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?

La Liga Roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

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Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

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Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET