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Premier League Power Rankings: It’s all happening below Chelsea

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With Chelsea running away at the top of the table, attention begins to shift toward the race for the top-four.

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A little further down the table, just eight points separate nine sides from 17th to ninth, where the form of said sides varies wildly.

[ MORE: PST’s PL Players Power Rankings for Week 23 ]

Here is the latest batch of Premier League power rankings…


TEAM RANKING
source: 20 (20) Sunderland: Going six league games without a win — four of which were losses — during the second half of the season, as the 20th-place team in the league already: a solid plan for getting relegated.
Hull City logo 19 (18) Hull City: Also a great plan for getting relegated: one win in 12, including seven losses, since the start of November. Miraculously, the Tigers are only four points from safety.
source: 18 (19) Crystal Palace: Stop me if you’re beginning to notice a theme here: two wins in 17, including 12 losses, 10 of which came during six- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. Again, somehow just two points from safety.
source: 17 (14) Leicester City: 430 — the number of minutes played since Leicester last scored a goal in the PL, a run which includes three straight losses (combined score of 7-0) and a 0-0 draw. The defending champions are one of the sides being chased by Hull and Palace.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 16 (15) Middlesbrough: The last time Boro won a PL game, there were still eight more days to go before Christmas. That’s six league games without a win, and they suddenly join Leicester and Swansea on 21 points, as the first sides outside the relegation zone.
source: 15 (13) Bournemouth: With a seven-point gap separating the Cherries from 18th place, only a catastrophic collapse could undo a strong start to the season. Now, though, Callum Wilson (knee) is out for the rest of the season (again).
source: 14 (17) Swansea City: Back-to-back wins, and victories in three of their last four league games. Paul Clement might just be the hero Swansea needed.
source: 13 (12) Southampton: LLLLWL — a ghastly run of form for a side that so nearly finished fourth last season, and now finds itself 12th, 16 points back of sixth place, which is where they finished last season. Europa League and EFL Cup runs taking their toll.
source: 12 (16) Watford: The Hornets’ shocking upset of Arsenal on Tuesday snapped a seven-game winless skid in the PL, and was just enough to Walter Mazzarri‘s side right in the race for places 9-14 (currently 13th, but just three points back of ninth-place Stoke).
source: 11 (10) West Ham: The roller-coaster season continues: WWWLLWWL. Now, with Dimitri Payet gone, it could be a rough ride down the stretch. Taking a 4-0 courtesy of Man City isn’t the end of the world, but the way they simply rolled was quite concerning.
burnley fc crest 10 (9) Burnley: Last six PL games; wins over Boro, Sunderland, Southampton and Leicester; losses to Man City and Arsenal — that’s exactly how you avoid relegation, and find yourself in the top half of the league with 15 games to go.
source: 9 (11) Stoke City: Perennially a mid-table side under Mark Hughes, the Potters are still a heck of a lot closer to 17th (eight points) than they are to sixth (13 points).
source: 8 (8)
West Brom: The last of eight sides with a positive goal differential (+2) this late in the season; 14 points clear of the relegation zone. The run-in is going to be a lot less exciting (and stressful) this time around.
source: 7 (4) Manchester United: 14 games unbeaten in PL action, but have just three points to show for their last three games, a period in which the Red Devils have scored all of two goals. The results are mostly there, but the aesthetics are still missing.
source: 6 (5) Liverpool: Whether the physical demands of Jurgen Klopp‘s style of play are already breaking them down, or they simply missed Sadio Mane for a few weeks, the Reds are without a win in four PL games, out of the EFL Cup, and now 10 points back in the title race.
Source: Everton FC 5 (6) Everton: Six games without a loss in PL play, including four wins, and Ronald Koeman‘s side is back on track. No other top-six challenger should emerge from the trailing pack, and a favorable upcoming schedule should see the Toffees continue to climb.
source: 4 (3) Arsenal: On Tuesday, the same day Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool all dropped points, opening the door for Arsenal to go second and shrink the Blues’ lead to six points, Watford went 2-0 up, at the Emirates Stadium, after 13 minutes.
source: 3 (2) Tottenham Hotspur: Back-to-back draws, against Man City and Sunderland, were disappointing enough. Then, you take into account the fact that Chelsea dropped their first four points since October, and you realize the magnitude of the opportunity missed.
Logo_Manchester_City 2 (7) Manchester City: In truth, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City could have been rearranged in just about any order. Today, City grab the second spot based on the strength of that win over West Ham, and the impact Gabriel Jesus has already made.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Simply, the leaders, the champions-elect.

Wenger confirms Ospina will start pair while Ozil, Ramsey miss out

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Arsene Wenger confirmed in his pre-match press conference that goalkeeper Petr Cech will get an extended rest with a pair of Cup games on the horizon for Arsenal.

In his place, David Ospina will start both Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 match against Ostersund and Sunday’s EFL Cup Final against Manchester City. Ospina is no stranger to this type of rotation, with the Colombian owning just 30 starts over the last three seasons in national and international Cup competitions compared to just seven Premier League appearances.

In addition, Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil will miss out for Thursday’s match due to illness, but is expected back for Sunday’s EFL Cup final. Arsenal has a 3-0 lead over Swedish club Ostersund after the first leg, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates.

Wenger said Aaron Ramsey is back in training, and while he will not be risked in the Europa League match in his return from a groin injury that saw him miss the North London derby loss, he could be in contention to play against Manchester City. [Ramsey] is not in the squad tomorrow, he had a good training session. We will see how his evolution goes between now and Sunday. I don’t rule him out.”

Ramsey scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Everton in early February, but has played just 181 minutes since picking up a hamstring injury in mid-December.

Finally, Wenger said that Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both receive starting spots against Ostersund, as will some unnamed youth products. Welbeck has been out of Premier League action since mid-January, stuck behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he received four minutes off the bench in the North London derby and will get another opportunity in the Europa League to prove his worth.

Conte admits job security speculation will always exist at Chelsea

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Antonio Conte admits that he will always face speculation about his tenure as manager while he is employed at Chelsea, but dismissed it as “no problem for me.”

There is a general acceptance that Conte will part ways with Chelsea at the end of the season given the tough times the club has seen this campaign. The Blues are hanging on to a Champions League place by a thread, and struggled through a January that included just two wins across all competitions in six matches.

“I’ve said it very clearly: I’ve got a contract until 2019 and I intend to respect this, but you know anything can happen in football,” Conte told Italian publication Mediaset. “It takes two to be happy and continue a marriage. Our work is unique because we’ve always got our suitcase in our hands.”

Conte did issue somewhat of a warning to Chelsea, however, that if he were to be fired, it could come back to haunt the club, as he would have no shortage of offers. “My intention is to respect my contract, but if something were to happen, it would open up different scenarios.” Big clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid could have job openings this summer if their lofty goals aren’t met, and those places would be attractive destinations for Conte, who won the Premier League title with Chelsea just last year.

“It’s a bit the history of Chelsea and inevitable when, in the past, in 14 years, 10 coaches have been changed,” he said. “Clearly when there is this habit, let’s say, the press play on it and as soon as there is a result or two which don’t go your way, they try to put the pressure on.

“But it’s no problem for me. I hope that this pressure doesn’t harm the players, not me, because I go looking for pressure.”

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

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On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

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Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.