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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.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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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.