A string of upsets aside, the Premier League seems destined to build gaps at both ends of the table.
Aside from Chelsea’s big match with Arsenal, the Top Four of the PL has matches against teams in the relegation zone or within a result of it.
[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea-Arsenal ]
Those are among the top stories in the Premier League this weekend.
Top vs. bottom (with two exceptions)
Rather than separate six important matches, let’s break down three different types of matches to impact the Top Four and Bottom Three.
- Arsenal hopes to pull within six points of Chelsea, opening up the Premier League title race just a bit. The Gunners and Blues also face the challenge of knowing that the remaining four teams in the Top Six face very winnable matches.
- But those matches are against desperate sides. Right now there are six teams within five points when it comes to the relegation fight. Two of those teams feel quite fortunate to have each other, as Sam Allardyce leads Crystal Palace into a six-pointer against his former club, Sunderland.
- So what are the rest of the matches involving penthouse-dwellers and bottom-feeders?
- 15th place Middlesbrough is at second-place Tottenham Hotspur.
- 16th place Leicester City hosts sixth-place Manchester United.
- 17th place Swansea City is off to fifth-place Manchester City.
- 19th place Hull City hosts fourth-place Liverpool.
Consider the consequences of a top team losing, or relegation-battler picking up three points while its fellow strugglers could get hit with goal differential lambasting score lines.
Let’s, completely theoretically, imagine what things would look like if Chelsea draws Arsenal, Palace draws Sunderland, and only one upset occurs across the other four matches (We’re choosing Hull-Liverpool only because the Tigers are at home).
Chelsea would have 57 points, seven more than Spurs. Man City would hop into third with 49, Arsenal would sit fourth with 48, Liverpool next with 46, and Manchester United sixth with 45. Tight.
In this scenario, the relegation zone would be even more congested. Boro, Leicester, and Swansea would still have 21 points, Palace and Hull would have 20, and Sunderland would have 17. Tighter.
This also means the five teams between ninth and 14th have chances to build their cushions above the drop zone. Keep a special eye on Burnley’s top to Watford, and Southampton hosting West Ham.