Costel Pantilimon

2015-16 Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. I: Taking very early stock with Man City on top

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Three matches certainly don’t tell the tale of an entire season.

For one thing, some clubs haven’t faced significant competition while others have had to battle a trio of strong Premier League opponents.

[ Archive: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Yet there’s enough of a sample, enough of a taste, to adjudge which clubs look ready to roar and which ones need to hope there are big-time reinforcements coming ahead of Sept. 1’s transfer deadline.

Let’s stop yammering, and start ranking. As is the case with MLS, we won’t do these every week in order to limit overreactions from a single result.

RANKING
Up/Down

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1 Manchester City: Two road wins, eight goals scored, zero allowed, and Kevin De Bruyne on the way? They’re baaaaaaack.
source: 2 Liverpool: Caught a lucky break on Arsenal’s disallowed goal, but Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho both looked dynamite. Christian Benteke is the real deal and, like Man Utd below, more goals will come. Loved watching that Arsenal match. End-to-end stuff.
source: 3   Manchester United: Folks want to castigate Louis van Gaal for not scoring more goals despite dominant performances and a congested schedule? Please. The Champions League goal production doesn’t count? Not to mention, their clean sheet streak is solid. Marouane Fellaini as a No. 9, though? Not so sure about that.
source: 4 Leicester City: There’s the Fox! Drawing at home against Spurs is the first lost points of the year for the Tinkerman’s unit. Riyad Mahrez has been electrifying, quick and downright wonderful.

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5 Swansea City: Looked quite legit until they coughed off a point against insipid Sunderland. The Chelsea draw works for us, and the Newcastle win was comprehensive. A home win, or at least points, against Manchester United on Sunday would raise the reality to Swans’ supporters expectations.
source: 6 Arsenal:  I want to place them higher for the entertainment value of the Liverpool draw alone (which they should’ve won if not for a faulty call). Still, there hasn’t been much to like in terms of the final product and that West Ham loss looks uglier and uglier as we see more of West Ham. Listen to Titi, Arsene.
source: 7 Chelsea:  Folks are rushing to say Jose Mourinho has spoiled the soup at Stamford Bridge, and there’s certainly the look of a championship hangover at Chelsea. John Terry’s looked off since the preseason, and can a title contender really afford to risk John Stones, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma as their hopes for center back success in the PL and UCL? They’ll rebound, as Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have yet to really awaken, but it should come soon, eh? And Paul Pogba? Yes, please.
source: 8 Everton: The Man City loss wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but the Toffees are looking more like the 2013-14 version than last year’s strugglers. Would cashing in on Stones really hurt that much? Doesn’t look like we’ll find out.
source: 9 Crystal Palace: Maybe the “Pardiola” label attached to Alan Pardew by peeved Newcastle fans isn’t far off. We’d like a better pelt than Norwich or Villa to believe in the silver fox, though.
source: 10 Stoke City: Mark Hughes’ bunch has a home loss to Liverpool and a pair of road draws. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, though for the Potters to break into the next level they’ll need three points more often than not.
source: 11 Newcastle United: There’s some excitement at St. James Park, even if that point earned at Old Trafford might as well have a horseshoe glued to it. The Magpies lost to Swansea when key defender Daryl Janmaat took a silly second yellow, but looked decent at home against Saints and haven’t been back since Opening Day. Arsenal comes to SJP this weekend, and that could be a bad, bad score line.
source: 12  Tottenham Hotspur: If you believe in Leicester as a possible top-half side, then Spurs should be higher than 12th. Their loss to Man Utd came on an unlucky own goal after Wayne Rooney took his time firing from close range, and drawing Stoke and the Foxes could be chalked down to luck. Disappointment is a real feeling here. Heung-min Son sounds like a good move.
source: 13 SouthamptonContending with the Europa League schedule hasn’t been easy for Saints, who also played a trio of tricky opponents. Two of those were on the road. Saints won’t be this low for long (especially if they flame out of Europe on Thursday).
source: 14 Watford: Saturday’s been alright for drawing when it comes to Elton John’s favorite squadron. The Hornets have been game in scoreless home draws against West Brom and Southampton, and that road point against Everton works for us. Can they find some consistent scoring? How about converting sitters? Will Troy Deeney find his rampant Championship touch in the Premier League? The defense is working, and Sebastian Prodl has a good look early in his Premier League career.
source: 15 Norwich City: Four points for Alex Neil’s Canaries, and they could’ve had more if a bounce or two went their way against Palace to open the season. We’ll wait to see a win against someone other than Sunderland before we call relegation an aberration, but Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond have impressed early this season.
source: 16 AFC Bournemouth: It’s safe to say Eddie Howe’s bunch have exceeded expectations just by claiming a win, and that it came after the Cherries were very much alive in 1-0 losses to Liverpool and Aston Villa is a good sign for their survival fight.
source: 17 West Ham United:  Slaven Bilic must be shaking his head. After trumping Arsenal to open the season, at the Emirates, the Hammers have slumped to sloppy performances and zero points versus Leicester City and Bournemouth. Not too good.
source: 18 Aston Villa: That Rudy Gestede-rescued win against Bournemouth on opening day seems ages ago, and getting shut out by Chris Smalling and Manchester United is no shame. Plus the other loss was Crystal Palace, but you want more from Villa.
source: 19 West Bromwich Albion:  Feels a bit unfair to keep Tony Pulis’ men so low considering their losses came against Chelsea and Manchester City, but both were at home. A drastic climb would not be surprising. The end to this Saido Berahino saga would be satisfying.
source: 20 Sunderland: Managed to post consecutive 2-goal losses to clubs perceived to be their relegation opponents. Then went to the Liberty Stadium and somehow drew Swanse City. Hey, at least they’ve scored in all three matches. And “every player is for sale“. Here’s a scary question: What if Costel Pantilimon wasn’t standing on his head?

Sunderland 1-1 Swansea City: Black Cats grab first point of season

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  • Sunderland grab first point of season
  • Gomis now has three goals in three games
  • Ayew hits crossbar for Swans
  • Defoe levels late in the game

Sunderland fought back to grab a point against Swansea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Bafetimbi Gomis opened the scoring in first half stoppage time but Jermain Defoe scored an eerily similar goal in the second half to split the points.

With the draw Sunderland has one point from their opening three games, while Swansea is still unbeaten with five points from three matches.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

It was a slow burner to start with at the Stadium of Light as both teams felt their way into the game. Defoe went close after a cross flashed into the near post and Sunderland looked more dangerous than Swansea. Yann M’Vila’s free kick caused some problems in the Swansea defense but Danny Graham’s overhead quick was saved easily be Lukasz Fabianski.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Jefferson Montero had a great chance before half time but after patient build up play he slammed an effort into the side-netting at the near post.

In first half stoppage time Kyle Naughton slotted in an inch-perfect pass to Gomis and the Frenchman made it three goals in three games with a fine finish into the far corner. Cue the wild panther celebration. 1-0 to Swansea.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Sunderland improved and new signing Jeremain Lens had a goal disallowed for being offside. Swansea regained dominance soon after as Andre Ayew headed Jonjo Shelvey’s cross onto the bar and the Ghanaian forward headed wide soon after as Sunderland’s defense continued to struggle.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score

With 25 minutes to go the Black Cats were level as Defoe got free in the box and slotted home with ease. 1-1. Game on at the Stadium of Light. Gomis went so close to giving Swansea the lead as Costel Pantilimon saved superbly at point-blank range. Soon after Gylfi Sigurdsson sent a shot just over the bar as Swansea pushed to go ahead once again but in the end had to settle for a point.

Sunderland 1-3 Norwich City: Canaries fly past bumbling Black Cats

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  • Hoolahan the star man as Canaries roll
  • Watmore scores in PL debut for Black Cats
  • Martin, Whittaker, Redmond net in win
  • Black Cats winless through two matches

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Russell Martin, Martin Whittaker and Nathan Redmond helped Norwich cruise to a 3-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday, as dozens of fans departed the Stadium of Light well before time.

Duncan Watmore scored on his Sunderland debut, as the 21-year-old Englishman was able to put a bouncing shot past a confused John Ruddy late in the match.

Sunderland is last in the Premier League with a minus-4 goal differential, while Norwich rises with its first three points of the season.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Norwich forced Costel Pantilimon into a fine save in the 26th minute before netting moments later.

Johnny Howson ripped a shot that Pantilimon dove to push out for a corner, and the keeper was called on again off the corner, only to see his parry go right to Martin. The Scottish defender netted his first Premier League goal since the Canaries’ 2012-13 season.

Norwich added to Sunderland’s misery before the half was through as Wes Hoolahan and Whittaker worked a 1-2 that left both Patrick van Aanholt and Younes Kaboul in the dust. Just like that, it was 2-0 Canaries in the 37th minute.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score

Loads of Sunderland fans left at halftime, which means they missed Hoolahan and Redmond hooking up for a 1-2 that ended with the latter beating Pantilimon to the near post and a 3-0 lead for Norwich after 57 minutes.

Watmore scored on his Premier League debut, as the 20-year-old was in the team of the tournament for the 2015 Toulon Tournament.

Leicester City 4-2 Sunderland: Foxes run wild behind Albrighton, Mahrez

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  • Foxes top of table
  • Sunderland allows three in first 25 minutes
  • Mahrez nets brace
  • Albrighton with goal, two assists

Marc Albrighton had a hand in three goals and Riyad Mahrez netted twice as Leicester City cruised past Sunderland in both teams’ Premier League season openers on Saturday at King Power Stadium.

Claudio Ranieri’s Premier League return was a success, as Jamie Vardy also scored for Leicester, while Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher tallied for Sunderland.

The win boosts Leicester atop the table on goals scored, sending Sunderland bottom.

[ WATCH: Watch full match replays ]

Leicester took the lead on a free kick from the left of goal. Marc Albrighton send in the cross, and Vardy flicked it to the back post, where it bounded off the post before Costel Pantilimon could track it down.

Then Albrighton sent in another cross, which Riyad Mahrez may’ve headed ever so slightly. Uncleared, it went in the same far post. Pantilimon must’ve felt like he’d wandered into a bit of a replay. 2-0 Foxes.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Sunderland’s captain didn’t do them any favors when he stumbled to ground, allowing Mahrez to tumble over him and win a penalty. Mahrez easily converted, and it was 3-0 before the match hit 25 minutes.

The Black Cats didn’t find much of a rally from their halftime talks, and Leicester threatened to add to its score line several times as the second half unfolded at King Power Stadium.

But it was Sunderland who would score next, with Jermain Defoe collecting a through ball from Adam Johnson, taking a touch and hammering past Kaspar Schmeichel. 3-1, 60′.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]

Albrighton made sure to restore the three-goal advantage when Younes Kaboul failed to clear a ball at his feet. With under 25 minutes to play, the Foxes were up 4-1.

Fletcher again narrowed the gap when he leapt to use the back of his head and finish past Schmeichel off a Jeremain Lens looping pass.

Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Live Stream)

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A very changed Sunderland heads into King Power Stadium to face last season’s great escapees Leicester City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) in the opening game of the new 2015-16 Premier League season for both clubs.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Jermain Defoe and Jeremain Lens will hope to be on the finishing end of the visitors’ attack, which comes in front of hard-tackling captain Lee Cattermole and star goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

For the hosts, Shinji Okazaki joins industrious attackers Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, with Kaspar Schmeichel starting between the sticks.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, De Laet, Huth, Morgan, Schlupp, Albrighton, Drinkwater, King, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs: Schwarzer, Hammond, Kanté, Kramarić, Ulloa, Fuchs, Benalouane.

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Van Aanholt, Kaboul, Coates, Cattermole, Rodwell, Larsson, Johnson, Lens, Defoe. Subs: Mannone, O’Shea, Matthews, Bridcutt, Giaccherini, Graham, Fletcher.