Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 10

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There’s another week of Top Five tumult in our power rankings, as Arsenal and Spurs failed to hit their mark while the remaining three challengers brought fine form out of Week 10.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]


20. Huddersfield Town — The Terriers have two goals in their last six matches, with Fulham up next; If Huddersfield doesn’t score this weekend, it should be relegated now.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

19. Fulham *New season low*  Have taken zero points since beating Millwall in the League Cup, and will find themselves in serious trouble if they cannot manage a result at Huddersfield Town.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 19

18. Newcastle United — Back-to-back visits from Watford and Bournemouth before a trip to Burnley. Yes, the first two are doing well this season, but the Magpies really need to find at least four points from those three fixtures.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

17. Burnley — A bit of relief following a combined 9-0 scoreline in losses to Man City and Chelsea, with a visit to West Ham. The claret vs. claret match-up will tell us whether Burnley fans should be nervous.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

16. Cardiff City — Probably somewhere in between their 4-2 defeat of Fulham and 4-1 loss to Liverpool, and could use a point from grieving Leicester City’s visit.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Southampton — Looked stout against Newcastle, but still struggling to find the recipe for danger up front despite plenty of opportunities to open up the Magpies.
Last week: 14
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

(Mark Kerton/PA via AP)

14. Crystal Palace — A fortunate draw at Arsenal moves the Eagles up ahead of a murderous run: at Chelsea, home Spurs, at Manchester United.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

13. West Ham United — Probably deserved all three points against Leicester after a gutsy performance with 10 men. Six points from their next two — home to Burnley, away to Huddersfield — would put them in a position befitting their team.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

12. Wolves — Losses to Watford and Brighton have us scratching our heads. Will Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men refind their rhythm as giant killers with Spurs and Arsenal next?
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

11. Leicester City — Heavy, heavy hearts accompany the Foxes to Cardiff City following the tragic death of its owner and four others.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Three-straight gutsy, 1-0 wins have the Seagulls well-positioned for a mid-table run. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Chris Hughton‘s men get 12-14 points from its next 18.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Everton — Rebounding from the loss to Manchester United against in-form Brighton is necessary.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

8. Watford — Steady again with back-to-back wins, will the Hornets show consistency with a visit to punchless Newcastle United?
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

7. Bournemouth — There’s a chance for the Cherries to possibly join the Top Five if they can pass their first big litmus test in some time: a visit from Manchester United.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

6. Manchester United — Have scored multiple goals in three successive matches, and can feel better about life with a win at in-form Bournemouth.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Spurs — The 1-0 loss to Man City at Wembley was ugly in a few ways, but can easily be written off if Spurs can get right back to winning ways against Wolves.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

4. Arsenal — Deserved a win at Palace if not for Granit Xhaka‘s silly conceded penalty. How it fares against Liverpool will tell us a lot about Unai Emery‘s new era.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

3. Chelsea — Still unbeaten and well-rested ahead of a visit from Crystal Palace (who also kept their best players rested at midweek).
Last week: 5
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

2. Liverpool — Well, here you go, Reds: A match against Arsenal and the chance to make a real statement against a club which hasn’t lost in 14 outings.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

1. Man City — Could’ve netted three, four, five, maybe six against Spurs on the dodgy pitch at Wembley, but picked up the 1-0 win on a day it was far from its best.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

 

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”

Suarez defends surgery decision after Barca lose Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez has defended himself from criticism for undergoing knee surgery that prevented him from playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

The Uruguayan released a statement Sunday saying he had no option despite the timing of the final, which Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia on Saturday.

Suarez said he had to undergo surgery “against my will” after rupturing his meniscus against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

He said the surgery earlier this month had nothing to do with a cartilage issue that he had been nursing since the beginning of the season.

Barcelona won the Spanish league but finished the season on a low after being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League and losing the Copa final to Valencia.

Suarez scored 25 goals in 49 matches this season, second only to Lionel Messi on the scoring charts for Barcelona.

U-20 WC roundup: Mexico hammered by Japan; Italy top Ecuador

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

Mexico 0-3 Japan

Mexico’s heavy defeat at the hands of Japan means El Tri‘s stars of tomorrow, who have zero points from their first two games, cannot finish top-two in Group B and can only advance to the knockout rounds as one of four third-place teams.

Taisei Miyashiro (21st and 77th minutes) and Kyosuke Tagawa (52nd) bagged the goals on Sunday, as Japan picked up its first victory and set up an all-important finale with Italy to decide who finishes top of the group on Wednesday.

Ecuador 0-1 Italy

Andrea Pinamonti scored the only goal in Italy’s 1-0 victory over 10-man Ecuador to reach the six-point mark and guarantee themselves a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Senegal 2-0 Colombia [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Poland 5-0 Tahiti [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Monday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Honduras v. Uruguay — 12 p.m. ET
Qatar v. Ukraine — 12 p.m. ET
USA v. Nigeria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Norway v. New Zealand — 2:30 p.m. ET

Serie A: Atalanta, Inter snatch UCL places on wild final day

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s final-day action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Chelsea, Real Madrid remain $38 million apart on Eden Hazard deal ]

Sampdoria (9th) 2-0 Juventus (1st)

With their eighth straight scudetto long since clinched, Juve slumped their way to the season’s finish line without a win in their final five games (three draws), including Sunday’s 2-0 loss away to Sampdoria. It was 0-0 for 83 minute, until Gregoire Defrel (84th) and Gianluca Caprari (91st) bagged late goals for the victory.

Atalanta (3rd) 3-1 Sassuolo (11th)

Atalanta completed their fairytale season and finished third in a hugely dramatic, chaotic way befitting their rapid rise to Champions League relevance. They finished 17th and avoided relegation by three points in 2015.

First, they fell behind when Domenico Berardi scored in the 19th minute. They were level by the 35 minute, thanks to Duvan Zapata’s equalizer. Then, things got weird.

Berardi was sent off during a massive skirmish between the two sides while leaving the field for halftime. With the score 1-1, and both Inter Milan and AC Milan ahead after 51 minutes, Atalanta were headed for a fifth-place finish.

Alejandro Gomez put Atalanta ahead three minutes later, though, and Mario Pasalic doubled the advantage in the 65th.

Inter Milan (4th) 2-1 Empoli (18th – relegated)

At that 51-minute mark, Keita Balde’s opening goal put Inter ahead of Empoli, but the visitors equalized in the 76th, briefly dropping them to fifth.

That lasted all of five minutes, as Radja Nainggolan put Luciano Spaletti’s side back in front, where they would finish the season. The top-four finished the day exactly as it began — Atalanta in 3rd and Inter Milan in 4th, each on 69 points.

SPAL (13th) 2-3 AC Milan (5th)

For those five glorious minutes, AC Milan were headed back to the Champions League for the first time since 2014, and were set to do so at the expense of their local rivals.

Finishing fourth, but behind Inter, would have been fine, but finishing fourth and ahead of Inter would have been a dreamland outcome. Alas, it’s a fifth-place finish on 68 points and another season in the Europa League for the Rossoneri.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Bologna (10th) 3-2 Napoli (2nd – Saturday)
Frosinone (19th – relegated) 0-0 Chievo (20th – relegated – Saturday)
Roma (6th) 2-1 Parma (14th)
Torino (7th) 3-1 Lazio (8th)
Cagliari (15th) 1-2 Udinese (12th)
Fiorentina (16th) 0-0 Genoa (17th)