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Premier League Power Rankings: Spurs surge after massive midweek win

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Chelsea’s reign at the top of the Premier League continues but the Blues have finally suffered a blemish after three months unbeaten under Antonio Conte.

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Meanwhile, the battle at the bottom to stay up next season is heating up, with nine sides currently separated by 10 points.

[ ARCHIVE: All of PST’s Power Rankings ]

Check out the latest round of power rankings as the season reaches the second half.


TEAM RANKING
Hull City logo 20 (20) Hull City: Mike Phelan has been shown the door and the Tigers are still searching for their first win since a November League Cup match against Newcastle.
source: 19 (18)
Sunderland: A surprising draw against Liverpool will have the Black Cats temporarily pleased, but any truth to the rumors of a Jermain Defoe exit could all but end the team’s tenure in the Premier League.
source: 18 (16) Crystal Palace: The Eagles have plummeted to 17th after dropping points in their last six fixtures.
source: 17 (19) Swansea City: The Swans ended their four-match winless streak with a solid road win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday, giving the side the slightest momentum as the club looks to rebuild.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 16 (15) Middlesbrough: The Boro remain teetering near the bottom but continue to remain above 18th due to their defensive resiliency.
source: 15 (12) Watford: Five straight matches without a win have the Hornets in a precarious position. If the league’s bottom sides can start to pick up points consistently Watford could be in a world of trouble.
source: 14 (17) Leicester City: After a decent display on New Year’s Eve against West Ham, the Foxes followed it up with a disappointing draw against Middlesbrough. Six points separates the reigning champs from the relegation zone.
burnley fc crest 13 (13) Burnley: The side’s thrashing of Sunderland was following by a strong effort against Manchester City, giving Burnley optimism ahead of the second half of the campaign.
source:
12 (14) Stoke City: The Potters continue to ascend towards the top half of the table after early struggles this season. 
source: 11 (9) Southampton: Claude Puel‘s men have lost three in a row and allowed nine in the process. The Saints face a rough portion of the schedule now, having to manage PL, League and FA Cup matches in January.
source: 10 (8) West Ham: The Hammers’ momentum has been halted, but matches against Palace and Boro upcoming could turn the tide once more for Slaven Bilic and co.
source: 9 (11) Bournemouth: Frustration was surely the emotion after their 3-3 effort against Arsenal, however, the Cherries have played better as of late.
source: 8 (10)
West Bromwich Albion: Back-to-back wins have the Baggies up to eighth in the PL, and while the gap to top six is sizable, Tony Pulis and his team have much to be proud of.
source: 7 (7) Everton: The Toffees have found their groove recently although dreams of the top six are quickly fading. Everton will have to spend this month if they want to reel back the PL’s elite.
Logo_Manchester_City 6 (3) Manchester City: The league’s top three continue to outshine City to date but seven points are what separate Chelsea from the Etihad side. 
source: 5 (4) Arsenal: It was a remarkable comeback to witness against Bournemouth but it’s those type of slip-ups that will cost the Gunners dearly if they want to seriously be considered title contenders.
source: 4 (5) Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side appears to be hitting perfect stride, and while Red Devils trail by 10 points as things stand United looks to firmly in the mix at the top.
source: 3 (2) Liverpool: The Reds have yet to lose in their last six, and with Tottenham’s win over Chelsea the gap at the top has been cut to five points.
source: 2 (6) Tottenham: Spurs have caught lightning in a bottle, and their latest win over Chelsea will surely give the side lifted title aspirations.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: It had to end sometime but the Blues will be far from panicking following their first defeat in over three months.

PHOTOS: Liverpool unveil new 2018/19 kit

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

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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).