As the season moves into its final stretch, the battle at the bottom of the table is just as fierce as that at the top. With only six points separating 10th place from 18th, there are a number of teams that are still in danger of the drop. With 9 games remaining for most teams, it is still uncertain who will be relegated. In this article we look at the bottom six and their chances of survival.
Currently sitting bottom of the Premier League, Fulham are four points adrift of safety. Fulham currently have their third manager of the season in charge, with German Felix Magath taking the reins after the departure of Rene Meulensteen. Whilst four points may not seem a lot, it will be a tough task for a team who have won only one of their last eleven games. They will need to improve all across the park to stay up. January signings such as Lewis Holtby and Kostas Mitroglu will need to show their class in home games against Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace.
Sunderland currently sit second from bottom, but have three games in hand due to cup commitments. Gus Poyet has got the best of the Black Cats’ players since the turn of the year, and although they have lost their last two league games, they won three of four prior to that. A rejuvenated Adam Johnson and excellent form from Liverpool loanee Borini have given Sunderland fans real hope of staying up. That being said, points on the board are better than games in hand. They will need to take points in their remaining home games – starting this Saturday against Crystal Palace – and later against West Ham and Cardiff.
Things have been bleak at the Cardiff City Stadium in the last few months. The departure of Malky Mackay and the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer has not heralded good times for the Bluebirds. Before the weekends game with Fulham, Cardiff had only won one game in their last thirteen fixtures. Cardiff’s 3-1 win against Fulham has given them hope, bringing them level on points with West Brom, although the Baggies have a game in hand. Fifteen points from their last nine games will ensure safety, but with two of their four remaining home games against Liverpool and Chelsea, the Bluebirds face a tough task. They will need Craig Bellamy to show his Premier League experience and become a match winner.
West Brom are another team that have been dragged into the relegation fight. After the sacking of Steve Clarke, things have gone from bad to worse for the Baggies. They are still looking for their first victory under new manager Pepe Mel and they have won the fewest games of all the Premier League teams this season with only four wins. If it wasn’t for their thirteen draws, they would be in even worse danger. The Baggies cannot continue to just draw games, without victories, as they will slide further down the table if the sides around them can get some wins. With half of their last ten games against top half opposition, they will need to raise their game considerably in order to stay up. They will need to improve on the one away victory they have had this season.
Crystal Palace have vastly improved under Tony Pulis since he took over the club at the back end of last year. The former Stoke City manager has brought organisation and belief to a Crystal Palace team that once looked doomed to relegation. Palace have had six league wins since Pulis took over and they have kept five clean sheets. A win in their next game against Sunderland could see them move into 13th place, but a loss could see them move into the relegation zone. That is the how tight the margins are at the bottom this season, and Palace may not be able to rely on their strong home form as they have games against Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool all to come at home.
Norwich have struggled this season but still find themselves four points clear of the relegation zone and two points away from 10th place. Excellent results such as a 0-0 draw at the Etihad and a 1-0 home win against Tottenham have been contrasted by 4-1 defeats to Aston Villa. Despite all their problems, they have kept themselves out of the relegation zone for the most part of the season. Unfortunately for the Canaries, their last four games are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in that order. It is therefore imperative that they take points against the likes of Sunderland, West Brom and Fulham in the games leading up to the period.