Table Talk: A look at the bottom with six weeks to play

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Sunderland has wasted one of its best chances to make a move towards safety with Monday’s 2-1 home loss to West Ham United, which has all but settled its fate in the 2014/15 Premier League.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening at the bottom of the table as Survival Sunday is six weeks away.

JPW has a thorough write-up of the math behind who could survive, but we’ll do a bit of an examination of who’s left on the schedules of relegation scrappers in 2014.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
West Ham United 32 10 7 15 36 42 -6 6-3-7 4-4-8 37
Aston Villa 31 9 7 15 34 46 -12 5-2-9 4-5-6 34
Swansea City 32 8 9 15 45 48 -3 5-5-6 3-4-9 33
Hull City 32 9 6 17 33 40 -7 6-4-6 3-2-11 33
Norwich City 32 8 8 16 26 51 -25 6-6-4 2-2-12 32
Crystal Palace 31 9 4 18 20 39 -19 7-2-7 2-2-11 31
West Bromwich Albion 31 5 14 12 36 48 -12 3-8-5 2-6-7 29

Cardiff City 32 6 8 18 29 61 -32 5-4-7 1-4-11 26
Sunderland 30 6 7 17 28 48 -20 3-3-9 3-4-8 25
Fulham 32 7 3 22 31 73 -42 4-1-11 3-2-11 24

 

Well, well, well West Ham. Supporters of the Irons can boo Sam Allardyce all they want, but the club is all-but-safe after spending most of the first half of ths season struggling for breath without marquee addition Andy Carroll. There are still four very tough matches left for the Hammers — Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City are all left on the menu — but even so they should be fine.

Villa has a seven game run-in, with four against bottom-half teams, while Swansea and Hull are also more than two wins above the break. The latter two each have three top-half teams on their schedule.

Norwich’s schedule is a Premier League inferno. After two relegation scraps with West Brom and Fulham, the Canaries host Liverpool before traveling to Manchester United and Chelsea, finishing the season at home against Arsenal. Yuck.

West Brom’s slate isn’t easy, either, with Spurs, Man City and Arsenal on the list before finishing up with Stoke City. Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace still looks ahead to seven matches, three against Champions League contenders in Everton, Man City and Liverpool.

As for the current bottom three, Cardiff has a manageable final six matches. Their stiffest tests come at Southampton and Newcastle before finishing the year at home against Chelsea. Remember, the Bluebirds have been miserable at home — just one PL win — and have a horrific goal differential for which to account.

Fulham may be five points from safety with six matches to play, but don’t write them off entirely. They’ll face teams ranked No. 10 or worse aside from an April 19 match against a floundering Spurs side at White Hart Lane.

Finally, Sunderland. At Spurs, home Everton, at Man City, at Chelsea, home Cardiff, at Manchester United, home West Brom, home Swansea. Yes, those are more matches than any other team but the Black Cats do not have a ton of depth for a congested schedule.

Now, allowing that any match involving a relegation candidate is important, let’s take a look at the most critical six-pointers remaining on our “Survival Slate”:

SURVIVAL SLATE

April 6
Aston Villa vs. Fulham
Cardiff City vs. Crystal Palace
Hull City vs. Swansea City
Norwich City vs. West Bromwich Albion

April 12
Crystal Palace vs. Aston Villa
Fulham vs. Norwich City

April 19
West Ham vs. Crystal Palace

April 26
Fulham vs. Hull City
Swansea City vs. Aston Villa
West Brom vs. West Ham

April 27
Sunderland vs. Cardiff City

May 3
Aston Villa vs. Hull City

May 7
Sunderland vs. West Brom

May 11
Fulham vs. Crystal Palace
Sunderland vs. Swansea City

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.