal on Sunday. Massive game at the King Power. (0-1-1)
source:  15 Manchester United: It’s not going to be another season of struggle at Old Trafford is it? Louis van Gaal’s men lost to Swansea, drew with Sunderland and were then hammered by MK Dons in the League Cup. They signed Di Maria for $99 million, so things must turn around. Right? Burnley away on Saturday. (0-1-1)
source:  16
West Ham: The Hammers lost to Spurs on the opening day but beat Palace away from home. Sam Allardyce is still getting plenty of abuse from the home fans. If they don’t beat Saints this weekend, incredibly, the boo boys will be out in force. (1-0-1)
source:  17 Crystal Palace: After Tony Pulis left on the opening day, Palace were struggling. They almost held on vs. Arsenal to nab a point but succumbed to a last minute winner, then West Ham beat them last weekend. Neil Warnock is now in charge and the Eagles will be hard to beat. Long trip up to Newcastle awaits. (0-0-2)
source:  18
Burnley: The Clarets are struggling to adapt to life in the PL. They were simply blown away by Chelsea in Week 1 and then huffed and puffed against Swansea but couldn’t score. The small matter of Man United at home this weekend. (0-0-2)
 source:  19
West Brom: Not so sure about the Baggies this season. Sure, they’re solid. But they don’t force the issue enough. Did okay at home vs. Sunderland on the opening day and parked the bus away at Saints. Jury is out. Away trip to Swansea this week. (0-2-0)
 source:  20

QPR: Mr. Redknapp will have to do plenty of wheeling and dealing this week. His side look to be lacking just a little bit of quality. They should have beat Hull on the opening day, but were then hammered by Spurs. They host Sunderland looking to get their first point of the season. (0-0-2)

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Man City v Monaco; Bayer v Atletico Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes get underway on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City host AS Monaco at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola knowing his shaky defense must stay strong against the leading scorers in France’s top-flight. Monaco have already come to England and beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the UCL group stage and under talented manager Leanardo Jardim the likes of Radamel Falcao looks fired up and ready to go.

That said, City have been much better in recent weeks and have shown their best form this season in the UCL. Remember, Pep has never failed to reach the semifinals of this competition as a manager. Quite the record.

Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen welcome Atletico Madrid to the BayArena with Mexico’s Javier Hernandez back among the goals and aiming to give the Bundesliga outfit a lead to take with them to Madrid.

The runners up late season, Atleti are currently fourth in La Liga but Diego Simeone’s side have looked stellar in Europe this season once again as they finished above Bayern Munich to win their group. Expect a tense, tough game in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Manchester City vs. AS Monaco – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid – 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Shaw in betting investigation ]

Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.