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Analyzing the Premier League relegation battle

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The battle at the bottom of the Premier League table has intensified over the past few weeks, as eight teams are now embroiled in the relegation scrap.

This is getting intense.

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Big wins for Cardiff City, Burnley and Newcastle have muddled the situation, while only Fulham and Huddersfield seem doomed for the drop. That means six teams are scrapping to stay out of 18th place.

Below we take a look at the situation for the bottom eight clubs with 12 games to go, while the likes of Leicester, Bournemouth, West Ham and Everton will also be looking over their shoulders nervously.


Huddersfield

The Terriers are already prepping for next season in the second-tier under Jan Siewert and haven’t won a PL game since November. Scoring goals has been their big problem, and they have plenty of big boys to play in the final weeks of the season. Adding another 11 points from their final 12 games seems a tad generous too…

Current position: 20th
Current points: 11
Games remaining: Newcastle (A), Wolves (H), Brighton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Ham (A), Crystal Palace (A), Leicester (H), Tottenham (A), Watford (H), Liverpool (A), Man United (H), Southampton (A)
Projected final points tally: 22 points


Fulham

The Cottagers are really up against it now and they play three of the top five in their remaining games. They can still get out of trouble, but it seems very unlikely. Claudio Ranieri is being lambasted by his own fans and even though they look capable of scoring, Fulham’s defensive displays have been ghastly all season long.

Current position: 19th
Current points: 17
Games remaining: West Ham (A), Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Liverpool (H), Man City (H), Watford (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Cardiff (H), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H)
Projected final points tally: 29 points


Southampton

Not beating any of Cardiff, Palace and Burnley in their last three was a huge blow fore Saints after a good run of wins. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men will likely go into the final week of the season with a chance of staying up. For the second season running Southampton are in big trouble and their hopes rely on Danny Ings staying fit. Saints’ survival hopes will go down to the wire once again.

Current position: 18th
Current points: 24
Games remaining: Arsenal (A), Fulham (H), Man United (A), Tottenham (H), Watford (A), Brighton (A), Liverpool (H), Wolves (H), Newcastle (A), Bournemouth (H), West Ham (A), Huddersfield (H)
Projected final points tally: 39 points


Cardiff City

The Bluebirds have been in great form recently with big wins against Bournemouth and Saints boosting their survival hopes. They have games against each of the top four remaining, but they have momentum. Neil Warnock‘s side will have the neutrals support in the run-in, but do they have the goals to seal the deal?

Current position: 17th
Current points: 25
Games remaining: Watford (H), Everton (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Brighton (A), Chelsea (H), Man City (A), Burnley (A), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A), Crystal Palace (H), Man United (A)
Projected final points tally: 39 points


Newcastle United

Newcastle have played really well in recent weeks and look sharp going forward. Miguel Almiron will be key, but their schedule is extremely favorable as their toughest games remaining are against Arsenal and Liverpool, with the latter at home.

Current position: 16th
Current points: 25
Games remaining: Huddersfield (H), Burnley (H), West Ham (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (A), Southampton (H), Brighton (A), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A)
Projected final points tally: 42 points


Burnley

Sean Dyche‘s men have been in fine form recently and despite a tough final few months of the season (schedule wise) they’ve turned the corner. The Clarets should be fine, just about, but their final four games are very tough. Have to get points on the board ASAP.

Current position: 15th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Tottenham (H), Newcastle (A), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (A), Leicester (H), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A), Cardiff (H), Chelsea (A), Man City (H), Everton (A), Arsenal (H)
Projected final points tally: 40 points


Brighton & Hove Albion

If there’s one team everyone is expecting to get dragged into the bottom three it is Brighton. They have won one of their last 11 PL games and Chris Hughton‘s side are making big defensive mistakes. They still have to play four of the top five. If Glenn Murray doesn’t regain his form, Brighton are in big trouble.

Current position: 14th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Leicester (A), Huddersfield (H), Crystal Palace (A), Cardiff (H), Southampton (H), Tottenham (A), Bournemouth (H), Wolves (A), Newcastle (H), Arsenal (A), Man City (H), Chelsea (A)
Projected final points tally: 37 points


Crystal Palace

The addition of Michy Basthuayi and the return to form of Wilfried Zaha means Palace will be fine. They aren’t great to watch, but Roy Hodgson will get the job done. Not the easiest schedule remaining, but they are more than capable of picking up a few shock wins.

Current position: 13th
Current points: 27
Games remaining: Leicester (A), Man United (H), Burnley (A), Brighton (H), Tottenham (A), Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Man City (H), Arsenal (A), Everton (H), Cardiff (A), Bournemouth (H)
Projected final points tally: 41 points


Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City

Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City (Lineups and stream link)
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Leicester City looks to build a nine-point cushion on fourth-place Chelsea with a win over Burnley at Turf . Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes can go level on points with second-place Manchester City by beating the hosts.

[ STREAM: Burnley v. Leicester City ]

Fifteenth-place Burnley opens the day two points clear of the Bottom Three, losers of four-straight matches.

Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood start up top for the Clarets against the second-stingiest back line in the Premier League.

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Burnley

Leicester City

PL Sunday Preview: Leicester travel to Burnley; Liverpool put perfect record on the line against Man Utd

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With eight Premier League fixtures on Saturday, two more remain in Matchweek 23.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Burnley v. Leicester City  — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Burnley are free falling and there doesn’t seem to be a safety net in sight.

The Clarets, who are two points removed from the relegation zone, head into a tough three-match window without striker Ashley Barnes. Recuperating from a hernia surgery, the 30-year-old is set to miss bouts against Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal – to name some.

But quite possibly more alarming than that is the team’s recent form. Losing seven out of their last nine, just two points divide Burnley from the drop zone. Sean Dyche‘s team are clueless in the box, scoring one goal in four league bouts. Trouble looms over Turf Moor.

But even then, Dyche, who has made Burnley a force to be reckoned with in the past, believes his side are still a threat.

“They are a good side,” Dyche said about Leicester. “We are on a tough run of form, but I don’t think they are naive enough to think it is turn up and get the business done. We are not a million miles away.”

Can Burnley pull a Southampton and stun a top-four bound Leicester?

“We weren’t at our best [against Southampton] and we didn’t have the energy and intensity that we would have liked,” Brendan Rodgers said ahead of Sunday’s early match.

“We work twice as hard and that’s what we’ve done after every setback. We still have a lot to improve on.”

The Foxes had a rare full week to train, so one can bet that Rodgers is serious about his word.

INJURIES: Burnley —  OUT: Barnes (hernia), Gudmundsson (hamstring) | Leicester City — OUT: Ndidi (knee), Amartey (ankle), James (match fitness)

Liverpool v. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United are a part of the exclusive anti-Liverpool club for more than the obvious reason.

Yes, the North West Derby is one of the league’s most heated rivalries, with countless flashbacks in its 203 meetings during its over 100 years of history.

But these two, star-studded squads led by Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, respectively, also have a permeating rivalry of their own. The Reds, who have yet to taste defeat this season, have dropped points to only United.

It can be argued that Sunday’s bout may be Liverpool’s most complicated and least favorable, despite maintaining an immaculate record at home. This is the “big one” that many didn’t particularly circle on the calendar.

“It’s a very, very important football game,” Klopp said. “Very important. We have to learn how to deal with games like this in the right manner. We haven’t done bad in the past but we can still improve.

“Old Trafford [a 1-1 draw in October] was a good example, [we were] not at our best because of their quality. We have to make it more likely we’re at our best.”

Solskjaer had his tactics in place last time around; a small injection of final quality and the team would have crushed Liverpool’s aspirations of matching the Iinvincibles or Manchester City’s points record.

“The last two performances [against Liverpool] at Old Trafford we have drawn twice and been close to winning both games, so we’ve got some games to look back at and that will give us loads of belief… if we perform to our best we have a chance to win,” Solskjaer said.

Sunday presents itself as the final chance for United to pull the upset, and reaffirm why they’re a part of the exclusive club to begin with. But Liverpool are slowing becoming invincible themselves.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Lovren (hamstring), Clyne (knee), Keïta (groin), Milner (hamstring) | Manchester United  — OUT: Tuanzebe (hamstring), McTominay (knee), Pogba (ankle)

Serie A roundup: Immobile nets hat-trick, Lazio runs over Sampdoria (video)

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Lazio’s record-extending 11th straight Serie A win highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 5-1 Sampdoria  

Like Lazio’s season, Ciro Immobile continues to make strides with each passing day.

The 29-year-old’s hat-trick powered Simone Inzaghi’s side past Sampdoria 5-1, extending his goal count to 23, nine more than Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaka.

 

Lazio, who are three points behind top-of-the-table Juventus and one behind second-place Inter Milan, were up three goals by the 20-minute mark. By the 65th minute, Immobile reached the three goal mark, converting from the spot.

“We would need too much time to count his records,” coach Simone Inzaghi said on Immobile’s magnificent run of form. “We are talking about an extraordinary team player. He has shown that so many times. Immobile has been doing extraordinary things for four years, I’m not surprised.”

Full of confidence, Lazio turn one of the most challenging corners of the season, as they take on rivals AS Roma defend the Italian Cup against Napoli.

“We’ll enjoy this 11th win but we have to already be thinking about the next matches,” Inzaghi said. “We know what a derby means but I can’t allow myself to think about Roma.

“We play Napoli on Tuesday, we know what the Italian Cup means for us, what it meant last year, we have it on our shirts and we will fight for it again.”

When it comes to Sampdoria, things are going from bad to ugly, quick.

“Tonight I’ll add salt and pepper and I’ll eat them alive,” Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri said of his players.

“Lazio was too good for us, you could clearly see the difference between the two teams, but it was without doubt the worst Samp performance since I’ve been here.”

Elsewhere

Sassuolo 2-1 Torino

Napoli 0-2 Fiorentina

La Liga roundup: Casemiro’s brace earns injury-riddled Real Madrid win (video)

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Casemiro’s heroic performance against Sevilla highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s goalscoring hero on Saturday wasn’t Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, or even Sergio Ramos.

With two crucial goals in the second half, Casemiro single-handedly earned three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, days removed from cathartic Spanish Super Cup win against arch rivals Atletico Madrid.

With Bale, Hazard, Ramos injured, Benzema on the bench far from match-fit, and Federico Valverde suspended, Los Blancos were in dire need of someone to lead the way, and place pressure on struggling co-leaders Barcelona, who are now under Quique Setien’s tutelage.

By the time the first 45 minutes came to a close, the overall impression was that it would take a miracle for the home side to earn much-needed three points.

That all quickly changed in the second half as the Brazilian midfielder chipped Tomas Vaclik after a picture-perfect backheel from Luka Jovic. Madrid were edging Julen Lopetegui’s side, and Casemiro foreshadowed what was to come.

With the score level, the Brazilian leaped inside the box and headed home a lofting ball from the right flank, catching Sevilla’s defense completely off guard.

Casemiro’s brace came just five minutes after Luuk De Jong‘s left-footed goal in the 64th minute.

League leaders with 43 points, Madrid prepares for their Copa del Rey bout against third-division side Unionistas midweek. Sevilla, on the other hand, host Levante in the same tournament.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-1 Alaves