PL Club Power Rankings: Week 21

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The festive fixtures shook up our weekly litmus test less than we expected.

Maybe it’s the sheer volume of games that seemingly leveled the playing field of a pretty even league more than usual.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The transfer market may shake up the game a bit more.

At least our club power rankings can exhale for a week while the FA Cup takes the wheel.

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

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — We keep reading about how laudable it is that Daniel Farke wants his team to play attractive football, but it could cost them big time. At least we get to watch Emiliano Buendia on a weekly basis.
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Manchester United

19. Bournemouth — Injuries have taken their toll, and the Cherries may well have real reason to worry about their PL lives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 4-0 at West Ham
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Watford

18. Burnley — The “Lump It To Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes Show” hasn’t been pretty lately.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Chelsea

17. Aston Villa — Allowing 2.3 more shots per game than any other team on the table, so they need to score plenty. And they just lost their starting center forward for the year.
Last week: 18
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 at Burnley
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Man City

16. Newcastle United — The luck’s run out; Ten of 22 senior players are hurt, and three of them are their very best on show (Allan Saint-Maximin, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar). It’s going to be a (another) rough few weeks that looks likely to end with the Magpies barely outside the drop zone.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Wolves

15. West Ham United — David Moyes saw the talent of his attack in a blowout of off-kilter Bournemouth. Can they do the same away at Bramall Lane?
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Jan. 10 at Sheffield United

14. Watford — If Gerard Deulofeu has found his form under Nigel Pearson, it’s gonna be a quick ride out of the drop zone.
Last week: 18
Season high: 14
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Bournemouth

13. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl is truly improving the side. Let’s see what January brings off the field, because the festive period was a massive success.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Leicester City

12. Crystal Palace — Just one loss in its last eight, with four draws mixed in there, but the schedule was asking for wins with Arsenal and Man City up next.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Arsenal

11. Arsenal — Have to hand it to Mikel Arteta for calculating that Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira could hold it down in the back while his four-man attack ran wild on Manchester United. Helps that Marcus Rashford didn’t play well. Now who will they add, and subtract?
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Manchester United
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Crystal Palace

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Graham Potter‘s done very well, and we’d be surprised if the Seagulls look in trouble at any point this season. What a goal, too.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Everton

9. Everton — Getting there! Should be some good football on show when they meet Brighton, but Sunday’s FA Cup derby with Liverpool will be even more fun.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Brighton

8. Sheffield United — There’s reason to believe the pesky Blades might have hit a rut, even as well as Chris Wilder has done and will continue to do. No one’s averaging fewer shots per game.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Jan. 10 v. West Ham

7. Wolves — Maybe the Top Four was asking too much, and Wolves ought to look at UEL as their best route to the UCL.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Newcastle 

6. Spurs — It’s been an ugly few weeks, but Jose Mourinho’s men sit sixth due to everyone else’s inability to function during the festive fixtures.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Saints
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Liverpool

5. Manchester United — It’s a good thing injuries can’t cost you too many spots on the power rankings. These men need midfielders. Send help.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Norwich City

4. Chelsea — Uneven, but even so. Good looking retro jersey.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Burnley

3. Leicester City — A tenuous No. 3 at best, but had the right plan to clobber Newcastle.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 3-0 at Newcastle United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Saints

2. Manchester City — Still far and away the best attack in the league.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Everton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Jan. 12 at Aston Villa

  1. Liverpool — The league is theirs, but invincible talk still feels insanely premature. Well, at least in terms of reality. It’s always fun to discuss, regardless of maturity. Absolutely cruised past Sheffield United.
    Last week: 1
    Season high: 1
    Season low: 3
    Last match: Won 2-0 v. Sheffield United
    Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Jan. 11 at Spurs

Handicapping the Elite Eight of Premier League March Madness

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Everton, stand up.

The Toffees scored the major upset of the first round of our week of Premier League March Madness, eliminating Manchester United to advance to our Elite Eight.

Voting in the quarterfinal round begins Wednesday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League. Our editor JPW said “they have effectively won the NIT,” to which we add, “a very rich NIT!”

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the next four matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Tuesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 9 Arsenal
No. 4 Chelsea v. No. 12 Everton
No. 3 Leicester City v. No. 6 Wolves
No. 2 Man City v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

For what it’s worth, your noted handicapper only scored winning projections on four of the eight pre-quarterfinals.

There were only two significant upsets, which either show the respect voters gave this season’s on-field performance or a vast hatred of Manchester United and Spurs.

Maybe that’s true on the United front, but Arsenal’s power as a sort of sleeping giant bodes well for its match-up with Liverpool. That said, the Reds’ faithful is fired up for this online poll title before the much bigger title to come, and their season will make anyone but Arsenal fans think before voting against them.

Chelsea and Everton is a pretty tasty match-up, too, with both sides proving they can take down loyal and big fan bases. I like Everton to come up with the goods again, carrying a bit more momentum with voters than Chelsea’s easy-enough topping of Newcastle.

Wolves impressed in beating Palace, and a Twitter follower rightly mentioned that they have significant El Tri backing this side of the proverbial pond. Is that enough to knock out Leicester City? It’ll be tight, but we’ll say yes.

Man City should waltz past Sheffield United, but this is the sort of fixture in which both teams have surprised this season. Still, we’ll give it to Pep’s virtual men, just.

Spanish federation: La Liga will play at least every 72 hours upon restart

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When La Liga returns, get ready for it to return with a fury.

The Spanish Football Federation and Spanish Footballers’ Association agreed to a minimum 72-hour gap between matches after La Liga aimed for a minimum of only 48 hours (which, frankly, seems nuts).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

La Liga president Javier Tebas gave three days between May 28 and June 28 for a possible restart earlier Tuesday, as the return of football in one Europe’s top leagues starts to take shape.

The league and its players reportedly came to terms on a 48-hour gap, but the federation would not stand for that. It seems the players want to get to transfer window quicker, and the league wants a new season worth of revenue to begin as quickly as possible.

There are other concerns for the players, too, given the time of year.

From Marca:

“The Federation thus puts the players’ health above the competition. In addition, during the months of May, June, July and August, it will pay special attention to the hosting of matches in severe heat, solar radiation and humidity which work against the health of the players,” it added.

The report also says that the SFA is unimpressed with FIFA’s idea that contracts will be expanded universally through the end of the season, quoting the players’ group as defending “the individual right of the worker.”

Players had previously rebelled against the idea of government furloughs after talks regarding pay cuts took longer than expected.

As with everything in this COVID-19 pandemic era, the restart is going to take complex navigation. We’re going to have some new temporary concerns as well as a whole lot of “new normals.”

Solskjaer hits out at criticism of players, leagues

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Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the Premier League and soccer in general have become an easy target amid the coronavirus pandemic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Man United manager joined our partners at Sky Sports in the UK to discuss life during the nationwide lockdown in the UK and was asked about criticism of clubs and players as talks continue about wage cuts.

“For me football is an easy target sometimes,” Solskjaer said. “For me it’s unfair to call on any individual or footballers as a group because I already know players do a great amount of work in the community, and players are doing a lot to help this situation. Discussions are taking place between players and clubs, what kind of contribution they’ll make. It’s not easy for anyone, and to be called out is not fair for me.”

The English game, including Premier League clubs, have been criticized for applying for the UK government’s furlough scheme which will pay staff 80 percent of their current wages.

Liverpool issued an apology and reversed their decision to furlough 200 staff members and Tottenham and Newcastle have been criticized for using the scheme, while players have revealed various views on whether or not the 2019-20 season should be finished or deemed null and void.

Man United have said they will not use the furlough scheme to pay their staff and Solskjaer defended any mistakes that have been made by certain clubs or owners over the past few weeks.

“Mistakes are being made and have been made by loads of people and that’s how we learn as well. Now it’s about making better decisions, good decisions, I think we all want to help the NHS, the communities, and I think it’s important every single club do what they think is right. We’re all good people, and I’m sure we all want this to be over with as soon as possible. For me it’s about following the guidelines from the government as well,” Solskjaer added.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Sweet 16

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Our Premier League March Madness tournament had a thrilling Sweet 16 stage as there were shocks and drubbings aplenty.

With thousands of votes cast, the Elite Eight is set up perfectly as plenty of heavyweights collide on Wednesday.

The standout results in the Sweet 16 were #12 Everton just holding on to shock #5 Man United, while #9 Arsenal edged out their north London rivals #8 Tottenham with 54.86 percent of the vote.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

#3 Leicester City hammered #14 Southampton in the biggest winning margin with a whopping 79.1 percent of the vote, while #1 Liverpool, #2 Man City and #6 Wolves all advanced with #4 Chelsea battling past a valiant effort by #13 Newcastle.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
Tuesday: Sweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Here are the full slate of results from our Sweet 16 matches as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues on Wednesday with the Elite Eight!