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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

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 22

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The Premier League dips its toes back into the water with a 3 p.m. ET Friday match at Bramall Lane before roaring into the weekend with seven Saturday kickoffs.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The opener sees West Ham at Sheffield United, and here’s what to watch for over the weekend.

Can Spurs muster offense without Kane? Will they try? [STREAM]

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

If it feels like Liverpool’s title is predestined via a combination of xpected goals Fortune, good bounces, or excellent play, that vibe will only be amped up by Thursday’s visit to Spurs not including Harry Kane. Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli will have to do a lot of heavy lifting, but asking them to do it against thriving, unbeaten Liverpool is a big ask.

The bigger question is whether Jose Mourinho will challenge the Reds back line much at all.

Which Chelsea will show up this week? [STREAM]

  • Chelsea v. Burnley, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Who’s going to Stamford Bridge: The Chelsea side who beat Arsenal and Spurs, or the one who’s taken one point from Bournemouth, Southampton, and Brighton? Burnley is going to give them the ball, but will Christian Pulisic and Co. take advantage of it?

Arteta to continue Arsenal’s defense resurgence? [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

A 2-2 draw between these two at the Emirates was one of the wildest matches of the year. Granit Xhaka flipped out on the fans who flipped out on him, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw the second goal of a would-be brace stripped away by VAR (probably wrongly, too). But for all of Arsenal’s struggles, the Gunners can leap above the Eagles with a win in South London. And perhaps they can collect a third-straight clean sheet in the process.

Can Villa pull off one of the upsets of the season? [STREAM]

  • Aston Villa v. Manchester City, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Injury-hit Villa has had its good moments of late, but the majority of the operation has been poor since the start of December. Take away the 5-0 League Cup beatdown of Liverpool’s kids, and the Villans have produced just two wins in that period (Norwich City and Burnley). Now enter Man City, riding high off an extra day’s rest. It shouldn’t go well for Dean Smith‘s men, but City’s season has been uneven. Maybe?

Watford’s quest to escape the bottom three hits the South Coast [STREAM]

  • Bournemouth v. Watford, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Ten of Watford’s 19 season points have come since Dec. 22, and Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets can complete their stunning run out of the drop zone with a win and help from the out-of-town scoreboard on Saturday. The Cherries have sunk in the other direction, claiming just one point in that same period of time. Sitting in 18th place and just a point ahead of Watford, Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth needs help, fast.

Premier League Preview: Sheffield United v. West Ham United

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The Premier League gets back in business on Friday at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United hosts West Ham United (Watch Live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Their table fortunes are indicative of the Premier League’s lack of clear tiers so far this season.

Blades are two points off fifth and seven back of the Top Four, while West Ham is two points off the drop zone and a win off 11th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

West Ham cruised past Bournemouth in opening David Moyes‘ second tenure with the Irons, while the Blades are coming off back-to-back losses and are winless in three.

The sides met Oct. 26 in London, with Lys Mousset‘s goal leveling the line after Robert Snodgrass put West Ham up at home.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE


Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: OUT —  None. QUESTIONABLE — Michael Verrips, Simon Moore.

West Ham United: OUT — Michail Antonio, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks, Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere. QUESTIONABLE — Aaron Cresswell, Mark Noble.


Probable lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Egan, Basham, O’Connell, Stevens, Norwood, Fleck, Besic, Baldock, Mousset, McGoldrick.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks, Rice, Noble, Fornals, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.


What they’re saying

Blades defender John Egan on rebounding from tough losses: “They were really tough trips to (Man) City and Liverpool. They’re probably the two best teams in the country, so going away to them was always going to be tough. The Man City game, we were quite unlucky not to get a result. … The Liverpool game was a bit of an eye-opener for us. We weren’t at our best, which we have to be to try and get a result. We came away from those two games, saw where we went wrong and we have to learn from it. All we can do is try and get better so next time we play these teams we have a better chance of getting a result.”

West Ham boss Moyes on transfer links: “I think West Ham have been linked with just about every player in the country and I’m here a week and a half, so it’s interesting, but I think that’s the norm for here. Quite often we are linked with a lot of players. We won’t be bringing in a bundle of players in, but obviously we’d like to add to the squad if we can. Gedson Fernandes is one name we’re talking about. He’s a young player with potential, probably more for the future. From that point of view, I’d like to bring young players in for the future, players we can look to build to get a strong, young team, but I also have to be wary that I need players who are ready for now and can feature in the first team as well.”


Prediction

The Blades are a handful, but West Ham’s new lease on life also feels pretty real. How about another split of the spoils and 1-1 at Bramall Lane?

La Liga roundup: Cazorla strikes, Villarreal hurt Real Sociedad with comeback win (video)

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Villarreal’s come-from-behind victory in San Sebastian highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 1-2 Villarreal

Santi Cazorla in the magician, the journeyman that keeps on giving.

The 35-year-old and longtime Villarreal midfielder Manu Trigueros both netted goals in the second half, as The Yellow Submarine pulled off a 2-1 victory over thriving Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Sociedad, who remain fifth on the table despite the loss, edged the visitors in possession and passes completed, evident in their first goal scored by Willian Jose. The Brazilian culminated a sequence – with lots of quick passes and possession from the home side – with a simple touch inside the box.

Despite the dominance, Sociedad were unable to create abundant chances – a flaw that would, ultimately cost them the game.

Villarreal’s fortunes changed in the second half, as Cazorla and ex-Liverpool fullback Alberto Moreno took he field in the 60th minute.

The Spanish duo reinforced a side that was heavily leaning on Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze for answers. The 20-year-old was a standout for 82 minutes, leading the team in dribbles and most key passes completed.

Towards the latter stages of the second half, Chukwueze earned a penalty after a dangerous run inside the box, leading to Cazorla’s goal from 12 yards out in the 72nd minute.

Villarreal, who travel to Orihuela for a Copa Del Rey fixture on January 11, moved to ninth after the win with 28 points after 19 matches. Sociedad, on the other hand, look to bounce back as they take on AD Cueta in the same tournament on January 12.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 1-0 RCD Mallorca

Alaves 1-1 Real Betis 

Celta Vigo 1-1 Osasuna

American group GACP unlikely to purchase Newcastle

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley continues to keep the club in the shop window over a potential sale, but it looks as though one American ownership group won’t be able to seal the deal, despite some recent media speculation.

General American Capital Partners CEO and Chairman Joseph DaGrosa confirmed in an interview with Pro Soccer Talk that despite positive talks between his group and Newcastle, a deal to purchase the Premier League club was looking unlikely as of press time. Although DaGrosa didn’t mention a specific reason, it’s likely that Ashley’s high valuation, or a lack of capital partners to help leverage the sale, have meant Ashley will continue to be looking for a new steward for the club.

“I can certainly confirm interest,” DaGrosa said in a phone interview. “I will confirm that I’ve had conversations with Mike Ashley’s top representative. I would describe those conversations as very positive. I would say Mike Ashley and his team are a lot easier and a lot friendlier and business savvy than anyone gives them credit for. We’re still talking. I’m not sure we’re going to reach an agreement, but that’s certainly not because of either side’s intractability or unwillingness to move forward.”

The news is a bit of a blow to Newcastle fans, who again were hoping that this holiday season would bring them relief from the Ashley ownership group. Ironically, Newcastle is having its best season in years, and currently sits in 9th place in the table with 25 points from 18 matches.

It was thought that recent events could have sped up a purchase for Newcastle from GACP Sports. On December 16, Bordeaux announced that GACP Sports had sold its stake in the club from King Street Capital Management, just 18 months after helping lead the takeover of the Ligue 1 club. According to DaGrosa, the departure was over a difference in management styles between King Street and his group.

“As we publicly announced, it was really based on irreconcilable differences with the management and operations of the club,” DaGrosa said. “We thought it was in the best interest of the club and the fans to part ways. Both sides, GACP and King Street recognized that having that much uncertainty as to how the club was going to be run going forward wasn’t in anyone’s interest, so we decided that we would do our best to part ways amicably, which we’ve done, and I certainly wish the team nothing but success going forward.”

DaGrosa lauded his business partner Hugo Varela’s work behind the scenes, making hires at coach and academy levels to turn around Bordeaux’s fortunes this season. After finishing 14th last year, Bordeaux is currently in the top ten. The on-field success would have been enticing to Newcastle fans who are desperate for some serious investment in the playing squad and coaching staff.

Even with GACP Sports gone from Bordeaux and unlikely to take over Newcastle, DaGrosa hinted they’ll be back in soccer ownership sooner rather than later.

“In terms of our other plans, we’ve maintained all along we want to be players in sports, particularly soccer, and we’re looking not only in Europe but in South America right now,” DaGrosa said. “Negotiations are going on right now with a couple of clubs, and I think the best is yet to come for GACP Sports.”