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Premier League Power Rankings: Stoke, Spurs, Reds rise

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Chelsea’s unfettered advantage over most opponents through N'Golo Kante and Antonio Conte has made for some boredom when it comes to No. 1, but the race to stay in the Top Ten has been a fun part of our weekly power rankings.

[ MORE: Top PL story lines — Week 28 ]

Mark Hughes‘ Potters are the latest to make a move, while Liverpool and Tottenham also dance a bit higher this week. It’s the opposite direction for Hull City, Bournemouth, and Burnley.

TEAM RANKING
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20 (20) Sunderland: This is the kind of season the Black Cats have had: After Southampton, Everton, and Man City, they had a shot at struggling Middlesbrough in a Northeast Derby this week only to see the match postponed. Fortunately, Burnley is next.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 19 (19) Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka‘s side needed the week off badly, but a visit from Manchester United is next.
Hull City logo
18 (17) Hull City: Looking improved only means so much, and the Leicester loss could be followed by another 6-point loss to Swansea City. Time to pony up, Tigers.
source: 17 (16) Bournemouth: Winless in 2017
source: 16 (18) Crystal Palace: Big Sam may have led the Eagles into the drop zone, but he’s also guided them to two big wins and an escape… for now.
source: 15 (15) Swansea City: Fate (or officiating) nearly conspired to rob Swans of a win versus Burnley, but the Welsh side overcame the bad fortune. Now they can really pad their status by beating Hull.
Leicester City logo
14 (14) Leicester City: Two in a row, but it just feels so hollow given the players clearly weren’t playing for a manager who led them to the heights. No, this isn’t about 2015-16 Chelsea.
burnley fc crest 13 (10) Burnley: No wins in five across all competitions, including losses to Watford, Swansea, and Lincoln City. I’d hate to be on Sean Dyche‘s bad side during this stretch. Also, how is Tyrone Mings not banned for the season?
source: 12 (13) Watford: A thrilling loss to Saints is still a loss, and a third in a row.
source: 11 (12) Southampton: Finally putting it together. Nathan Redmond and Manolo Gabbiadini are tactical issue for opponents.

source:
10 (7) West Brom: After losing a court case against Crystal Palace, you know Tony Pulis wanted to heap misery on the lowly Eagles. Instead, he managed a 2-0 home loss. Woof.
source: 9 (9) West Ham United: No shame in losing to Chelsea. We might put that sentence in each team’s column at some point this season.
source: 8 (11) Stoke City: Handled Sunderland before holding Man City to a draw at the Etihad Stadium. Geoff Cameron’s return has helped Mark Hughes’ side, for sure.
source: 7 (6) Arsenal: It’s bad, relatively speaking.
source: 6 (8) Liverpool: Ah, the side that loses to bad teams and “gets healthy” against bigger sides. So odd, but that’s how it was for Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, too. Gotta be a coincidence, right? Right?
5 (5) Everton: 3-2 loss to Spurs shows that Ronald Koeman‘s side needs a few more pieces to contend for Europe.
source: 4 (4) Manchester United: A frustrating draw does have a silver lining in the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s head wasn’t caved in by Tyrone Mings’ stamp.
Logo_Manchester_City 3 (2) Manchester City: Surely Pep Guardiola didn’t see a 0-0 against Stoke at home as a likely result.
source: 2 (3) Tottenham Hotspur: Really showing mettle this year, and would have to fall apart to finish below Arsenal. Spurs supporters, I swear I’m not jinxing you.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Another day, another three points for Conte and Kante, who really should get some Ballon d’Or love.

 

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host 2018 MLS All-Star Game

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Atlanta United has done just about everything right in its first season in MLS, and the club is already being rewarded.

[ MORE: Justin Meram talks Crew’s good form, facing Atlanta and more ]

On Monday, Major League Soccer announced that Atlanta will host the 2018 MLS All-Star Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The new venue has already been a part of MLS history when Atlanta hosted over 71,000 supporters on Sunday in the club’s regular season finale against Toronto FC.

“We’re proud to bring our 2018 All-Star Game to Atlanta, a city and Club that have taken Major League Soccer by storm,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement. “Atlanta United’s success is one of the most compelling and impressive expansion team launches in the history of pro sports, and a testament to Arthur Blank’s vision and leadership, and the tremendous team that he has built both on and off the field.

“Atlanta and its supporters have earned the opportunity to host MLS All-Star week and showcase their passion for the beautiful game.”

The expansion side has taken MLS by storm in its first season in the league, with its supporters purchasing more than 36,000 season tickets and the club averaging roughly 48,200 fans per home match.

[ MORE: PST names its Best XI for the 2017 MLS season ]

To this point, the date and opponent for next year’s All-Star Game are yet to be determined.

Cristiano Ronaldo captures Best Male Player at FIFA awards

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The yearly debate as to whom the best player in the world is won’t be settled in the minds of fans across the globe, but on Monday, FIFA gave its two cents.

Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo took home Best Male Player honors at the FIFA Best awards, beating out Lionel Messi and Neymar for the title.

[ MORE: Mbappe wins Golden Boy award, beats out Pulisic, others ]

Meanwhile, all three superstars were named in the FIFA Best XI for the year, alongside the likes of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Andres Iniesta.

Here’s a look at some of the other winners from Monday’s FIFA awards.

Best Male Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

FIFA World XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar.

FIFA Men’s Coach of 2017: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Puskas Award for Best Goal: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Best Female Player: Lieke Martens (Netherlands)

PST names Best XI for 2017 MLS season

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The 2017 MLS regular season saw some of the finest performances from players across the league.

New arrivals in Atlanta, such as Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, garnered a great amount of attention, while Chicago Fire striker Nemanja Nikolic went on to capture the Golden Boot in his first season in MLS.

Stars like Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa continued to leave a lasting impression on the league, but with only 11 spots available for selection, some of game’s best had to be left off.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Budding U.S. Men’s National Team figures have emerged throughout the MLS scene, including from each of last season’s MLS Cup final squads.

Below is the PST built its Best XI for the 2017 MLS season.

MLS Best XI via Lineupbuilder

Players that just missed the cut

GK: Luis Robles, Bill Hamid

Defense: Roman Torres, Ike Opara, Andrew Farrell, Joevin Jones

Midfielders: Lee Nguyen, Sacha Kljestan, Alex Ring, Romain Alessandrini

Forwards: Miguel Almiron, Sebastian Giovinco, Justin Meram


Which players would you have included in your Best XI? Who was the best player in the league? Tell us below.

Justin Meram discusses Crew’s hot form, facing Atlanta and more

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The Eastern Conference has established itself within the ranks of Major League Soccer given the quality of the sides at the top.

While Atlanta United — in its first MLS season — and Toronto FC dominate headlines, alongside New York City FC, lost in the shuffle is Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Impact fire Mauro Biello after team loses nine of last 10 matches ]

The Crew finished fifth in a congested East after settling for a 2-2 draw on Decision Day against NYCFC, however, Greg Berhalter’s squad has been among the best in MLS for the second half of the season.

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with Crew midfielder Justin Meram ahead of his side’s first-round matchup against Atlanta in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I wouldn’t say there’s less pressure on us,” Meram told PST. ” We might be written off in terms of the attention that they have had this season. Some networks have come out by saying that they [Atlanta] are the favorites, but nothing changes with this group.

“We let all that outside noise stay outside and we don’t let it affect us. Whether they have us winning a game, or whatever the case may be, we have a game plan and a style of play that we look to execute no matter where we go.”

Decision Day around MLS has created havoc — and a great narrative — but Sunday’s result against NYCFC proved to be the difference between potentially hosting a playoff game, or possibly having a bye, versus now having to travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Obviously that’s what makes Decision Day so much more exciting,” Meram said. “We didn’t control our own destiny, but the way things went with Atlanta and Chicago we could have jumped from fifth to second. It’s just one of those things that didn’t go our way.

“We didn’t play our best in the first half, but we also faced a really good team and I was pleased with how we bounced back. I think that showed our quality and our ability to claw back into games on the road, which is crucial during the playoffs.”

The Crew have been one of the league’s top home sides in 2017, winning 12 matches at MAPFRE Stadium — which ranks second in MLS behind only Toronto FC.

However, Meram and his side now face a stiff test against an Atlanta team that has lost just one of its eight matches since moving over from Bobby Dodd Stadium in mid-September.

“I need to be at my very best on Thursday,” Meram said. “We all need to be on top of our game because we need a collective effort in order to beat Atlanta.”

Scheduling has a funny way of factoring into the outcomes of matches at times, but given the fact that the Crew and Atlanta haven’t met since July 1 all bets are off in terms of which side is the  favorite to advance.

Atlanta won both matches earlier in the season as the two clubs met in home-and-home fixtures over a span of three weeks, but Meram remains confident that his side’s current form will help them prevail.

“Their attack is lethal,” Meram said when asked about facing an Atlanta side that scored 70 regular season goals. “One small little mistake allows them to pounce on chances. They punish you.

“We have to be clinical with our build up play and shape throughout the match. When we get our half-chances we need to bury them. When we played Atlanta the first time, we had a couple of breakaways that we didn’t put away and it hurt us.

“We have the quality, but playing at their home, with their fans, we need to focus on finishing our chances in order to advance.”

The topic of relocation has come as a shock not just in Columbus, but throughout MLS since last week’s announcement that owner Anthony Precourt would explore his options for the club moving forward.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meram has insisted though that he and his Crew teammates remain focused on winning MLS Cup — which would be the club’s second in franchise history.

“Obviously we haven’t let it affect us,” Meram told PST. “We played a really good game on Sunday. We’re just staying with the same mindset that we’ve had the second half of the season, which doesn’t reflect the owner’s announcement.

“There’s not much I can say. I have a job to do. He [Precourt] has a job to do. The fans have their job to do. Right now, it’s about focusing on the playoffs and seeing what happens. There’s nothing definitive about staying or going, so I can’t speculate at this point.

“At the end of the day, I want a championship, and I believe that’s the feeling for all of our guys right now. That’s how it has to be from the player’s perspective because the second we shift our mindset we’re going to get punished by other sides.”