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PL Club Power Rankings: Week 18

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We learned a whole heck of a lot about some teams this past weekend as the festive fixtures are now upon us.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola is more malleable than we thought, and reports of Man City’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Conversely, Brendan Rodgers still has some growing to do.  Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta have a LOT of work to do, and so does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because WOOF Manchester United.

Here’s a look at where the clubs rank in relation to one another, because no, you aren’t necessarily what the table says you are at this point in the season.

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

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Aston Villa -Not all four match losing streaks are alike. Losses to Chelsea, Leicester City, and even Sheffield United can be written off in a relegation battle. Losing to Southampton? Not so much. The festive fixtures are very, very kind to Aston Villa, and thus, they are ENORMOUSLY important. Dean Smith must right the ship.
Last week: 18
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Southampton
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

19. Norwich City – Losing on a late Raul Jimenez winner isn’t exactly a bad omen, and following up a draw against Leicester City, things are looking up, but they have one win since mid-September, and that’s not sustainable. Emiliano Buendia’s back is going to start hurting sooner or later.
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

18 Watford – What a weird game. Watford probably deserved at least a point, but they actually closed out a victory for the second time this season. It will take far more than that to earn safety, but that’s about as solid a jumping off point as they could have asked for.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Manchester United
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

17. Bournemouth – Bournemouth produced maybe the worst attacking performance of anyone this entire season against Burnley. Did not see that coming. Gross.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Burnley
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

16. West Ham United – West Ham was scheduled to play Liverpool last weekend, so they got a much-needed rest ahead of the festive fixtures, where they’ll play Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Bournemouth.
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Southampton [off last week]
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

15. Southampton – Just when you’re out on Southampton, they pull you back in. Just in time for a brutal festive fixture stretch.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

14. Everton – We haven’t learned much about Everton over the last few weeks, except that they do have signs of life. A 0-0 draw with Arsenal doesn’t tell us much more. Carlo Ancelotti now takes charge and has a very soft schedule to land on his feet.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Arsenal.
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

13. Arsenal – No goals in Arsenal’s last two games. Mikel Arteta has SO much work to do.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Everton
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

12. Crystal Palace – They actually played well against Newcastle and came up just short. Zaha had an off day (4/14 dribbling). It happens. On to the outrageously soft festive fixtures, where they can shoot up the table.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Newcastle
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

11. Newcastle United – Miguel Almiron got a goal! That’s cool! Three wins in the last four is even cooler. Now comes the hard part – their next five matches are Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City, Wolves, Chelsea. Have fun, Steve Bruce!
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

10. Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton held nearly 70% possession against Sheffield United and managed two shots on target. They’re 13th in the table, but just five points above the drop. The Seagulls can ill afford slips like that.
Last week: 9
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Sheffield United
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

9. Manchester United – GACKKKKKK. That’s it. That’s the blurb.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Watford.
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

8. Burnley – Beating Bournemouth isn’t exactly a world-shifting result, especially with a performance that would get FDA approval to cure insomina, but a pair of clean sheets is exactly what the doctor ordered for the team that gave up 9 goals to Spurs and Man City. Can they sustain it? If so, they’re a threat to any side. This team has moxie on its day.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Newcastle
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

7. Sheffield United – Three straight wins against Norwich, Aston Villa, and Brighton. This team has emphatically staked a claim above the bottom sides in the Premier League. What a job Chris Wilder has done.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 at Brighton & Hove Albion
Up next: Full festive fixture list her

6. Tottenham Hotspur – Not quite sure what Jose Mourinho sees in Eric Dier. Time to give Lo Celso a run in the side. It’ll be nice to have Erik Lamela back too.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Chelsea
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

5. Chelsea – The Blues saw that Nick had them at 8 last week, and went about fixing that silly mistake. Pulisic benched in the win. Marcos Alonso had his best performance of the season. Hmmmm.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won at Tottenham 2-0.
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

4. Wolverhampton Wanderers – This team is physically incapable of playing anything other than a close game. Nuno deserves more credit than he’s getting for keeping this team a Premier League force despite a taxing Europa League campaign.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

3. Leicester City – Brendan Rodgers was firmly out-coached by Pep Guardiola; maybe things aren’t always as they seem. Jamie Vardy scored again; maybe things are as they seem. Leicester City will be fine, although seeing Wilfried Ndidi and Caglar Soyuncu humbled more than once was new.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Norwich City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

2. Manchester CityPep Guardiola firmly out-coached Brendan Rodgers, restoring the natural order for now. This team is still a juggernaut.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

1. Liverpool – Even without playing a Premier League fixture, Liverpool remains on top of the world. Literally. They won the Club World Cup. What Jurgen Klopp is doing with a banged up squad will be regarded as one of the great managerial feats of our time years from now – if he can finish the deal. Everyone is all eyes on Boxing Day for Liverpool, and rightly so, but this team has a brutal stretch coming up: Leicester City, Wolves, Sheffield United, Spurs, Manchester United, Wolves. Make it through that, and they just might be in the clear.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Watford [“off” last week]
Up next: Full festive fixture list here

VIDEO: Giroud delivers for Chelsea v. Spurs

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Olivier Giroud delivered a stunning finish to put Chelsea ahead against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud, starting for the first time since November, used all of his experience to run the Spurs defense ragged and provide a threatening focal point for the Chelsea attack.

The Frenchman, 33, jumped off the bench and had a goal disallowed by VAR in the 2-0 defeat against Man United on Monday but even after a VAR check for offside against Spurs, this time his goal stood.

Click play on the video above to watch the clinical finish.

It was a good job Giroud didn’t leave Chelsea in the January transfer window (as a move to Spurs seemed highly likely) after all.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Tottenham

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Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a massive London derby on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge.

With Frank Lampard‘s slumping Chelsea in fourth and just one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s fifth-place Tottenham, this is a massive game in the battle for Champions League qualification.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Injuries are piling up for both sides but Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing has hurt them for several months as they’ve won just four of their last 14 Premier League games. Mourinho knows this is a good time for him to take his team to Stamford Bridge, even with his own injury crisis to deal with.

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows.

On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

In team news Chelsea are without N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi who are all out injured. Olivier Giroud starts up front with Tammy Abraham only fit enough for the bench, while Chelsea have three center backs and Ross Barkley and Mason Mount come into the starting lineup.

Tottenham must do without Heung-Min Son for potentially the rest of the season after he suffered a broken arm. Mourinho must turn to other attacking options with Harry Kane also out until April. Dele Alli has been left on the bench as Spurs go with what also looks like a back five.


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Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

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Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.

Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be ‘something incredible’

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Jose Mourinho fancies himself either as a realist or a master of mind games — you be the judge, based on your own level of love or hate for the Portuguese manager — as Tottenham Hotspur embark upon their final dozen games of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur ]

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stamford Bridge where he’ll take on his former club Chelsea (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), Mourinho attempted to put into perspective the level of heroics that will be required for Tottenham to finish in the top-four.

Perhaps he has a point, given the long-term injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, forwards who account for 20 of Spurs’ 43 PL goals this season and who will also miss the majority, if not all, of the rest of the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“Tottenham without Harry or Sonny, without one of them, doesn’t win a match since 2014. That means a lot. That means that Sonny and Harry score the majority of goals that Tottenham scores. This season was so, so negatively special that we are going to be without them both at the same time for a lot of matches.

“If we manage to finish top four it’s something incredible. Incredible achievement for the boys. So we have to give everything we have.”

As for their chances of doing, so? Well, let’s just say Mourinho is more than happy to pile the pressure onto others and divert it away from his own team, as he has routinely done throughout his career — quotes from Sky Sports:

“At this moment, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton, Everton — we are the underdogs.

“We have ambitions to be there but we are one, two, three points behind Chelsea, so they have an advantage to all of us. That’s obvious. It’s not a big advantage but it is an advantage.

“Chelsea, in this moment, are favorites for the fourth position, considering Leicester has nine points more at this stage of the season.”

Over the course of their next nine PL games, Spurs will face all six sides currently within five points of fourth place. They will almost certainly be without both Kane and Son for the vast majority of those critical six-pointers.