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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)

Barcelona tops Levante, ties club record with 28 unbeaten

VALENCIA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 07:  Jordi Alba of Barcelona celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his teammate Andres Iniesta during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on February 07, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Sir Alex Ferguson described the 2010/11 Barcelona team as the best team he ever faced.

This year’s Barcelona side has matched them.

With a 2-0 victory over La Liga basement-dwellers Levante on an own-goal forced by Jordi Alba plus a late score from Luis Suarez, Barcelona has gone 28 matches unbeaten in all competitions, without a loss since a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla on October 28.

Manager Luis Enrique, though, is unmoved. “What matters to me are the team’s objectives,” said Enrique after the win. “These are nice numbers, if they help us win titles at the end of the season, fantastic. We are in good position, but there is still a lot left.”

The Levante victory marked Luis Enrique’s 100th game in charge of Barcelona.

That 2010/11 season, led by Pep Guardiola, Barcelona came a Copa del Rey finals loss to Real Madrid from a quadruple, winning the league, Champions League, and Supercopa de Espana. This time around, they’ve already secured the Supercopa, sit atop the league table by three points over Atletico Madrid and seven above Real Madrid, have yet to lose a game in the Champions League, and the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal against Valencia is a complete formality. What’s more, the numbers from this streak are eerily similar to that wildly successful squad five years ago.

That campaign, Lionel Messi scored 31 league goals and 53 overall. An injury sapped him of time in this go around, but Suarez and Neymar have picked up the slack. There has been just one league game in which all three of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez has been held scoreless this season, and to find it you have to travel all the way back to the second game of the year, a 1-0 win over Malaga that saw Thomas Vermaelen score the winner. Those three have combined for 48 league goals this year, more than every team in the Spanish top flight save Real Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain has a similar streak going at the moment, currently unbeaten in league play throughout the entire season, but their 1-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League on November 3 means their streak across all competitions sits at 19 games.

Watch Live: Bournemouth vs Arsenal (Lineups & Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Adam Smith of Bournemouth compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is hoping to break its four-game winless streak as it travels to Vitality Stadium to take on Bournemouth, live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

The Gunners have drawn three and lost one over its last four matches, leaving them unable to keep pace with Leicester City at the top of the table. With Leicester again winning this week and a matchup with the Foxes looming next time out for Arsenal, this match seems a must-win for Arsene Wenger and company if they wish to remain serious title contenders.

[ WATCH LIVE: Bournemouth vs Arsenal live online at NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Wenger has chosen to leave veteran defender Per Mertesacker on the bench in favor of Gabriel. Francis Coquelin also remains among the substitutes for the second straight match, meaning either Wenger prefers Mathieu Flamini in midfield, or Coquelin remains unfit for a full 90 minutes. Tomas Rosicky was injured last weekend and will be out up to three months, which could end his season.

Eddie Howe has named an unchanged starting lineup from their 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace last week. Winger Junior Stanislas is back on the bench after missing last week. In contrast to Arsenal, the Cherries are unbeaten in four and have won four of their last six, a stretch which has propelled them five points off the relegation zone and the same distance away from the top half of the table.

[ MORE: Premier League Sunday Preview ]

There are no new injury concerns for either side. Both have long-term absentees who are on the mend but still not close to a return. Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla are all out for the Gunners, while Bournemouth duo Max Gradel and Callum Wilson are also sidelined for a while but could return before the end of the season.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Surman, Gosling; Ritchie, Arter, Pugh; Afobe.
Subs: Federici, Distin, Stanislas, O’Kane, Iturbe, King, Grabban.

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sánchez, Özil; Giroud.
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Walcott, Campbell, Coquelin, Iwobi.

FIFA candidate Prince Ali claims voting pledge from Liberia

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, flanked by school-age soccer players in uniforms, speaks before about 300 guests during an event at a Roman amphitheater in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. The prince is running for FIFA president, saying Wednesday he will fight "deep-seated corruption and political deal-making" and make soccer's scandal-scarred governing body more transparent. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali of Jordan says the Liberia soccer federation has pledged its vote to him.

Liberia follows Egypt as the second African voter claimed by Prince Ali since the Confederation of African Football’s leadership endorsed Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain on Friday.

The CAF executive committee urged the 54 African voters among FIFA’s 209-strong membership to back the sheikh in the Feb. 26 election.

Prince Ali’s campaign team on Saturday published a three-page letter of endorsement signed by Liberia federation president Musa Bility.

Bility writes that Prince Ali “represents real change” while other candidates are “not even prepared to criticize” the FIFA system.

Bility was himself an applicant in the presidential contest, then failed an integrity test judged by FIFA’s election monitoring committee.

LVG says Mourinho speculation is false, calls the whole thing “nonsense”

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Louis Van Gaal is sick and tired of the media speculating about his employment (or potential lack thereof), as well as reports linking the presently unemployed Jose Mourinho to his job, so what we’re going to do now is speculate on those reports a bit more.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

But first, we’ll give Van Gaal the chance to tell his side of the story. Who better to explain what’s going on at Manchester United than the manager of Man United, right? OK, Louis, take it away, mate — quotes from the Guardian:

“The last two months have been very difficult for my wife, my kids, my grandchildren and my friends to cope with. For me too, but I can cope. In the Netherlands they know I am too arrogant to doubt myself, but I also know that such a nonsense is being created about me. I do not believe that there is already a relationship between José Mourinho and Manchester United.”

“It is logical when you have lost four matches in a row, people are bound to be doubting. … I criticize the media for inventing stories. I never hired security. Never ever. And I am walking on the streets without security and all the people I meet are very positive.”

OK, now that that’s out of the way, Jose Mourinho is definitely talking to Manchester United, or someone is doing so on his behalf. There’s arguably never been a more sitting-duck manager in world football than Van Gaal is right now — not only have the results been extremely “meh” for nearly two seasons now, but he’s also got less than 18 months left on his contract, which means it would cost the club considerably less to make him go away than, say, David Moyes, who still had more than five years(!!!) left on his deal when he was fired in April of his first season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL preview — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

Also, they were totally in for Pep Guardiola, too, and since they didn’t get him, they’ll have to respond thusly, and since Carlo Ancelotti has already been named Guardiola’s successor at Bayern Munich, Mourinho is the last “big name” out there right now. Unless, of course, they wanted to tap up Manuel Pellegrini, who’s on his way out to make room for Guardiola. Could be fun. But not as fun as Jose back in the Premier League, at Man United, in the same city with Pep. Remember the last time those two were employed on opposite sides of a heated rivalry?

As spectacular as this year’s PL season has been — and it’s bordering on the best of all time, still with 13 weeks to go — think about what that means for next season. It’s going to have be even more bonkers, so as not to seem boring by comparison. Louis van Gaal seems like a nice enough guy, but his team’s football isn’t that exciting on the field, and he offers little more off it. Mourinho isn’t the hero we deserve, but he’s certainly the one we need.