2014-15 Premier League Power Rankings

Pep Guardiola backs USMNT’s Zack Steffen after Man City’s FA Cup exit

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Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal between rivals Manchester City and Liverpool was largely one to forget for the Premier League leaders, who went down 3-0 en route to a 3-2 exit at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.

And one of the goats — lowercase ‘g’ — for the losing team will be American goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who made a huge error for the second Liverpool goal, won’t like how he looked on the third, and will know he could’ve handed the Reds a fourth late, just after City pulled to within 3-2.

But Guardiola loves a ball-playing goalkeeper and thinks Steffen’s a pretty good one. He’s not regretting using the USMNT backstop instead of Ederson, and Guardiola appears to be backing Steffen a little bit, too.

[ THE RUN-IN: Premier League title race | Top-4 battle | Relegation battle ]

“It was an accident,” Guardiola said. “One of [his] strong points is try to play [the ball] and as a keeper he has this quality. It was an accident and he will learn for the future. When the ball is there it can always happen. I have spoken with the team not him personally but he is strong.”

Now whether that means Guardiola still has belief in Steffen as his honest-to-goodness No. 2 remains to be seen, because this is two-straight FA Cup seasons that will end shy of a final because of Steffen errors.

But how much of that has to do with Steffen — or Claudio Bravo, or whoever Pep’s No. 2 has been over the years — having to step onto a big stage once a month and do so while a certain segment of the fan base is saying, “Yeah, but it’s a semifinal and Liverpool, don’t we go for Ederson now?”

It’s going to be an odd summer for Steffen, who needs to play leading up to the World Cup and will be competing with a Matt Turner who’s moving to Arsenal, an Ethan Horvath who could be a Premier League starter for Nottingham Forest, and whoever comes leaping out of the field this summer or Fall.

Chelsea’s Lampard details Mount brilliance, says Pulisic ‘always a threat’

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It’s fitting that Mason Mount scored the lone goal of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over 10-man Fulham on Saturday, and not only because it eased pressure on manager Frank Lampard.

Mount is a Lampard-favorite but he was no-doubt a target of admiration for all Chelsea supporters Saturday as the clear Man of the Match from the win.

[ MORE: Pulisic + Robinson Watch ]

Even before he scored, Mount was one of very few threats for Chelsea as Lampard opted to play veterans Antonio Rudiger, Jorginho, Thiago Silva, and Cesar Azpilicueta and ask youngsters Mount and Christian Pulisic to drive the bus.

While Pulisic had moments, it wasn’t the American’s best day as he started his sixth-straight PL match. He’s gone 90 minutes in five of the six outings and 84 in the other.

Mount was wonderful with seven key passes and the lone goal on a 91 percent passing day.

“He has been very, very good for us in the past year, this year,” Lampard said, via Football.London. “He is a big example of why I talk about youth. Mason turned 22 years old last week, the age I came to Chelsea at. I wasn’t blowing the world away in my first way my first year or so, Mason already has so many games under his belt.

“Across our frontline, we’ve got Christian Pulisic, similar age bracket. Kai Havertz, similar age bracket, Callum Hudson-Odoi, younger age bracket. Tammy, Timo, they’re all young.”

Lampard says he’ll continue to have problems choosing a front three for as long as he’s got depth between Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, and Hudson-Odoi.

“Hakim obviously gives us something different and was outstanding when fit,” Lampard said. “Christian is always a threat. When I have the three, there is one who maybe can’t start the game. But they must then come on and impact the game. Generally, a winger is where you make your changes.”

Pulisic Watch: USMNT, Chelsea star dangerous, if a bit rusty, in Sevilla

Christian Pulisic
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
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Pulisic Watch: American winger Christian Pulisic returned to Chelsea’s starting lineup in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League group decider at Sevilla, leaving on a rare yellow card with the Blues ahead 2-0.

Pulisic took four shots in 67 minutes, seeing two blocked, one saved, and one wide of the mark.

[ MORE: Latest Raul Jimenez injury update ]

The 22-year-old USMNT star also took his first yellow card in a Chelsea shirt and just the sixth of his young but established career.


Pulisic Watch

27′ — The American drives the left with a 40-yard dribble, getting into the box to open up a left-foot shot that was blocked out for a corner.

29′ — Pulisic drives the left in a similar fashion, deprived of a second shot by a Sergi Gomes slide tackle.

30′ — He’s got the ball again, feinting right and going to left to earn another corner with a deflected shot.

31′ — Takes the ball outside the 18 and plays Emerson Palmeiri wide, the Italian’s invitation intercepted by Sevilla goalkeeper Alfonso Pastor.

43′ — Pulisic slides into the legs of Oscar Rodriguez and sees a yellow card for his troubles. Cautions are rare for Pulisic, who has just six yellows in 202 senior appearances between club and country.

54′ — Callum Hudson-Odoi slides a ball through the six but the American finds his route to the back post cut off and the chance goes for nothing, though the Blues would score with a minute.

61′ — The Pulisic-Giroud chemistry is real, and the American takes a heavy touch of a clever 1-2 with the Frenchman and sees his cross blocked for another corner.

65′ — Pulisic sees another shot blocked out for a corner, the margins fine and the player maybe just a bit off in technique but not instincts; The American was finding spaces all day.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Who’s next for Manchester United if Sancho stays at Dortmund?

Chiesa to Manchester United
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
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The transfer rumor mill is usually buzzing this time of year, but it’s nearly a cacophony following Michael Zorc’s announcement that Jadon Sancho will be staying at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Reports say Manchester United is not quitting on the idea of Sancho at Old Trafford, but here are some other targets if the Red Devils have to look away from the English phenom.

Federico Chiesa, Fiorentina

Linked with United for some time including a Monday nod from Football-Italia, Chiesa’s approximately $80 million price tag is high but half of what Dortmund is asking for Sancho.

The versatile playmaker has often been linked with Juventus, though Fiorentina is loathe to do business with The Old Lady unless absolutely necessary after big sales of Roberto Baggio and Federico Bernardeschi to Juve in the past.

The 22-year-old already has 17 Italian caps and scored 10 goals with six assists for La Viola this season in Serie A play, career bests in both.

Douglas Costa, Juventus

This one could become even more feasible if Juve latched onto Chiesa.

Juve desperately needs to get younger and Costa doesn’t figure to fit into the plans of Andrea Pirlo, a month away from his 30th birthday.

Costa works better on the right side and would be a worker bee looking to set up Rashford and Martial or cut back for Bruno Fernandes. He boasts double-digit assist seasons in the Bundesliga (Bayern), Serie A (Juve), and Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk).

TURIN, ITALY – MAY 19: Douglas Costa (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Raul Jimenez, Wolves

This one still feels like a long shot of long shots given the players’ age and status at Wolves, but the El Tri star has been linked with United in the past.

Jimenez doesn’t solve the wing issue presented by Sancho staying at BVB, and you’d fancy the Red Devils to go after one of Wolves’ wingers before Jimenez.

But Solskjaer enjoys Marcus Rashford at left wing and could use Anthony Martial at right wing a bit more often than center forward. Throw in Mason Greenwood and the boss would have a lot of permutations to use around Bruno Fernandes in a front three or four.

Ivan Perisic, Inter Milan

Mentioned as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, that’s less on the cards after the Chilean accepted a Man United payoff to move to Inter for free.

The 31-year-old favors the left wing and Inter would be happy to offload him after Bayern declined its option to buy the loanee who managed seven goals and 10 assists in just over 1600 minutes.

That’s pretty good output for a part-time player who kept some tread on the tires.

Perisic to Manchester United
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: Ivan Perisic of Croatia (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, Real Madrid

If you’re sensing a thread amongst most of these players, it’s no surprise considering United has a wage scale to meet the needs of many wantaways.

Real desperately wants to get something for Colombian star James, who at 29 played less than 800 minutes for La Liga’s champions this season.

His two-year loan stint at Bayern also saw him as a part-time player, but like Perisic a productive one. James scored 15 times with 20 assists over two seasons with the Bavarians.

Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich

This would cost a lot of dough.

The 24-year-old has been a part of nine-straight league winners between Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern.

Okay that’s cheating a bit considering his Ligue 1 crowns came off a handful of appearances over two seasons at the Parc des Princes.

But the left and right winger might be on for a change of scenery with Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane set to dominate the preferential places at Bayern.

Premier League Power Rankings: Big climbers galore as momentum kicks in

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Well, there are a bunch of streaky teams out there as we enter the final five weeks of the Premier League season. Arsenal has made a run to the top two, Manchester United aren’t far behind and Leicester City are absolutely flying to try and save themselves from relegation.

All of that means our rankings of power are looking drastically different compared to the last edition.

[ Archive: Premier League Power Rankings ]

In case you are new around here, each week we put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team. Forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) that doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-D-L bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Let’s get to it!

RANKING
Up/Down

source:

1 UP 1 Arsenal: Eight wins on the spin is the Gunners’ best run since 2004. They are flying and could finish second and win an FA Cup. Is that a good season? I think so. Huge game vs. Chelsea this Sunday. (20-6-6)
source:  2 UP 1 Manchester UnitedYes, LVG’s boys lost to Chelsea but they impressed and handled injuries well and should have got a point. Six wins from their  last seven means they will finish in the top four, surely. Next up: Everton away. (19-8-6)
source:  3  UP 1 Chelsea: Mourinho loves a defensive masterclass and he has churned out four-straight wins by a one-goal margin without Diego Costa. Superb. Arsenal away this Sunday. Can they show the Gunners which team rules London? (23-7-2)
source:  4 DOWN 3  Liverpool: Two defeats in their last three PL matches and a damaging FA Cup semifinal defeat to Villa means Liverpool’s season is ending with a whimper. Their top four hopes are still alive, but barely. WBA away this week. (17-6-9)

source:

5 UP 14 Leicester CityHands up who saw this coming? Yep, didn’t think so. The Foxes are flying, have won three-straight and are within a point of getting out of the bottom three. The biggest jump in a single week in Power Ranking history. HUGE, HUGE game at Burnley. (7-7-18)
source:  6 UP 4 Everton:  The Toffees have finally found some form in a season to forget. Martinez’ men are unbeaten in five and are one win from being in the top 10. United at home this weekend. (10-11-12)
source:  7 UP 2 Tottenham Hotspur:  Spurs are clinging on to their top four dreams but an inconsistent few weeks has cost Pochettino’s men. Massive game at Saints this week as the Argentine boss heads back to his old club. (17-6-10)
source:  8 DOWN 3 Southampton: Same could be said for Saints as inconsistency has crept in. They just can’t seem to find their shooting boots. Big chance to climb ahead of Spurs in the race for the Europa League this weekend. (17-5-11)
source:  9 DOWN 3 Manchester City: Oh dear, it really has unraveled in the past three weeks for Pellegrini with three defeats in five. City are holding onto fourth but could still blow it. Villa at home this week. (19-7-7)
source:  10 UP 1 Aston Villa: Speaking of Villa, they stunned Liverpool to reach the FA Cup final but all focus must now switch to staying up. They are four points above the drop zone with five games left. (7-7-15)
source:  11 UP 1 Stoke City: The Potters are going for a record PL points tally and to better their best-ever finish of 10th last season. Good win vs. Saints, next up is Sunderland. (13-7-13) 
source:  12 DOWN 4  Crystal PalaceThe Eagles were flying until old boss Tony Pulis clipped their wings when his WBA side came to town. Pardew is still happy with his side who are safe from relegation. Can they finish in the top 10? (11-9-13)
source:  13 DOWN 6 West BromPulis steered the Baggies through a rough period to bag that big win at his former club. They should be safe for another season now. Liverpool at home will be a tough one this weekend. (9-9-15)
source:  14 Swansea City: The Swans suffered their first defeat in five at Leicester and missed the injured Gomis badly. Still, a fine season for Monk’s men. Newcastle away should be another win… (13-8-12)
source:  15 Burnley: If they could score goals, they’d be flying but the Clarets have now gone 389 minutes without hitting the back of the net. Can Dyche’s boys prevail in the relegation six-pointer vs. Leicester? Their survival will likely depend on it. (5-11-17)
source:  16 UP 2 QPR: Chris Ramsey’s side are running out of time but they are just two points from safety. They simply have to be out-of-form West Ham at home on Saturday. They have to. (7-5-21)
source:  17 West Ham:  Speaking of the Hammers, things are going from bad to worse for “Big Sam” as they have just one win in 11. Surely he’s leaving this summer? Anyway, five games to go in a season that promised so much. (11-10-12)
source:  18 UP 2 Sunderland: That Tyne-Wear derby win is keeping Dick Advocaat’s head above water. Just. A defeat to Stoke could be bad news this weekend if other results go against the Black Cats. Not a good time in the north east right now. (5-14-13)
source:  19 DOWN 6 Hull City:  Further down the coast, Hull have lost three on the spin and have no win in seven. Steve Bruce must be very worried. They are out of the bottom three on goal difference and must beat Palace this weekend. (6-10-16)
source:  20 DOWN 4 Newcastle United: Six defeats in a row for the Magpies, plus fans refusing to turn up, spells bad news for interim boss John Carver. They still aren’t safe from relegation but should be okay. Just. (9-8-16)