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Premier League Relegation Watch: Fulham gaining ground

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With five weeks to go there’s some separation in the relegation race with 17th placed Norwich City enjoying a five point lead on a tight bottom three of Fulham (27 points), Cardiff City (26 points) and Sunderland (25 points).

North of Norwich is West Brom (32 points), Swansea City (33 points) and Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, both on 34 points.

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.

13. ASTON VILLA 34 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Crystal Palace (A); Southampton (H); Swansea City (A); Hull City (H); Manchester City (A); Tottenham (A)

League Form: LWWLLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Christian Benteke, achilles (out for season); Fabian Delph, calf (April 12th); Karim El Ahmadi, thigh (April 12th); Libor Kozak, broken leg (out for season); Jores Okore, knee (April 26th); Charles N’Zogbia, calf (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/1

Verdict: Unlikely to be relegated but looked poor this past weekend losing 2-1 to Fulham, which largely had to do with Benteke, Agbonlahor and Delph all being out. This weekend the latter two should be available and one more victory should do it to secure the Villains’ survival in the top flight.

14. CRYSTAL PALACE 34 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: DLDLWW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: None

Vegas odds to be relegated: 8/1

Verdict: A dominant 3-0 victory over Cardiff City last weekend has spirits high at Selhurst Park. Palace, the club no one gave a shot to stay up in the beginning of the year, looks all but set to be playing in the Premier League next season.

15. SWANSEA CITY 33 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: DLLDWL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesKyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/1

Verdict: The 0-1 loss to Hull City did Swansea City no favors and if Garry Monk isn’t careful the difficult end of the year schedule means it might come down to the wire for the Swans.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 32 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLWLDW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesClaudio Yacob, hamstring (April 12th); Chris Brunt, knee (April 12th); Billy Jones, hamstring (April 12th); Zoltan Gera, hamstring (no return date); Graham Dorrans, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 4/1

Verdict: Huge victory at Norwich City last weekend but the Baggies will need more to assuage worries of relegation. And with a fixture list that has Spurs, Manchester City and Arsenal, it won’t come easy.

17. NORWICH CITY 32 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: LDLWLL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesLeroy Fer, hamstring (April 12th); Michael Turner, hamstring (April 12th); Elliot Bennett, knee (April 20th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/1

Verdict: Saying it now, the Canaries are going down. They were horrible in last weekend’s loss to West Brom, they just sacked their manager and their last four matches of the season are brutal. Done and done.

18. FULHAM 27 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LLWLLW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesDan Burn, muscle (no return date); Kostas Mitroglu, knee (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (April 12th); Damien Duff, knock (no return date); Georgios Karagounis, knock (April 12th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/2

Verdict: Huge win last weekend and, given what’s gone on at Norwich of late, Fulham will feel as if this weekend should go the same way. If it does the Cottagers will find themselves two points away from safety with four matches to play. Very doable stuff.

19. CARDIFF CITY 26 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LWLLDL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesCraig Noone, muscle (April 5th); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: Buried 0-3 at home by Crystal Palace last weekend says it all, Cardiff is going down.

19. SUNDERLAND 25 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: LDLLLL

Other Competitions: None

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

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: Crushed 5-1 by Spurs looks to be a death sentence for Sunderland.

Watch Live: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough (Lineups, Live Stream)

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: The West Brom crest is seen prior to the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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West Bromwich Albion searches for its second win this season on Sunday when they take on Middlesbrough at 8:30 a.m. E.T. from The Hawthorns on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Boro holds a narrow advantage in all-time meetings, with four wins out of eight, and Aitor Karanka‘s side certainly have the capabilities to pull off another victory against West Brom following a solid summer in the transfer window.

WATCH LIVE: West Bromwich Albion vs. Middlesbrough live online

Karanka’s men remain unbeaten through two matches, including last weekend’s narrow 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

West Brom remains largely intact with its starting XI as Salomon Rondon gets the start up front for the Baggies. Tony Pulis‘ side has plenty of options off the bench as well, including Saido Berahino and Craig Gardner to provide a spark.

For Middlesbrough, U.S. international Brad Guzan will get the start in goal for the first time this season, as Victor Valdes remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Alvaro Negredo looks to continue his fine start to the season after notching a goal and two assists in his first two matches.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion – Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Galloway; Phillips, Yacob, Fletcher (c), Field, McClean; Rondon.
Bench – Rose; Olsson, Gardner, Lambert, Berahino, Leko, Wilson

Middlesbrough – Guzan, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Barragan, Forshaw, Clayton, Stuani, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo.
Bench – 
Dimi, Bernardo, Rhodes, Reach, Fischer, De Sart, Nugent.

PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Hammers, Boro visits West Brom

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Middlesborough manager Aitor Karanka looks on during the Premier League match between Sunderland FC and Middlesbrough FC at Stadium of Light on August 21, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
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These four clubs have a combined two losses so far in Premier League competition. Unfortunately for Middlesbrough and West Ham, outside league play was not so kind over the past four days.

Those two clubs were both ousted from cup competitions by inferior clubs, and must regroup to maintain their unbeaten league status on the road.

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West Brom vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

A Sunday morning road trip for Middlesbrough was good to them last weekend, so why not again? Boro remains unbeaten in the league, having dispatched Sunderland last time out for their first win of the season, but Aitor Karanka will need to put a midweek loss to Fulham in the League Cup in the rear-view mirror.

[ MORE: Late Rashford strike lifts Manchester United ]

It’s been a mixed bag for West Brom thus far, with the high of their opening day win over Crystal Palace erased with a home Premier League loss to Everton and an even more disappointing result against League One minnows Northampton in the League Cup. Tony Pulis and the rest of the West Brom executives are under fire for not improving the squad with just days left in the transfer window.

INJURIES: West Brom OUT: Chris Brunt (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Brendan Galloway (hamstring), Jonny Evans (hip). | Middlesbrough OUT: Victor Valdes (hamstring), Marten De Roon (hamstring), George Friend (calf), Fabio (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Ayala (fitness), Bernardo Espinosa (fitness).

Manchester City vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Like Middlesbrough, West Ham is in good league form, but their midweek result in another competition will place a damper on this weekend’s events. The Hammers were ousted from the Europa League before the group stage for the second season in a row, falling to Romanian champions Astra Girugiu…for the second season in a row.

Last year, Slaven Bilic turned things around in three days, beating Arsenal at the Emirates just after Europa League elimination. This year, the road test is just as difficult, and with injuries to a number of key attackers, the Hammers will need to dig deep to turn things around.

[ MORE: Petr Cech says Arsenal is aiming for Premier League title ]

Manchester City fell to West Ham at home last season, and Pep Guardiola will be sure to make them remember. Willy Caballero is likely to continue in goal with Claudio Bravo having just arrived, and while it seems Manchester City has yet to be seriously tested in league play, the Argentinian and his back line have yet to keep a clean sheet.

INJURIES: Manchester City  OUT: Ilkay Gundogan (knee), Vincent Kompany (thigh), Claudio Bravo (preparation). QUESTIONABLE: Leroy Sane (fitness). West Ham  OUT: Sofiane Feghouli (hamstring), Andre Ayew (thigh), Andy Carroll (), Cresswell (knee), Henry (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Dimitri Payet (fitness), Manuel Lanzini (fitness), Havard Nordtveit (foot), Mark Noble (wrist).

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 0-1 Montreal Impact

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12:  Ignacio Piatti #10 of the Montreal Impact controls the ball during the MLS game against the New York Red Bulls at the Olympic Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Impact defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): A passionate but sloppy rivalry match saw Toronto stunned by 10-man Montreal at BMO Field. The Impact held strong against a toothless Toronto 2nd-half push, and they pinged a goal against the run of play inside the final 20 minutes to end Toronto’s seven-match unbeaten run. With Montreal’s Callum Mallace seeing red just before halftime, the hosts had little to offer Evan Bush’s goal, and Ignacio Piatti worked a goal out of nothing to earn the Impact three points. At least Toronto had a cool tifo:

Three moments that mattered:

44′ – A spotty first half came boiling over just before the break when Marco Delgado clipped Dominic Osorio on a breakaway. Steven Beitashour came trotting back towards the incident and was decked by Callum Mallace. A brawl developed and after the scuffle, Mallace was sent off. While the extra-curricular activity definitely warranted punishment, it’s controversial to conclude that Mallace’s actions warranted a straight red card.

65′ – Toronto poured pressure forward, and looked to the referee twice, who was unmoved. First Sebastian Giovinco went down under a clip from Laurent Ciman, who appeared to stick his leg out behind him and trip the Italian. Then, Jozy Altidore went to ground on a body check from Hassoun Camara, but again the referee shook his head. The US international looked to have toppled to the floor easily under pressure from . This double moment was pivotal in the match anyways, but became even more significant after Seba came off limping heavily, holding his inner thigh, substituted for Tsubasa Endoh.

73′ – Out of nothing, Montreal had a stunning lead. Evan Bush booted a goal kick to midfield, and the ball falls to Oduro who works hard to divert play to Piatti on the left edge of the box. The 31-year-old collected with a few expert touches, then suddenly one-on-one with Steven Bieteshour, Piatti deposited his 14th goal of the season inside the far post, leaving Alex Bono no chance.

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Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti 73′

MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Sporting KC

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Fabinho #33 of the Philadelphia Union controls the ball against the Columbus Crew SC on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words or lessPhiladelphia wasted an energetic start to the match, but the hosts found themselves with a man advantage shortly into the second half, and they’d take advantage, winning 1-0 at Talen Energy Stadium behind a goal from Roland Alberg, who had entered the field just two minutes before scoring. The Union were overall the better side, but the hosts weren’t without chances of their own, most notably watching Dom Dwyer miss moments before Alberg’s goal. It was all over for KC when Roger Espinoza was also sent off for a second yellow late in the match, seeing Philly bag a second with ticks on the clock.

Three moments that mattered

17′ – A whopping four missed chances plagued the otherwise positive start for the home side. First, Tranquillo Barnetta curled in a gorgeous effort that was acrobatically parried away by a leaping Alec Kann. Then, in the 11th and 14th minutes, a pair of low crosses from Fabinho along the face of goal fell just out of reach of a sliding C.J. Sapong. Finally, the 17th minute saw Chris Pontius fire just wide with a header on a free-kick.

59′ – Philadelphia was given an advantage the rest of the way when Jimmy Medranda was given his second yellow card for hauling down Keegan Rosenberry on the edge of the box. Mandranda had been cautioned earlier for dissent when he laid into the referee following a first-half foul call.

67′ – Just moments after Dwyer missed wide right on a breakaway, Philadelphia capitalized on their man advantage. Fabinho connected with substitute Roland Alberg, and the 26-year-old Dutchman let loose a curler into the top right for a 1-0 lead. There was no looking back.

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Man of the match: Fabinho

Goalscorers: Alberg 67′, Barnetta 90+2′