Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 21

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It’s been just 16 days since our last check-in with the Premier League club power rankings, but three more matches have been played and the title race is open again (which technically means it was never closed, but whatever).

[ MORE: Title odds for Top Five leagues ]

All this ahead of a weekend which could see big shake-ups at the bottom of the PL table and our power rankings, as Burnley hosts Fulham and Huddersfield Town heads to Cardiff City.


20. Huddersfield Town — Steve Mounie scored his first goal of the season in the 2-1 loss to Burnley, which is not good considering he’s their $15 million striker, had played almost 1000 minutes at that point, and the season started in August.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — Flunked its Arsenal test to the tune of 4-1 (it wasn’t that bad), but all will be forgiven with a win at Burnley.
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Newcastle United — If owner Mike Ashley doesn’t give spend significant money this month, he’s going to lose Rafa Benitez and his spot in the Premier League. That’ll make a club’s price tag on the takeover market sink something fierce.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

17. Burnley — Sean Dyche has his men bag above the red line, and will be looking to truly exhale by beating Fulham at Turf Moor.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

16. Southampton — Getting a point at Leicester on Saturday would say something big about manager Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints revolution.
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

15. Cardiff City — The Bluebirds can essentially vanquish a relegation rival from their rear view mirrors by handling miserable Huddersfield Town this weekend.
Last week: 17
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

14. Bournemouth — Cherries versus the Top Six? 0-7, 0 points. Cherries versus everyone else? 8-3-3. This, perhaps, is why Eddie Howe is always linked with clubs that have a bigger budget; He doesn’t quite have the ponies to run with the best, even for 90 minutes.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

13. Crystal Palace — Roy Hodgson‘s men are back in time for another second half run. This is what they do.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

12. Everton — They’ll have to be addressed in a longer post, but I have serious questions about Marco Silva that I’d ask loudly if I wasn’t terrified for Evertonians sake that it would mean Big Sam or some other demon of bad football would be back. Richarlison needs to bail out his benefactor, and soon.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

11. Watford — I kinda hate this team — not the club, Watford supporters — for clearly being capable of contending for the Top Seven but not putting in consistent performances. Just one win from its last three matches would’ve had them in seventh.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

10. West Ham United — Manuel Pellegrini‘s men have hit a rough patch, but are showing heart and you wouldn’t bet against them getting something from Arsenal this weekend.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

9. Brighton and Hove Albion — Unbeaten in three and a sexy pick to steal a point from Liverpool?
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

8. Wolves — Has there ever been a team to have a winning record against the Top Six but a losing record against the rest of the field? Their results are the Moussa Sissoko of results. That’s really unfair to Raul Jimenez, who runs his shorts off, but we’re talking about results not performances.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

7. Leicester City — They’re doing it again, luring me into the belief that the Foxes are the clear favorite to finish seventh. This all but guarantees a weekend loss to Southampton at the King Power Stadium.
Last week: 10
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

6. Arsenal — Just eh. A 4-1 win over Fulham flattered the Gunners, and the club’s clear focus on the future is healthy but uninspiring when it comes to the season.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

5. Manchester United — Still haven’t played much of anyone in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, but that changes this week with Spurs.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

4. Chelsea — A new center forward or fully functioning Alvaro Morata could inspire a charge, but right now the Blues look an Eden Hazard injury from dropping out of the Top Four and needing to lean on the Europa League for UCL qualification.
Last week: 5
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

3. Spurs — Tottenham still has all five of its Top Six rivals left on its schedule, with three of those away from Wembley/White Hart Lane. It will be difficult to rise above third.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Man City — More games like the 2-1 win over Liverpool please. Not because City won, but because it was so much fun. Now can they run through the final 17 matches without dropping more than a point or two?
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

1. Liverpool — Even with the loss to City, the schedule says Liverpool would need to choke in a big way in order to fail in its bid for a first top-flight title of the Premier League era.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

Liverpool’s Klopp on facing Messi for the first time

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Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool is the only returning club in the UEFA Champions League semifinal, and the manager says that’s worth a bit of celebration.

“I’m happy for all the people in the club that it’s like this, second time in the second year in the semi-final,” Klopp said. “That’s a big statement. However you go there, it’s difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it in the last two years.”

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

That also means Klopp’s first “proper game” managing against Barcelona, and Liverpool’s first meeting with the Blaugranas since the 2006-07 UCL knockout rounds. All-time, the Reds are 3W-3D-2L versus Barca in European competition.

It also means an attempt to slow Lionel Messi, who at age 31 is in splendid form with 45 goals and 21 assists in 42 matches. Of those goals, he’s bagged 10 in eight Champions League appearances (two v. Manchester United, two v. Spurs, two v. Lyon, and four against PSV Eindhoven).

From LiverpoolFC.com:

“Thank God I don’t have to think about that tonight and thank God I have a few more nights to think about it! I think everybody tried it so far and nobody can really do it. We still will try it. But we are looking forward to it, but we have so many jobs to do before we meet Barcelona. So let’s first play these games and then let’s prepare for Barcelona. Then we will see. I have never played Barcelona in a proper game, so [it’s] my first time there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Messi went 90 minutes in his only appearances against Liverpool during that 2006-07 series, though he was 19 years old.

He’s just a bit wiser now, but remember it works both ways; As much as Klopp’s never had to stop Messi, he’s certainly had plenty of opportunity to watch what other managers have tried in bids to slow the Argentine. Could Klopp cement his tactical legacy and make another UCL Final, or will he just hope to outgun the genius of Catalonia?

This Alves stunner wasn’t enough for PSG to seal Ligue 1 (video)

AP Photo/Francois Mori
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Paris Saint-Germain again failed to clinch the French league title after losing 3-2 at Nantes on Wednesday.

PSG could have sealed it this past Sunday and the weekend before that but picked up only one point from those two matches. The defending champion leads second-place Lille by 17 points with six games left and can celebrate at the fourth attempt by beating Monaco at home on Sunday, or if Lille fails to win at Toulouse earlier in the day.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

It looked like the celebrations were on at Nantes when the veteran fullback Dani Alves put PSG ahead with a superb dipping shot from outside the penalty area. But the defense crumbled again, letting in an equalizer within four minutes, another goal just before halftime and a third shortly after the break to make it 10 goals conceded in three games.

PSG needed only a draw on Sunday to to seal the eighth league title in its history, but lost 5-1 at Lille – the biggest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge in 2011. Before that, PSG needed a home win against Strasbourg but drew 2-2.

PSG let in two goals against Lille from set pieces and did so again this time.

Center half Diego Carlos equalized when he headed in a corner from the left.

Then, one minute before halftime, right back Thilo Kehrer was easily knocked off the ball by Kalifa Coulibaly, and unmarked striker Majeed Waris finished at the back post. A corner from the left in the 52nd led to Carlos turning the ball in from close range, even with three PSG players around him.

Nantes, which moved up to 14th place, missed further chances before PSG substitute Metehan Guclu pulled a goal back in the 90th.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

How the UCL results affect the Premier League title run-in

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The Premier League title may well be decided one week from now.

No, it won’t mathematically be impossible for Manchester City or Liverpool to catch the other, but the former’s exit from the UEFA Champions League certainly puts the season’s binoculars in better focus.

To recap: City trails Liverpool by two points but has a match-in-hand on its title rivals, a card which will be played next Wednesday across Manchester at Old Trafford.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 34 26 7 1 77 20 57 15-2-0 11-5-1 85
 Manchester City 33 27 2 4 86 22 64 16-0-1 11-2-3 83

It would be surprising if Liverpool finished with any less than 97 points given its remaining schedule, and downright shocking should the Reds lose a match (yes, we know red cards and penalties happen, and that Premier League does not yet employ VAR).

Liverpool faces Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, and Wolves. The final two matches are in contact with a pair of Champions League matches against Barcelona, but dropping points more than once seems like a long shot.

By comparison, Man City has to rebound from Wednesday’s stunning thriller of a loss to Spurs with a rematch at the Etihad Stadium before making it three tough matches in eight days with a Manchester Derby on April 23.

Should Man City manage those two wins in five days, Pep Guardiola‘s men will (likely) have a one point lead on Liverpool with three matches left (two fewer than the Reds). If it comes to that, the advantage is squarely in Pep’s court.

Here are the remaining matches for both teams, not including the FA Cup Final or (possible) Champions League Final.

All times ET

Saturday – Man City v. Tottenham (7:30 a.m.)

Sunday – Cardiff City v. Liverpool (11 a.m.)

Wednesday – Man Utd v. Man City (3 p.m.)

April 26 – Liverpool v. Huddersfield Town (3 p.m.)

April 28 – Burnley v. Man City (9:05 a.m.)

April 30 – Barcelona v. Liverpool (TBD)

May 4 – Man City v. Leicester City (7:30 a.m.)

May 5 – Newcastle v. Liverpool (11:30 a.m.)

May 7 – Liverpool v. Barcelona (TBD)

May 12 – Brighton v. Man City -and- Liverpool v. Wolves (10 a.m.)

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea nurse advantages

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Only one of four Europa League quarterfinals sees two clubs within a goal of each other after 90 minutes, and that’s heavily-favored Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat of Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.

So while it’s possible that the Czech side rebounds to take care of the Blues at Stamford Bridge, it’s rational to say that tie might be the least in the balance.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Olivier Giroud says Chelsea will not be overlooking the Red and Whites, if only because of the challenge presented in the first leg.

“We were very impressed by their quality and intensity,” Giroud said, from Chelsea.com. “You get used to it in the Premier League, but honestly the first half was very tough. They put a lot of pressure on us, good pressing all over the pitch, so it was a very tough. … So we know what kind of team we will face tomorrow. They are not going to give up, and that’s why we are still cautious about this game.”

Arsenal leads its tie 2-0 after the London-hosted first leg but faces a Napoli team quite capable of putting up goals in bunches.

Napoli averages almost two goals a match in Serie A this season, but Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says the Gunners can get the job done in Italy.

“I know my team,” he said via Arsenal.com. “I know that we are a team who play very good football. Every game we fight for the best. From the beginning we’ve improved a lot. Now we’re in the last steps of the Premier League and Europa League, and we want to win as much as we can. This is one more final and we’ll be ready to take this.”

Eintracht Frankfurt bagged four away goals and a two-goal advantage in Portugal, leaving Benfica in likely need of a three goals or better win, while Valencia scored three times at Villarreal to bring a two-goal advantage home.

Kickoff for all four second legs is 3 p.m. ET