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)

Europa League: Wolves through to Round of 16, Portuguese sides stunned

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Arsenal and Manchester United are still set to take the field, but there was an early round of Europa League matches that saw nearly half the Round of 16 field set.

Wolverhampton Wanderers knew it had room to breathe, and they made use of that, advancing cooly to the Round of 16 despite a 3-2 loss at Espanyol that saw them advance 6-3 on aggregate. The 4-0 first-leg win set Wolves up nicely, and they held firm behind equalizers from red-hot winger Adama Traore and Matthew Doherty.

 

Jonathan Calleri picked up a hat-trick for the hosts, including the winner in the 91st minute, but it wasn’t nearly enough to see the Spanish side truly challenge the massive deficit.

Elsewhere, Justin Kluivert gave Roma a spot in the Round of 16 with his 29th minute goal that saw the Italian side through via a 2-1 aggregate win over KAA Gent. The 20-year-old got a sumptuous through ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan who laid it on a platter for Kluivert’s calm finish. The goal answered Jonathan David’s opener four minutes prior and set Roma up for a 1-1 draw that followed their 1-0 home win in the first leg.

USMNT veteran John Brooks started and played the whole 90 minutes as Wolfsburg rode a 3-0 second leg win to a 5-1 aggregate victory over Norwegian side Malmo. 21-year-old Croatian youth international Josip Brekalo was the lone goalscorer in the second leg, finding the net just minutes before halftime to seal advancement to the next round. Yannick Gerhardt and Joao Victor added second-half cherries on top with his 65th minute to put Wolfsburg into the next stage.

Bayer Leverkusen passed a tough test with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Champions League dropouts FC Porto. After a 2-1 home win in the first leg, the German side got an early 10th minute goal from Argentine international Lucas Alario, initially flagged for offside but corrected by VAR. Porto was awful, managing just one shot through the entire first half and conceding twice more after halftime to Kai Havertz and Kerem Demirbay. Mali international Moussa Marega got 65th minute goal for Porto but it was little more than a consolation.

The other Portuguese club in the competition, Sporting CP, suffered an equally disappointing result as they coughed up a 3-1 first-leg lead and to Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey, falling 4-1 in extra time to complete a 5-4 aggregate defeat. After the hosts brought the aggregate back level, it seemed Luciano Vietto had saved Sporting’s lives, but Edin Visca scored in the 92nd minute to send the match to extra time on a 4-4 aggregate draw. Visca then played hero as he blasted a wonderful penalty in the 119th minute to win the matchup.

Former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel scored the opener just after the half-hour mark via a corner, nutmegging the goalkeeper with a header on the doorstep. Danijel Aleksic bagged Basaksehir’s second just before halftime with an absolutely incredible free-kick from miles away to put the hosts 2-0 up and level the aggregate at 3-3, with Basaksehir holding the away goal advantage from the first leg. Sporting CP was saved, however, by Vietto who scored with 22 minutes remaining 

Dutch side AZ Alkmaar slumped out of the competition to LASK, losing 2-0 in Austria which sealed a 3-1 aggregate defeat. 21-year-old Austrian youth international Marko Raguz hit for a quickfire double just before halftime, including one from the penalty spot, to send LASK through to the Round of 16.

Full Europa League results (bolded team advances)

Espanyol 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
FC Porto 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen
KAA Gent 1-1 AS Roma
Malmo FF 0-3 Wolfsburg
LASK 2-0 AZ Alkmaar
Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 Sporting CP (AET)
FC Basel 1-0 Apoel Nicosia

2020 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. 1

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With the 2020 Major League Soccer season kicking off this weekend, here’s a (surely brilliant) predictive edition of the Power Rankings, which will be updated at the start of every month here on PST…

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

MLS Cup favorites
Los Angeles FC and New York City FC

We all remember what LAFC did last year, and the fact they didn’t win MLS Cup despite settling most every relevant league record will only serve as further fuel for Bob Bradley to demand even more from (inarguably) the most talented team in the league. One potential pitfall: after trading Walker Zimmerman (for a record amount of allocation money), it’s unclear who’ll start at center back, and if you think it’s clear it’s a less than ideal situation. As for NYCFC, they managed to fly under the radar last year despite finishing top of the Eastern Conference by six points. While they don’t have the household names of an LAFC or Atlanta United, Domenec Torrent’s side (now that of Ronny Deila) played every bit the attractive, fluid attacking soccer of the league’s darlings. In a week East, NYCFC could wind up Supporters’ Shield winners.


MLS Cup contenders
Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC

These teams will be in the playoffs, 100 percent guarantee. (fingers are now crossed) With satisfactory answers to certain questions, they could make the leap from contenders to favorites with ease. Those questions are… Seattle: does the completely rebuilt backline come together, and how long does it take? Atlanta: will head coach Frank De Boer find the right balance between his preferred defensive slant and the roster’s natural tendency to attack at all costs? Galaxy: is the defense, which has been horrific for five or six years now, any better? Toronto: wait, why aren’t they on the “favorites” line? Ah, yes, because only one team per conference is allowed.


See you in the playoffs
Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United

Here’s the thing about this group: the two teams from the East should finish fourth or fifth in the junior circuit (some ways back of the clear-cut top-three), but they probably wouldn’t make the playoffs in the West. By default, Philadelphia and D.C. get a bump in the tiers for the fact they’ll walk into the playoffs in the East. That is not — repeat not — to say they are as good as RSL or Dallas, who would actually push Atlanta and Toronto for second and third.


In the hunt
Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United, Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution and Montreal Impact

That’s a long list of teams. As stated above, the teams from the East will be in playoff contention due to not having seven standout sides. Basically, any combination of these teams could wind up in the playoffs. Looking to the West, Portland, Sporting KC and Minnesota have the potential to climb a tier (or two) if all goes right for them, but each of those sides has a glaring, and potentially fatal, flaw. The temptation to say Colorado will actually be quite good and also a playoff team is very strong, but it goes against all human instincts when you think back to how they opened the 2019 season, before firing Anthony Hudson and hiring Robin Fraser and almost making the playoffs anyway.


Fulfilling obligations
FC Cincinnati, Orlando City SC and Vancouver Whitecaps

Barely a month into their first season (last season), Cincinnati was very clearly the worst team in the league. Somehow, the offseason has gone even worse for them. They (probably) managed to improve enough so as to not claim back-to-back Wooden Spoons, but enough to contend for a playoff place? Highly unlikely. Orlando City has never — not once in their five-year MLS history — given me, or anyone, reason to believe they are a competent organization. Until they do so for a period of six (6) months or more, they just exist for existence’s sake. Speaking of merely existing, the Vancouver Whitecaps.


Expansion teams, TBD
Inter Miami and Nashville SC

Here’s the thing about expansion teams: they aren’t to be trusted, either way. What looks good on paper can sometimes look terrible on the field, and what looks terrible on paper can sometimes look great on the field. We’ll give Miami and Nashville their first assessments after a month of games.

LIVE, Europa League: Man United, Arsenal, Wolves go for last-16

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It’s time to settle 14 more ties in the Europa League round of 23, including three involving Premier League sides.

Ahead of Thursday’s seconds legs, Arsenal lead Greek side Olympiacos 1-0, Manchester United are level with Portuguese side Club Brugge at 1-1, and Wolverhampton Wanderers are the comfortable ones of the bunch with their 4-0 advantage of Spanish side Espanyol.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

All three PL sides are expected to go through to the round of 16, where they are once again eligible to face one another.

Meanwhile, some of the competition’s other remaining heavy hitters are also in action: Inter Milan lead Ludogorets Razgrad 2-0; Roma lead Gent 1-0; Sevilla are level with Cluj at 1-1; and Ajax trail Getafe 2-0.

Full Europa League schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Basaksehir v. Sporting CP
Porto v. Bayer Leverkusen
Gent v. Roma
Malmo v. Wolfsburg
LASK v. AZ Alkmaar
Basel v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Arsenal
v. Olympiacos
Manchester United v. Club Brugge
Inter Milan v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax v. Getafe
Sevilla v. Cluj
Benfica v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Celtic v. Copenhagen

Colossal Juve-Inter clash could be played in empty stadium

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte probably won’t have to sit through a torrent of boos when he returns to Turin for the first time to face former club Juventus.

That’s because there could be no fans there to see it.

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

The Derby d’Italia, one of the season’s biggest matches, may be played in an empty stadium on Sunday because of the virus outbreak in northern Italy. The epicenter of the outbreak is in the Lombardy region, and Milan is its capital.

“I hope that from today there will be a regression in the diffusion of the virus so that I, too, can go see Juventus-Inter,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of the Lombardy region. “We’re monitoring the situation. I’m very calm. We need to see what the situation is. It’s the same as for the schools. We’ll do a check Saturday and then we’ll see.”

Four Serie A matches scheduled for last weekend were postponed, including Inter’s match against Sampdoria. Italy has the most cases of the virus in Europe.

Serie A president Paolo Dal Pinto sent a letter to the government on Monday asking that games no longer be postponed in the affected areas but played without fans in attendance, something which Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said they were in agreement with.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

However, no official decree has been made by the Turin council and Serie A’s governing body has also yet to release a statement, giving rise to the hope fans could be allowed in.

Italy had 447 virus cases as of Wednesday. Twelve people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments, or both.

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two hardest hit regions and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Inter’s Europa League match against Ludogorets was scheduled to go ahead in an empty stadium on Thursday.

On Sunday, Conte will return to Juventus as opposition coach for the first time since he left the club in 2014. Conte led Juventus to the first three of its eight straight league titles and also spent most of his playing career with the Bianconeri.

[ MORE: Alan Pardew confronted by frustrated Den Haag fans on training field ]

“Soccer needs the crowd, to hear the atmosphere around it,” Conte said. “That’s the best thing about the game, the atmosphere around the soccer being played. These decisions have been taken with public health in mind but I hope that everything returns to normal as soon as possible.”

Inter trails the Serie A leaders by six points, although it has played a match less. Juventus, meanwhile, will have to bounce back from Wednesday’s surprise 1-0 loss at Lyon in the Champions League.

“We didn’t play the match we wanted. We have a lot of work to do,” Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. “Let’s focus on ourselves and do better than we did today, starting on Sunday with Inter.”