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PL Club Power Rankings: Week 6

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Is there anything more challenging in the Premier League than picking the sides capable of sustaining a run that can challenge for the Top Six?

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

Leicester City did it out of nowhere in 2015/16 and it’s the most remarkable example, but look at the others to have slid into the Top Six’s DMs in the past decade: Saints (6th) the same season as Leicester. Everton in 2012/13 and 2013/14 was predictable, but Newcastle in 2011/12? Please.

The point is: It’s way more difficult these days to estimate the table. Last year, Watford v. Wolves was a massive fixture. This year, so far, it’s an after thought.

Saturday’s tilt between Bournemouth and West Ham on the other hand? Now we’re talking…

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low


20. Watford — Six months ago, a match-up between the Hornets and Wolves was for seventh-place in the Premier League. It’s a reminder of how quickly things can change, but also an inspiration for both sides because, well, how quickly things can change…
Last week: 20
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 8-0 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Wolves

19. Newcastle United — The Magpies midfield against Brighton was about as disorganized as a unit can look, both before and after Steve Bruce switched up the formation. Maybe they should just throw Joelinton, Andy Carroll, Miguel Almiron, and Allan Saint-Maximin together in a front four and roll with six defenders and four forwards. Relegation quality right now.
Last week: 19
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Brighton and Hove Albion — As poor as Newcastle played, the Seagulls didn’t convert any of their myriad chances. Also relegation quality right now.
Last week: 18
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

(Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

17. Wolverhampton Wanderers — Something’s gotta give, and Wolves better hope it’s the reappearance of old foes Watford on the docket.
Last week: 17
Season high: 7
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

16. Southampton — Hard to read, and a match-up with mercurial old mate Mauricio Pochettino on the horizon.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 475-minute start to the season without a goal or assist is his longest drought since February 2018. Bad news for the Canaries?
Last week: 16
Season high: 14
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

14. Everton — Have taken an amazing start of fixtures to start the season and managed a whopping seven points and the joint third-worst goal different in the league. Remarkably disappointing, but there are some encouraging stat lines. For one thing, only Man City is allowing fewer shots per match. Now if the Toffees could stop the few shots they do allow from being pure gifts to the opposition, or start to get some big moments out of the 15th-ranked goalkeeper in the Premier League, they’d be onto something.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 14
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

13. Norwich City — Back to Earth after the remarkable Man City win, and possibly back in the Bottom Three if they can’t do work on Saturday at Selhurst Park.
Last week: 10
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Burnley
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Crystal Palace

12. Burnley — An all-claret tussle with Villa this week will tell us a bit about whether the Clarets are relegation fodder or not.
Last week: 15
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Aston Villa

11. Aston Villa — Dean Smith‘s men should’ve found a way to hold on for a point against 10-man Arsenal, but bad things happen to first-year teams. Big chance to re-assert strength when Burnley visits on Saturday.
Last week: 11
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 3-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

10. Sheffield United — The Southampton loss is the only score on their season list that looks bad. Otherwise, Chris Wilder‘s men are holding their own with some in-form teams.
Last week: 14
Season high: 10
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Liverpool

(Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

9. Manchester United — Asking us to drop them lower, but the returns of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial should make Monday a beauty.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-0 at West Ham
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday v. Arsenal

8. Tottenham Hotspur — This week has felt a lot like last season’s three-loss week against West Ham, Ajax, and Bournemouth. The good news is that that turned out alright in the end. A visit from Southampton should help things, but will it? A refreshed Harry Kane should arrive on Saturday.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 8
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Leicester
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Saints

7. Chelsea — Probably not as far off the pack as you think, and should’ve almost certainly had a point against Liverpool. Brighton should be concerned about this week’s trip to the Bridge.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton

6. Bournemouth — Flying. Eddie Howe‘s men have us daydreaming again, but they let us down last year after inspiring similar thoughts. Monumental litmus test when the Irons visit on Saturday in what’s one of the matches of the weekend.
Last week: 9
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-1 at Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

5. West Ham United — Beat Bournemouth on Saturday and we’ll be thinking legitimately about a Top Six finish for Manuel Pellegrini‘s guys.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates with teammates Felipe Anderson and Declan Rice  (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

4. Arsenal — Another team whose mercurial performances — Watford, anyone? — probably betrays how much promise they’ve shown overall. Let’s see how Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, and Rob Holding reshape the defense.
Last week: 7
Season high: 4
Season low: 7
Last match: Won 3-2 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Monday at Manchester United

3. Leicester City — The real deal, with real depth. Brendan Rodgers has dealt well with the departure of Harry Maguire, and the Foxes should run cleanly through the Magpies to a meeting with ol’ pals Liverpool at Anfield on Oct. 5.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Newcastle

2. Manchester City — Pep Guardiola didn’t know the Premier League single season record for goals was 8. Now he does. Food for thought.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 8-0 v. Watford
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Everton

1. Liverpool — Look, we realize this team won the Champions League last season and that it looks even better in attack and is even more refined in its system.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

 

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
AP Photo/LM Otero
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

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

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
AP Photo/Carlos Gonzalez
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Eleven to go: Ranking obstacles on Liverpool’s unbeaten path

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Liverpool has won all five of its matches since the last time we evaluated its path to an unbeaten Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Those matches were ranked 14th, 12th, 11th, 10th, and 4th on our first rankings of obstacles to immortality, so very little of the heavy lifting has been conducted.

Let’s get something out of the way: If Liverpool is unable to overturn their first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, you can probably etch that zero in the league loss column into stone.

That said, many expect the Reds to overcome that 1-0 disadvantage from Madrid, so here’s where we slot the difficulties moving forward.

Unranked — Crystal Palace at home (March 21) and Brighton away (April 18) — Both of these dates are very easy on the eyes, but will be moved if Liverpool is alive in the FA Cup.

9. Newcastle away, time TBD May 17 — We’re now calling this the easiest date left. Klopp’s men aren’t going to lose an unbeaten season at the altar just because Steve Bruce bunkers down. St. James’ Park is a hassle, but

8. Watford away, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday Klopp probably feels like he’s already playing with house money in the FA Cup, so there’s no reason to think he’ll hand any priority at all to the following FA Cup meeting with Chelsea.

7. Bournemouth home, 7:30 a.m. ET March 7 Situated between Chelsea in the FA Cup and the home UCL second leg versus Atleti, it’s not easy…  but the Cherries have given us less reason to believe they’ll threaten the Reds than any other team besides Newcastle.

6. Aston Villa home, 11:30 a.m. ET April 12Dean Smith‘s desperate Villans will have Villa Park rocking before Liverpool’s possible UCL quarterfinals 2nd leg days later.

5. Burnley home, 7:30 a.m. ET April 25 — Taking place just before a possible UCL quarterfinal first leg, Burnley will try to trouble the Reds in a similar manner to West Ham.

4. Chelsea home, time TBD May 9 — Both the Blues and Reds could be coming off UCL semifinal second legs. Don’t forget that Chelsea took the Reds to the wire in the UEFA Super Cup despite it being very early in Frank Lampard‘s tenure.

3. Arsenal away, time TBD May 2 — Both sides may be days away from needing a result to qualify for the UCL or UEL final.

2. Everton away, 4 p.m. ET March 16 — This may as well be the only match left on the Toffees’ docket that matters more than another, as Carlo Ancelotti and his men know the message they could send regarding the building up of Everton.

Not only that, but Everton has nothing else left to circle, no other competitions, nothing.

1. Man City away, 11:30 a.m. ET April 5 — Taking place 3-4 days before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and on the heels of an international break, it’s the lone date on the calendar that Liverpool won’t be heavy favorites to win.

Champions League: Chelsea, Napoli aim to slow Lewandowski, Messi

UEFA Champions League preview
Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images
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Four of the most dangerous attacks in Europe begin their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

For Chelsea that means trying to find a way to limit the damage of away goals when Bayern Munich visits Stamford Bridge.

Of course, that means trying to slow lethal Robert Lewandowski. The 31-year-old Polish striker has scored 38 times in 32 appearances this season.

Here’s Frank Lampard, via Football.London:

Form of his life means something special with Lewandowski because of how well he’s been consistently in Europe for the last, how many years, I don’t know,” Lampard said. “Everything about him, from a distance, from afar, is just top class. Having the opportunity to watch a lot of Bayern in build-up to this game, that shines through. Of course, he’s going to be a huge threat. He’s not the only threat but he is a spearhead.”

Lampard points to the Blues work without the ball and away from it that will determine whether they can limit Lewandowski and Bayern.

“We traveled to Ajax and had a fantastic game off the ball,” he said. “We’ve had games like that this year in the league as well. But the levels have to go up.”

The Blues won’t have Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and N’Golo Kante, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is finally available after a long injury absence. Pedro may play.

[ MORE: JPW’s score predictions ]

Tuesday’s other first leg sees Napoli hosting Barcelona, which means Gennaro Gattuso trying to find a way to cool down Lionel Messi.

The world’s top player scored four goals at the weekend and had six assists in his three previous La Liga outings.

Another player who’s helped Barcelona reclaim the league lead will be critical to controlling the midfield against Napoli, and that’s Frenkie de Jong.

The 22-year-old has had fits and starts at Barca, especially this month. He admits that he’s had an odd time adjusting to Messi, the teammate, though it hasn’t been part of the problem. From FCBarcelona.com:

“When I began training with him it was strange, because when I was 12, still in secondary school, I used to watch a lot of football. He was already the best in the world. He won the Ballon d’Or back then, so I was a fan, or whatever you want to call it.”

Napoli boss Gattuso was a bit more effusive when addressing Messi, via Football.Espana:

“I have read whether to make a cage or not, but we need the collective game to combat someone like him, and it is not just him,” Gattuso said. “He is the best in the world, for how he has lived his entire career. He is always perfect, never a misplaced word, he is an example for everyone. He does things that I only see on the PlayStation. He has an incredible quality and for years he has been the best of all-time.”

Both matches kick off at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.