Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
Dana Wessel produces the Cane & Company morning show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Cane Peterson and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He stops by to tell us about the Premier League, from time to time. Dana?
Time sure does fly. We are just past the midweek point of the season and things are just as close as we thought they’d be. After a flurry of Christmas games, just two points separates Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea at the top of the league. Since there are no league matches this week because of the FA Cup, I figured this would be a great time to go ahead and unveil….
THE NUCLEAR WESSEL HOT SPORTS TAKES ATOMIC EPL POWER RANKINGS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BUFFALO WINGS*
*Not the popular company with a similar name that sells boneless wings, but just buffalo wings in general.
I have nothing against the FA Cup. I actually love it, and not just because of Chelsea’s recent successes in it. It is a cool format. Imagine if other sports did it. The St Paul Saints vs the St Louis Cardinals in the 4th round! How much fun would that be?
I am mostly forgoing the standard match previews, because I don’t feel like doing a ton of research on Derby County. Oh, and my buddy Chad just reminded me on Twitter that it is Friday. I honestly had no idea what day it was. You could have put a gun to my head and asked me what day it was and I would have had a 1-in-7 chance of survival. The holidays do weird things to the brain.
THE NUCLEAR WESSEL HOT SPORTS TAKES ATOMIC EPL POWER RANKINGS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BUFFALO WINGS
1. Manchester City - A 3-2 away win at Swansea was disheartening to see for the supporters of every other title contender. City could very easily end up running away with this thing if they can get their road form sorted. They have already beat Liverpool and Arsenal over the holiday stretch, and are easily the most talented team in the league. If they can just find a way to harness that talent, while also navigating the knock-out round of Champions League - something they haven’t had to do in years past - they could easily lift the trophy before the final day of the season.
2. Chelsea - Jose’s men thrived during the past two weeks, tying at Arsenal while getting the full three against Swansea, Liverpool and at Southampton. More importantly, it seems Mourinho finally has his roster sorted. He made the big move in the 50th minute Wednesday, and it was aces. I loved the fist pump and immediate retreat into the locker room after the match was blown dead. Classic. Two of Chelsea's next four matches are against the two Manchester clubs, though.
3. Arsenal - I predicted in this space multiple times that Arsenal would not be top of the table come January 1, and I was proven wrong. Still, I don’t think they have what it takes to outlast Chelsea or City. The injuries are piling up, for one thing. But again, all credit to them for hanging around and continuing to deliver big results.
4. Everton - This might be my favorite story of the year. The Toffees are a point behind Liverpool for the fourth and final Champions League spot. This team has thrived under Roberto Martinez, and I hope they can continue it into 2014. The Merseyside derby looms on January 28th, and will be one of the biggest in years.
5. Liverpool - Tough losses to Manchester City and Chelsea were a bit of a gut punch for the Liverpool faithful in what was otherwise a very solid start to the season. They would be sitting much prettier if they could have at least found a way to snag a point in either of the two. But like Arsenal and Everton, they have definitely overachieved so far this year, and will be in the mix for the fourth spot come May.
6. Tottenham - I predicted a 3-0 loss for Spurs at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Totally called it. In all seriousness, great road win from a team that could have gone one of two ways after sacking Andre Villas-Boas. Their new manager Skippy Sherwood (I don’t remember his first name. Almost positive his last name is Sherwood. Googling this information would be easy but I am just gonna roll the dice. Life is all about taking risks, kids. Write that down) has them believing. (Ed note: His name is Tim Sherwood.)
7. Newcastle - A bad loss at West Brom kept the Magpies from being in the top 5 to start the New Year. Another great story from an extremely likeable fanbase. Rooting for them the rest of the way -- and not just because my best friend, the rocket scientist, is a diehard supporter. Just a cool club with cool history.
8. Manchester United - One of the most disastrous starts for a reigning champion in years, and yet they are still just 5 points out of the final Champions League spot. Not bad, all things considered. The loss to Spurs at home was a big, big setback. David Moyes says they aren’t out of things; whatever helps you sleep at night, bro.
9. Southampton - The darlings of the first 12 matches of the year sure fell back to earth in a hurry. Everton, Spurs and Chelsea quickly ended any talk of them staying in the top four. They’ll continue to be a mid-table team that can play spoiler to those above them.
10. Aston Villa - I definitely looked at them as relegation fodder at the start of the season, but three big points against Sunderland have them sitting 11th in the league and six points clear of the drop zone.
11. Hull City - Another team with a surprising first half of the season. A 6-0 demolition of Fulham also has them on 23 points and heading in the right direction to start 2014.
12. Swansea City - Flashes of good and flashes of really bad from this team. Without a win in their last six matches. They’ve shown enough good to think they won’t be in danger of relegation but ya just neva know.
13. Stoke City - They currently sit 12th after picking up a big point against Everton. I see them making a run up the middle of the table in the second half. They just have to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
14. West Brom - Sure.
15. Fulham - Skyrocketed up the table after their big 2-1 win over West Ham. The eventual inclusion of Clint Dempsey will help. I didn’t think they’d get relegated even when they were at their lowest and I still don’t think they will.
16. Norwich City - Sounds about right.
17. Cardiff City - I don’t have a lot to say about Cardiff City.
18. Crystal Palace - Doing better than I thought they would in their first year back up in the first division. Still, it will be tough to stay up. Pulling for them, though. What a cool name.
19. West Ham - They haven’t won a match in their last seven. The loss to Fulham was like a double kick to the groin. Gonna be an uphill battle for them the rest of the way.
20. Sunderland - An unbeaten stretch of four matches that included a win against Everton took a hit when the Black Cats lost to Aston Villa. They keep showing fight, but it will take a lot to crawl out of the cellar. Sure would like to see Jozy Altidore score a few goals.
And there you have it! The first ever edition of the THE NUCLEAR WESSEL HOT SPORTS TAKES ATOMIC EPL POWER RANKINGS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BUFFALO WINGS! Hope you enjoyed that, and that your face is okay after being blown away by my ability to rank teams in biased, somewhat arbitrary order. Enjoy your weekend, and stay warm.