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Premier League Power Rankings: It’s all happening below Chelsea

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With Chelsea running away at the top of the table, attention begins to shift toward the race for the top-four.

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A little further down the table, just eight points separate nine sides from 17th to ninth, where the form of said sides varies wildly.

[ MORE: PST’s PL Players Power Rankings for Week 23 ]

Here is the latest batch of Premier League power rankings…


TEAM RANKING
source: 20 (20) Sunderland: Going six league games without a win — four of which were losses — during the second half of the season, as the 20th-place team in the league already: a solid plan for getting relegated.
Hull City logo 19 (18) Hull City: Also a great plan for getting relegated: one win in 12, including seven losses, since the start of November. Miraculously, the Tigers are only four points from safety.
source: 18 (19) Crystal Palace: Stop me if you’re beginning to notice a theme here: two wins in 17, including 12 losses, 10 of which came during six- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. Again, somehow just two points from safety.
source: 17 (14) Leicester City: 430 — the number of minutes played since Leicester last scored a goal in the PL, a run which includes three straight losses (combined score of 7-0) and a 0-0 draw. The defending champions are one of the sides being chased by Hull and Palace.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 16 (15) Middlesbrough: The last time Boro won a PL game, there were still eight more days to go before Christmas. That’s six league games without a win, and they suddenly join Leicester and Swansea on 21 points, as the first sides outside the relegation zone.
source: 15 (13) Bournemouth: With a seven-point gap separating the Cherries from 18th place, only a catastrophic collapse could undo a strong start to the season. Now, though, Callum Wilson (knee) is out for the rest of the season (again).
source: 14 (17) Swansea City: Back-to-back wins, and victories in three of their last four league games. Paul Clement might just be the hero Swansea needed.
source: 13 (12) Southampton: LLLLWL — a ghastly run of form for a side that so nearly finished fourth last season, and now finds itself 12th, 16 points back of sixth place, which is where they finished last season. Europa League and EFL Cup runs taking their toll.
source: 12 (16) Watford: The Hornets’ shocking upset of Arsenal on Tuesday snapped a seven-game winless skid in the PL, and was just enough to Walter Mazzarri‘s side right in the race for places 9-14 (currently 13th, but just three points back of ninth-place Stoke).
source: 11 (10) West Ham: The roller-coaster season continues: WWWLLWWL. Now, with Dimitri Payet gone, it could be a rough ride down the stretch. Taking a 4-0 courtesy of Man City isn’t the end of the world, but the way they simply rolled was quite concerning.
burnley fc crest 10 (9) Burnley: Last six PL games; wins over Boro, Sunderland, Southampton and Leicester; losses to Man City and Arsenal — that’s exactly how you avoid relegation, and find yourself in the top half of the league with 15 games to go.
source: 9 (11) Stoke City: Perennially a mid-table side under Mark Hughes, the Potters are still a heck of a lot closer to 17th (eight points) than they are to sixth (13 points).
source: 8 (8)
West Brom: The last of eight sides with a positive goal differential (+2) this late in the season; 14 points clear of the relegation zone. The run-in is going to be a lot less exciting (and stressful) this time around.
source: 7 (4) Manchester United: 14 games unbeaten in PL action, but have just three points to show for their last three games, a period in which the Red Devils have scored all of two goals. The results are mostly there, but the aesthetics are still missing.
source: 6 (5) Liverpool: Whether the physical demands of Jurgen Klopp‘s style of play are already breaking them down, or they simply missed Sadio Mane for a few weeks, the Reds are without a win in four PL games, out of the EFL Cup, and now 10 points back in the title race.
Source: Everton FC 5 (6) Everton: Six games without a loss in PL play, including four wins, and Ronald Koeman‘s side is back on track. No other top-six challenger should emerge from the trailing pack, and a favorable upcoming schedule should see the Toffees continue to climb.
source: 4 (3) Arsenal: On Tuesday, the same day Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool all dropped points, opening the door for Arsenal to go second and shrink the Blues’ lead to six points, Watford went 2-0 up, at the Emirates Stadium, after 13 minutes.
source: 3 (2) Tottenham Hotspur: Back-to-back draws, against Man City and Sunderland, were disappointing enough. Then, you take into account the fact that Chelsea dropped their first four points since October, and you realize the magnitude of the opportunity missed.
Logo_Manchester_City 2 (7) Manchester City: In truth, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City could have been rearranged in just about any order. Today, City grab the second spot based on the strength of that win over West Ham, and the impact Gabriel Jesus has already made.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Simply, the leaders, the champions-elect.

Mohamed Salah starts for Egypt despite int’l retirement talks

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Mohamed Salah is coming off of his best season as a professional, but reports suggest that his time with the Egyptian national team could soon be coming to an end for reasons that extend beyond soccer.

Salah will however be included in Egypt’s Group A finale against Saudi Arabia on Monday, though, after the team sheet was revealed by the Pharaohs ahead of the match.

CNN reported over the weekend that Salah believes he is being used by Egypt as a political symbol to represent Chechnya, which has sparked talks of the talented Liverpool winger ending his international career.

Egypt has already been eliminated from reaching the Round of 16 after losing its first two matches at the World Cup.

The tides have turned significantly for Toronto FC

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2017 gave Toronto FC its first MLS Cup, as well as significant notoriety for the club’s historic season, but Greg Vanney and his side are in a world of trouble in 2018 for reasons that are still unfathomable.

[ MORE: NYCFC tops TFC in come-from-behind victory ]

A deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League (which ended in heartbeat at the hands of Chivas) and a number of injuries have plagued Toronto this season, and for that, the defending champions find themselves in unchartered MLS waters.

Over the course of Major League Soccer’s 22 previous seasons, only three defending champions have gone on to miss the playoffs the next year (D.C. United in 2000, LA Galaxy in 2006 & Portland Timbers in 2016).

So, how poor has TFC been through nearly half the season?

The Canadian side has acquired 15 points in as many matches, which puts the club on pace to finish with 34 points in 2018.

That total would leave TFC well below the average points needed for a club to get into the playoffs. It varies on a year-to-year basis, but teams typically need somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 points to finish above the red line in their respective conferences.

Last season, three teams in MLS finished with less than 34 points (D.C. United, LA Galaxy & Colorado Rapids), and none of the clubs finished within striking distance of the postseason.

While Toronto wouldn’t be the first team to show signs of struggles in the first half of the season and then proceed to turn things around over the second portion, there are definite concerns for Vanney and Co.

In 2018, the Reds haven’t earned back-to-back victories in MLS play, leaving the club in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The talent within the squad remains there, and if TFC gets the rest of its squad healthy there could be a run made by the team, but as things stand, the club’s historic run a season ago looks to be crumbling in 2018.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.