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MLS Power Rankings — Week 7: A new No. 1 (with a bullet)

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Given the early stages of the season and a week off from Power Rankings, this week’s edition sees several big jumps and precipitous falls.

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TEAM RANKING (Last Wk)

22 (19)

21 (20)

 

20 (11)

Philadelphia Union: Four-straight losses have to be testing Earnie Stewart’s resolve when it comes to coach Jim Curtin.

Minnesota United: Now seeing results, Minnesota has still yet to allow less than two goals in an MLS game.

Colorado Rapids: The league’s stingiest defense in 2016, Colorado hasn’t kept a clean sheet since Week 1.

19 (18) Montreal Impact: Yes the return of Ignacio Piatti helped, but so did a pretty bogus red card to Atlanta. Problems in Quebec?
18 (7) Seattle Sounders: With one win through six matches, Seattle’s 2016 title follow-up is looking a lot like Portland’s 2015 effort.
17 (16) New England Revolution: Improved results took a hit from a blowout loss to Chicago.
16 (21) DC United: Was looking more like the team that finished 2016 red-hot before a loss to the rival Red Bulls.
15 (14) LA Galaxy: Big litmus test as Seattle visits this weekend.
14 (14) San Jose Earthquakes: Winless in four yet still unbeaten at home, the Quakes head back to the road this week.
13 (4) Vancouver Whitecaps: Held serve against Seattle to rebound from a loss against charged up Real Salt Lake.
12 (12) New York Red Bulls: Restored confidence with a confident win over DC United.
11 (8) Houston Dynamo: Blowing a 2-goal lead to Minnesota stings.
10 (14) Toronto FC: The latest victim of Justin Meram’s phenomenal start, the Reds fell from the ranks of the unbeaten against Trillium Cup rivals Columbus.
9 (22) Real Salt Lake: Petke bump! The Power Rankings are taking a leap of faith on RSL, who looks like a much different and improved team after a coaching change.
8 (9) Atlanta United: Winless in three, all on the road, though that last one could’ve been different were it not for a questionable red card.
7 (5) New York City FC: David Villa is going to finish his time in MLS one day, and he’ll be discussed along with Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan as one of the best ever to play in the league.
6 (4) Columbus Crew: Back to winning ways following a blip against the Fire.
5 (17) Chicago Fire: Who would’ve thought adding a world class midfielder and one of MLS’ best to the engine room would’ve worked out so well? In the case of the former, Bastian Schweinsteiger, there were plenty of age skeptics. In the case of the latter, Dax McCarty, nearly everyone did.
4 (2) Portland Timbers: With one win in its last four matches, Caleb Porter’s crew is getting some leniency from our power rankings thanks to their incredible start.
3 (3) Orlando City: No team is winning more points-per-game than Orlando, though no team has played fewer matches than the Lions.
2 (1) FC Dallas: The West’s leader in points-per-game remains unbeaten but has yet to put up a result worthy of their pedigree.
1 (12) Sporting KC: Unbeaten, with wins at Portland and draws against Toronto FC and FC Dallas, KC looks prepared to deliver on last season’s preseason promise.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”