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)

source:

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)

PHOTOS: Liverpool unveil new 2018/19 kit

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Liverpool have gone for a “pepper red” kit for the 2017/18 season.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game ]

On Thursday the Anfield club released their new jersey for next season with New Balance once again their kit suppliers.

The key features of this new kit is a small collar, with a fresh white and red look throughout.

Check out the images and video below.


VAR decisions at World Cup to be explained on giant screens

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Fans attending World Cup matches in Russia won’t be left wondering about the reasons behind decisions of the video assistant referee.

After the VAR’s decision is made, replays will be shown on giant screens inside the stadiums accompanied by a written explanation.

It’s all part of the VAR information system that FIFA unveiled Wednesday .

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

FIFA will place someone in the VOR (video operations room) who will listen in to the VAR’s decisions and communicate them to both TV commentators and stadium personnel operating the giant screens.

“So we will have graphics on the giant screens, we will have replays after the decision on the giant screens, and we will also inform the fans about the outcome of a VAR incident and review,” said Sebastian Runge, group leader of football innovation at FIFA.

With the VAR making its tournament debut during the June 14-July 15 World Cup, FIFA is holding its final training camp this month for the 99 match officials – 36 referees and 63 assistants – who have been selected to go to Russia.

Thirteen VARs have been pre-selected and are being trained at Italy’s Coverciano complex, and FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina said more VARs and VAR assistants will be chosen from the 99 match officials.

Three of the 13 VARs come from Italy’s Serie A and two from Germany’s Bundesliga – elite competitions that already use video assistants.

The VAR can support the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offenses leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offenses leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, VARs in both Italy and Germany have received vehement criticism for long delays and bungled decisions this season.

On Monday, Mainz was awarded a penalty during halftime against a rival Freiburg side that had already left the pitch for the break – prompting the unusual scene of a team returning from the changing room to defend a penalty.

“Yesterday we had already discussed this incident here and gave match officials and VARs clear indication about what should be done if something similar in FIFA competition – specifically the World Cup – happens,” Collina said without providing further detail.

Collina added that the VAR should not be overused, adding that ideally it would intervene at all in a match.

“The goal of VAR is to avoid major mistakes,” Collina said. “The objective is not to have clear and obvious mistakes committed on the field of play. This is the target, the goal is not to re-referee the match using technology.

“There will continue to be incidents when a final answer will not be given and there will be different opinions,” Collina added.

Among other items involving the VAR:

MOSCOW CONTROL CENTER

FIFA will follow the Bundesliga model of a central control center for the VAR rather than using trucks outside stadiums.

“We will have all of the referees based in Moscow so there won’t be any stress in terms of travel,” Collina said.

For each match, Collina will select one VAR and three assistant VARs.

Training operation rooms presented to media included six monitors for the VARs and two more for technical assistants enabling the VARs to see requested replays.

There could be up to four technical assistants in the room for World Cup matches.

OFFSIDE CAMERAS

FIFA will install two extra cameras at matches to monitor offside decisions.

The cameras will be in addition to the 33 cameras used for broadcasters and they will be installed under stadium roofs.

Broadcasters will not have direct access to the cameras but if they are used by the VAR then broadcasters can show the video.

Runge added that three dimensional technology – considered the ultimate strategy for determining offside – is not ready for real-time access yet.

SWEAT AND STRESS

VARs will not officiate more than one match per day.

“It’s not like watching a match on the sofa sipping coffee,” Collina said.

Collina, who officiated Brazil’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, explained why the VARs will wear track suits similar to referees’ on-pitch attire.

“The reason is at the end they sweat as much as someone on the field, because the tension is very high,” Collina said. “They can’t do two matches per day – it’s too stressful.”

COMMS AND HACKING

The Moscow control center will be connected to match officials via a fiber optic network.

If the network fails, the backup plan includes an old-fashioned land telephone line and a telephone stationed near the fourth referee for emergency use.

“Worst-case scenario includes a backup plan on site. That’s when the IBC is down – no power, no fiber network,” Runge said. “Then we have a plan in place where the fourth official would become the VAR and the fourth official would be replaced by the reserve referee.

“We have a cabin in the broadcast compound from where we send all of the feeds to the IBC anyway. That cabin can be turned into a smaller, light version of the VOR.”

Hacking has also been considered.

“We are aware that there might be something but our IT department put measurements in place that will protect us from that,” Runge said.

POST-MATCH BRIEFINGS

In extraordinary circumstances, FIFA will hold post-match briefings to explain decisions in greater detail.

“If something should happen that we think should properly and accurately be explained – and it doesn’t matter if it’s related to VAR or something different – if it is a matter to explain the background of a decision, as an exception certainly we will do it,” Collina said.

“But it won’t be a post-match press conference for every match, explaining every single decision taken during every single match.”

More AP soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Could PSG, Manchester United solve each other’s problems?

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It’s late on a Wednesday night without the UEFA Champions League, so let’s dance on a theoretical floor, shall we?

One of the more widely-praised transfers of the year came when Manchester United and Arsenal decided to swap problematic players with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez.

While neither has been perfect in their new homes, both have had starring performances and could (should?) fit in neatly come a full offseason worth of preparation.

More swaps like these should happen more often given the glut of managerial changes across major European leagues, with square pegs sometimes finding round holes when the boss arrives in town.

And have we got a sensational swap lined up for you. And no, it’s not Jose Mourinho for Unai Emery (though should it be? Nah, forget it).

If Paul Pogba is to leave Old Trafford this summer, there are scant few teams who could afford his transfer fee. Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain has Financial Fair Play all over its case and cannot simply make moves to better build its team for the Champions League by splashing cash all over the place.

PSG bought the two most expensive players of all-time last summer in Neymar ($281m) and Kylian Mbappe ($181m). The latter is going nowhere unless FIFA intervenes, 19 years old and becoming a more complete playmaker since heading to PSG from Monaco.

The former, well, that’s a bit trickier.

Neymar has been hurt, and while there’s no doubt his absence is the primary reason PSG was eliminated by Real Madrid, his time at the Parc Des Princes has hit more than a few speed bumps, with the Edinson Cavani PK drama and more.

So if Neymar is “worth” $281 million, could he head to United in exchange for a pair of Frenchmen in Pogba and Anthony Martial?

Areola

Alves — Silva– Marquinhos — Berchiche

Verratti — Rabiot

Pogba

Mbappe — Cavani — Martial

It’s imperfect given Alexis Sanchez’s preference to also play left wing, but going to a 4-3-3 like this for Jose Mourinho would allow a certain amount of freelancing for his trident.

De Gea

Valencia — Smalling — Bailly — Young/new LB

Matic — Herrera — McTominay

Sanchez — Lukaku — Neymar

Mixing in Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata off the bench and for Cup games is not a bad luxury, plus we know United is going to splash a lot more cash to improve the center midfield and fullback depth.

There could also be a 3-4-3 of excellent repute here:

De Gea

Smalling — Jones — Bailly

Valencia — Herrera — Matic — Lingard

Alexis — Lukaku — Neymar

Ronaldo scores late to lead Real Madrid draw (video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s done it again, because of course he did.

The Real Madrid megastar, 33, redirected a Luka Modric shot in the 87th minute to help Real to a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu on Wednesday in the club’s last match before the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

Real is three points behind Atletico Madrid, which visits Real Sociedad on Thursday, and 15 points behind still unbeaten Barcelona. The final Clasico of the season is May 6 at the Camp Nou.

Ronaldo continued his bounce back from a slow start to the La Liga season. After scoring only four times in his first 14 matches, CR7 has netted in eight-straight league matches and has 24 goals in total (Add in other competitions, and Ronaldo’s bagged 41 goals in 39 matches).