Premier League Relegation Watch: Who’s primed to go down (Matchweek 28)

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With only nine points separating 12th placed Hull City from last placed Fulham, the Premier League relegation race is set to come down to the wire.

With Matchweek 28 complete, here’s where the relegation watch currently stands.

12. HULL CITY 30 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Manchester City (H); West Bromwich Albion (H); West Ham United (A); Stoke City (A); Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: LDWLWL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sunderland on March 9th)

Injuries: Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/1

Verdict: With the exception of this past weekend, there is nothing about Hull City that makes them look like a side facing relegation.

13. STOKE CITY 30 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Norwich City (A); West Ham United (H); Aston Villa (A); Hull City (H); Chelsea (A); Newcastle United (H); Cardiff City (A); Tottenham (H); Fulham (H); West Bromwich Albion (A)

League Form: LWDDLW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Peter Odemwingie, calf (March 8th); Oussama Assaidi, knee (no return date); Robert Huth, knee (March 8th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 16/1

Verdict: The Potters have what looks to be the easiest end of the season schedule of any relegation threatened sides. It would be shocking if they went down.

14. SWANSEA CITY 29 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Arsenal (PPD, A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Everton (A); Norwich City (H); Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: WLWDLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Pablo Hernandez, hamstring (no return date); Jonjo Shelvey, hamstring (no return date); Michu, ankle (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 12/1

Verdict: They have a number of quality players beaten up but Swansea have too much swagger and too easy a final schedule to go down.

15. NORWICH CITY 28 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Stoke City (H); Southampton (A); Sunderland (H); Swansea City (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: DLDLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Robert Snodgrass, wrist (no return date); Ricky van Wolfsfinkle, knee (no return date); Leroy Fer, hamstring (no return date); Jonas Gutierrez, calf (March 8th); Michael Turner, hamstring (March 15th); Elliot Bennett, knee (March 29th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/1

Verdict: Norwich’s season will be determined in the next six weeks via matches with relatively easy opponents. After that, the road gets darn near impossible with Liverpool, United, Chelsea and Arsenal closing out their season.

Without Snodgrass, van Wolfsfinkel and Fer it’s going to take a herculean effort from Chris Hughton’s men – and a little bit of luck – if Norwich are to stay up. I worry for the Canaries.

16. CRYSTAL PALACE 27 PTS (27 PLD)

Remaining Matches (11): Everton (PPD, A); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H); Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: WWLWLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Kagisho Dikgacoi, back (no return date); Joe Ledley, hip (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 15/8

Verdict: Their brilliant run of form (winning three of four) has come to an abrupt stop and reality is setting in for Palace. They’re relatively healthy, have a game in hand and a schedule that’s favorable to staying up but it will be air tight for Tony Pulis’ side.

17. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 25 PTS (27 PLD)

Remaining Matches (11): Sunderland (PPD, H); Manchester United (H); Swansea City (A); Hull City (A); Cardiff City (H); Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLDLDD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Billy Jones, hamstring (no return date); Claudio Yacob, hamstring (March 8th; Nicholas Anelka, suspension (April 12th); Stephane Sessegnon, groin March 8th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/2

Verdict: They’ve been horrible of late and face a difficult schedule down the line. With the unproven Pepe Mel at the helm and injuries to four key starters, Baggies fans will be low on confidence.

18. SUNDERLAND 24 PTS (26 PLD)

Remaining Matches (12): Manchester City (PPD, A); West Bromwich Albion (PPD, H); Crystal Palace (H); Norwich City (A); Liverpool (A); West Ham United (H); Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); Swansea City (H)

League Form: WDWWLL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Hull City on March 9th)

Injuries: Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 7/4

Verdict: Despite being favored to go down the Black Cats have been steadily improving and have two games in hand on their fellow relegation contenders. Bowing out of the FA Cup could prove vital for Gus Poyet’s side, who face an incredibly difficult schedule down the run.

19. CARDIFF CITY 22 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Tottenham Hotspur (A); Fulham (H); Everton (A); Liverpool (H); West Bromwich Albion (A); Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LWLDLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Craig Noon, knock (no return date); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: With their horrid current form and new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showing little signs of being able to maneuver Cardiff through this mess, the Bluebirds look destined to go down.

20. FULHAM 21 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Cardiff City (A); Newcastle United (H); Manchester City (A); Everton (H); Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LLDLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Brede Hangeland, head injury (no return date); Damien Duff, knock (no return date); Fernando Amorebieta, muscle injury (no return date); Matt Briggs, groin (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: Will decent talent and Felix Magath help Fulham do the impossible? A doable end of the season schedule says there’s a chance.

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.

Moyes: West Ham “low in confidence,” encouraged by crowd

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David Moyes is just trying to buy himself a bit of time with the West Ham United fans, who were roundly unhappy at his appointment — and the board which hired him, of course — an undertaking toward which he made a small step on Friday.

[ RECAP: West Ham come back to earn a point vs. Leicester ]

Following the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Leicester, Moyes joined the Sky Sports broadcast crew field-side at the London Stadium. While acknowledging it’s still early days in his tenure, Moyes knows he’s got very little time to build momentum after being appointed manager of a bottom-three side mid-season.

“I thought [the players] worked great in the second half, I think that’s why the crowd reacted so well. I think they are low in confidence. The results haven’t gone [well] and they’ve lost a manager. When it’s like that, it’s difficult. You need some things to go for you now and again.”

As for the Hammers’ most mercurial player, Marko Arnautovic, Moyes has taken a rather hardline approach with the Austrian attacker, and he believes it’s already paying dividends:

“I thought he played really well for us on Sunday, without getting an awful lot of praise for it. Everybody’s said that he hasn’t run, so I said to him, ‘If you don’t run, I won’t play you.’ So, he’s running [now.]

“I don’t think you want to play against Arnautovic if you’re a fullback, because he’s got power, he’s got pace. He probably prefers to play on the left-hand side, but at the moment we’ve got people who want to do that role, so we’re happy to play him on the opposite side. We want him to be a big player, [the club] spent big money on him. We need him to score goals, make goals. He helped us tonight.”