Premier League Power Rankings: Time to take stock, then fire up the engines

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After a near two week break, we are almost back in business. Week 7’s games seem like far in the distance, but it’s time to take stock and see where each team is at.

Will Chelsea ever be usurped from top spot? Will Burnley make it off the bottom? All that, and more, is answered in our rankings of power.

[Archive: Premier League Power Rankings]

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

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1 Chelsea: Seven games unbeaten to start the season for the Special One. They dominated Arsenal in a 2-0 win and face in-form Palace in a game they lost last season. Can they handle the Eagles? (6-1-0)
source:  2 UP 2 Manchester City: The Citizens labored to victory at Villa but are starting to show that mean streak which won them the title. Tough game at home to Spurs last week as the visitors look to avenge their 6-0 shellacking against our second place time in the rankings. (4-2-1)
source:  3  – Arsenal: A first defeat of the season for Wenger’s men and that touchline spat between Wenger and Mourinho was pretty unsavory. Given all of Arsenal’s injuries they hung in there. Expect them to beat Hull handily this Saturday, as Theo returns. (2-4-1)
source:  4 UP 3 Manchester United: Here they come… United got past Everton 2-1 thanks to goals from Di Maria and Falcao and LVG’s men are suddenly in the top four. It’s early days but the wounds are starting to heal nicely. WBA away this week. (3-2-2)

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5 DOWN 3 Southampton: The Saints succumbed to Spurs and their old boss Pochettino but could have nicked a point had Mane tapped him from five yards out. Horror miss. Home game vs. Sunderland gives them a chance to get back on track. (4-1-2)
source:  6 UP 5 TottenhamSpurs looked great in that win over Saints as the high-pressing play returned. They travel to Man City with revenge on their mind. Must stay tight defensively as they rose to fifth places in our rankings. (3-2-2)
source:  7 UP 5 Liverpool: The Reds wobbled a little against West Brom but goals from Lallana (who was superb) and Henderson did the damage. Sturridge is back for their trip to QPR, but Sterling’s fitness is now a concern. Close to their best. (3-1-3)
source:  8 DOWN 2 Swansea City: Garry Monk’s men let two leads slip at home to Newcastle after some poor defending. The Swans will want to put that right away at Stoke. Solid. (3-2-2)
source:  9 UP 4 West Ham:The Hammers’ resurgence continues and they easily beat QPR at Upton Park last time out. Horrible trip to Turf Moor for most teams, but West Ham will relish the challenge.  (3-1-3)
source:  10 DOWN 5 Crystal Palace: After four games unbeaten, Palace came undone away at the KC Stadium in a 2-0 defeat. They plummeted in our rankings due to that below par display and now host Chelsea. Can they shock the Blues again? (2-2-3)
source:  11 DOWN 3 Aston Villa:  Three defeats in a row for Villa but in fairness they’ve come against Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City. Paul Lambert’s side will be delighted to have Christian Benteke back. (3-1-3)
source:  12 DOWN 2 Leicester CityIt will have been a tough break for Foxes fans after they let three points slip late on vs. Burnley. Still unbeaten at home but tough away game at Newcastle. (2-3-2)
source:  13 DOWN 4 Stoke CityPoor performance by the Potters away at Sunderland. Slack defensive display. Home win vs. Swansea is a must this week, let’s see if they can get back on track. (2-2-3)
source:  14 EvertonBrave display away at United, as the Toffees came so close to snatching a late point at Old Trafford. Some sloppy goals conceded by Roberto Martinez’s men, once again. USMNT ‘keepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan clash at Goodison this weekend. (1-3-3)
source:  15 UP 1 Sunderland: At last! Victory! The Mackems beat Stoke 3-1 as their forwards finally started scoring. Fletcher grabbed two and Wickham got the other. Gus Poyet’s side travel to Southampton this week. Will Altidore get a look in now? (1-5-1)
source:  16 UP 1 Hull City: The Tigers picked up their first win since the opening day of the season as they beat Palace at home. Steve Bruce’s side travel to injury-hit Arsenal on Saturday. Can they produce a shock? (2-3-2)
source:  17 DOWN 2 West Brom: Alan Irvine’s men gave Liverpool a bit of a scare at Anfield after equalizing but were solid. They host Man. United on Monday, watch on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET. (2-2-3)
source:  18 UP 1 Newcastle: Still no wins, but the Magpies are battling away despite all the unrest off the pitch. Papiss Demba Cisse has scored four goals in his last three games, with a brace vs. Swansea. Can they beat Leicester? (0-3-4)
 source:  19 DOWN 1 QPR: Rangers are struggling. Big time. Harry Redknapp’s side have the most defeats in the PL and their new signing don’t seem to be gelling. It’s still early days. Perhaps a point at home to Liverpool will help? (1-1-5)
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20 BurnleyBattling Clarets keep on drawing and this was their best yet. Down 2-1 to a buoyant Leicester outfit, a great free kick from Wallace in injury time sent the away fans wild. Home game vs. West Ham is very, very winnable… (0-4-3)

Leyton Orient announce COVID-19 positives, stadium closure before Tottenham game

Leyton Orient
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Leyton Orient have issued a statement after multiple first team players tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve been forced to shut their training ground and stadium just one day before they were due to host Premier League giants Tottenham.

The fourth-tier club were due to play Tottenham in the League Cup third round on Tuesday but that game is now in severe doubt and the east London club (located 11 miles from Tottenham’s home stadium) said they will be announcing more details in due course about what will happen.

Here is the Leyton Orient statement in full about their current situation:

“Following our game on Saturday 19th September, COVID-19 testing was conducted on all of our first team playing squad. Today (Monday 21st) we received formal confirmation which shows that a number of our first-team squad have tested positive for COVID-19. We have informed the EFL and Tottenham Hotspur and will make a further announcement regarding Tuesday’s match shortly.

“We have also informed Mansfield Town, Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, our three most recent opponents, prior to the public release of this information. Leyton Orient’s priority is the health and well-being of its players and staff. Those who have tested positive will now strictly follow government self-isolation guidelines. The Breyer Group Stadium and training ground facilities will be closed until further notice. At this time, the club will make no further comment.”

The problem here is that Tottenham don’t have any other available dates to play this game.

With their Premier League and UEFA Europa League qualifying commitments, Tottenham are already stretched to the limits and this game at Leyton Orient is one of four games in seven days for Jose Mourinho’s side.

The rules also state that if a team cannot fulfil the fixture due to COVID-19 positive tests, they will have to forfeit and Tottenham will move on. Leyton Orient are a small team who Harry Kane, a former loanee, has helped raised money for and there’s a very good relationship between the two clubs. This game was also due to be broadcast on TV in the UK and would have helped Leyton Orient out financially at a time when fans still aren’t allowed into stadiums in large numbers. These positive tests have now put all of that in doubt.

Lower league teams will run into similar issues like this when it comes to the FA Cup too, as testing is less prevalent and regulated lower down the professional pyramid in England. EFL clubs are only mandated to test their players during every international break and have stopped testing players twice a week. That has led to Premier League clubs paying for their lower-league League Cup opponents to be tested before games. In this case, multiple Leyton Orient players have tested positive.

Mourinho: Bale could return from injury quicker due to desire

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Bale injury update: So, Tottenham fans would be hoping that a Gareth Bale injury update wouldn’t be coming soon but he is nursing a knee injury he picked up on international duty earlier this month.

Judging by their 5-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, Tottenham will be just fine in attack without the Welsh star they’ve signed on loan from Real Madrid for the 2019-20 season. There is no reason for him to rush back, especially considering his recent history with injuries.

That said, Mourinho is hopeful that Bale can return from injury quicker due to that trust remedy: desire.

“I don’t know when Gareth can be back,” Mourinho said on a Bale injury update. “The only thing that I know is that the motivation is high, he is so happy to be with a club of his heart, he is so happy to play for us and when a player has this motivation, many, many times you can shorten the period of recovering and shorten the period of getting fit and ready to play and we want to help him. So when he is available to train with the team, we are more than happy to have him and to be back to a level that [is] maybe one of the best players in the world.”

This is textbook Mourinho.

It has been noted many, many times that he hates players missing games due to injury and is less than sympathetic when someone is in the treatment room.

This seems like a challenge to Bale, 31, to prove just how much he wants to be back at Tottenham after spending the last seven seasons at Real Madrid. ‘Oh, you want to be back here? Prove it. Patch yourself up and be ready for next week.’ That will definitely probably be Mourinho’s chat with Bale next week.

There is no reason to risk Bale right now but when he is fit, having him play alongside Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in attack is a mouthwatering prospect for Mourinho and Tottenham. Their counterattacking prowess was clear for all to see in the second half at Southampton on Sunday and a fired up and fit Bale will add a lot to this attack.

Hurry up and get that dose of desire rubbed onto your knee, Gareth…

Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

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Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.


3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

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Klopp reaction on Thiago debut, Fabinho; loved ‘perfect’ Liverpool’s hunger

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The Klopp reaction from Chelsea v. Liverpool was full of smiles and laughs as he called the win ‘perfect’ in every way.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Jurgen Klopp is a happy, happy man. He usually is, but his side took care of a much talked about Chelsea with minimal fuss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to make it two wins from two this season for the reigning Premier League champions.

Sure, Andreas Christensen’s sending off right on half time shaped the game but so too did the hunger of Sadio Mane to strike twice early in the second half to secure the win.

[ MORE: Player ratings

A penalty save from Alisson and a debut for Thiago Alcantara made Klopp even happier and as long as captain Jordan Henderson didn’t suffer a serious injury, he said the trip to Chelsea could not have gone better.

Thiago debut showcases why he was bought?

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk after the game via a Zoom call, we asked for the Klopp reaction on Thiago Alcantara’s debut display and if it underlined exactly why he was signed from Bayern Munich.

Thiago came on at half time and completed 75 passes in 45 minutes, a new Premier League record, as the Spanish international slotted in superbly and allowed Liverpool to dictate the tempo of the game against an opponent which sat back deep and was only focusing on defending.

“We signed Thiago for different reasons and only one of them is against deep defending sides. We improved in that department a lot, I have to say, with all of the players who were already there before. But, yes, it is something that suits him. It is natural to him. I like that. Of course it is good. It is one reason of a lot,” Klopp said.

Fabinho dazzles as a stand-in center back; Jurgen Klopp reaction

ProSoccerTalk also asked Klopp about Fabinho’s display, as the Brazilian switched from his usual position of holding midfield to center back due to injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

“Fabinho, yes! If Sadio wouldn’t have scored two goals then I think Fab would have been a proper contender for Man of the Match!” Klopp smiled. “I loved his performance, he played outstandingly well. He helped us a lot, with the ball and in defending as well. A proper performance.”

With Thiago arriving in midfield, Fabinho at center back could be something we see a lot more of this season, especially as Gomez and Matip have a nasty knack of picking up small injuries consistently.

Liverpool send out a message

Klopp admitted that his team are only focused on the three points each week, but when asked about making a statement early in the season by winning at a Chelsea side who has spent over $250 million on new players, the Liverpool boss raved about the performance of his side.

“I liked the performance a lot. We are not playing for two things, for three points and then showing everybody you ‘better be ready when we arrive’ or something. That’s not us,” Klopp said. “The next game will be incredibly difficult for their own reasons because Arsenal is obviously flying since a few months already, it is going to be really tough.

“For ourselves, and that we feel the way we play, with adaptations and improvements, with development, that made us successful and will make us successful if we really throw it consistently on the pitch. This Chelsea game away will, for the next 500 years, be one of the most difficult games you can ever play and it will become even more difficult now when all things things are settled for Chelsea. That is clear. For today, it was difficult enough but we did it and I’m happy enough.”