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Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 11

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Call it the calm before the storm: Liverpool and Chelsea face winnable matches at home while No. 1 Man City tries to navigate the Manchester Derby.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

And we’ve got a new bottom team on our rankings with few signs of improvement at Craven Cottage. How long will Fulham stay 20th?


20. Fulham *New season low* — The Cottagers held the opposition to less than two goals for the first time since Sept. 22, but that’s not achievement against the anemic attack of Huddersfield Town. Losing 1-0 is comparable to its 4-2 loss to Cardiff City. Bad, bad games to lose.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town — Monday’s win was very nice, but we’re not going to break out the party horns and streamers because a goal was scored against Fulham. A result against visiting West Ham would have us at least Googling where to find said celebratory items.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

18. Cardiff City — Kudos to the Bluebirds for their classy handling of a difficult occasion in Leicester City’s visit following the death of Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A visit from Brighton is a different sort of test.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

17. Southampton — Had its moments in a 6-1 loss to Man City, really, but has to take advantage when inconsistent Watford comes to town.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

16. Newcastle United — And exhale (but only for a moment). Newcastle finally gets its first win of the season. The Magpies are better than their record suggests, but not by much. Getting a result from high-flying Bournemouth at St. James’ Park this weekend would be a nice respite for supporters heading into an international break.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

Rafa Benitez wants the January transfer window to open early (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

15. Burnley — Three-straight losses to very good attacks, and Leicester City can score, too. Can Burnley stop its four-match winless run?
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Crystal Palace — Losers of five of six in all competitions, with the sixth being a 2-2 draw at Arsenal. These Power Rankings’ patience with the Eagles is tooth floss thin.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

13. Wolves — Have lost to Spurs, Brighton, and Watford since beating a Palace team we’ve already described as not quite there.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

12. Watford — Javi Gracia‘s men have a maddening way of disappearing, and they really should’ve found a way to a win at Newcastle. Those are the breaks when you’re on a losing run and, either way, when you give a team its first win of the season, you’re going to drop down our table.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

11. West Ham — Manuel Pellegrini can start to aim higher on the table with a win at Huddersfield Town this weekend.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Chris Hughton‘s men will hope the Everton loss was a blip on the radar of a well-run vessel. A visit to Cardiff City should help right the ship.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Leicester City — Finding a winner on such a wildly-emotional day at Cardiff City is wonderful, but how will the Foxes be able to perform in their return home from Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral in Thailand? All our best to the LCFC family.
Last week: 11
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

Leicester City’s Demarai Gray celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game and reveals a shirt that reads ‘For Khun Vichai’ (Simon Galloway/PA via AP)

8. Bournemouth — Losing to the cardiac kids of Manchester United is no shame, but a bounce back is necessary.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

7. Everton — That’s a fine win over Brighton, and the Toffees are finally where we expected them to be this season. Now can Marco Silva and Co. claim a result at Chelsea?
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

6. Manchester United — It’s not sexy, but it’s working for Jose Mourinho. This first derby of the season is a big, big one for this Red Devils side.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Arsenal — No shame in drawing Liverpool.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

4. Spurs — For as unimpressive as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have been from time-to-time, Spurs are three points off second place Chelsea and third place Liverpool. If they can get through the Champions League group stage without dipping too far off the Top Four, anything short of the title is possible.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

3. Liverpool — For all the Reds’ struggles with mojo, Mohamed Salah finding his finishing boots is really all they need to challenge for the title. The Egyptian is finding loads of chances but just not putting them away.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

2. Chelsea — They just kinda go about their business, don’t they? Won in Belarus on Thursday despite leaving much of the club at home.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

1. Man City — Look out: For as good as City has been, a loss in the derby could easily see them third on the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Grassroots refs use rock-paper-scissors to back suspended ref

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“Hundreds” of grassroots referees in the UK used rock-paper-scissors in place of the customary pre-game coin flip this weekend to show support for suspended official David McNamara.

[ MORE: Southgate: “Hungry” Harry Kane “the best goalscorer in the world ]

McNamara was banned for three weeks by the Football Association for using rock-paper-scissors before a Women’s Super League match last month. McNamara left his coin in the referees’ locker room before a Women’s Super League match and opted for a different method to determine which side would kick off first/which end the two teams would attack.

One referee in Lancashire, 19-year-old Ryan Hampson, claimed that the players asked to do rock-papers-scissors ahead of the game he was set to referee — quotes from the BBC:

“Without me saying a word, four players came up to me and said, ‘Are we getting on the rock-paper-scissors today?’ as they had seen coverage of the issue.”

Ref Support UK, an organization that backs the UK’s more than 28,000 licensed referees, issued a statement that very much straddled the fence of right and wrong, versus solidarity:

“We can’t condone anyone deliberately breaking the laws of football. However, we understand hundreds took part. The level of support should send out a message that the punishment was disproportionate.

“This suggests people are willing to face a possible charge from the FA or their county FA as they feel so strongly about it.

The Laws of the Game state, in no uncertain terms, that a coin flip must occur prior to kickoff.

Mauritania qualifies for 2019 African Cup in latest surprise

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Mauritania qualified for its first major soccer tournament on Sunday when it beat Botswana to claim a place at next year’s African Cup of Nations.

It was the second major surprise of qualifying after Madagascar sealed a spot at the African Cup for the first time last month.

Mauritania, a country in northwest Africa covered almost completely by the Sahara desert, came from behind to beat Botswana 2-1 with two goals by forward Ismael Diakite.

It means a nation that waited 17 years after its first international game for its first win will finally play among the continent’s best teams next June and July.

Mauritania is one of 13 countries to have now qualified for an expanded 24-team Cup of Nations hosted by Cameroon. Eight of them qualified this weekend, the penultimate round of games, led by former champions Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Algeria.

Nigeria is back at the tournament – for the first time since it won the title in 2013 – after a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday. A Nigerian state governor promised the team $25,000 for every goal in the crucial game but one was enough as Nigeria secured the point it needed to guarantee it one of the two qualifying places from the group.

Ivory Coast, the 2015 African champion, made sure of its place despite an underwhelming qualification campaign when it drew 1-1 in Guinea on Sunday. The result qualified both teams. Morocco’s place was confirmed after Malawi surprisingly lost 2-1 in Comoros. That eliminated the Malawians and caused their federation head, Walter Nyamilandu, a newly elected member of the FIFA Council, to complain about the makeup of the Comoros squad. It’s almost completely foreign-born players and Comoros’ goals against Malawi were scored by French-born players El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and Nasser Chamed.

Nyamilandu claimed on Twitter that Comoros “buy citizenship to make a national team” and called it “immoral.” There was no sign of an official protest by Malawi, though.

Algeria is through after winning 4-1 in Togo, helped by two goals from Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez. Other teams to qualify this weekend were Mali and Uganda.

War-torn Libya, which has twice in the last five years had to back out of hosting the African Cup because of its civil war, still has a chance to qualify. Libya crushed Seychelles 8-1 and faces South Africa in a decisive game in the final round of qualifying in March to see who joins Nigeria at the African Cup from that group. Although it’s a “home” game for Libya, the North Africans haven’t played on home soil for five years because of the conflict, instead holding their home games in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. Libya needs a win while South Africa just needs to draw.

More debutants may be joining Madagascar and Mauritania next year, the first time the African Cup has expanded to 24 teams from its usual 16. Burundi needs a draw at home in its final game against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s Gabon to reach the finals. Lesotho, the tiny country surrounded by South Africa, is also still in contention.

200-plus players call for resignation of players’ union leader

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Citing a need for greater support of former players, more than 200 high-profile players have reportedly signed a petition calling for the resignation of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), and a democratic vote to name his replacement.

[ MORE: Southgate: “Hungry” Harry Kane “the best goalscorer in the world ]

Taylor, who was paid a $3-million salary in 2017, has been in charge of England and Wales’ players’ union for 37 years, but has drawn a great deal of criticism in recent years. Many players are said to believe that Gordon, and the union as a whole, have not been acting in the best interest of current and former players. This is due, in large part, to the PFA receiving more than $34 million from the Premier League’s various television deals, and currently boasting a financial reserve of more than $56 million.

The Guardian claims to have obtained, and has shared parts of, a copy of the petition:

“You may have seen that Ben Purkiss (PFA chairman) has called for an independent review of the PFA. We are backing his call and would like to also call for a fair and democratic election of a new PFA chief executive. Throughout our careers we have never had a vote and this has to change. The PFA needs to be open and accessible to all. Every player should know when and how to vote, and the PFA must be run by people willing to be open, transparent and democratic. We call for Gordon Taylor to step down and allow the PFA to modernize and evolve.”

The goal of a union is not to make and keep money, the players are arguing, but to use its assets to support its members in a time of need. Whether a former player struggles with physical ailments, Alzheimer’s, mental health, the traumatic effects of sexual abuse, addiction or financial difficulties, the PFA should exhaust all of its options to support the players upon whose backs the union was built and has profited.

Southgate: ‘Hungry’ Harry Kane ‘best goalscorer in the world’

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There’s no better goalscorer in the world than Harry Kane, according to England boss Gareth Southgate.

[ MORE: UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate ]

Whether or not he’s bagging a goal every game, every other game or once every eight games — as was the case coming into Sunday’s pivotal UEFA Nations League finale against Croatia — Southgate backs a “hungry” Kane over any other forward in the world. It’s not just the goals that Kane scores, but his all-around game that allows him to impact the Three Lions in so many different ways — quotes from the Guardian:

“Harry is the best goalscorer in the world. You’re always loth to take a player off of his ability. I know people have questioned some of those decisions over the summer but he’s our main penalty-taker, our leader. In 98% of the games, his hold-up play and goalscoring is critical. He played a fantastic pass for Raheem Sterling after dropping off deep and turning in the first half. We have huge belief in him. He is so hungry to lead the team on.”

Never mind the fact that England don’t have another forward with a comparable set of skills which would allow them to play in a similar way, should Kane be dropped from the lineup for a meaningful game.

[ MORE: Lingard: Making it to Nations League finals is “what we want” ]

Kane only turned 25 this summer, and has already amassed 20 international goals in just 35 appearances (in four years since making his England debut). If he remains the first-choice no. 9 until he’s 30 — let alone a year or two beyond that — he’ll get dangerously close to breaking Wayne Rooney‘s record of 53 England goals and going down as the best the Three Lions have ever had. Prior to his recent goal-less skid, which would have reached a full eight games had he not grabbed the late winner on Sunday, those numbers stood at 19 goals in 27 appearances — clearly an unsustainable, but otherworldly goal-scoring pace.

Kane’s rise to prominence — and ultimately, superstardom — came so abruptly and unexpectedly that so many fans and pundits appear to be still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the impostor who could never actually be as good as everyone else thinks he is. After five full years of prolific goal-scoring for club and country, it’s probably time we start giving Kane a bit more benefit of the doubt.