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

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday