Premier League Power Rankings: Manchester City get a second chance – Week 36

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Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City… who you got?

As we head into the final two weeks of the Premier League season, everything is still to play for at the top and bottom of this remarkable league.

Steve Gerrard’s slip cost Liverpool against Chelsea and now Man City are in the driving seat to win the title, while Sunderland have jumped out of the bottom three and Norwich have slipped into the dreaded drop zone.

Being in form at this point of the season is when it really matters.

(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 1
Manchester City: The Citizens now have their destiny in their own hands as three wins against Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham means they will the title on goal difference if Liverpool win out and fail to overturn a -8 goal differential. A trip away to play Everton is, on paper, their toughest test to come. Can City hold their nerve? (24-5-6)
source:  2 DOWN 1
Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers was outsmarted by Jose Mourinho and Liverpool’s title hopes now rely on Man City slipping up between now and May 11. Steven Gerrard’s slip cost the Reds dear and now they face Crystal Palace away and Newcastle at home knowing they must win both to give themselves a fighting chance of winning the title. (25-5-6)
source:  3
Chelsea: A mixed week for the Blues, as they beat Liverpool away to keep their slender chances of winning the PL title alive but then lost in the second leg of their UCL semifinal to Atletico Madrid. Jose Mourinho has enjoyed a tumultuous season back in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat. Norwich at home should be an easy 3 points for the Blues as they aim to not lose at home for three-straight matches. (24-6-6)
source:  4
Arsenal: A four point lead over Everton with two games to go, the Gunners looked to have sealed a UCL berth for the 18th straight season. Hats off to Mr. Wenger. Now it is about getting the job done as they host West Brom on Sunday. If they get the point they need, the focus will then switch to the FA Cup final. (22-7-7)

source:

5 UP 1
Tottenham: Spurs ground out a win away at Stoke but it was far from easy at the Britannia. Danny Rose headed home but was then taken off as things boiled over. Tim Sherwood’s side can no longer finish in the top four but look to have secured a Europa League spot. (20-6-10)
source:  6 UP 3
Southampton: The Saints secured a morale boosting 2-0 win against Everton as Mauricio Pochettino’s men have eighth placed all sewn up baring a monumental collapse in the goals for and against column. Tremendous season for the South Coast club but can they keep hold of their young stars? Swansea away up next. (14-10-12)
source:  7 DOWN 2
Everton: Robert Martinez’s men simply didn’t show up against Saints and looked a little jaded. They’ve had a wonderful season and know that anything less than a win over Man City will all but hand the fourth and final UCL spot to Arsenal. Can the Toffees do their Merseyside neighbors Liverpool a big favor? (20-9-7)
source:  8 UP 2
Manchester United: Ryan Giggs looked the part as United manager in that smartly pressed suit, didn’t he? Whether or not he gets the job long-term, Giggsy put smiles back on the faces of the Old Trafford faithful as they smashed Norwich 4-0. Now United host Sunderland and if they win their last three matches, they could finish sixth if Spurs slip up. (18-6-11)
source:  9 DOWN 2
Stoke City: The Potters were hard done by against Spurs as Ryan Shwacross was harshly given a second yellow. Mark Hughes’ men battled with 10-men and they are in fine form to finish the season. What can we expect from Stoke next season? This weekend we can expect an almighty scrap against Fulham. (11-11-14)
source:  10 DOWN 2
Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis’ Eagles had their wings clipped by title-chasing Man City on Sunday as their winning spree came to an end. On Monday they host Liverpool as Palace will have a huge say in the PL title race. Can they cause a huge upset? (13-4-19)
source:  11 UP 5 Sunderland: The Black Cats are surging up the rankings as they lifted themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time since February 10 after beating Cardiff on Sunday. Gus Poyet’s men now head to Man United full of confidence and are three games unbeaten. (8-8-19)
source:  12
Hull City: Steve Bruce’s side showed plenty of spirit to drag themselves from 2-0 down and draw away at Fulham but how did they get into the situation? Hull have prided themselves on having a water-tight defense for most of the season but that hasn’t been the case recently. A point away at Aston Villa will secure their PL status. (10-7-18)
source:  13 UP 1
Swansea City: The Swans needed that 4-1 home win against Villa, big time. Jonjo Shelvey scored a wondergoal and Garry Monk has steered their ship back on course after a shaky season. Can they win three on the spin by beating Saints on Saturday? (10-9-17)
source:  14 UP 5
West Brom: Pepe Mel bagged his first win as West Brom boss in their 1-0 win over West Ham and the Baggies are almost clear of the bottom three. They need a big performance against Arsenal on Sunday. (7-15-13)
source:  15 DOWN 2
Fuham: Poor old Felix. Just went you thought the Cottagers were going to climb out of the bottom three, wham. Hull’s two late goals hit Fulham hard and they must now travel to Stoke before they host Palace on the final day of the season. Should they win both, it may still not be enough. (9-4-23)
source:  16 DOWN 5
West Ham: The Hammers are plummeting down the standings and are still not clear of relegation with teams below them having a game in hand. Tottenham at home poses a tough test for the Irons, as their boss Sam Allardyce is coming under increasing pressure from the home fans. (10-7-19)
source:  17 DOWN 2
Newcastle: Speaking of pressure, it is now mounting on Alan Pardew as Newcastle have lost six in a row and are looking shambolic. Magpies fans have finally turned on their boss and they simply must beat Cardiff on Saturday. (14-4-18)
source:  18 DOWN 1

Aston Villa: Another team struggling to get over the finishing line is Villa and they are in now danger of going down. If they don’t beat Hull on on Saturday then Paul Lambert’s men will go into the final day of the season in a seriously sticky situation. No win in six and five defeats in that run. (9-8-18)
source:  19 DOWN 1
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds were battered away at Sunderland last Sunday and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer knows his side must beat Newcastle or they could be relegated. It has been a long, hard season in South Wales as Cardiff could drop out of the top-flight at the first time of asking. (7-9-20)
source:  20

Norwich City: The Canaries are in serious danger of going down to, as they go to Chelsea and must win to give themselves a chance. The problem is, they face Arsenal on the final day of the season. Interim boss Neil Adams has to get at least a point in his last two games to keep Norwich in the PL. (8-8-20)

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.