Premier League Power Rankings: Southampton surging, Manchester United sliding – Week 8

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This season just keeps getting worse for Manchester United, and so far Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are taking full advantage of their struggles by pulling away at the top. Plus, a few surprise packages are still hanging around.

One of those is Southampton, who are flying high, while their isn’t much movement further down as the midtable mediocrity crew cancel each other out.

Week 8 saw the highest number of goals, 34, as offenses finally exploded and plenty of teams look in dire straits at the back. Find out how it affected the Premier League Power Rankings below.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. Every Wednesday we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team, forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) that doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-D-L bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

RANKING

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1
Arsenal: A big win against Norwich showcased the Gunners’ attacking talents, with Aaron Ramsey coming off the bench to shine and Mesut Ozil running the show. Wenger’s side left it late to wrap up that win but they are loaded with attackers. Now they just need to stay healthy to keep the charge going. (6-1-1)
source:  2
Chelsea: The Blues went behind against Cardiff but looked strong in the second half as they surged back, with Eden Hazard scoring twice and Samuel Eto’o getting his first. Oscar hoping off the bench shows their strength, plus a big UCL win and goals for Torres helps. Mourinho is getting settled at Stamford Bridge. (5-2-1)
source:  3 UP 1
Manchester City: Rejoice! They finally broke their away day voodoo against West Ham, by confidently beating the Hammers 3-1. David Silva and Sergio Aguero turned on the magic, and Pellegrini’s men suddenly look like world beaters. (5-1-2)
source:  4 DOWN 1 Tottenham: Spurs are looking solid and dependable as they ground out yet another clean sheet in a solid win away at Aston Villa. And in Andros Townsend they’ve got a star winger who could possibly replace Gareth Bale. Maybe it’s too early for that, but Tottenham have a strong squad assembled. (5-1-1)

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5 UP 3
Southampton: The Saints are the big movers this week as Mauricio Pochettino’s men really should have beaten United at Old Trafford in the 1-1 draw. Southampton have come a long way in a short time, but after a win at Anfield and beating plenty of bottom half PL fodder, they look superb. Young talent, high-pressing and full of confidence... how long can they keep this up? (4-3-1)
source:  6 DOWN 1
Liverpool: The Reds are having a few growing pains here and there and they came up a little short at Newcastle. Grabbing a 2-2 draw against the spirited Magpies who were down to 10-men actually turned out to be a good result. But too many defensive lapses and giving the ball away cheaply hampered Liverpool. (5-2-1)
source:  7 Manchester United: Moyes’ United were outplayed by the Saints and they got lucky. Defensively they were struggling, as both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were out injured. The lack of depth for Moyes is worrying, especially as UCL action hots up. Problems persist as the slow start continues. (3-2-3)
source:  8 DOWN 2
Everton: Roberto Martinez’ men gutted out the win against Hull, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. Another good defensive display was made all the better thanks to a terrific finish from Pienaar with his first touch off the bench. Great start carries on. (4-3-1)
source:  9
Swansea: A resounding win at home to Sunderland showcased what the Swans are all about, pouncing after long-spells of possession to punish the opposition. They resemble more of a counter-attacking team this season, and with Bony getting amongst the goals more regularly, Laudrup’s team will keep threatening. (3-1-4)
source:  10
Aston Villa: A spirited yet pretty toothless display from Villa against Spurs summed up their season so far. Poor going forward but much better at the back than last year, a home game against Everton this week will show how far they’ve come. (3-1-4)
source:  11 Hull City: A battling display perhaps deserved more against Everton, and Hull are looking just fine in the PL. They held their own and sub Yannick Sagbo smashed home a great effort, but Spurs away this Sunday will not be easy to navigate. Scrappers who never give up, that’s the Tigers. (3-2-3)
source:  12 Norwich City: A poor loss at Arsenal showed up all of the Canaries weaknesses, as the Gunners tore their slow defense apart. They managed to grab a goal back and make things interesting, but ultimately their lack of guile going forward has, and will continue to, cost them. (2-1-5)

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13 West Brom: The Baggies were the better team for most of the second half vs. Stoke, and should have had a penalty when Youssouf Mulumbu was brought down. Steve Clarke’s men are another team that are solid, but lack quality going forward. Need to keep improving. Tricky trip to Anfield coming up. (2-4-2)
source:  14 UP 3 Newcastle: Newcastle are looking back to their best with a display full of energy, passion and drive vs. Liverpool gaining them a vital point after going down to 10-men. That fighting spirit should see them raring to for the derby against Sunderland on Sunday, can Pardew’s men deliver a win away to pile more misery on the Mackems? (3-2-3)
source:  15  UP 3
Fulham: What a difference a few weeks make, as Martin Jol’s men recorded back-to-back wins. They absolutely hammered Crystal Palace on Monday night, with Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell scoring screamers. That scrappy win against Stoke before the break could be the turning point when all’s said and done. (3-1-4)
source:  16  DOWN 1
West Ham: It was always going to be hard against Man City, but the Hammers made life hard for themselves with a poor defensive display. Add in a lack of belief going forward and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. Record signing Andy Carroll won’t be fit anytime soon, so ‘Big Sam’ has some big problems. (2-2-4)
source:  17 DOWN 3
Stoke City: Another game, another blank in the ‘goals for’ column for the Potters. How can Mark Hughes’ side get the creative juices flowing? Maybe bring in the likes of Brek Shea to mix things up… Anyway, Stoke have a solid foundation to build from, and that’s about all you can say so far. (2-2-4)
source:  18 DOWN 2
Cardiff: Things are starting to slip away from Malkay Mackay, especially with some unrest behind the scenes. All that nonsense aside, the Scotsman is seeing his side start games well, then peter off as Chelsea’s class showed the Bluebirds up. Fitness or concentration an issue? Massive game away at Norwich this week. (2-2-4)
source:  19
Crystal Palace: Who will lead the Eagles now? That’s the big question on everyone’s mind as Ian Holloway walked away from the early-season strugglers on Wednesday following the capitulation vs. Fulham. So many new faces have arrived, and with 30 games to go… Can anyone save this sinking ship? (1-0-7)
source:  20 Sunderland: Deja vu… “Another week, another defeat for Sunderland.” Gus Poyet has got a huge job on his hands with the Black Cats and he saw that on his debut with a poor second half in the 4-0 loss to Swansea. Are the Mackems ever going to win a game? A Tyne-Wear derby should get things going. (0-1-7)

Live, UCL last 16: Spurs v. RB Leipzig, Atalanta v. Valencia

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One Premier League has already found life in the Champions League knockout stage tougher than anticipated. Now, another takes the field hoping to fare better.

Spurs take the field looking to earn a hard-fought result against Bundesliga title contenders RB Leipzig at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 3:00 p.m. ET. Jose Mourinho has spent much of the week reminding everyone how many obstacles the Spurs squad has faced after the news that Heung-Min Son could potentially miss the rest of the season with a broken arm, joining Harry Kane on the injured list.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Mourinho’s men have won three Premier League matches in a row, in good form coming into this match. They take on an RB Leipzig squad that sits just a point back of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race but has won just once in its last four league games, a 3-0 victory over Werder Bremen last time out. Striker Timo Werner, who is rumored to be of interest to Liverpool, has not scored since January 18, a five-match drought across all competitions. Leipzig is also struggling with missing players as Dayot Upamecano is suspended and both Ibrahima Konate and Willi Orban are injured, so Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu is selected.

Meanwhile, Atalanta makes its Champions League knockout stage debut as the Italian side “hosts” Spanish club Valencia. The Serie A side was not allowed to play in its home Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia as it does not pass UEFA regulations, so they are playing all Champions League home games at the San Siro.

Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic starts for Atalanta in midfield with rumors of a permanent move this summer to help fund the Hakim Ziyech deal. Since December 22, the Italian side has won five while losing just one in Serie A play, including a 2-1 win over Roma last time out that saw Pasalic score the winner.

Valencia counters with Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez up front supported by Ferran Torres and Goncalo Guedes. The Spaniards are without Ezequiel Garay, Francis Coquelin, and Gabriel Paulista all through injury. Still, they managed a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid last time out in La Liga play on a 59th minute equalizer by Geoffrey Kondogbia’s first goal of the season.


Wednesday Champions League action

Tottenham Hotspur v. RB Leipzig
Atalanta v. Valencia

LINEUPS

Tottenham: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Fernandes, Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn, Lucas Moura.

RB Leipzig: Gulacsi, Mukiele, Klostermann, Halstenberg, Angelino, Laimer, Ampadu, Sabitzer, Nkunku, Schick, Werner.

Atalanta: Gollini; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti, Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens, Pasalic, Ilicic, Gomez.

Valencia: Domenech; Wass, Diakhaby, Mangala, Gaya, Kondogbia, Parejo, Soler, Torres, Goncalo Guedes, Gomez.

Watch Live: Man City v. West Ham

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Manchester City looks for a reaction in its first match after the UEFA sanctions were announced as they host West Ham at the Etihad on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Citizens will want to finish this season strong given the future uncertainty surrounding the club, and with Leicester City nipping at their heels, a strong performance will be imperative. Man City sits just a single point above the third-placed Foxes and a poor result could leave them vulnerable for when the two meet on Saturday.

[ STREAM LIVE: Man City v. West Ham ]

Man City’s lineup sees John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, and Fernandinho all sat on the bench. Nicolas Otamendi partners with Aymeric Laporte at the back with Rodri covering them in midfield. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva start in the middle with Bernardo Silva in the attacking midfield role, while Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero both start up front.

The match is massively important for West Ham as well, with the Hammers sitting 18th in the Premier League table a point off safety. The Hammers counter Man City’s attacking lineup with three at the back as Declan Rice provides cover per usual and captain Mark Noble partners with Tomas Soucek in midfield.

LINEUPS

Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva; Bernardo, Jesus, Aguero.

West Ham: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Rice, Soucek, Noble; Snodgrass, Antonio.

Solskjaer admits Rashford’s season may be over, Euros in jeopardy

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Wednesday that Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford suffered a setback in his recovery from a stress fracture in his back, and that he may not return before the end of the Premier League season. In addition, Solskjaer admitted there is a chance that Rashford’s availability for England in this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament could be in jeopardy.

Speaking ahead of United’s visit tomorrow to Club Brugge in Europa League action, Solskjaer said that he hopes Rashford can make a return, but that it’s certainly in question as he will be out “another few months definitely.”

[ MORE: McTominay, Lindelof back fit ]

“It will just be touch and go towards the end [of the season],” Solskjaer said. “Hopefully we can get through this tournament and prolong the season. It takes time, I’m not a doctor. I was hoping he would recover quicker than what it looks like he’s going to be out for.”

When asked about his potential availability for selection at the Euros this summer, Solskjaer said, “If he’s not fit enough he won’t go.”

It seems that Manchester United expected Rashford to be back “He had a scan and it was maybe more severe, that fracture, than what we hoped for and expected, he felt fine the few days before that. And I’ve never had anatomy in school, so I didn’t know it just takes that time to recover.”

[ MORE: Neymar upset with PSG for extra rest ]

News of a potential injury to Rashford cropped up during the Premier League match against Norwich City game on January 11, when he was withdrawn after 59 minutes. Solskjaer admitted later that Rashford needed rest, but decided to risk the 22-year-old England international anyways against Wolverhampton Wanderers in an FA Cup replay four days later, a decision he later came to publicly regret. Rashford came off after just 16 minutes and it was later announced that he had aggravated his injury from a single stress fracture to a double stress fracture.

After the Wolves match, Manchester United announced a 2-3 month timetable for Rashford’s return, meaning he could be back by late March or early April. Now it seems he could be done for the year, and England’s Euro adventure may suffer as well.

Braithwaite to Barcelona imminent, could debut Saturday

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Barcelona is taking the controversial step of signing Leganes striker Martin Braithwaite outside the January transfer window, reportedly set to trigger his $19.4 million release clause. According to a report by ESPN, Braithwaite has already agreed to terms and will join the club immediately, possibly soon enough to make his debut on Saturday against Eibar.

The Catalan club was given an exception by La Liga after Ousmane Dembele was ruled out for the season, leaving the squad with just three healthy first-team forwards in Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and 17-year-old Ansu Fati. The injury to Dembele, which follows a long-term injury spell for Luis Suarez, led La Liga to allow Barcelona 15 days to sign a forward outside the window, provided it was either a free agent or a player already registered in the Spanish top flight.

Reports from all over Europe state that Barcelona attempted to negotiate with Leganes, but they held out for Braithwaite’s full release clause and Barcelona had little choice but to relent. The ESPN report states that Barcelona had come to an agreement with Getafe for Angel Rodriguez but Barcelona manager Quique Setien stepped in with a preference for Braithwaite due to his positional flexibility.

The controversial part of the situation is that Barcelona somewhat put itself in this spot by offloading forwards Abel Ruiz and Carles Perez in the January window without replacing them, and now have been saddled with an injury crisis. Many are upset that a big club like Barcelona is being bailed out by La Liga while Leganes suffers the loss of its leading scorer having already seen  Youssef En-Nesyri depart in the January window. Guillem Ballague reports that Leganes will appeal to La Liga for its own exception to sign an emergency player but as the rules stand, they cannot add a replacement for Braithwaite. The league office can authorize exceptions on a case-by-case basis, which they did for Barcelona, although policy has been to grant exceptions for long-term injuries.

The 28-year-old has scored eight goals across all competitions this season while Leganes has struggled at the bottom of the table all year long. They currently sit 19th in the La Liga table, two points clear of safety.