West Bromwich Albion welcome West Ham United to the Hawthorns (Watch live online, 10 a.m. ET via NBC Sports Live Extra) with both sides embroiled in a relegation battle.
The Baggies are most in danger, as they sit just two points above the drop zone with three games to go. West Ham are seven points clear of the drop and know a win could secure their safety in the Premier League for another season.
West Ham will want to bounce back from their home defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend, while West Brom’s manager Pepe Mel is searching for his first home victory as Baggies boss.
West Brom can’t afford to repeat last week’s mistakes as they travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich City (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).
Last week against fellow strugglers Cardiff City, West Brom held a 2-1 lead into the 73rd minute, when the visitors equalized. The Baggies must’ve thought they were home free when a goal from Thievy Bifouma sparked celebrations at the Hawthorns. But before the ground had even quieted, Mats Daehli equalized for Cardiff, and the sides were forced to share the spoils.
That leaves West Brom just three points in the clear, although they do still have a game in hand. Norwich, meanwhile, aren’t comfortable either, just six points above the drop. The Canaries do have home field advantage, however, having not lost a match at Carrow Road this calendar year. But considering their lackluster performance in the 3-0 loss at Swansea last weekend, will that advantage really be enough?
Norwich have made two changes from the side that lost in Wales last time out, with Joseph Yobo coming in for Ryan Bennett, and Gary Hooper replacing Ricky van Wolfswinkel up top.
The visitors have just one change, and, no surprise, it’s a defensive one. Jonas Olsson comes in for Craig Dawson at center back. Is Pepe Mel counting on another early goal from Morgan Amalfitano, coupled with a better defensive display from the Baggies?
“We have to fight until the end of the season because everybody can beat everybody,” Wenger said. “Chelsea lost at Crystal Palace, that means all of us have to be careful and all of us have to be consistent.”
While City boss Pellegrini believes it’s still a four horse race for the glistening trophy which is likely to be awarded on May 11, the final day of the season.
“I think all four teams have the chance to win the title but all four teams will drop points between now and the end of the season,” Pellegrini said. “It is very difficult at the end of the season, because there are a lot of teams fighting relegation. Ask Chelsea , look at what happened to them away at Crystal Palace. I think we must continue to just think about the next game.”
With Arsenal and Man City’s bosses not sticking their necks out on the line about who’ll win the coveted title, it’s about time somebody did. Here it goes. I have managed to obtain information from Opta on a simulator they have run many, many times on how the final PL standings will look. Here are the results.
As you can see on the left, Manchester City are the champions elect, with a 62.87 percent chance of them winning their second PL crown in history, then come Liverpool with a 29.84 chance and then, surprisingly, Chelsea only have a 6.89 percent chance of lifting the PL title in 2013-14. Rounding out the top five Arsenal’s chances are almost officially over, with a percentage chance of 0.30 percent, while Everton are at 0.10 percent to win it all.
How have they worked this out I hear you cry? From the horses mouth, an Opta spokesman passed on their findings to me and explained how they’ve predicted the final PL standings.
“First, we looked at all of the games played this season and looked at the quality of chances each team is earning and conceding. These are their “attacking” and “defending” values. Next, we use these values to simulate the remaining games left in the season. We do this many, many times. So, when we say that Man City has a 62.87% chance of winning the PL, that also means that they won the PL in 62.87% of our simulations.”
You got it? So, this is pretty much gospel. The soccer gods no longer need to speak, Opta has worked it out for them. But, with unpredictable twists and turns from here on out still likely, there’s no point putting sky blue and white ribbons on the PL trophy, just yet.
On Saturday, we saw varying reasons as to why City and Arsenal have led the way for large periods of the season. City with their fine array of attacking talent, the Gunners with their staunch defensive nous and possession play chipping away at the opposition. City dominated the first half and tore Arsenal apart, while the Gunners dug deep to snatch a point late on. City are the favorites for a reason, they have two games in hand of leaders Liverpool and are four points behind. But they do have to visit Anfield, as do Chelsea. Those two matches are pivotal, and the percentages point to that. City are expected to win the title by two points over Liverpool, 84 points to 82, so it could all come down to that one game at Anfield on April 13.
As for the current fourth-placed team Arsenal, Wenger didn’t exactly rule the Gunners out of the race but he’s intelligent enough to do the math. Which is exactly what he and Pellegrini spoke about.
“Mathematically we are still in there, but it is not in our hands,” Wenger said. “We have to look above us and behind us. Because behind us they are coming too.”
Pellegrini knows his City team aren’t home and dry, as the placid Chilean was cool and calculated when assessing the run-in. “In football, if the mathematics allow you to win, then you have the chance to do it. I think in this moment, we will see what happens tomorrow with Liverpool [they beat Tottenham 4-0 to go top]. Arsenal are only five points behind the leader, it’s not too much.”
Well, you’ve seen the predictions for how this season will finish up, do you agree with the math handing Man City the title just ahead of Liverpool?
One team not in the title race, Manchester United, are looking to restore a little dignity to their title defense. Yes, they’ve miserably defended the PL crown they won last season but at least new manager David Moyes still has his dignity intact. That’s more than can be said for a vast portion of United’s fans.
The drone of a propeller plane hung in the air around Old Trafford just after kick off in Manchester United’s match against Aston Villa on Saturday. The message from an unnamed set of Man United fans (with conspiracy theorists having a field day as rumors of Man City fans being behind the stunt are rife) read “WRONG ONE – MOYES OUT” as the banner hanging from the end of the plane used in the fly-by was the polar opposite of the class, professionalism and prestige that oozes from the United organization. The fans let themselves down in this crass demonstration.
Moyes came out onto the field way before kick off against Villa and applauded the fans, after he’d earlier exclaimed that vast majority were still on his side. The warm reception he got back revealed that a small minority were behind the demonstration against his appointment, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor has displayed admirable dignity throughout the hounding of him for United’s dismal campaign. The banner came and went early in the game, and it was heart-warming to hear boo’s from fans against the feeble excuse of a demonstration which drowned out the sound of the engine high above the skies over OT. Soon though, they were replaced with groans of discontent, once again, as Aston Villa took an early lead. But, as has so often been the case this season, Wayne Rooney inspired a United fight-back as Moyes silenced the boo boys for at least one day, with a comfortable 4-1 win for the Red Devils.
(Scrolling through responses to the banner flown over Old Trafford, I found this gem. Well done, @TheChelsOrg, well done indeed)
Yes, United have been woeful in the fight to retain their PL crown, but how much of that is really Moyes’ fault? Time and time again we’ve spoke about the aging squad he inherited and all the other intangibles which conspired against him this season. However, you can only really point the finger of blame at him for his transfer policy thus far, as Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini have yet to hit top gear since their big money arrivals.
That will all take time, and given the fact that Moyes has acted in a respectful and dignified manner throughout it all, the wily Scot looks focused on the task at hand and has the bit between his teeth to turn things around. United’s fans need to stand by Moyes, their club needs them.
RELEGATION MADNESS; THIS IS ONLY THE START
Rage. Despair. Delight. Acceptance. Ecstasy.
Those were just some of the emotions fans of West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City went through on Saturday… and that was just in the four minutes of stoppage time. Watch the incredible scenes unfold in the video above.
Pandemonium ensued at the Hawthorns, as West Brom raced into an early 2-0 lead but then threw it away with 15 minutes left as Cardiff launched a spirited comeback. But the real drama arrived in added time, when Thievy finished off a deflected cross in the 92nd minute to send the home fans into raptures, as head coach Pepe Mel celebrated like he’d won the PL title. Hold on though, this is the PL and this is the race against relegation.
With Ole Gunnar Solksjaer in charge, his side evoked the ‘baby faced assassins’ predatory late strikes from his playing days, as fellow Norwegian Mats Moller Daehli popped up with the last kick of the game to drive a dagger deep into the hearts of the Baggies, as Cardiff’s traveling fans lost the plot. Neither team wanted a draw in their predicament, but after a pulsating clash where both sides left everything out on the pitch, a draw was fair. Solksjaer and Mel embraced each other with a long hug and laughter, as the two are under intense pressure to keep their sides in the PL. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. It was a truly moving moment, in a wonderful absorbing game. The best news is, this is only the start. West Brom are one place above the bottom three and three points ahead of Cardiff in 18th, as the Baggies and Bluebirds are still embroiled in and agony and ecstasy of the relegation battle.
Elsewhere in the race against the drop Norwich are still in big trouble as they were hammered 3-0 by Swansea. The Welsh side eased own their relegation fears considerably with the win, as they sit seven points above the bottom three in 13th. As for Crystal Palace, we already mentioned their stunning win at home to Chelsea, as the Eagles are soaring clear of trouble with many calling for Tony Pulis to be rewarded with the Manager of the Year award. Remember how dead and buried they were back in November?
West Ham beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Monday, as the Black Cats came up short in a must-win game. They are second from bottom on 25 points, with Cardiff just one point above them. The Mackems have four incredibly tough games up next, as they travel to Tottenham next week, then host Everton before traveling to Manchester City and Chelsea back-to-back. Gus Poyet’s men are teetering on the brink of the PL.
Speaking of that, Fulham, well, they are all but doomed to life in England’s second-tier next season after losing 3-1 to Everton on Sunday. Look at the predictions from Opta on the left, and you can see the Cottagers have a 96.41 percent chance of being relegated. Not great for Felix Magath’s side, but they do have Hull City, Norwich and Villa coming up in three of their next four games. Don’t rule out the great escape, just yet.
Below our Match of the Day pundits dissect the battle against the drop, as three teams will tumble into the Championship in less than six weeks time. The picture is starting to take shape, as some desperate battles await at the wrong end of the table.
Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.
Many would argue we’re witnessing the best season in Premier League history and after another spectacular Saturday played out, it’s hard to disagree.
Chelsea slipped up away at Crystal Palace to leave their title hopes in tatters, Manchester City and Arsenal tied in a pulsating clash, Manchester United saw off Aston Villa 4-1, while Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion played out arguably the game of the season in a enthralling 3-3 draw.
Man City started superbly against Arsenal, and David Silva put the Citizens ahead after just 18 minutes as he reacted first to Edin Dzeko’s shot that crashed off the post. City were the better team for most of the first half, as the Gunners’ faint title hopes looked to be fading out with a whimper. However a totally different side appeared after the break, with Mathieu Flamini finishing superbly to level things up and then Lukas Podolski’s shot was well saved by Joe Hart as City held on. City are still title favorites, but Arsenal keep themselves in the hunt. Just.
Palace dealt Chelsea’s title hopes a massive blow as a John Terry own goal in the second half means Chelsea’s title hopes are over, in the words of their own manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea just couldn’t handled Palace’s physical approach, as the Eagles took the game to the Blues and gave their chances of Premier League survival a huge boost.
Aston Villa went 1-0 up through Ashley Westwood’s free kick, but that only acted to fire up United. You won’t like them when they’re angry. Wayne Rooney scored twice, plus goals from Juan Mata (his for in the PL for United) and Javier Hernandez sealed a comfortable win. Villa boss Paul Lambert didn’t think his side deserved a hiding, but United were clinical.
The Saints were sensational against the Magpies, and three England hopefuls kept their charge towards Brazil going. Jay Rodriguez scored twice, Rickie Lambert bagged another and Adam Lallana scored a screamer as Saints jumped into eighth ahead of Newcastle, who were truly shocking. Mauricio Pochettino’s men continue to impress.
Peter Odemwingie was the hero for the Potters, as Stoke sealed their third-straight win. A determined Hull kept plugging away, but the Tigers weren’t quite good enough and Stoke did a job on them. How high can Mark Hughes’ men finish now? They have already reached the magic 40 point marker.
Swansea had been threatening to give someone a hiding for a while, and that team was Norwich. Two Jonathan De Guzman goals set Swansea on their way and another from Wayne Routledge sealed the win to ease Swansea’s relegation worries. As for Norwich, they are embroiled in the battle to stay up. Big time.
This season we’ve been blessed with so many stunning games in the PL, but this could take the biscuit. West Brom raced into an early 2-0 lead with Morgan Almafitano and Graham Dorrans on the score sheet, but Cardiff’s Jordon Mutch scored before the half and then Steven Caulker leveled the scores in the 73rd minute. More drama arrived in stoppage time, as Thievy put West Brom ahead in the 92nd minute and the Baggies looked to have snatched a massive three points. But with the last kick of the game, Mats Moller Daehli popped up to send Cardiff’s fans wild and reignite their survival bid with a stunning late goal. You can’t write this stuff.
West Bromwich Albion drew 3-3 against Cardiff City at the Hawthorns on Saturday as the hosts let a 2-0 lead slip and then a 3-2 lead in the fifth minute of stoppage time, in a incredible relegation battle.
Morgan Almafitano scored a stunning opener, then Graham Dorrans doubled West Brom’s advantage after just nine minutes to leave Cardiff reeling. However, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men regrouped to launch a stunning comeback, as Jordon Mutch lobbed home before half time, then Steven Caulker headed in an equalizer with just over 15 minutes to go to make it 2-2.
Late on Cardiff pushed hard for a winner, but the Baggies went ahead in stoppage time courtesy of Thievy… But just when West Brom fans thought they’d stolen all three points, Mats Moller Dæhli popped up to smash in a dramatic equalizer with the last kick of the game in front of the delirious Cardiff fans.
Incredible late drama at the Hawthorns, as a tremendous relegation battle saw sensational late drama play out, as both teams are still embroiled in a scrap for survival. With the point, West Brom stay in 17th place, three points and one place ahead of Cardiff in 18th.
Games like this don’t come along that often, this is what the PL is all about.
West Bromwich Albion got off to a flying start at the Hawthorns, as Almafitano sent a sensational lob over David Marshall and into the top corner to give the Baggies the lead in just the 2nd minute. Cardiff were stunned and within 10 minutes they were 2-0 down, as Dorrans made a superb late run into the box and finished superbly to hand West Brom a commanding lead.
The Bluebirds tried to get things going after a desperately poor start in a massive relegation clash. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer stood shell-shocked on the sidelines, as Baggies boss Pepe Mel was in dreamland with his side stroking the ball around wonderfully well.
In the 18th minute a teasing cross from the left almost saw Cardiff pull a goal back, but Fraizer Campbell couldn’t quite get in on the end of it. For the rest of the first half the Bluebirds pushed hard, and in the 30th minute Mutch pulled out a moment of genius to get them back into the game. Was it genius or luck? Who knows. But the Cardiff midfielder curled a lob, which looked like a cross, into the top corner and over a lumbering Ben Foster in goal for the Baggies.
West Brom regrouped well and had some decent long-range efforts that Marshall thwarted before the break, but initial euphoria around the Hawthorns had been replaced by nervous tension by the time the half time whistle blew.
James Morrison spurned a glorious chance early on in the second half, as the midfielder blazed over after the ball broke to him in the box and Marshall was blocked out. West Brom started much better, and Stephane Sessegnon also went close as the Baggies took the game to Cardiff. Solksjaer urged his side to attack throughout the second half, as Cardiff’s manager saw his side drop deeper and deeper as the Baggies pushed forward relentlessly.
The pulsating clash saw Cardiff regain momentum, as Campbell ran towards goal and hammered an effort that Foster parried away and the Bluebirds couldn’t capitalize on the rebound. Cardiff went for broke and threw the kitchen sink at West Brom, with Bellamy, Campbell and substitute Wilfried Zaha all running at pace.
All of that pressure finally told for Cardiff, as Caulker rose highest in the 73rd minute to loop a head home to send the traveling fans wild. The Cardiff skipper has now scored five goals from central defense this season, as West Brom blew their 2-0 lead and Cardiff were growing in confidence as the final 10 minutes arrived.
Cardiff substitute Dæhli ran through but hit his shot straight at Foster, as the Bluebirds brought on Kenwyne Jones late in the game to try and seal a sensational winner. But it was West Brom who went ahead in the 92nd minute, as Berahino ran down the right and his deflected cross found Thievy who slotted home to send the home fans wild.
But in the 95th minute Dæhli broke the Baggies hearts and grabbed a point for Cardiff, as the Norwegian pounced on a lose ball and saw his effort clip off the post and in with the last kick of the game.