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Top 5 Premier League Storylines: Merseyside Derby, Blues travel to Palace

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As the Premier League season nears its halfway point, it’s time to start separating the real contenders from the pretenders as Chelsea continues its impressive run atop England’s top flight.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Merseyside encounter holds significant weight

Everton vs. Liverpool — Monday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Entering the weekend, 11 points separate Liverpool and Everton in the PL, making a Toffees victory all the more important at Goodison Park. Fresh off of their 2-1 win against Arsenal, the Toffees could use a string of victories as the holiday season approaches if Everton is to catch the league’s elite once more.

Liverpool sits six points behind Chelsea at the summit, but Jurgen Klopp‘s side continues to fight through injuries to remain firmly in the mix. After stumbling against Bournemouth and West Ham, the Reds got back on track with a dominating win over Middlesbrough.

Which club will halt the Blues?

Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Wednesday’s victory over Sunderland extended Chelsea’s unbeaten run to 10 games in the PL, and now the question remains: which team will be the one to stop Antonio Conte‘s side?

While the club’s wins as of late haven’t been overly-impressive, Chelsea holds a six-point lead atop the PL after Arsenal’s stumble against Everton on Wednesday. Conte’s switch to a three-back system continues to pay dividends for the Blues, who have allowed just two goals in 10 matches.

Meanwhile, Palace has won just once in its last 10 fixtures, as Alan Pardew‘s side have stumbled to 16th place after a hot start. Since the Eagles last won against Southampton, Palace has fallen to Manchester United and settled for a draw at Hull.

Gunners look to rebound against Citizens

Manchester City vs. Arsenal — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN

With the gap slowly widening at the top of the table, a loser in this weekend’s contest could be in a world of trouble. The Gunners need to rebound quickly following their defeat against Everton, and their task against Manchester City doesn’t get any easier.

The Citizens came back from their disappointing loss to Leicester with three points against Watford, but Arsene Wenger‘s side will be gunning for the Light Blues as they meet at the Etihad Stadium. City will still be without top scorer Sergio Aguero and midfielder Fernandinho, both of whom are suspended, which makes Pep Guardiola‘s task much more difficult.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L) of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on December 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Surprise Baggies meet United

West Bromwich vs. Manchester United — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

The Baggies could become the West Ham of a season ago after their strong first half of the PL season. While aspirations of replicating Leicester’s dream season are likely far-fetched, West Brom will certainly present a challenge for United, who has been up and down in Jose Mourinho’s first season.

Despite United’s struggles, the Red Devils are unbeaten in seven straight PL matches, giving Mourinho’s men a lift in spirits as the critical juncture of the season continues. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic firing once more and Paul Pogba‘s play improving in the central midfield, United can start to make its way back into the title conversation with a victory at The Hawthorns.

Relegation battle heats up

Middlesbrough vs. Swansea — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET available online
Sunderland vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC

With one win in their last six, Middlesbrough has fallen into a rut, while Swansea has struggled mightily in Bob Bradley‘s short tenure in England.

Meanwhile, Sunderland remain at the bottom of the table through 16 rounds of play but a recent upswing in form gives the Black Cats an opportunity to climb out from last place. Despite losses to Swansea and Chelsea as of late, Sunderland faces a tough task against a Watford side that sits mid-table.

 

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

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Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.

LIVE, FA Cup replays: West Ham, Leicester on upset alert

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Five FA Cup third round replays take place on Tuesday with two Premier League clubs on upset alert.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Leicester City and West Ham United both host third-tier opponents, with the Hammers welcoming Shrewsbury to the London Stadium and Leicester hosting Jamie Vardy‘s former club Fleetwood.

Both Claude Puel and David Moyes have named strong teams to try and breeze through to the fourth round. You can follow commentary on all five games by clicking on the link above and we will have reaction right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

[ MORE: FA Cup fourth round draw in full ]

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday, with all the games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Leicester City vs. Fleetwood Town
Mansfield Town vs. Cardiff City
Reading vs. Stevenage Town – 3pm
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Carlisle United
West Ham United vs. Shrewsbury

Premier League Power Rankings

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With the festive season over and things starting to settle down, now seems like a good time for our first batch of Power Rankings of 2018.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings – 2017-18 ]

The last time we fired this baby up was in early December, and you can see the ranking of the clubs back then in the parenthesis after their club name in the list below.

We have some massive movement, both up and down.

Here is the latest batch of Premier League Power Rankings as we sort the 20 clubs based on their current form.


  1. Liverpool (5) — What a few weeks for Liverpool. They won four of their last five games and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are scoring goals, plus Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is stepping up with Philippe Coutinho gone. Jurgen Klopp‘s masterplan is showing significant progress. With Virgil Van Dijk on board, Liverpool will be serious title contenders next season.
  2. Tottenham Hotspur (9)Harry Kane leads the PL in goals (shock) and is now getting plenty of help from Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. Spurs are pushing towards the top four and the only way they will not qualify for the UCL again is if their defensive lapses crop up.
  3. Manchester City (1) — A draw away at Crystal Palace and a loss at Liverpool has seen City stumble of late but they’re still going to win the league. Defensive lapses have cost them but Kevin De Bruyne and Co. still look like they will score two or three goals every game.
  4. Manchester United (2) — Jose Mourinho’s men are looking much better with Paul Pogba back in the team. Four assists in his last two games show Pogba’s importance and United have the best defense in the league.
  5. Crystal Palace (14)Roy Hodgson is working his magic and Palace are pushing for the top 10. One defeat in their last 13 PL games has seen the Eagles soar to 12th place after their disastrous start to the season.
  6. West Ham United (19) — The Hammers are flying under David Moyes with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini in form up top. All of a sudden a top 10 finish is very doable.
  7. Chelsea (3) — Four-straight draws in all competitions and three 0-0 stalemates on the spin mean Antonio Conte is under pressure. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata’s partnership is struggling.
  8. Leicester City (6)Riyad Mahrez is the main man and Claude Puel‘s side began 2018 with a big win v Huddersfield and a draw at Chelsea, where they should have won. Leicester back to their best.
  9. Bournemouth (12) — Really good few weeks for Eddie Howe. Unbeaten in four PL games and big wins against Everton and Arsenal at home. The Cherries have rediscovered their scoring touch.
  10. Arsenal (4) — Wow. What a poor few weeks for the Gunners. One win in the last five in the PL, out of the FA Cup and Sanchez on his way. Ouch. Arsene Wenger is now allow back on the sidelines after his ban. Is that a good thing?
  11. West Bromwich Albion (18)Alan Pardew has his first win as West Brom boss and the Baggies ended their 21-game winless streak. They’re tougher to break down and have regained their threat from set pieces.
  12. Swansea City (20) — Plenty of confidence in the air in South Wales as Carlos Carvalhal has four points from his first three games in charge. Need new faces in January but Swansea have given themselves a chance.
  13. Newcastle United (15) — Solid and steady but badly need attacking reinforcements in January. Two wins and two draws in last five show how steady and tough to beat they’ve become but Rafael Benitez’s needs extra attacking flair.
  14. Everton (10) — No wins in six and just four shots on goal in their last five games has Sam Allardyce‘s boys bang out of form after a good start. Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott should help them kick on again.
  15. Watford (7) — No PL team has picked up less points than Watford over their last 10 games. Another second half of season slump. Marco Silva‘s fine start evaporating.
  16. Huddersfield Town (16) — No win in their last five games and David Wagner‘s side have conceded seven goals in last two defeats. The Terriers are set for a proper relegation scrap.
  17. Stoke City (13)Paul Lambert has one heck of a challenge on his hands. Stoke in bottom three, have worst defense in Europe’s top five leagues and you struggle to see where their goals will come from. Not a great combo.
  18. Brighton and Hove Albion (17) — 1 win in last 12 games and they’ve failed to score in eight of those games. Ice cold. Slipping fast.
  19. Burnley (9) — Six games without a win and their goal threat has dried right up. Sean Dyche‘s still 7th, but they’re in a huge slump.
  20. Southampton (11) — On the current longest winless run in the PL. Mauricio Pellegrino‘s job will be in serious jeopardy very soon. They keep taking leads but throwing them away and look defensively fragile. Just one point above the drop zone.

Barcelona forward Dembele injured again, out 3 to 4 weeks

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona says Ousmane Dembele is injured again and will be sidelined for up to a month.

The club says the young France forward picked up a hamstring injury in his left leg in the 4-2 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Dembele, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year as a replacement for Neymar, was out for more than three months after rupturing a thigh tendon in his left leg on Sept. 16.

He had played only a few matches since fully recovering from surgery.

Barcelona says the injuries were not related.

The club also said Monday that Andres Iniesta has a right calf problem, but did not say how long the midfielder will be out.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga