PL Club Power Rankings: Week 22

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The Premier League table’s Top Two is back to what we’ve seen for most of the season. Our Club Power Rankings are following suit, and honestly we’d be stunned if they change the rest of the way.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Look: Liverpool and Manchester City may be the two best clubs in the world, even with and perhaps because of the latter’s injury crisis.

The numbers are backing that up.

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

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

20. Norwich City — Can versatile Lukas Rupp help steady the midfield?
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

19. Aston Villa — Welcome back Pepe Reina. Enjoy your first proper relegation scrap.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 6-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

18. Bournemouth — If the manager was anyone other than a club legend, he may’ve been fired. That’s a credit to the Cherries, as they wouldn’t be luring anyone better than Eddie Howe, anyway.
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

17. Burnley — Sean Dyche has done enough if similar situations to make us leery of doubting him, but talent-wise this is one of his biggest challenges yet.
Last week: 18
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Leicester City

16. West Ham United — David Moyes isn’t going to win them all. Beating his longtime club would be a boon.
Last week: 15
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

15. Newcastle United — There’s something about the spirit in this injury-riddled side, who is somehow getting by without Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles.
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

14. Crystal Palace — Speaking of injury crises, the Eagles somehow keep collecting points despite a status nearer to bare bones than adequate.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

13. Watford — Fortune 500 companies ought to call Nigel Pearson and give him some sort of ‘Terry Tate, Office Linebacker’ role.
Last week: 14
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Spurs

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — No shame in a 1-0 loss to Everton, but there’s no reward in performing well but dipping into a relegation fight. Three points from Villa on Saturday will bring some comfort.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

11. Arsenal — Looking steadier at the back and due for a big offensive day.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

10. Everton — We may be learning that Marco Silva might’ve alerted the world to Richarlison, but Carlo Ancelotti is capable of optimizing him.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

9. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s red and white army isn’t welcome on anyone’s fixture list. A win over Wolves puts them in frame for Europa League qualification. Wild swings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 at Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Wolves

8. Wolves — Suddenly winless in four matches with a total of two goals. Honestly, it’s quite surprising. Are they running out of gas?
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Saints

7. Tottenham Hotspur — With Boro in the FA Cup, Watford away, and Norwich City at home, Jose Mourinho has a chance to build confidence before a brutal run of February fixtures including Man City, Villa, RB Leipzig, and Chelsea.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

6. Sheffield United — Barring a PL-record season from Liverpool, wouldn’t it be reasonable for a UEL-qualifying Wilder to be named PFA Manager of the Year?
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Arsenal

5. Leicester City — The Foxes aren’t in danger of a long fall, but Brendan Rodgers could really use a win — gritty or otherwise — at Turf Moor.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Saints
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Burnley

4. Chelsea — Quietly unbeaten in four after their terribly uneven December.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle

3. Manchester United — Here’s a question for United fans given the success of its star loanee at Blades: What’s his price tag? David De Gea is still in his 20s, and Sheffield United’s goalkeeper is playing out of his mind on loan.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Liverpool

2. Man City — They’re wonderful. There’s a bit of turnabout is fair play to what could legit wind up as an 85-90 point season falling 10 points shy of a title, given what City did to Liverpool last season. On pace to break their own record for goals in a Premier League season.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 6-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

1. Liverpool — The grittiest grits to ever grit, and a lesson in buying into a system. A lot of teams could press the way the Reds do, but getting the players to commit to  it at this religious a rate is insane.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 1-0 at Spurs
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man Utd

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

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Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
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Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

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City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.

Chelsea admit they miss USMNT’s Pulisic

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LONDON — Since USMNT star Christian Pulisic was injured in training in the first week of January, Chelsea have lost against Newcastle, drawn with Arsenal and blown away Burnley.

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In the two games where they’ve dropped points they’ve missed Pulisic’s genius in the final third with both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi easily shackled by Arsenal in their London derby. Chelsea admitted as much when speaking after the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday, an Arsenal side who played with 10 men for over 60 minutes of the game.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Pulisic’s adductor injury and if they missed him during the draw against Arsenal, downbeat Chelsea boss Frank Lampard noted that Pulisic, 21, was “playing really well” before his injury.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard said.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk pitch-side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored their late second goal which looked like being the winner, lavished praise on Pulisic when asked about his absence over the last week.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said.

Chelsea’s skipper is expecting big things from Pulisic when he does return to fitness, as the fourth-place Blues now have just a six-point cushion to those outside of the top four and have played a game more.

It seems like everyone at Chelsea hopes the USMNT star can rejuvenate their attack in the final months of the season.

“After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies,” Azpilicueta said. “In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”