Premier League Relegation Watch: Hull and Norwich gain separation while the others tumble

Leave a comment

Matchweek 31 saw massive wins by Hull City and Norwich City to distance themselves from the relegation-threatened pack while the bottom seven clubs all took losses setting up a dramatic end to the season.

Here we look at all the relegation-threatened sides and evaluate their remaining matches, form, injuries and odds of staying up in the Premier League.

12. HULL CITY 33 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): West Ham United (A); Stoke City (A); Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: WLWLLW

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sheffield United on April 13th)

Injuries: Shane Long, knee (no return date); Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date), Joe Dudgeon, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 22/1

Verdict: Hull did itself a huge favor with the 2-0 win over West Brom on Saturday giving the Tigers an eight point cushion on the relegation zone. Forty points is typically the bench-mark for safety in the Prem but it would take an epic collapse for Steve Bruce’s side to botch this up.

13. NORWICH CITY 32 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Swansea City (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: LWLDLW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesLeroy Fer, hamstring (April 12th); Michael Turner, hamstring (March 29th); Elliot Bennett, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 4/1

Verdict: A huge victory over Sunderland last weekend has Norwich looking like a side destined to stay up but the Canaries can’t take their foot off the gas over the next four weeks because the last four matches of the season are extremely difficult.

14. WEST HAM UNITED 31 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Hull City (H); Sunderland (A); Liverpool (H); Arsenal (A); Crystal Palace (H); West Brom (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A)

League Form: WWWLLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: James Tomkins, ankle (March 26th); Marco Boriello, shin (no return date); Joey O’Brien, shoulder (April 19th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 12/1

Verdict: Thoroughly out-played this weekend against Manchester United means West Ham have lost three straight. Like Norwich, the end of their season is a tough go with matches against Spurs and City meaning Sam Allardyce will want his side playing top quality football over the net six matches to secure safety.

15. SWANSEA CITY 29 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Arsenal (A); Norwich City (H); Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: WDLDLL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesKyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 8/1

Verdict: Despite the 3-2 loss on Saturday, Swansea looked a much improved side against Everton. Healthy and with a manageable end-of-the-season schedule, it’s hard to see the Swans going down.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 28 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Cardiff City (H); Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: LDDLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Gareth McCauley, ankle (no return date); Victor Anichebe, hamstring (no return date); Morgan Amalfitano, knock (no return date); Chris Brunt, knee (April 21st); Billy Jones, hamstring (March 29th); Diego Lugano, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/1

Verdict: Bad loss to Norwich last weekend also saw key players Gareth McCauley and Victor Anichebe succumb to potential long term injuries. These are nail-biting times at the Hawthorns. The Albion have the quality but can they find the points?

17. CRYSTAL PALACE 28 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Chelsea (H); Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: WLDLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Dwight Gayle, ankle (April 5th); Marouane Chamakh, hamstring (March 29th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/4

Verdict: Heart-breaking loss for the Eagles last weekend on a goal that was scored well beyond the three minutes of stoppage time noted by the fourth official. Tony Pulis went ballistic and for good reasons, not only did it strip his side of a point but because there are precious winnable matches in Palace’s remaining eight games.

18. SUNDERLAND 24 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Liverpool (A); West Ham United (H); Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: WWLLDL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesSteven Fletcher, ankle (no return date);Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/11

Verdict: The devastating loss to Norwich City last weekend put the Black Cats three points shy of safety. Fortunately for Gus Poyet’s side, they have 10 matches to play. Unfortunately, six of those are against sides in the Top 10.

19. CARDIFF CITY 25 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): West Bromwich Albion (A); Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: DLLWLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Craig Noone, muscle (no return date); Andrew Taylor, knock (no return date); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/7

Verdict: Of the current teams in the relegation zone, Cardiff has the most favorable schedule to secure promotion. Whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær can figure out how to make that happen has South Wales on the edge of its seat.

20. FULHAM 24 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Everton (H); Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LDLLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Dan Burn, muscle (no return date); Kostas Mitroglu, knee (March 30th);Ashkan Dejagah, groin (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (March 30th); Damien Duff, knock (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: The Cottagers have the fewest amount of matches remaining among the relegation-based clubs and the most amount of key injuries. Mitroglu, Dejagah and Parker must get healthy if this side is to have any shot at staying up, which Vegas says isn’t happening.

Wigan boss defends fans after pitch-storming

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook is defending his supporters following a memorable upset of Manchester City in the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Latics fans stormed the pitch at the DW Stadium, a celebratory but dangerous scene which included “disturbances” between supporters of both clubs and a confronration between fans and Sergio Aguero.

But it takes just a look at the above photo to see both sides of the issues, as the photographer at right catches fans and players celebrating together… while Aguero rages behind him.

From Sky Sports:

“You’ve got to remember the pure emotions of the night for Wigan fans,” he said.

“They didn’t really turn up to see us win – that’s the truth of it. I’ve got a picture of my son in the directors’ box – he’s only 12 – with his head in his hands looking at the floor because he couldn’t watch.

“We certainly don’t want to see fans engaging with players. The players’ protection is absolutely paramount. But also the supporters enjoying that moment is a good thing for me.”

There is, also, this photo to show the other side of the scenario. Ultimately in our era, this type should sadly be prevented to defy the potential for the latter. That’s sad, but it’s a litigious world.

Dan Burn of Wigan Athletic celebrates. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Watford has two wins in last 14 PL matches
  • Toffees won 3-2 at Goodison on Nov. 5
  • Watford leads all-time 19W-3D-3L

Two top half hopefuls meet at Vicarage Road in a reprise of an early season thriller when Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Everton is in a battle for seventh with Burnley and Leicester City, and could finish the weekend there with a win and help.

Watford has to chance to finish in the top half. It’d be there already had it not coughed up a 2-0 lead to then-caretaker manager David Unsworth‘s Everton in a 3-2 loss on Nov. 5.

What they’re saying

Watford’s Jose Holebas on the match“We have to do something in this game. When we played there, we were 2-0 up and gave the game away in that way – it is unacceptable for me. I was a little bit emotional because I know that this season we have lost some points [from winning positions].”

Everton’s Sam Allardyce on his style critics“The type of football we’ve produced isn’t rubbish, we’ve produced proper football in terms of what we’ve tried to achieve. The past reputation is not the reality if you ask the players, so you look at the football we’ve played since I’ve been here.”

Prediction

Police say officer collapsed by himself during fan violence

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) The riot police officer who died of cardiac arrest during crowd trouble before a Europa League match in Spain collapsed on his own and not in a direct confrontation with fans, authorities said Friday.

Officials in the Basque region of Spain said doctors dismissed the possibility the cardiac arrest was caused by any type of trauma sustained by the officer in fighting that took place before the match between Athletic Bilbao and Russian club Spartak Moscow on Thursday.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

There had been conflicting reports about what caused the officer’s death, with some saying he might have been involved in a struggle with fans or was hit by one of the many objects being thrown during the altercation.

Five people remained detained – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards – following the violent clashes that took place less than four months before the World Cup is held in Russia.

Authorities identified the victim as 51-year-old Inocencio Alonso Garcia and said he “suddenly felt ill in the course of the serious incidents” that took place outside San Mames Stadium in the northern city of Bilbao.

They said the officer was quickly transported from the scene but went into cardiac arrest before arriving at the nearby Basurto hospital. Doctors said they tried to revive him for more than an hour.

Video footage published by local media appeared to show the moment the officer collapsed while standing near the fighting along with other policemen.

Other images of the clashes showed fans hitting each other, and a group of policemen striking a man on the ground after he fell trying to run away.

The officer who died was among the large police force summoned to try to keep order as several hundred Russian fans – many of them considered by local authorities as radical ultras – arrived in the city for the round-of-32 match in Europe’s second-tier club competition.

The trouble erupted as police were escorting Spartak fans into the stadium and a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. West Ham ]

Police said “violent fans from both clubs” participated in the fighting which spread onto the streets near the stadium located in a central area of Bilbao. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks went off all around.

Authorities said they had identified several people before the fighting carrying items that included knives, iron bars, brass knuckles and even bags of stones.

There had been reports of other minor clashes involving Russian fans in Bilbao ahead of Thursday’s match, which Spartak won 2-1. Athletic advanced despite the loss, winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

UEFA condemned the violent clashes and said it was in contact with local authorities to obtain more information on the incidents, while Spanish league president Javier Tebas called for action by FIFA and UEFA to halt fan violence.

Bilbao will host matches in the 2020 European Championship. Six years ago, a fan died in the city in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Foxes unbeaten in five vs. Stoke
  • Drew 2-2 at the Potteries on Nov. 4
  • Leicester leads all-time 34W-34D-31L

Leicester City can rejoin the Top Seven with a win and help on Friday when it hosts relegation-threatened Stoke City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Foxes sit eighth in the Premier League table, a point back of Burnley (The Clarets host Southampton on Saturday)

Stoke, meanwhile, is two points back of safety. The half-full glass says the Potters have only lost once since Paul Lambert took over as boss, but the half-empty one sees draws against Watford and Brighton to go a loss at Bournemouth.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claude Puel on Stoke’s fortunes: “Shaqiri can make the difference and at the moment they play well with a good fighting spirit. I think they play good football on the floor. When they recover the ball they try to get in behind and make good pressing on the opponent. Shaqiri has more freedom and plays between the lines and they are a good team at this moment.”

Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Paul Lambert’s style“He has a German mentality with his teams… I’m really glad he came here. With German teams they always sit together – there are no phones on the table. It’s brought us more together – when you eat together you have to speak more to other team-mates who you don’t normally speak to. It’s a good thing.”

Prediction

Phone ban or no, it will take improved communication to deal with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Adrien Silva. Leicester gets another win, 3-0.