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Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 17

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The power rankings are back, and things are starting to look a bit settled… at least in terms of the Top Five.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

20. Fulham — Claudio Ranieri and Aleksandar Mitrovic will be happy to see Newcastle on the fixture list, but can they solve Benitez’s sneaky good defense?
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town —Four-straight losses have David Wagner‘s men just a point off the very bottom.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

18. Burnley — What’s happened to Chris Wood? Just one goal this season. The Clarets now turn to stumbling Arsenal after a 1-0 loss to Spurs.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

17. Southampton  — A four-game stretch in which three matches were against Top Six contenders, and Saints have managed four points. That’s cool, though the loss to Cardiff is still stinging a bunch.
Last week: 20
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

16. Cardiff City  — There’s a lot of life in the Bluebirds, though the worries have looked more about their back line than their attack in recent weeks.
Last week: 15
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

15. Crystal Palace — Selhurst Park is often a tough place to play, and even in strife the Eagles have held up their end of the bargain at home in recent weeks.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

14. Bournemouth  — A real test with Brighton, in that the Cherries have done poorly against good teams but mostly fared well against the bad. Here’s a team on their proverbial level.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

13. Newcastle United  — The only explanation for their run of form given the sad lack of investment in the squad is that Rafa Benitez is a warlock.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

12. Leicester City  — Perhaps no team needs a break more than the Foxes given their season on-and-off the pitch. Unfortunately we’re set for the festive season.
Last week: 9
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

11. Watford — Predicting the Hornets is about as straight-forward as the maze from “The Shining,” so let’s just ask how much better they’d be had they not loaned Dodi Lukebakio to RB Leipzig.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Hung tough with Chelsea, and can get redemption for the Burnley loss by beating up a struggling Bournemouth.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Manchester United — Nothing to see here, just pure and unbridled humiliation against your rivals.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

8. Everton — No shame in losing at Man City, especially because Everton deserved better than the 3-1 score line, but we’re still remembering that disappointing draw with Watford.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

7. Wolves — Three on the bounce ahead of a Friday afternoon test with Liverpool… and we know Wolves have been known to hang with the big boys.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

6. West Ham United *New season high* — Four-straight league wins, all with multiple goals and two of them on the road. We knew the fixtures were setting up for the Irons to make a run, but Manuel Pellegrini‘s men are making it look easy. Now a test: A visit from a Watford side capable of great football.
Last week: 11
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

5. Arsenal — Losing to Southampton is a surefire way to drop, but it’s difficult to slip them behind West Ham. That said, the Gunners have been largely disappointing since their North London Derby win.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

4. Chelsea — A nice win at Brighton, even if that sort of thing is expected from the Blues.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

3. Tottenham Hotspur — In five games across all competitions, only Ousmane Dembele has found a way to score on Mauricio Pochettino‘s men. Not too shabby. Oh, and a bit of vengeance.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

2. Man City — The 3-1 defeat of Everton was not nearly what the scoreline says. Could Man City really be creeping toward a season low? A visit from Palace is next.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

1. Liverpool — Six-straight league wins is nice, but humiliating your rival and getting one of the most infuriating managers of all-time fired? That’s memorable stuff.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

Pogba, Rashford, Kane, Son all declared fit

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Previously injured stars are set to return in force when the Premier League restarts, hopefully sometime in June, with Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son have all been declared fit.

Man United and Tottenham have been handed a huge boost in their bid to finish in the top four of the Premier League, as these star attackers would have likely missed the rest of the season had it finished as planned on May 17.

That said, as Jose Mourinho told our partners Sky Sports, being free from injury is one thing but being match fit is another.

“I cannot say in this moment they are ready to play because one thing is to recover from an injury, and another is to be ready to play football,” Mourinho said. “In Harry’s case, I think for about five months he hasn’t played, but all of them are not injured any more. They are training, and training is what it is at the moment, training has a lot of limitations. We cannot compete, we cannot do one versus one, we have to keep a certain distance, we cannot compete.”

“Harry Kane, Son, Bergwijn, Sissoko, all of them are fine. I think with a couple of weeks of normal training, when the authorities tell us we can train normally I think in a couple of weeks, the boys will be ready to play, of course not in the maximum of their potential, I think nobody can do that in this moment. For us, of course, it is a great feeling, because we finished the period with that defeat at Leipzig, where we were really, really in trouble to have 11 players, including attacking players, and in this moment (Erik) Lamela, Son, Dele (Alli), Harry Kane, Bergwijn, everybody is fit now.”

Mourinho will now be delighted that Premier League clubs have voted unanimously to resume contact training as he can step things up. With Spurs seven points off the top four as thing stand, they will need a storming finish to have any chance whatsoever of finishing in the top four. Can they do it? Sure. They face Arsenal, Leicester and Man United in their final nine games but the rest look pretty winnable.

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Speaking about Man United, they remain firmly in the top four hunt as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea.

Asked about the availability of Pogba and Rashford, Solskjaer told MUTV that they are almost ready to roll.

“They’re looking good, they’ve joined training now and they’ve done everything the other boys have been doing. No reaction so far, touch wood,” Solskjaer said. “When we get started, it looks like we can have a full squad to choose from.”

Simply put: when the Premier League returns it will be with a full compliment of stars for the final nine games of the season.

That will be a sight to behold, as several stars will have been glad to have had time to recover so they can help their clubs at the business end of the season.

NWSL announce return; first pro league in US to restart play

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The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will return to play on June 27 with a new exciting tournament, becoming the first professional sports league in the U.S. to announce a date to return to action.

Did somebody say tournament soccer? That’s right, things are about to get very fun in the NWSL season as the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup has arrived.

All nine NWSL clubs will feature, as a 25-game tournament will by held in Utah from June to July to mark the 2020 season.

Each NWSL club will play four games in a preliminary round in Herriman, Utah to determine seeding, with the top eight teams then moving on to the quarterfinals as the tournament will become a knockout competition.

The semifinals and final will then be held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, with the Championship match to take place on July 26. The tournament is hosted by Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen, as all housing, training, and competition needs for the league’s nine teams will be taken care of in Utah as an “NWSL Village” will be created to control the environment for players and staff.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird confirmed all games will be played in empty stadiums, while adding that they are excited to mark the return of pro soccer, and sports, in the USA.

“As our country begins to safely reopen and adjust to our collective new reality, and with the enthusiastic support of our players, owners, as well as our new and current commercial partners, the NWSL is thrilled to bring professional soccer back to the United States,” Baird said. “This exciting month-long tournament will showcase our league’s talented players and provide our fans the type of world-class entertainment they’ve come to expect from the NWSL.”

The NWSL were in preseason and due to start the 2020 regular season on April 18 but that was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Per the league statement, health and medical officials at each club have worked tirelessly over the last nine months to come up with a safety protocol.

“Each player, official, and essential staff member will be tested 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival and will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review throughout their stay in Utah.”

The NWSL is leading the way for professional soccer, and sports, to return to the US in some format this summer.

With the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all exploring similar options of hosting games in a tournament format in fixed, neutral sites, all eyes will be on the NWSL to see how they pull it off.

Premier League clubs vote for contact training return

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Premier League clubs voted unanimously to return to full contact training as a key step on the road to restarting the 2019-20 season arrived.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The league released a statement confirming that clubs are now allowed to return to contact training and said they are on track to restart the season when it is safe to do so.

It is hoped the Premier League could return as early as June 12 but it has been reported that date could be pushed back by at least one week with managers wanting more time to work on the fitness of their players after over two months off.

The Premier League season was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This vote is a big, big step in the final 92 games of the season actually being completed as players and managers now appear comfortable with the strict safety protocols in place after a week back training in small groups at training grounds. Plus, if they are happy to resume contact training then they are essentially happy to resume games, as long as strict health and safety protocols remain in place.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:

Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so.

Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact.

The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.

Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA, LMA and the Government.

Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow.

The Premier League confirmed over the weekend that from 1,744 tests on players and staff across the first two rounds of COVID-19 tests, eight positive tests have been recorded with players from both Watford and Bournemouth confirmed to have the virus.

Several Premier League stars and managers have revealed their angst about returning to training but those fears seem to have evaporated, for the most part, as contact training resumes.

What’s next?

Premier League clubs are due to meet on Thursday to discuss a possible restart date and a curtailment plan, just in case unexpected obstacles arise over the next few weeks.

Make no mistake about it, a return to contact training is a huge step forward for the Premier League restarting.

PSG’s Mbappe praises Klopp, Liverpool in recent interview

Kylian Mbappe Liverpool
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This is going to delight the Anfield set.

Paris Saint-Germain mega striker Kylian Mbappe has admitted admiration for the way Liverpool plays, as conversations continue regarding his future.

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Mbappe, 21, may be the most valuable commodity in the world given his position, accomplishments, and skill set. For France, he has a World Cup to go with 34 caps, 13 goals, and 10 assists. For PSG and Monaco combined, he’s scored 117 goals and 65 assists in 180 appearances.

He doesn’t turn 22 until December.

But there’s long been a thought that the World Cup winner will eventually have to leave PSG to cement his legacy given the relatively shallow competition in the league.

“This season, Liverpool have been a machine in the Premier League,” he told The Mirror. “They have made winning look easy but the truth is that it is never easy. Performances like they have been having don’t just happen.

“To be as ruthless as they have been would come from lots of hard work in training and from having a very good manager.”

Liverpool fans will be nodding along, beckoning the center forward with arms extended and hands waving him to them.

Real Madrid has often been the rumored destination, and we’ve argued that there’s no fee too high for this player considering how many years he has ahead of him.

With transfer fees possibly ducking low this summer after a wake-up call from the coronavirus, could Liverpool upgrade its dangerous front three with one of the top center forwards in the game?

The fact that the Reds reportedly negotiated a percentage of jersey sales into their new apparel deal could help, because it’s easy to imagine red Mbappe jerseys all around the world.