With just four matches remaining for most teams, things are somewhat structured at the bottom…or so we thought.
Now, with teams outside the relegation zone suddenly struggling and those inside it picking up enormous victories, things could get interesting down the stretch.
Fulham won an absolutely massive three points with a win over 17th-placed Norwich City, which manager Felix Magath labeled as “lucky.”
With everyone’s attention at Craven Cottage for that big six-pointer, Cardiff City pulled out a big win under everyone’s noses, beating Southampton 1-0.
Struggling teams include Sunderland, who have games in hand but a tough schedule, and Swansea City, who have been dragged into the fight with some very poor form.
Despite this, things still remain with four likely teams still “battling” for three positions. With all that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at the situation:
20. SUNDERLAND, 25 PTS (32 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Manchester City (A), Chelsea (A), Cardiff City (H), Manchester United (A), West Brom (H), Swansea City (H).
League Form: LLLLLD
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 1/12
Verdict: A brutal schedule and terrible form amount to a death sentence for Sunderland. Of all the teams in the fight, Sunderland seem to be the surest bet to go down. Gus Poyet tried, but hasn’t been able to come up with the answers.
19. CARDIFF CITY, 29 PTS (34 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Stoke City (H), Sunderland (A), Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H)
League Form: WLDLLW
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 2/7
Verdict: Their form coming into Southampton was ugly, but a big win last week puts them in a decent position. Their schedule isn’t too terrible going forward, with winnable matches in all of their next three. However, playing a Chelsea squad that could be gunning for a title in the final match of the season is a terrible, awful prospect that could end up seeing them down. Their goal differential is something to keep an eye on as well, sitting at -34, the closest of anyone to Fulham’s -40. If the Whites keep playing well, that could play a real factor.
18. FULHAM FC, 30 PTS (34 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Tottenham (A), Hull City (H), Stoke City (A), Crystal Palace (H)
League Form: WWLLWL
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 1/1
Verdict: Felix Magath may have just rescued Fulham yet. There’s still work to be done, but with Norwich’s absolutely ridiculous upcoming schedule, the Whites are in a pole position to save their season. Things are also shaping out well around them. The Cardiff win last weekend hurt, but Spurs are in horrible form coming into this weekend’s match, and with the rest of their schedule against teams mid-table, their opponents will likely have little to play for.
It’s all in front of Fulham; if they fail to escape the drop, they’ll have only themselves to blame. Also to note: fans will be weirdly rooting for local derby rivals Chelsea, as the Blues play all of their relegation opponents down the stretch.
17. NORWICH CITY, 32 PTS (34 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Liverpool (H), Manchester United (A), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H)
League Form: LLLWLD
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 4/9
Verdict: BRUTAL schedule to finish out the year. Manchester United is always up for an upset this season, but judging by Norwich’s recent form, that’s a long way away. Every one of their other opponents will have something big to play for, and it’s quite possible they don’t see another point this season. The loss to Fulham was devastating, and it could be over for the Canaries.
16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION, 33 PTS (33 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Manchester City (A), West Ham United (H), Arsenal (A), Sunderland (A), Stoke City (H)
League Form: DLDLWL
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 7/1
Verdict: Everyone from here on up is relatively safe. The thing keeping West Brom out of the race is their game in hand along with a decent schedule. The club has seen plenty of turmoil this season, but they should be alright barring a disastrous end-of-season collapse. Credit to Pepe Mel.
15. SWANSEA CITY, 33 PTS (34 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Newcastle (A), Aston Villa (H), Southampton (H), Sunderland (A)
League Form: LLWDLL
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 11/1
Verdict: Personally, I’d be more worried as a Swansea fan than a West Brom fan. They don’t have the luxury of a game in hand, and the team has played some ugly soccer the last two matches. The remaining schedule is a breeze compared to others, but they’ll have to pick things up if they want to be considered safe.
14. ASTON VILLA, 34 PTS (33 PLD)
Remaining Matches: Southampton (H), Swansea City (A), Hull City (H), Manchester City (A), Tottenham (A)
League Form: LLLLWW
Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 16/1
Verdict: Talk about poor form. Four straight losses – including ones to Fulham, Crystal Palace, and Stoke – have Villa fans a bit worried, but they still would need the club to lose out plus some help to be considered a real candidate. One or two wins should see them easily safe, despite the limp towards the finish line that has some calling for Paul Lambert’s head. The win over Chelsea looks more and more important, and not just in the title race.
NEXT IN LINE: Hull City (35 PTS, 33 PLD), Crystal Palace (37 PTS, 33 PLD), West Ham United (37 PTS, 33 PLD)