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Is this the craziest Premier League relegation battle in recent history?

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Another match week gone, and barely any more clarity from the muddled Premier League relegation battle.

We say barely because West Bromwich Albion’s latest loss, even given its soft schedule, felt like a bit of a death knell (if you can have a ‘bit’ of a death knell).

[ MORE: Palace-Man Utd recap | Matic, Mourinho react ]

The Baggies are now eight points back of safety with nine matches to play, and sit seven points behind 18th and 19th. Making up more than two wins on one team is difficult, let alone three. But again, Baggies supporters, there is that schedule.

As for the rest, it still feels a bit absurd. Swansea City moved up to 13th with a win after starting the weekend in the relegation zone. Three points separate 19th from 13th place, and there’s a threat that 10th, 11th, and 12th could still get drawn into the fray.

So is this really crazy compared to other years? We went back to the turn of the century and traced three seemingly important statistics:

  • Teams relegated with the most points
  • Teams relegated with the best goal differential
  • The highest in the table a club finished within two wins (six points) of the drop zone.

Relegated with top points

As it stands, there’s nothing special about the pace of current 18th and 19th placed teams, Crystal Palace and Stoke, who are on pace to drop with 35 points (35.3, actually).

  • 42 — West Ham United 2002-03
  • 39 — Birmingham City -and- Blackpool 2010-11
  • 38 — Sheffield United 2006-07
  • 37 — Newcastle United 2015-16
  • 36 — Wigan Athletic 2012-13
  • 36 — Bolton Wanderers 2011-12
  • 36 — Reading 2007-08
  • 36 — Ipswich Town 2001-02
  • 35 — Hull City 2014-15
  • 35 — Birmingham City 2007-08

Relegated with best goal differential

This one seems the most telling, because the names on this list are largely recognizable and so-called yo-yo clubs. The best teams to go down are the ones that suffer from bad bounces. Put in perspective, the 11th place PL side (Everton) has a minus-16 goal differential this season.

Assuming at least five losses adding goals to the differential, Newcastle and Southampton stand a chance to be relegated with the best goal differential ever. That’s also an argument for why both teams will find safety, but we digress.

  • -16 — Birmingham City 2007-08
  • -17 — Leicester City 2003-04
  • -17 — West Ham 2002-03
  • -18 — Hull City 2014-15
  • -19 — Newcastle United 2008-09
  • -21 — Newcastle United 2015-16
  • -21 — Birmingham City 2010-11
  • -21 — Crystal Palace -and- Southampton, 2004-05
  • -22 — Birmingham City 2005-06
  • -23 — Blackpool 2010-11
  • -23 — Sheffield United 2006-07
  • -23 — Ipswich Town 2001-02

Highest team within two results of 18th

We went with six points because of the likelihood that a team would enter May still very much concerned with relegation if they were six. To boot, a team a win above the drop could win their final match and finish six clear.

As it stands, 12th place Bournemouth is six points clear of the drop zone. The next two teams up, Everton and Brighton, are seven points above.

The last 17 seasons have seen just eight in which 15th place was as close as six points. In that time, only five teams have finished that close to the drop zone and as high as 13th. No team has finished higher than that, and it seems this could be the year that mark goes down.

  • 13th place Stoke City 2012-13
  • 13th place Middlesbrough 2007-08
  • 13th place Newcastle United 2006-07
  • 13th place Birmingham City -and- Fulham 2002-03
  • 14th place West Brom 2015-16
  • 14th place Leicester 2014-15
  • 14th place Sunderland and Aston Villa 2013-14
  • 15th place Blackburn 2010-11

International preview: What is to come over the next week

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With the 2018 World Cup less than three months away, countries are taking these last moments to see players within their selection pool and make tweaks to the squad and tactics.

This week’s international window has already kicked off with the likes of South Africa, Liechtenstein, and Andorra taking the opportunity to see the field, and World Cup countries take the field tomorrow – two, to be exact. And they play each other.

Denmark and Panama meet in a rare friendly between countries set to take part in the summer festivities, with the match taking place in Bronby at 3pm ET. The two countries chose to play knowing they cannot possibly meet in Russia 2018 until at least the quarterfinals, with their respective Groups C and G split apart across the knockout rounds.

The hosts are fantastic from set-pieces and focus their attack around Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Panama’s midfield rock Gabriel Gomez will likely be tasked with keeping Eriksen quiet, something the Republic of Ireland was unable to do last time Denmark took the field as Eriksen bagged a hat-trick. Defender Andreas Christensen is headed towards the World Cup in fantastic form with Chelsea, having earned a starting spot with the Blues. With some injuries at the back, Christensen has also played out wide along the back line before as well, something to keep watch for.

On Friday, the heavyweights begin to see the field as Uruguay hosts Czech Republic. The South American nation received a friendly draw in World Cup Group A, but brought in a solid European side to match wits with after the Czechs finished third in their qualifying group. Japan also takes to the pitch on Friday, playing Mali on a neutral field in Belgium. The Japanese will need to be at the top of their game come summer, matched into Group H against Colombia, Poland, and Senegal.

England and Argentina have both scheduled games against European sides that disappointed by failing to make the 2018 tournament. On Friday, England travels to Amsterdam to take on a Netherlands squad in turmoil, while Argentina travels to the Etihad to meet Italy.

Russia and Brazil meet in Moscow on Friday, with over 50,000 tickets already reportedly sold for the match at Luzhniki Stadium. The hosts will then get another stiff test as they take on France four days later on Tuesday. If Russia’s squad has lots of work to do before hosting the World Cup, we’ll know in a week.

The main event on Friday will be Germany and Spain meeting in Dusseldorf in a matchup of the last two World Cup winners. Germany will be without Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus, but still fields one of the deepest squads in the entire world. The Germans don’t then get the week off, having to meet Brazil on Tuesday. If Jogi Low’s side comes out of those matches on top, they could cement their status as favorites headed into the summer.

France has a stiff test as well, meeting Colombia on Friday. Like Denmark and Panama, the two countries reside in Groups C and H, meaning they could not rematch in the World Cup until at least the quarterfinals. The French then go to take on Russia next week.


Denmark vs. Panama
Slovakia vs. UAE
China vs. Wales
Algeria vs. Tanzania
Malta vs. Luxembourg

Germany vs. Spain
Italy vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Brazil
Netherlands vs. England
France vs. Colombia
Portugal vs. Egypt
Uruguay vs. Czech Republic
Mexico vs. Ireland
Poland vs. Nigeria
Austria vs. Slovenia
Peru vs. Croatia
Austria vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Switzerland
Norway vs. Australia
Mali vs. Japan

Sweden vs. Chile

Kuwait vs. Cameroon
Nicaragua vs. Cuba

Portugal vs. Netherlands
Bulgaria vs. Kazakhstan

Russia vs. France
Germany vs. Brazil
England vs. Italy
Spain vs. Argentina
United States vs. Paraguay
Tunisia vs. Costa Rica
Colombia vs. Australia
Belgium vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Chile
Japan vs. Ukraine

Alexis Sanchez says he “expected better” from himself at Manchester United

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Alexis Sanchez isn’t happy with his performance so far at Manchester United.

The Chilean superstar has scored just one goal for the Red Devils in 10 appearances since joining from Arsenal, and the club has lost three of those games and has been knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla.

Speaking with Chilean media on national team duty in Sweden, Sanchez said he expects more of himself and that he’s so far let himself down. “As I am self-demanding, I expected something better,” Sanchez said. “After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come here [to join the national team].”

Chile missed out on World Cup qualification, and has friendlies with Sweden and Denmark scheduled over the next week. With so little at stake, Sanchez was poised to take time off from the national team, but says he was convinced by Manchester City goalkeeper and Chilean captain Claudio Bravo to stick it out.

“The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January – but many things have happened in my life that are difficult,” Sanchez said. “I had asked permission to miss these games, but then I thought better and spoke with Claudio and told him that we should all be united.”

Once the international break is over, Manchester United resumes Premier League play against Swansea at the end of March before an April 7th derby meeting with Manchester City.

James Collins injured in West Ham friendly

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West Ham defender James Collins hobbled off the field in the 29th minute of the Hammers’ friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge on Wednesday, a big blow to the club’s already paper-thin back line.

With the league on an international break, West Ham agreed to play a friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge to help raise money for National League club that could be in serious financial trouble. However, it could be detrimental to the short-term future of the Hammers, who are hoping to stave off relegation, sitting just two points above the drop.

The 34-year-old defender has missed significant time this season due to injury, with an ankle injury keeping Collins out for nearly three months in 2017. West Ham has lost just four of the 12 Premier League matches Collins has appeared in this season, with three clean sheets. However, two of those have come in the club’s last three games, thrashed by a combined 7-1 scoreline between 90 minutes against Liverpool and Burnley.

The injury comes at the worst possible time, with West Ham set to play Southampton in a critical relegation matchup between teams in the in 17th and 18th in the Premier League table. The Hammers are already without defender Winston Reid who remains out for the season with a knee injury, while the club sold center-back Jose Fonte to Chinese club Dalian Yifang F.C. in late February.

West Ham was hoping to do its part to help save the London club. Former director Glyn Hopkin abruptly resigned and pulled all financial backing in early February, leaving the club fearing for its immediate future. They reportedly need $353,000 just to stay afloat the rest of the season, even with zero club debt.

Men In Blazers podcast: Mohamed Salah continues to shine

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Rog and Davo marvel at Mo Salah’s four goal, one dime haul in Liverpool’s 5-0 beatdown of Watford, analyze Jose Mourinho’s recent rants about football heritage at Manchester United, and recap Rog’s family trip to Stoke vs. Everton.

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