Sebastien Bassong

The Run-In: The fortunes of five teams fighting to stay in the big money Premier League

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With seven games to go in the Premier League, this is getting tense.

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Bearing that in mind, here at ProSoccerTalk we thought it would be a good time to look at the final weeks of the season and the scenarios for each team.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s “The Run-In” looking at the teams who are battling to avoid relegation to the second-tier Championship.


Crystal Palace

Current position/points: 16th/33 points (played 30 games)
Toughest game(s): at Arsenal & Man Utd, April 17 & 20 |  Full schedule
Most important player: Yannick Bolasie. As Yohan Cabaye fades, it’s up to Bolasie to supply electricity to the Palace attack.
Most likely outcome: Safe, though Palace remains winless in the Premier League since New Year’s Day.


Norwich City

Current position/points: 17th/28 points (played 31 games)
Toughest game: at Arsenal, April 30 |  Full schedule
Most important player: Sebastien Bassong. The Cameroonian back is an important part of the Canaries defense, attack and possession game.
Most likely outcome: Norwich has the least quality of the bunch, but Alex Neil has the club grinding in every match. The two-point lead is nice, and the Canaries may know their fate in three weeks, as they face Newcastle, Palace and Sunderland, only the middle match away from Carrow Road.


Sunderland

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)

Current position/points: 18th/26 points (played 30 games)
Toughest game: vs. Arsenal, April 24|  Full schedule
Most important player: Jermain Defoe. The 33-year-old striker keeps bagging goals at important times. Given the way the Black Cats defend, he’s going to need to keep doing it.
Most likely outcome: Their January buys give them the quality to stay up, and Sam Allardyce has been through a relegation fight or two in his day. He’s also gotten his club into those battles though, so, comme ci, comme ca. We like their odds to go down.


Newcastle United

Current position/points: 19th/25 points (played 30 games)
Toughest game: at Southampton, April 9 |  Full schedule
Most important player: Georginio Wijnaldum. The Dutch playmaker might be leading the Premier League in assists if Aleksandar Mitrovic and company had their finishing boots in order.
Most likely outcome: Rafa Benitez is a smart manager, one who gives them a fighting chance to go with their strong talent base. If they win at Norwich next week, they’ll be the favorites to stay up between Sunderland, Norwich and themselves. Staying up.


Aston Villa

Current position/points: Cooked 20th/16 points (played 31 games)
Toughest game: at Arsenal, May 15 |  Full schedule
Most important player: Idrissa Gueye. He’s quietly been a solid all-around midfielder on a team lacking in talent. Look for him to get a move somewhere in the PL next season.
Most likely outcome: Down.

Norwich City 1-1 Stoke City: Result helps neither side feel safer (video)

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The match between Norwich and Stoke wasn’t truly a relegation six-pointer, but with all sides in the bottom half of the Premier League table still in danger of the drop, nerves were on edge. In the end, though, the teams split the points – a result that helps no one except others hoping to avoid the Championship.

It was the visitors that had the majority of the chances in the first half, but the Potters failed to make Norwich pay. The home fans grew increasingly restless as they watched John Ruddy forced into a save on Peter Crouch, Marko Arnautović putting his shot over the bar, and Ruddy saving, once more, this time off Jonathan Walters.

The Canaries’ first real chance came in the 28th minute, after Wes Hoolahan, getting his second start in a row, set up Robert Snodgrass. However, Asmir Begović pulled off an impressive save to deny the attacker.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup – Chelsea extend lead, Man United click, huge win for Cardiff)

Norwich’s game continued to improve at the start of the second half, and in the 56th minute, the hosts managed to break Begović. Bradley Johnson got on the end of a beautiful free kick from Snodgrass, heading on from just six yards out. It looked as though the Canaries would finally be feeling a bit more comfortable…

But just fifteen minutes later, Sebastien Bassong brought down John Guidetti inside the area. Walters, who’d scored the winner against Arsenal last weekend, stepped up to the spot. He put his shot into the top right corner, giving Stoke the equalizer.

Walters quickly went from hero to villain, however, picking up a red card not even five minutes later after clattering, studs up, into Alexander Tettey. Yet despite going down to ten men, Stoke managed to hang on for a point.

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Tettey (Hooper 81), Johnson, Redmond; Hoolahan (Howson 67); van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 80)

Goals: Bradley Johnson 56′

Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross (c), Wilson, Pieters; Odemwingie (Guidetti 63, Ireland 80), Whelan, Nzonzi, Arnautovic (Etherington 74); Walters, Crouch

Goals: Walters 73′

West Ham United 2-0 Norwich City: Late goals delight ‘Happy Hammers’ (video)

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West Ham grabbed all three points against Norwich on Tuesday at Upton Park, as late goals from James Collins and Mohamed Diame sealed a 2-0 victory for the Hammers.

In a tight game between two teams locked together just above the relegation zone, the pivotal moment came in the 83rd minute as Collins rose highest to head home and send Upton Park into raptures. The tally was his first Premier League goal for West Ham since 2006.

Then substitute Diame, who crossed for Collins’ opener, sealed the Hammers third-straight league win (the first time they’ve done that since 2007) with a tidy finish in stoppage time.

With the win West Ham surge into the top half of the table in 10th place on 28 points, while Norwich remain just two points and two places above the drop zone.

(Latest Premier League Standings)

The home side started well and put some serious pressure on the Canaries in the early stages.

But Norwich came back into the game after the Hammers early onslaught, as Gary Hooper, Leroy Fer and Robert Snodgrass poured forward to try and put the away side ahead. And it was Hooper who almost gave the Canaries the lead, but his header was wonderfully stopped by West Ham ‘keeper Adrian.

Soon after it was Norwich who came forward again with the best chance of the game, as Snodgrass was put clean through by Nathan Redmond but the Scottish international couldn’t direct his effort past a sprawling Adrian. Norwich kept pressing and only a last-ditch tackle from James Tomkins stopped Bradley Johnson from giving them the lead in the 21st minute.

The game settled down after a frantic start, as you started to see why these two teams have recorded the most clean sheets in the bottom half of the PL standings between them. Midway through the opening half a wicked delivery from Stewart Downing was begging to be finished off, but Norwich captain Sebastien Bassong cleared the danger expertly.

Before the break it was back and forth, but right on half time Norwich had a glorious chance to take the lead as Alex Tettey surged into the West Ham box but Adrian once again pulled off a terrific stop to keep the scores level at half time.

West Ham brought on Marco Borriello for Carlton Cole at the break, as Big Sam tried to spark his attack into life. But in fact most of the second half saw the ball remain in midfield, as both teams cancelled each other out.

Hooper then had a glorious chance in the 69th minute as the Canaries striker went clean through on goal but Adrian, once again, saved superbly to keep West Ham on level terms.

In the 75th minute substitute Mohamed Diame went clean through after wonderful play in the final third but John Ruddy earned his paycheck with a marvelous stop to keep the Hammers out. Then less than a minute later at the other end, Joseph Yobo nearly scored his first Norwich goal but his lofted effort landed on top of the net.

But late on Collins’ header from Diame’s left-wing cross put West Ham ahead and Norwich never looked like equalizing. Then Diame put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time as he finished calmly when given the chance as the Hammers grabbed all three points.

LINEUPS

West Ham: Adrian, McCartney, Nolan, Tomkins, Jarvis (Diame, 61), Taylor (Nocerino, 77), Noble, Collins, Demel, Downing, C.Cole (Borriello, 45)

Goals: Collins (84), Diame (90)

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey (van Wolfswinkel, 86), Johnson; Snodgrass, Fer, Redmond (Pilkington, 81); Hooper (Elmander, 76)

Norwich City 0-0 Newcastle United: Dominant Magpies unable to break through (video)

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A revamped Newcastle United controlled their match at Carrow Road, but by full-time, they were reliant on their Dutch international goalkeeper to keep them even with an overmatched Norwich City. With draw-preserving save on Robert Snodgrass in the 90th minute, Tim Krul allowed Newcastle to make it to full-time 0-0, left with a draw in from match they seemed destined to win.

By full-time, despite that destiny carrying them through most of the match, Newcastle was left empty-handed. Despite putting 22 shots toward goal and controlling play for most of the night, the Magpies were unable to break through, with two shots off the woodwork combining with a bad first half miss from Hatem Ben Arfa to limit Newcastle to a point.

That point will keep them in eight place, though the gap between themselves and Manchester United has grown to three. Norwich City, on the other hand, moves six points clear of relegation, now having taken points in three of their last four league matches.

It was Newcastle’s first game without Yohan Cabaye, reported to be in France undergoing a physical ahead of his transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. In his wake, Magpies’ manager Alan Pardew moved Moussa Sissoko up to play behind Loic Remy in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ben Arfa and Sammie Ameobi deployed wide.

The set up allowed Newcastle to dominate from the opening kickoff, the visitors maintaining 60 percent of the match’s possession through the first half. They also put 16 shots toward goal to Norwich’s two, but thanks to the woodwork (on Remy’s 25th minute attempt) and poor finishing (Ben Arfa going over an open goal in the 44th), the teams went into halftime as they started.

A show of pride allowed Norwich to gain a greater hold on the match after intermission, but their fight soon waned. By the 60th minute, when Remy nailed the crossbar with a shot from outside the penalty area, the Canaries were again holding out. Though they were keeping most of Newcastle’s attempts from testing John Ruddy, Norwich’s willingness to regress into their defensive third preserved a lopsided match.

In the 77th minute, Norwich nearly made Newcastle pay for their inability to force one past Ruddy. Off a ball put in from the left by substitute Nathan Redmond, Gary Cooper chipped a ball over Krul and against the crossbar, leaving the Canaries inches away from taking an unlikely lead.

Five minutes later, both sides were reduced to 10 after Remy and Bradley Johnson received matching red cards. With play stopped after the duo battled for a ball, Johnson gave Remy a two-handed push after the Newcastle striker tried to go face-to-face with his adversary. Remy responded by leaning his head into Johnson’s face, leading Johnson to fall back from the contact. Referee Chris Foy elected to dismiss both men.

In the 90th minute, Snodgrass forced Krul into draw-preserving save, with the Newcastle keeper getting across goal to block the midfielder’s header after a Redmond cross to the far post. Though the Toon had appeared to recover after Hooper’s close call, Snodgrass’s try reminded them they were as close to losing the match as winning.

Six minutes later, the game was over, Newcastle left the mixed feelings of having held on for a point in a match they controlled. But although they outshot the Canaries 22-8, they only put three shots on target.

Had Remy been slightly more accurate, had Ben Arfa shown a little more composure, those numbers wouldn’t have mattered. On a day Cabaye started moving away from the club, Newcastle didn’t have a problem generating chances. Their problem was converting them.

LINEUPS

Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 75′), Loic Remy, Sammy Ameobi (Massadio Haidara 87′)

Norwich City: John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, Sebastien Bassong, MartinOlsson, Robert Snodgrass, Leroy Fer, Bradley Johnson, Anthony Pilkington (Nathan Redmond 71′), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Johan Elmander 71′), Gary Hooper (Alexander Tettey 84′)

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. Newcastle United (Lineups and Discussion)

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Still battling for a spot in Europe, Newcastle United will sport a new look today against visiting Norwich City. At 2:45 ET, the Magpies will play their first match since agreeing to sell Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain (with the game available to stream on NBC Live Extra).

It’s a blow for Newcastle, if an inevitable one. Cabaye nearly moved this summer, and with teams willing to approach $30 million for the France international, it was only a matter of time until the midfielder moved. With PSG having hit the $33 million mark to bring the former Lille dynamo back to France, Alan Pardew will have to find another way to augment the scoring of Loic Remy up top.

The Magpies enter the day’s match one point back of Manchester United for seventh place, a spot that could prove England’s last entry into UEFA Europa League. Should they fail to adapt to the loss of their best player, Newcastle could settle into mid-table insignificance. The team’s too far from the drop to worry about relegation.

The same can’t be said for Norwich City, though the Canaries have crafted a six-point gap between themselves and 18th. Chris Hughton’s side is coming off a much-needed 1-0 win at Hull City, their first league win since Dec. 7. Make it two in a row, and Norwich could finish the day in the table’s top half.

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To do that, the Canaries will need to find goals, with their 18 on the season ranking 18th in the Premier League. Today, Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel get the call up top. The pair have combined for five goals in 30 appearances this season.

LINEUPS

Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy, Sammy Ameobi

Subs: Rob Elliot, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Paul Dummett, Dan Gosling, Shola Ameobi, Adam Amstrong

Norwich City: John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, Sebastien Bassong, MartinOlsson, Robert Snodgrass, Leroy Fer, Bradley Johnson, Anthony Pilkington, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper

Subs: Mark Bunn, Steven Whittaker, Johan Elmander, Javier Garrido, Luciano Becchio, Nathan Redmond, Alex Tettey