The beauty of the Premier League is that there are always three distinct races within the table, and after 23 rounds of this Premier League season, none of those races are decided.
In the race for first place, only two points separate top-of-the-table Manchester United from Liverpool and Chelsea, while Aston Villa is only three points off the lead. Villa, however, is five points ahead of a struggling Arsenal side in the battle for the fourth place and the final Champions League bid. Only a late goal by Robin Van Persie at Goodison park kept Arsenal five points ahead of Everton for the UEFA Cu… *ahem* Europa League bid.
The real story, however, is the relegation battle, and it would appear this battle is currently being fought by everyone else in the league.
Only five points separates 11th place from 18th place, and the bottom eight clubs are within three points of each other. One win could lift any of the current cellar dwellers three places out of the drop zone, and a couple of losses could put anyone in bottom half of the table in jeopardy.
Even 1oth-place Hull City, the early season Cinderellas, are only 6 points clear and not out of the woods yet. Perhaps this is why Phil Brown made his team sit outside during halftime at Manchester City. He knows as well as anyone that a few more 4-0 halves could put his club right next to West Brom and Stoke City, Hull’s promotion partners, in the drop zone.
Manchester City, meanwhile, is only a point ahead of Hull, and it only took them three wins out of four to get there from 17th place. Plus, if West Ham is unable to find a buyer and goes into administration, 10 points will be deducted from their total, putting them only one point clear of the drop. So that’s as many as 13 clubs out of 2o in danger of being relegated this year.
The end result is that half this weekend’s matches are relegation six-pointers:
- Middlesbrough v. Blackburn
- Bolton v. Tottenham Hotspur
- Fulham v. Portsmouth
- Hull v. West Brom
- Newcastle v. Sunderland
This probably won’t be the last time this season that we see five relegation six-pointers in one weekend. If Man City slips or if West Ham goes into administration, we could easily see six relegation six-pointers in one weekend.
So if you think you can pick which three clubs will fall back into the fizzy drink mixer at season’s end, chances are you’ll be wrong. This battle is as wide open as it’s ever been, and every goal and every victory will matter that much more. It does beg the question, though — would the Premier League still be as exciting if 13 clubs had a shot at the Champions League right now?
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