Yes nearly every year, at least one player from a relegated squad becomes a difference maker of some repute on a safe Premier League side.
So who will it be this year? Here are some candidates, though several may look to help their clubs rebound back to the top flight.
Neil Etheridge, GK, Cardiff City — The PL’s first Filipino player nearly kept the goal-starved Bluebirds in the top flight, somewhat similar to Lukasz Fabianski‘s work at Swans before moving to West Ham. Is there a spot for him somewhere in the top tier?
Philip Billing, CM, Huddersfield Town — The Swiss defensive midfielder averaged 2.7 tackles and two interceptions per game for the Terriers, and is just 22 years old.
Victor Camarasa, MF, Cardiff City — Five goals and four assists for a side that couldn’t find the back of the net shouldn’t be scoff material. At just 24, someone should take a look.
Aaron Mooy, CM, Huddersfield Town — Capable of unleashing a rocket, the former Man City pupil wasn’t as good in year two at the John Smith’s Stadium. Most weren’t.
Callum Paterson, DF, Cardiff City — Also just 24, the versatile Scot can deputize at defense, midfield, and occasionally forward for his new side.
Ryan Babel, FW, Fulham — The winger may be 32, but did he ever look quite this good on his first run through the Premier League. Five goals and three assists in 16 appearances following a mid-season transfer.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, MF, Fulham — He’s a bit of a card accumulator, but Fulham was better with him than without him. The 23-year-old was also outstanding at Marseille in the Ligue 1 club’s run to last season’s Europa League Final.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, FW, Fulham — He’s now scored and angered defenses on two offense-hungry clubs, and rang up 11 goals while nabbing an almost silly 6.5 aerial wins per match. He’s still only 24.
Cardiff City has not scored a single goal in 3 PL meetings vs CPFC
Crystal Palace has the 2nd most PL away points in 2019 with 16
Cardiff has just 9 first-half PL goals all season
Cardiff City needs a win or relegation is all but complete as they host Crystal Palace on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.
Thanks to a far superior goal differential, the magic number is two for Brighton & Hove Albion to secure Premier League safety and relegate Cardiff City, meaning any combination of two points dropped by Cardiff City or gained by Brighton would complete the bottom of the table. With Brighton taking on Manchester City in the final week of the season, Cardiff could significantly boost their hopes of survival with a result this weekend.
Crystal Palace sits 12th in the Premier League, above the classic 40-point threshold teams often target for safety. They are limping to the finish line like their opponents, with Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Pape Souare all out for the season plus Christian Benteke who is sidelined at least this weekend with a facial injury suffered last time out.
What they’re saying
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on relegation fight: “We’ve got to win this game. If we don’t we can forget it, so we’ve got to concentrate on that really. We always give effort and sometimes we are a bit limited. But with two games to go we’re still in it.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on playing a desperate side: “We have to expect a very motivated team, a team that will give its all to cling to the last chances of staying in the league, and hoping they can win while Brighton don’t. We have a desire to win the game as well.”
Cardiff City needs a result in the worst way, but they are dangerously thin, and Crystal Palace is a quality road opponent, having topped Arsenal last time away from home. The Bluebirds will come close to earning a hard-fought draw, but they will throw everything forward at the end in desperation and concede late for a 2-1 loss to seal their relegation.
The battles at the summit of the Premier League table continue as three of the top six teams take the field on Sunday.
The title race is still white hot, with both Manchester City and Liverpool swinging back and forth with every positive result. City jumped back into the lead with the win on Saturday over Tottenham, a point in front with four matches remaining on both the dockets.
The fight for the Champions League places also looks a good one, with four teams battling for just two places. Tottenham sits precariously in third on 67 points, while Arsenal and Chelsea are level on 66 with the Gunners holding the goal differential tiebreaker by five. Manchester United is in sixth on 64 points, still in the mix.
Everton v. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
The Red Devils are the first of the Champions League contenders to take the field as they visit Goodison Park. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s honeymoon period in charge of Manchester United is over and it’s time for him to prove he belongs. The Norwegian boss was given the permanent position after a record start to his interim tenure, but the timing was still odd and as the season winds down, the Red Devils could be left out of the mix for Europe’s biggest competition. Luke Shaw is suspended for the match for yellow card accumulation, but otherwise the injury news is good with Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, and Alexis Sanchez all reportedly available.
Everton, meanwhile, sits in a similar position as Manchester United, battling for a European place but bringing up the rear. The Toffees sit in 10th, back of the pack among a crowded fight for the last Europa League place. Everton is still just three points back of Watford who currently holds that spot, and while they can break everyone’s hearts by upsetting Manchester City in the FA Cup final, a loss would give the Europa League position to whoever finishes seventh.
INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Yerry Mina (hamstring), Andre Gomes (suspension). | Manchester United — OUT: Luke Shaw (suspension).
Cardiff City v. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Liverpool yet again has to put pressure on Manchester City to have any hope in the Premier League title race. Ahead of the midweek Manchester derby, the Reds have the opportunity not just to take the lead but to stay there should City slip up at all against the Red Devils with their game in hand.
They’ll need a result against a team fighting for its life. Cardiff City is in 17th in the Premier League table, three points shy of safety. A shocking win would put Cardiff in much better position, while a loss would see them potentially fall two games out. They’ve lost three straight and haven’t scored in their last two, so Liverpool will be licking its chops.
Arsenal v. Crystal Palace — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com
The Gunners will know Manchester United’s result before taking the field, to see whether they will be looking to strengthen their Champions League position or hoping to recapture it. Arsenal is currently in fourth, clinging barely to its spot in the top European competition, but they have been strong of late and have a soft schedule to finish the season, so there is no reason not to lock the spot down. Still, the injuries are rampant and there are fears that Aaron Ramsey‘s Arsenal career will end with the thigh injury he picked up midweek in Europa League play. Coupled with the three long-term injuries to Bellerin, Welbeck, and Holding plus Sokratis’ suspension, the Gunners are thin.
Crystal Palace has little to play for at this point, sitting in 14th on 39 points but unlikely to be sucked into the relegation battle. Roy Hodgson has led the squad to five wins since the start of February, good enough form to keep them out of the maelstrom at the bottom of the table. They put up a decent fight against title leaders Manchester City last time out, and kept two straight clean sheets in the matches before that. However, they lost two important players recently in James Tomkins and Jeffrey Schlupp who both will miss the rest of the season after long-term injuries.
With that in mind, we asked our writers a series of questions about how they think things will shake out across the Premier League, FA Cup, European competitions and the promotion picture.
Here’s a look at what they believe will happen in the frantic race to the finish line.
Who will win the Premier League title? Have you changed your mind from your original pick?
Joe Prince-Wright: Nope. I said Man City at the start, and I am sticking with them. But this is going to be one heck of a title race. I can see this going into the final minutes on the final day of the season, and goal difference or a single point will likely decide the title. I’m going with City, just, to win the title.
Nick Mendola: I haven’t changed my mind from my original pick of Manchester City, but obviously I’m very close to thinking Liverpool can do this given schedule congestion. The last obstacle seems to be whether the Reds can get through the first Porto match with a decent lead and be able to focus on defeating Chelsea and navigating the 2nd leg.
Andy Edwards: Everybody in the world picked Man City at the start of the season, and for good reason. Now, though, Liverpool’s “easier” run-in has me leaning their way, for the simple fact they showed last year they’re more than happy to punt one competition to chase another, and I’m not sure that concept exists within Pep Guardiola‘s DNA. Obviously it’s a massive gamble to look past a Champions League quarterfinal, but if Jurgen Klopp really wants to win the league…
Dan Karell: I still think Manchester City will do it. Ultimately, Manchester City has the title-winning and big game experience that should just set them apart from Liverpool. I think it will come down to a 2-3 point difference in the table at the end.
Kyle Bonn: Manchester City. That’s who I originally picked, and based on current form, Pep Guardiola’s squad is still the most equipped to finish the season strong. With the 1 point lead, they would need to slip and Liverpool would need to be near-perfect the rest of the way to capitalize. Liverpool’s a likable team, and it’s hard not to root for them to get over the hump, but the struggles a few weeks ago severely cost them.
Which teams finish in the top 4, and why?
JPW: Man, this is very tough. Man City and Liverpool will be the top two, obvs., but then I’d go with Tottenham and Arsenal to finish in third and fourth respectively. With a tougher schedule and having the Europa League to fall back on, I think Chelsea will just miss out, while Man United have run out of steam in a big way.
NM: Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs. There’s definitely enough quality in Chelsea and Manchester United to slip into third and fourth, but the way the fixtures fall and who is home makes me think their paths have more obstacles than Arsenal and Spurs.
AE: Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham. Why that particular order, you ask? Have you looked at Arsenal’s schedule to finish the season?
KB: The Champions League race is going to be FUN! Four teams fighting for two spots, all within three points. I think Spurs will make it as they limp to the finish line, and I like Chelsea to pip Arsenal for the last spot. All these teams have flaws, but I think Chelsea has slightly better players, and Eden Hazard will finish his Blues career strong.
How far do each of the six Premier League teams still in the Champions League and Europa League advance?
Man City – lose to Barcelona in the final
Liverpool – lose to Barcelona in the semifinal
Man United – lose to Barcelona in the quarterfinals
Spurs – lose to Man City in the quarterfinals
Arsenal – lose to Chelsea in the Europa League final
Chelsea – beat Arsenal in the Europa League final
Man City – champions unless they hit Barcelona
Liverpool – out in semis
Man United – lose to Barca in quarters
Spurs – lose to Man City in quarters
Arsenal – lose to Napoli in UEL quarters
Chelsea – defeat Napoli in UEL Final
Spurs – lose to Man City in quarters
Man United: lose to Barca in quarters
Liverpool and Man City: out in whichever round they face Barcelona.
If Arsenal get by Napoli in the quarterfinals, it’ll be Arsenal v. Chelsea in the final.
If you asked me a week ago I liked Manchester United’s chances to go far, but given their struggles of late, Solskjaer isn’t exactly equipped to lead them out of the pit quickly enough. However, there’s no better time to match up with Barcelona than now as the Catalan giants are in a bit of a defensive rut. I like Liverpool’s chances to reach the final, and Manchester City too.
Man United: lose to Barca in quarters
Spurs: lose to Man City in quarters
Liverpool: to reach the final
Manchester City: to reach the final
Imagine a Man City/Liverpool final with one looking for revenge on missing the PL title? Goodness me that would be fun. In the Europa League, given the teams remaining, if Arsenal can get by Napoli they can get by anyone, but I don’t think that will happen. Chelsea is poised to make the final, however, with little standing in their way.
DK: I think Manchester City can go all the way in the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool hasn’t seemed as good, but should at least make the semifinal, and who knows, maybe Man United will as well. Tottenham would do amazing to get past Man City. Chelsea should make the semifinal of the Europa League but the quarterfinals may be the end of the line for Arsenal against Napoli.
Which team finishes in 7th and grabs the Europa League spot?
JPW: I expect the April 27 showdown between Watford and Wolves to decide who finishes seventh, and I fancy Watford to just knick it. Wolves have a tougher run-in, and I think they will beat Watford in the FA Cup semifinal this weekend meaning their focus will be on an FA Cup final in the final weeks of the campaign. Four of Watford’s last six games are at home, where they have been very good this season. Don’t rule out Leicester for a late charge though…
NM: Wolves. The fixtures are more forgiving to them than others. It’s going to be particularly interesting to see how Leicester fares considering their fixtures should have them in seventh ahead of their final four matches: at West Ham, home Arsenal, at Man City, home Chelsea. Poor Brendan.
KB: I still think Wolves is the easy pick here, and as long as they can avoid any more Burnley or Huddersfield-sized slips, they’ll snag that spot.
DK: Leicester City. The Brog effect leads Leicester back into Europe with a late-season surge.
AE: Wolves finish the season at Anfield. All I’m saying is, if the want the Europa League spot they had better lock it up before then.
Fill in the blanks: ____ will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because ____.
JPW: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because of their tough schedule and injuries to Sol Bamba and Callum Paterson.
NM: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because of referees.
KB: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because five points is far too much to overcome this late, especially with Liverpool and Manchester United still on the docket.
DK: Cardiff City will join Fulham and Huddersfield in the bottom 3 because they haven’t found a consistent goal scorer. Emiliano Sala might have solved that but tragically we never got to see him for the Bluebirds. Rest In Peace.
AE: Cardiff City will join Huddersfield and Fulham in the bottom three because they have the second-worst number in both the goals scored and goals conceded columns. Put simply, that’s a recipe for relegation.
Name one team that will make a late charge up the table and into the top 10. There’s always one…
JPW: Crystal Palace’s tough schedule rules them out. Buoyed by a late-season surge and with a favorable schedule, I could see Newcastle or Southampton steaming up the table to at least finish 11th.
NM: Bournemouth were it not for inconsistency. I’ll choose Newcastle United for the second year in-a-row and regret it immediately.
KB: Give me Bournemouth. They’re a scrappy group and their run-in includes Fulham, Burnley, Brighton, and Saints.
DK: Newcastle. They’ve looked a different team since Miguel Almiron joined and they could see them getting 12-15 out of a possible 18 points in their last 6 games of the season.
AE: West Ham United have “screw around and waste 80 percent of the season but finish strongly this season before another expensive summer of transfers and renewed expectations under which they’ll screw around next season” written all over them.
If you had to pick 3 teams to be promoted to the Premier League right now, who would you pick?
JPW: Norwich City and Sheffield United for the automatic spots, as I think the pressure is starting to get to Leeds United. Aston Villa and West Brom would be the obvious picks via the playoffs, but beware of the form team: Bristol City to go up after a glorious win at Wembley.
NM: Norwich City, Sheffield United, Aston Villa.
KB: Leeds would be a fun group to see in the Premier League, and it appears nobody’s stopping Norwich City at the top of the table. Aston Villa fans have waited for their return with baited breath, and it would be fun to see them win the playoff, having won each of their last six.
AE: Norwich City and Leeds United are the obvious choices, because they’ve paced the Championship all season and appear to have squads that are close to PL-ready. As for the third spot, West Bromwich Albion probably best fits that same mold from the seven or eight sides headed for or chasing the playoffs.
DK: Leeds United, Sheffield United, Aston Villa. While Man United and Man City are big clubs in the north of England, it’s nice to see other traditional soccer hotspots such as Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds get to be showcased in the Premier League.
Who will be the Premier League top goalscorer?
JPW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
NM: Sergio Aguero.
AE: If Liverpool pull off the title, it’ll be because Mohamed Salah returned to his 2017-18 form for a few weeks and willed them there.
KB: Sadio Mane.
DK: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal stays hot late thanks to a flurry of goals from the French-born Gabon international.
Which team will win the FA Cup?
NM: Manchester City.
AE: While it’s great that clubs like Wolves, Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion got to the semifinals, it also sets up the most predictable outcome for the final three games that could be imagined. It’ll be Man City, at a trot.
KB: Wolves. Because, why not?
DK: Manchester City. Pep Guardiola is on a mission for the quadruple and nothing will stop them on the path to the FA Cup title. Wolves would be my second choice.
Arsenal beat Cardiff City 2-1 Tuesday, on an emotional evening at the Emirates Stadium. Playing for the first time since their club-record signing Emiliano Sala disappeared, Neil Warnock, his players and everyone inside the Emirates paid tribute to the Argentine striker.
Reid then went close again soon after as Callum Paterson whipped in a delightful cross which Reid headed over. Niasse then felt like he was clipped in the box but no penalty kick was given, while Skhodran Mustafi somehow missed a chance from a corner soon after.
The Bluebirds continued to have the best chances as Paterson and Reid got in great positions but Arsenal cleared. Lacazette went down in the box but no penalty kick was given as the game turned into an end-to-end encounter.