2015-16 Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. I: Taking very early stock with Man City on top

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Three matches certainly don’t tell the tale of an entire season.

For one thing, some clubs haven’t faced significant competition while others have had to battle a trio of strong Premier League opponents.

[ Archive: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Yet there’s enough of a sample, enough of a taste, to adjudge which clubs look ready to roar and which ones need to hope there are big-time reinforcements coming ahead of Sept. 1’s transfer deadline.

Let’s stop yammering, and start ranking. As is the case with MLS, we won’t do these every week in order to limit overreactions from a single result.

RANKING
Up/Down

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1 Manchester City: Two road wins, eight goals scored, zero allowed, and Kevin De Bruyne on the way? They’re baaaaaaack.
source: 2 Liverpool: Caught a lucky break on Arsenal’s disallowed goal, but Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho both looked dynamite. Christian Benteke is the real deal and, like Man Utd below, more goals will come. Loved watching that Arsenal match. End-to-end stuff.
source: 3   Manchester United: Folks want to castigate Louis van Gaal for not scoring more goals despite dominant performances and a congested schedule? Please. The Champions League goal production doesn’t count? Not to mention, their clean sheet streak is solid. Marouane Fellaini as a No. 9, though? Not so sure about that.
source: 4 Leicester City: There’s the Fox! Drawing at home against Spurs is the first lost points of the year for the Tinkerman’s unit. Riyad Mahrez has been electrifying, quick and downright wonderful.

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5 Swansea City: Looked quite legit until they coughed off a point against insipid Sunderland. The Chelsea draw works for us, and the Newcastle win was comprehensive. A home win, or at least points, against Manchester United on Sunday would raise the reality to Swans’ supporters expectations.
source: 6 Arsenal:  I want to place them higher for the entertainment value of the Liverpool draw alone (which they should’ve won if not for a faulty call). Still, there hasn’t been much to like in terms of the final product and that West Ham loss looks uglier and uglier as we see more of West Ham. Listen to Titi, Arsene.
source: 7 Chelsea:  Folks are rushing to say Jose Mourinho has spoiled the soup at Stamford Bridge, and there’s certainly the look of a championship hangover at Chelsea. John Terry’s looked off since the preseason, and can a title contender really afford to risk John Stones, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma as their hopes for center back success in the PL and UCL? They’ll rebound, as Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have yet to really awaken, but it should come soon, eh? And Paul Pogba? Yes, please.
source: 8 Everton: The Man City loss wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but the Toffees are looking more like the 2013-14 version than last year’s strugglers. Would cashing in on Stones really hurt that much? Doesn’t look like we’ll find out.
source: 9 Crystal Palace: Maybe the “Pardiola” label attached to Alan Pardew by peeved Newcastle fans isn’t far off. We’d like a better pelt than Norwich or Villa to believe in the silver fox, though.
source: 10 Stoke City: Mark Hughes’ bunch has a home loss to Liverpool and a pair of road draws. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though for the Potters to break into the next level they’ll need three points more often than not.
source: 11 Newcastle United: There’s some excitement at St. James Park, even if that point earned at Old Trafford might as well have a horseshoe glued to it. The Magpies lost to Swansea when key defender Daryl Janmaat took a silly second yellow, but looked decent at home against Saints and haven’t been back since Opening Day. Arsenal comes to SJP this weekend, and that could be a bad, bad score line.
source: 12  Tottenham Hotspur: If you believe in Leicester as a possible top-half side, then Spurs should be higher than 12th. Their loss to Man Utd came on an unlucky own goal after Wayne Rooney took his time firing from close range, and drawing Stoke and the Foxes could be chalked down to luck. Disappointment is a real feeling here. Heung-min Son sounds like a good move.
source: 13 SouthamptonContending with the Europa League schedule hasn’t been easy for Saints, who also played a trio of tricky opponents. Two of those were on the road. Saints won’t be this low for long (especially if they flame out of Europe on Thursday).
source: 14 Watford: Saturday’s been alright for drawing when it comes to Elton John’s favorite squadron. The Hornets have been game in scoreless home draws against West Brom and Southampton, and that road point against Everton works for us. Can they find some consistent scoring? How about converting sitters? Will Troy Deeney find his rampant Championship touch in the Premier League? The defense is working, and Sebastian Prodl has a good look early in his Premier League career.
source: 15 Norwich City: Four points for Alex Neil’s Canaries, and they could’ve had more if a bounce or two went their way against Palace to open the season. We’ll wait to see a win against someone other than Sunderland before we call relegation an aberration, but Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond have impressed early this season.
source: 16 AFC Bournemouth: It’s safe to say Eddie Howe’s bunch have exceeded expectations just by claiming a win, and that it came after the Cherries were very much alive in 1-0 losses to Liverpool and Aston Villa is a good sign for their survival fight.
source: 17 West Ham United:  Slaven Bilic must be shaking his head. After trumping Arsenal to open the season, at the Emirates, the Hammers have slumped to sloppy performances and zero points versus Leicester City and Bournemouth. Not too good.
source: 18 Aston Villa: That Rudy Gestede-rescued win against Bournemouth on opening day seems ages ago, and getting shut out by Chris Smalling and Manchester United is no shame. Plus the other loss was Crystal Palace, but you want more from Villa.
source: 19 West Bromwich Albion:  Feels a bit unfair to keep Tony Pulis’ men so low considering their losses came against Chelsea and Manchester City, but both were at home. A drastic climb would not be surprising. The end to this Saido Berahino saga would be satisfying.
source: 20 Sunderland: Managed to post consecutive 2-goal losses to clubs perceived to be their relegation opponents. Then went to the Liberty Stadium and somehow drew Swanse City. Hey, at least they’ve scored in all three matches. And “every player is for sale“. Here’s a scary question: What if Costel Pantilimon wasn’t standing on his head?

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

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With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.