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Premier League Power Rankings: Settling into a groove

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At this point in the season, power rankings begin to feel a lot closer to the actual table than an experiment in form.

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After all, teams in bad position are playing with mounds of pressure on their shoulders and not always picking up big results. And solid teams might have a poor result here or there, but usually nothing shocking.

Well, besides Swansea City and Liverpool.

[ ARCHIVE: All of PST’s Power Rankings ]

Here are this week’s rankings.

TEAM RANKING
source: 20 (20) Sunderland: The loss at West Brom just further proof of a lack of inspiration in the squad.
source: 19 (19) Crystal Palace: Now in the drop zone, Big Sam needs Wilfried Zaha back from AFCON in a big way.
Hull City logo 18 (17) Hull City: Zero shame in losing at Chelsea, but it doesn’t get easier as Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal are next.
source: 17 (18) Swansea City: The win at Liverpool is the type that can change a season.
source: 16 (16) Watford: The Hornets have not won a league game since Dec. 10, its only PL win since mid-November.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 15 (15) Middlesbrough: Jese would be nice.
Leicester City logo 14 (13) Leicester City: AFCON was always going to be a problem with Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani on the books.
source: 13 (12) Bournemouth: The Watford draw somehow feels like a loss for Eddie Howe‘s bunch.
source: 12 (14) Southampton: Usually we don’t account for Cup momentum in the PRs, but with Wembley on the minds and a big win over Leicester City, Saints feel a lot better this week.
source: 11 (10) Stoke City: No shame in drawing Manchester United.
source: 10 (11) West Ham United: We are almost convinced that the Irons have turned the corner. Healthy Andy Carroll is almost unstoppable.
burnley fc crest 9 (8) Burnley: Forget the controversial ending, the Clarets showed us a bit about their mettle in the 2-1 loss to Arsenal.
source: 8 (9) West Bromwich Albion: Easy win over Sunderland.
Logo_Manchester_City 7 (7) Manchester City: Same place, and were tempted to move them up considering referee and not player error may’ve cost them a win versus Tottenham.
Source: Everton FC 6 (6) Everton: Was a lot of work beating Palace.
source: 5 (4) Liverpool: We can talk AFCON absences, but the Reds didn’t lose to Swansea for lack of attack.
source: 4 (3) Manchester United: Stoke draw really needed to be a win, not that the Red Devils didn’t deserve all three points.
source: 3 (4) Arsenal: Good mettle to hold off Burnley. All wins are wins (it’s science).
source: 2 (2) Tottenham Hotspur: Fortunate not to lose versus Man City, but fortune is needed in a title push. Ask Leicester.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Really good team. Really. Let’s hope to see Nathan Ake get his chance to shine.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

Photo credit: BBC Sport / Twitter: @BBCSport
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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

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3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.