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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

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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)

LIVE – Europa League group stage finale: Saints, Man United in crucial deciders

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League Group K match between Southampton FC and FC Internazionale Milano at St Mary's Stadium on November 3, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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This is it, don’t get scared now.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Premier League duo Southampton and Manchester United both go into their final group game of the UEFA Europa League needing to avoid defeat if their going to make the knockout rounds.

For United, their task is simple. Jose Mourinho’s men need just a point from their trip to Ukraine to play Zorya Luhansk to advance to the Round of 32, while a win could see them finish top depending on the result of the Feyenoord vs. Fenerbache game.

As for Southampton, it’s a little bit more complicated.

A win for Claude Puel‘s side at home against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at a sold out St Mary’s would see them safely through to the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the first time in club history. A 0-0 draw would also do the trick but a score draw (1-1, 2-2, 3-3 etc) would send the reigning Israeli champions through instead as they’d have the advantage in head-to-head away goals after the duo drew 0-0 in Israel back in October. Making the knockout rounds of this competition would be a huge deal for Southampton and would keep their cup momentum going after they reached the semifinals of the EFL Cup last week.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]   

Elsewhere there is plenty on the line across the 12 groups, with the standings page in the link above very handy to work out the permutations as the top two teams from each group (first place team is seeded, the second unseeded) advance to the Round of 32 and will be joined by the eight teams who finished third in their respective groups in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Below is the full schedule for Thursday’s game which kick off in three separate time slots, while you can follow live commentary and stats on the games by clicking on the link above.


Full Europa League schedule, Thursday Dec. 8

11 a.m. ET
Konyarspor vs. Gent
Qarabag vs. Fiorentina
Osmanlispor vs. Zurich
Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs. Steaua Bucuresti
PAOK vs. Liberece

1 p.m. ET
Vikrotia Plzen vs. Austria Wien
Apoel Nicosia vs. Olympiacos
Sassuolo vs. Genk
Anderlecht vs. Saint-Etienne
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Rapid Wien vs. Athletic Bilbao
Young Boys vs. Astana
AZ Alkmaar vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Feyenoord vs. Fenerbahce
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dundalk
Mainz vs. Gabala
Astra Giurgiu vs. Roma

3:05 p.m. ET
Panathinaikos vs. Celta Vigo
Standard Liege vs. Ajax
Inter Milan vs. Sparta Prague
Southampton vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva
RB Salzburg vs. Schalke
Nice vs. Krasnodar

Bob Bradley will remain in charge, says Swansea chairman

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With reports circulating in the British press that American coach Bob Bradley could be fired after just seven games in charge of Swansea City, their chairman has publicly backed the former U.S. national team head coach.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

Bradley, 58, has just one win in his opening seven games in charge of the Swans who currently sit bottom of the Premier League table on nine points, three points off safety.

That poor form, coupled with many other issues at the club, has reportedly prompted new American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien (they took over as majority owners in July) to conduct an extensive review of every department at the club.

However, chairman Huw Jenkins has moved to quell rumors about Bradley becoming the second Swansea manager to be fired through the opening 14 games of the season.

“I don’t know where that story came from, but it’s natural in football that everyone wants and needs results. But the last thing we need at this moment of time is a continual change in manager. We need stability first and foremost,” Jenkins told talkSPORT. “Take a team like Fulham, they changed managers three times in the season they tried to stave off relegation and we’re in a similar position now.”

“Perhaps in the summer I could have made a better decision – from pre-season onwards I don’t think things were right, it was too flat at the club. That had a knock-on effect and obviously it’s taken us a while to work through it. But we’re with Bob now to try and turn that corner – that’s what we’re working towards. We look at the January window as a chance to reinforce things. There are players not hitting the form levels they have done in the past and we have to find out why that is and get that right as well.”

So, it seems that sense is prevailing after all.

Jenkins took the blame for Swansea’s poor start to the season in media interviews on Wednesday and now the long-time chairman is backing his manager.

The south Wales businessman was part of a consortium which saved Swansea in 2004 and then led them on an incredible journey up from the fourth-tier to the Premier League, plus winning the League Cup and getting to the group stages of the Europa League. He and other directors have come in for some serious stick from Swansea’s fans for selling their stake to the new American owners and Jenkins is believed to have made just over $10 million from selling 8.2 percent of his 13.2 percent stake in the club.

On the pitch, it’s difficult to blame Bradley for the current situation Swansea finds itself in.

After some woeful moves in the transfer window last summer (Jenkins has admitted they weren’t great with Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew allowed to leave for big profits but their replacements just haven’t been good enough) the American coach needs at least one transfer window to bring in better players and the Swans are only three points off safety with a pivotal stretch of six games to come in the Premier League.

Home games against Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth, plus trips to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace will see the Swans go up against direct relegation rivals between now and Jan. 3.

The next four weeks will be huge not only for Swansea’s future but also for Bradley and ahead of their crunch home game against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) the American coach is eager to cut out defensive mistakes as the Swans have now conceded 19 goals in his seven games in charge.

“When you are a manager it (the pressure) goes with the territory,” Bradley said. “It is work as usual, knowing from the beginning when I got here that it would be a big challenge, and it is. When you see a scoreline like that it is easy to jump on us. We are not going to survive if we keep on conceding goals like this.”

Man United’s Europa League clash in doubt over frozen pitch

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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Manchester United and Jose Mourinho may not play their UEFA Europa League game against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

[ MORE: Ozil, Sanchez leaving Arsenal? ]

Amid freezing conditions in the Ukrainian city of Odessa (Zorya cannot play their games at home due to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine) the pitch underwent an inspection on Thursday and with covers and heaters on the playing surface overnight, there is hope the game should go ahead.

However, Jose Mourinho has already talked about the state of the pitch as not being ideal, while the likes of Daley Blind and Paul Pogba looked far from impressed when they went out for a training session on Wednesday in freezing conditions.

Remember, United only needs a point from the game against Zorya to qualify for the Europa League Round of 32 and Mourinho has selected a strong 19-man squad for the trip. 

A statement from Zorya said the following on Thursday morning, as they remain hopeful of the game going ahead.

“Everything depends on the weather. The pitch is not brilliant at the moment. We are expecting temperatures of two or three degrees and everything should be okay.”

Below was the scene in Odessa yesterday for United’s training session, via Simon Peach of the Press Association.


Yep, the pitch doesn’t look great.

Barcelona invites Chapecoense to play friendly

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 22: Supporters of Chapecoense cheer their team during the match between Chapecoense and Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda on October 22, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has extended an invitation to host a friendly match against the Brazilian soccer club involved in last week’s plane crash.

Chapecoense was on its way to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, one of South America’s most prestigious club tournaments, when its flight went down in Colombia, killing all but six of the 77 players, officials and journalists on board.

The match would be played in August. The friendly, called the Joan Gamper trophy, is used as Barcelona’s traditional curtain raiser for the new season.

Barcelona says it sent a formal invitation to Chapecoense on Thursday.

Barcelona says it wants to “pay homage to the 71 people who died in the accident as well as their families.”