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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

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.