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Premier League Power Rankings: New bosses delight in very early days

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We’re mere days away from the return of Premier League football from its international break, and it’s a decent time to assess the fortunes of the early contenders, strugglers, and in between.

This time of year is also a contentious one for ranking clubs. For example, Stoke City, Watford, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth each have just one point, but three of those teams have played demanding schedules while the other two, well… it’s bad there.

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And at the top of the table we have three perfect teams in Man City, Manchester United, and Chelsea, who’ve shown various levels of control in their 3-0 starts.

(What we’re saying is that plenty could change by the time we reach, say, Monday).

Alas, our Premier League Power Rankings for 2016-17, Volume I. Feel free to comment away, as it is very, very early.

Group I — Reason for alarm?

20. Crystal Palace — Claiming one point from its first two home matches, against West Brom and Bournemouth, is not very good.

19. Sunderland — The draw at Southampton counts for something, but the loss at home to Boro lingers in our minds.

18. Swansea City — Not a lot of shame in losing to Leicester away, but the home loss to Hull is a pesky head scratcher.

17. Bournemouth — Finally got a break after two tough matches to start, and picked up a road point at Palace. It’s one of those points we may highlight once the season heats up. Could hot young coach Eddie Howe be not long for Bournemouth?

16. Watford — The Vicarage Road crowd got Chelsea and Arsenal in its first two home games after a trip to St. Mary’s to start. A bit unfair.

15. Stoke City — We are handing out a bunch of benefits of doubt to the Potters, who opened draw-loss-loss to Boro, Man City, and Everton.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Shay Given of Stoke City reacts after failing to save a penalty during the Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on August 27, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: Shay Given of Stoke City (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Group II: What do we have here?

14. West Brom — As discouraging a four-point start as you might find. You can see why Tony Pulis is disappointed, but also why WBA might want to go in a different direction. Troubling time.

13. Southampton — No shame in losing at Old Trafford, but home draws with Watford and Sunderland?!?

12. Leicester City — Need to build up points before the UEFA Champions League starts. Finally getting a win, Swansea or not, is a good thing.

11. Liverpool — A clean sheet would be nice, Mr. Klopp.

10. Burnley — Hasn’t been strong, but have to be ahead of the Liverpool side it defeated.

9. Hull City — A late Marcus Rashford goal from taking points in all three games.

8. West Ham United — No, Man City and Chelsea aren’t easy starts, but we expected more from this West Ham side.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Oscar (C) of Chelsea controls the ball under pressure of Winston Reid (L) and Mark Noble (R) of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on March 19, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Group III: Color us intrigued

7. Arsenal — Still working out the kinks and getting their house in order. Let’s see how these two signings fare.

6. Middlesbrough — Haven’t faced much competition, but also haven’t lost.

5. Tottenham Hotspur — It’s not the score lines that bother us, it’s the performances. Still, unbeaten. And ready for an NFL team (?!?)

4. Everton — Idrissa Gueye really could, like we said, be one of the signings of the year. So could Ronald Koeman.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 27: Joe Allen of Stoke City is tackled by Idrissa Gueye of Everton (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Group IV: Cream of the crop

3. Manchester United — A bit of a dud against Hull City, but how Jose Mourinho’s boys respond in the Manchester Derby will tell us a lot. One thing: The Special One lives for tactical matches like these.

2. Chelsea — The skill on show these first three matches reminds us just how many players quit on Jose Mourinho last season. Now about that David Luiz signing

1. Manchester City — Yet to keep a clean sheet, but superior in all three matches. Can Kelechi Iheanacho suitably deputize for Sergio Aguero in the Manchester Derby?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates with team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Crystal Palace at Etihad Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 16: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates with team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Ramsdale confirms positive COVID-19 test

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Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has announced he was one of two Premier League individuals who had a positive COVID-19 test last week.

Ramsdale, 22, believes he contracted the coronavirus while out on a shopping trip between the first two tests taken last week.

In the first round of Premier League testing six out of 748 tests were positive (including Watford defender Adrian Mariappa) and in the second patch of tests two from 996 tests came back positive.

Speaking to The Sun, here’s what Ramsdale had to say about his positive test as he is asymptomatic.

“I’ve been trying to figure it out for the past two days. My test last Monday before we started training was negative,” Ramsdale explained. “So this last week, I’ve done the usual things like going to the supermarket and going to the petrol station to fill my car. Once you’ve contracted the virus, it shows in your blood.

“That was obviously not the case [after the first test] and it’s been the three days between the two tests when I’ve contracted the virus. I’ve been just as careful as before on lockdown and it seems to be a shopping trip where I’ve caught it.”

“It’s definitely a shock — I’ve not been in contact with anybody and I’ve now got it. I’m showing no symptoms so the fact that a healthy young person could potentially have it is definitely scary and worrying. It’s obviously not great that I’ve got it but it’s good that I’m showing no symptoms. It’s one of those things that has unfortunately happened and happened to me.”

This shows just how easy it is to get COVID-19 and Ramsdale sounds shocked, as it may be necessary to put precautions in place for players to not visit public stores outside of training hours. The idea of quarantining a whole squad the week before the PL season restarts has had some push back but a situation like this may make the clubs and league rethink that stance.

Per Premier League protocol, Ramsdale will have to self-isolate for seven days before he can rejoin small-group training.

With the UK government sanctioning full-contact training for professional athletes, the Premier League’s 20 clubs are due to vote on a return to full training in groups of up to 12 initially on Wednesday. If they vote yes, as expected, then teams can train in larger groups from later this week.

However, with positive tests still possible among players, there’s obviously a bigger risk to contracting COVID-19 when players return to contact training.

Women’s Super League, Championship seasons canceled

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This England’s Women’s Super League season will not return from the coronavirus pause, opening a great debate over who will be champions.

The English Football Association made the announcement Monday, also announcing that the second-tier Championship has been canceled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The WSL was in a heated title fight, with Man City leading the table on points with 40 but Chelsea’s 39 coming in one fewer match. Arsenal was four points back of City with a match-in-hand.

The top two sides also qualify for the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

From The FA:

Following full and thorough consultation with the clubs, the FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Board has discussed various recommendations which will be sent to the FA Board to determine the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019-20 season.

This will include identifying the entries for the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League, which would be based on sporting merit from the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season.

There’s also relegation to consider, with Liverpool’s women dead last but within a win of two clubs.

Promotion from the Championship would be a little more clearcut, as Aston Villa has a six-point edge on the field.

Could there be a playoff to decide a title winner? Might the FA opt not to name a winner?

Chelsea was unbeaten but there’s certainly no guarantee they’d win out nor would giving City the title make any sense. The Blues took four of six points from City.

Man City, Chelsea, and Arsenal are the three previous title winners.

Report: Ighalo to leave Manchester United for China return this week

Odion Ighalo
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Manchester United have been dealt a blow to their strike force ahead of the Premier League’s hopeful return, according to The Manchester Evening News.

Loan striker Odion Ighalo is being called back to Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua this week, his loan only good until May 31.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

There was hope that the club would’ve had him for an extended spell or at least through June 30 when many contracts end, or that United could negotiate an extension for the Nigerian.

There was also talk of a permanent deal, but the transfer window will not open until at least July 1.

The player himself is a boyhood United supporter and had said he wanted to finish the season with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils, but he’s a massive investment for Shanghai and they don’t owe United anything.

Ighalo, who turns 31 in June, has fit the bill as a fill-in striker for the Red Devils, who had lost Marcus Rashford to injury. He has four goals in eight appearances for United after 46 goals in three seasons abroad.

The good news for United is that Rashford is back in full training, but it would’ve been a nice luxury to have Ighalo for what’s sure to be a congested fixture list. That said, United has plenty of attacking talent including young Mason Greenwood. The Red Devils should be fine.

Premier League social media wrap: Rashford honored, Mendy banters

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The Premier League world continues to move toward the return of soccer, while its social media eyes are trained in several directions.

In Monday’s edition of the PL social media wrap, we visit players from several clubs including both of Manchester’s top-flight sides in addition to a defender in the Northeast and a mournful note from Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

It’s Independence Day in Argentina, and several players were Tweeting love back home from their homes in the Premier League.

Norwich City’s Emiliano Buendia, Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi, and West Ham’s Pablo Zabaleta shared their love for home.

Newcastle’s Federico Fernandez celebrated with Napoli’s clever photo of a makeshift Argentine XI, as the Serie A club has had a lot of strong players from the South American nation.

Didn’t see himself lining up with Diego Maradona any time soon, we imagine.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy came out of his shell to share some thoughts on social distancing.

The outgoing French left back is no stranger to quips, and used his Twitter to post a reminder to stay vigilant in keeping distance from others.

Mendy posed with Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi, and Eric Garcia at City’s training ground Monday.

You may note that he also tagged Bernardo Silva. That’s banter, and see the second Tweet for detail.

On the other side of Manchester, forward Marcus Rashford shared an honor bestowed upon him for his vigilant work raising money this coronavirus pandemic.

Rashford has been working with a group called Fair Share UK to provide free meals for underprivileged people during the pandemic.

Last month, he doubled his personal donation and shared a story that he was once one of the children who’d need such contributions to get by.

Rashford was given a special recognition award by the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester and said, “To be recognized by my city is a special feeling.”

Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger is mourning the loss of a friend, as former Roma academy player Joseph Bouasse died of a heart attack at the age of 21.

Rudiger was with Roma from 2015-17 apart from a loan to Stuttgart in Germany, and Bouasse was a center mid in their academy.

The Chelsea centerback shared a photo of Bouasse on Monday. It’s always so stunning when a someone so young, let alone an elite athlete, succumbs to heart problems. Our hearts are Bouasse and the Roma family tonight.