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Premier League Power Rankings: Jumbled at the top

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Few people truly believe Spurs will catch Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title, but that’s not what Power Rankings are about, are they?

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings archive ]

Not to us. Our PLPR’s have always been about how a team’s current form melds into their overall season, and that just may be enough for us to put a new team up top for the first time in a while.

That’s if we don’t change our mind by the time we finish filling out the chart…


TEAM RANKING
source:
20 (20) Sunderland: Stewing on their plight through the weekend, and daydreaming of burying derby mates Middlesbrough next time out.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 19 (19) Middlesbrough: Single-handedly making the argument for offense, Boro’s decent defense hasn’t been helped nearly enough by those outside of Alvaro Negredo.
source:
18 (18) Swansea City: Guidolin goes defense? Swans lose. Bradley goes for broke? Swans lose. Clement tries a bunch of things? Swans show signs of life for a bit… but only a bit. Swans lose.
Hull City logo 17 (16) Hull City: #BeTwoPointsBetterThanSwansea doesn’t go great on a shirt or a Tweet, but it’s the strategy.
logo_westham
16 (15) West Ham United: Need a summer of rest and a transfer window in a bad way.
source: 15 (13) Bournemouth: After a 3-week gauntlet of Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs, “Home to Boro” probably looks amazing on the fixture list.

14 (14) Burnley: If there was a home Champions League (6th best record), Burnley would be headed for Europe. Only problem? The Clarets are two losses away from a winless season away from Turf Moor.
source: T-11 (12) Crystal Palace: Tip of the cap to ol’ Sam Allardyce. We just wish he was willing to take a little bit of credit.
source: T-11 (9) West Bromwich Albion: “ALRIGHT BOYS, WE’RE GONNA GET TO 40 POINTS OR SO, THEN WE’LL DISTRIBUTE POINTS TO EVERYONE ELSE THE REST OF THE WAY. LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” Tony Pulis in August, probably.
source: T-11 (17) Stoke City: Finally back in the win column, Stoke rises
10 (10) Leicester City: With the Champions League era over, can we all agree that Leicester, unfettered by Europe, will probably win the league next season? Arsenal’s next.
source: 9 (7) Southampton: Man City loss reminds us that Virgil Van Dijk was really important.
source: 8 (11) Watford: Winners of three-in-four and that loss came to Spurs, who look capable of outracing a fighter jet right now.
source: 7 (8) Arsenal: Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are the main reasons the Gunners aren’t comfortably seventh or worse.
6 (5) Everton: We know the Toffees can dust the lower half of the table, but they really need to beat Chelsea or Arsenal in the run-in to engender any Top Four confidence for next season.
source: 5 (4) Liverpool: Quietly (?) unbeaten in seven.
Logo_Manchester_City
4 (6) Manchester City: For the first time since their red-hot start, City is starting to consistently show what a Pep Guardiola team can be in the Premier League. Will summer reinforcements allow them to do it for a full year?
source: T-2 (3) Manchester United: Still have not lost in league play since October 23rd.
source: T-2 (1) Chelsea: Yes, they are going to win the league. No, we wouldn’t pick them on a neutral field against Spurs right now. Yes, they’ll probably prove us wrong at Wembley this weekend.
source: 1 (2) Tottenham Hotspur: The best team going right now, just too late to make a difference to the title fight. Probably. Right?

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.”