Premier League Power Rankings – We have a new team at the top… Round 23-24

1 Comment

After two matchdays in quick succession across the Premier League, it’s been a hectic last week in England’s top-flight, as top teams have tumbled, managers have been sacked and the relegation battled has got even tighter.

That can only mean one thing: it is time for your new PL Power Rankings.

We have a new leader at the top of the standings, as Chelsea go out on their own after becoming the first team to beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. While last weeks joint-leader Arsenal and Man City fall down to second and third respectively.

There’s plenty of fluctuation in our rankings this week, as the games come thick and fast in the PL.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

Each week 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.

Let’s get to it!

RANKING
Up/Down

source:

1 UP 2
Chelsea: We have a new leader! As Jose Mourinho’s tactical masterclass saw Chelsea become the first team to win at Man City this season. Okay, a disappointing home draw to West Ham happened before that, but when teams park the bus, that will happen. City were torn apart by Chelsea, who looked solid as a rock. Ominous form from the Blues, up next: Newcastle. (16-5-3)
source:  2 DOWN 1
Arsenal: The Gunners keep on rolling, after a 2-2 draw away at Southampton, then they beat Palace 2-0. Top by two points ahead of Chelsea and Man City, Arsene Wenger’s side won’t give up top spot without a fight. However the lack of a top striker arriving in January may seem them relinquish their spot at the summit. Tough trip to Liverpool this week. (17-4-3)
source:  3 DOWN 2
Manchester City: City didn’t turn up against Chelsea in their 1-0 home defeat, with Fernandinho a big loss. No need to panic for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, but they do need to kick on now and prove that was a blip. Norwich away should yield three points this weekend. (17-2-5)
source:  4 UP 2
Liverpool: It was almost a perfect week for the Reds, but then Kolo Toure played a silly pass across the box to drop two points vs. West Brom. Following their emphatic 4-0 derby win over Everton last Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers’ side looked jaded against WBA. Can’t afford that this weekend, as Arsenal head to Anfield. (14-5-5)

source:

5
Everton: We spoke about their drubbing at Anfield, but Robert Martinez’ team responded by beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Goodison Park. Look, the Toffees should be in a rebuilding year but are still challenging for a Champions League spot. Magnificent effort. Huge game at Spurs this Sunday. (12-9-3)
source:  6 DOWN 2
Tottenham: And Spurs are up next, as they fall in our rankings after a 5-1 loss to Man City when their defense capitulated and they then battled to a 1-1 draw away at Hull. Sherwood’s side will be okay and should finish in the top six, but is that top 4 dream fading away? (13-5-6)
source:  7 UP 2 Southampton: A very decent run of results from the Saints has seen their bright start revitalized. Four games unbeaten now, with a 2-2 draw with Arsenal followed up by a smashing 3-0 win away at Fulham. Saints should have beaten the Gunners and the likes of Lallana and Rodriguez are flying. Stoke at home next. (9-8-7)
source:  8
Manchester United: Just when things look to be going right for United, they falter. On Saturday the lost away to Stoke City 2-1 in their eighth loss of the PL season. Manager David Moyes tried to put a positive spin on things, as even the returning RVP and Rooney, plus Mata’s arrival has failed to wake United up from their nightmare. Fulham at home next, must be a big win. (12-4-8)
source:  9 UP 1
Sunderland: Ha’way the lads! I was at St. James’ Park on Saturday as the Mackems destroyed North East rivals Newcastle 3-0. That followed their dogged 1-0 midweek win over Stoke and now Gus Poyet’s men are rolling away from the relegation zone. Massive home game vs. Hull City this weekend. (6-6-12)
source:  10 DOWN 3
Newcastle: The Magpies lost Yohan Cabaye on deadline day which was a massive blow. Newcastle have failed to score in their last two games, losing 3-0 at home to bitter rivals Sunderland and drawing with Norwich. On top of that Joe Kinnear has resigned as director of football, as the Magpies season threatens to unravel. A trip to Chelsea is not what they needed. (11-4-9)
source:  11
Aston Villa: The PL’s resident Jekyll and Hyde side have been steady in the past few weeks, with a thrilling 4-3 win over West Brom and then a narrow 2-1 loss at Everton in their past two games. Benteke is looking back in form, which is good news for the Villans. A home game vs. West Ham this Saturday is hugely winnable. (7-6-11)
source:  12 UP 4 Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis has totally transformed the Eagles. They are tough to beat, especially at home, and have players like Puncheon, Jerome and Chamakh who can make a difference. A big win at home vs. Hull was followed by a spirited 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. HUGE home game vs. WBA on Saturday. (7-2-15)

source:

13 UP 2 Stoke City: The Potters beat Man United last Saturday, their first ever PL win over the Red Devils. It was a determined display as Adam smashed in two and Stoke outlasted United in the swirling wind. However Mark Hughes’ side did lose to Sunderland before that, and are still in a relegation battle. Away game at Saints this weekend.  (6-7-11)
source:  14 DOWN 2
Norwich City: Bad week for the Canaries who drew at home to Newcastle then lost away to Cardiff. They failed to grab a new striker in the January transfer window, something they badly needed as Hughton’s side are still struggling for goals. Norwich could well be in the bottom three after this weekend, as a trip to Man City looms large. They did win at the Etihad last season… (6-6-12)
source:  15 UP 2
West Ham: There are plenty of Happy Hammers around this week, as four points from an away trip to Chelsea and home game vs. Swansea is a tremendous return. Two clean sheets will please Big Sam, plus Andy Carroll is back in form. Although his red card has upset the apple cart a little. A win away at Villa could drag them out of the drop zone. (5-7-12)
source:  16 DOWN 3
Hull City: The Tigers continue to slide, despite a promising home draw with Tottenham on Saturday. Before that they lost away at Palace in a game where Steve Bruce’s men were out battled. But with Shane Long bagging his first goal and Jelavic looking sharp next to him, Hull will be fine. Sunderland away is a monster clash this Saturday. (6-6-12)
source:  17 DOWN 3
Swansea City: Turmoil at the Liberty Stadium, as manager Michael Laudrup was sacked after a poor run of form sees the Swans just two points above the drop zone. Current player Garry Monk has been put in charge, and they now have the huge South Wales derby vs. Cardiff at home to deal with. Sink or swim time. (6-6-12)
source:  18
Cardiff City: Following a massive comeback win over Norwich last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is seeing his side take shape after some big signings in January. Kenwyne Jones could be their talisman. A chance to do the double over South Wales rivals Swansea and jump level with them in the standings this Saturday. Can the Bluebirds pounce (5-6-13)
source:  19
West Brom: Probably quite harsh that the Baggies are still this low, but they have only won once in their last 10 games and don’t look like they will score at all. Pepe Mel has got one heck of a job on his hands, but the 1-1 draw vs. Liverpool should give them plenty of belief. The Baggies face Palace this weekend. (4-11-9)
source:  20
Fuham: The Cottagers looked to have done the best business in the window, as Kostas Mitroglou, Johnny Heitinga and Lewis Holtby arrived. But a 3-0 hammering by Saints and an FA Cup exit to League One Sheffield United tells the story. Tough times ahead by the Thames. Trip to Man United this Saturday. (6-1-17)

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.

Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship

Championship promotion playoff final
Photo credit: @FulhamFC
Leave a comment

Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after claiming west London derby delight at the expense of local rivals Brentford in Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.

Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.

Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic issues injury update ]

The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.

Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.

Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.

Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.

Transfer confirmed: Ferran Torres to Man City for $26 million

Ferran Torres to Man City
Photo credit: Man City
Leave a comment

Reports sending Valencia youngster Ferran Torres to Man City have been burning red-hot over the last 24 hours.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

Man City confirmed their capture of the 20-year-old — one of the brightest prospects in all of Europe — on Tuesday.

Torres, who came through the Valencia academy, tallied six goals and seven assists in 43 appearances (all competitions), including two of each in the Champions League, for Valencia this season.

He broke into Valencia’s first team back in November of 2017, at the age of 17, before establishing himself as a regular over the last two seasons.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.

Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Brentford - Fulham
Photo byJacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fulham – Brentford: Team news is in with the two West London sides set to do battle for a place in the Premier League in the Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

We can hardly wait to find out who’ll claim the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season in the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Team news


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+