Relegation 2014: Which Three Teams Will Go Down?

With Chelsea’s victorious visit to Anfield and City’s win at Crystal Palace, headlines in world football are rightly dominated by the final league games and their implications on the title fight. This is a thrilling conclusion to an admittedly insane season of English Premier League football; however, I wanted to focus on the implication of the weekend’s games on the bottom of the table, focusing on the form, fixtures, and fortunes of teams currently fighting for their lives. While 40 points seems to perennially be the magic number to ensure survival, West Brom was once able to survive with as few as 34 points in the 2004-05 season. This year doesn’t seem so different; since the difference in position for the table’s underachievers is only five points. It appears that their current tally of 36 points will still at least put them at the foot of safety. Let’s take a look at the the relegation trapdoor in detail.

Starting with clubs at 35 points or fewer, I wanted to look at the points total for the bottom five, and closely examine the upcoming run-in for each club using the following metrics: In addition to points needed and goal difference, we want to take a look at the current average odds to survive, the form table, and key player match-ups for each forthcoming fixture.

 

Aston Villa

For the fourth straight year in a row, Aston Villa find themselves desperately clinging to safety at the bottom of the Premier League. History buffs might recall that this is hardly a flattering position for a club credited with founding the Football League, lifting the European Cup, and playing every season in the Premier League since its inception. However, this season would be no stranger to upsetting the status quo.

Unravelled by injuries and with only Grant Holt arriving in January, who has yet to repay the faith shown in him with his loan move from Wigan, Villa are doing little else aside from treading water year after year. With rumors mounting over a club takeover that is contingent on the retention of Premier League status, the next few matches look to be crucial. Villa face Hull at home, followed by Spurs at White Hart Lane, with the rescheduled trip to the Etihad to face title-chasing Manchester City sandwiched in between.

The odds for Villa to be relegated still remain relatively slim, averaging out at around 9/1, but they are well and truly in the mire. Villa are dead last in the Premier League form table, with only one point from their last six fixtures, a dour 0-0 draw against Southampton at home.

Villa v Hull City: Without Benteke, Villa have struggled to break teams down all season, relying on long-ball kick and rush football to try to manifest anything resembling a scoring opportunity. Albrighton, who didn’t play in the corresponding fixture, will be a breath of fresh air, bringing some width against a team whose strengths are admittedly through the center of the park. Earlier this season, Villa and Hull ground out a drab 0-0 result not dissimilar from Villa’s last point. Against Hull City, Villa will struggle to keep an eye on Tom Huddlestone, who seems relatively reinvigorated playing for Steve Bruce’s side since his move from Tottenham. Similarly, Villa alumnus Curtis Davies has been excellent as a center back throughout the bulk of the season, and shouldn’t have to work too hard to keep Holt quiet. With a porous defense, it’s hard to imagine Villa keeping another clean sheet this season. Having said that, I can just see the respective width and engine of Albrighton and Delph helping to combine to create at least one chance that’s bound for the back of the net. These teams seem to have just enough to cancel each other out, and while Hull should start the match as favorites, a point will be just about enough to help Villa breathe a sigh of relief in their most winnable fixture of their forthcoming matches. Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Hull City

Manchester City v Aston Villa: Manchester City’s shocking defeat at the hands of Aston Villa at Villa Park had optimism ringing out from the Holte End earlier this season, though much has changed. Manchester City now sit with the title in their hands if they can see out their remaining games with victories, and the Etihad has resembled a fortress for much of the season. While the onus will be on Manchester City to break Villa down, playing into their ability to counterattack, it does seem as if City will have all too much to lose to throw away any possible points. With Yaya Toure back for the Citizens and a bench that could walk right into the Villa first team, it’s easier to see this game resembling the corresponding visit last season when Villa got trounced in the city of Manchester 5-0. Villa will be looking for a commanding performance from captain Ron Vlaar, and hope that Leandro Bacuna can curl in free-kicks the same way that he did earlier this season. Prediction: Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa: Spurs are another side that have been a bit of an anomaly all season, but with the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in the summer, reinvested heavily to mount a claim for a Champions League berth. However, with the departure of AVB and the tumultuous relationship of Tim Sherwood with the club and the fans, Spurs have struggled to make a mark resembling any sort of consistency. Signings like Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli haven’t quite lived up to their potential, while Sherwood can take heart in the performances of Christian Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor, who will undoubtedly get the best of the shaky Villa defense. Villa and Spurs used to punch at the same weight, but looking at the Spurs squad, I suspect that Villa will be lucky to escape the game without conceding too many. Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 Aston Villa

In summary, I think Villa will survive–just. I expect to see them retain their Premier League status by the skin of their teeth, and hopefully the rumors of a takeover can get some fresh new life in a club that should soon be challenging to achieve at the other side of the table.
Total Points for Aston Villa: 36 GD -22 Final Place in the Table: 17th

 

Sunderland

Sunderland supporters had long-since driven the nail in the proverbial coffin of their Premier League survival hopes as recently as a few months ago, yet a recent improvement in form has lifted them out of the doldrums of the bottom three and into 17th place. Sunderland are a club that have struggled for stability for most of the year, from the Paolo DiCanio saga, to player unrest, it seemed like a season doomed from the start.
However, they have certainly picked a great time to have a resurgence in form. Sunderland currently sit perilously above the relegation zone, but with a surprise draw with Manchester City and a victory over Chelsea, they are now twelfth in the form table with seven points from their last six fixtures. Connor Wickham has picked an opportune moment to prove his worth, firing a number of crucial goals, while winger Adam Johnson has rediscovered some of the form that helped guide him to a spot in the England team in the past. Odds for Sunderland to go down are still surprisingly favorable, with an average of about 3 to 1. Sunderland may just pick up another three or four points and secure survival.

Manchester United v Sunderland: Sunderland have a tricky run-in with an in-form Manchester United as their next opponents. Eschewing David Moyes out of the picture for a football philosophy purist like Ryan Giggs seems to have sparked the creative minds at United once again, and Sunderland will do well to yield the 4-0 rout of Norwich City this weekend–a performance which also had the vocal support of the Old Trafford faithful once again. I think despite Sunderland’s vitality in recent weeks, this next test might take a bit of the wind from their sails, as players like Johnson and Wickham may struggle to deal with the creativity poised by an in-form Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata combining as they did this past week. Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion: This fixture, much like Villa’s clash with Manchester City referenced above, was rescheduled due to fixture congestion with the cup runs earlier in the year. With West Brom all but securing safety with 36 points, this could be a fine time for West Brom to visit the Stadium of Light. It’s likely that the Baggies may have one eye on the end of the season with nothing really to play for, while Sunderland will still be struggling to mathematically secure their safety. While West Brom did the double over Sunderland in last year’s league, they weren’t necessarily firing on all cylinders as they have been against City, Chelsea, and Cardiff City. However, the Black Cats are playing a lot like Aston Villa, able to turn out surprising results against bigger teams, but have struggled to break down teams around them throughout the bulk of the season. Like their recent win against Cardiff, this might be a good opportunity for Sunderland to show the league what they are capable of. Adam Johnson’s pace, combined with attack-minded players like Giaccherini, Borini, and Wickham may prove to be too much for a West Brom side that has struggled this year. Prediction: Sunderland 2-0 West Bromwich Albion

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5 Comments

  1. Brian April 30, 2014
  2. Pakapala April 30, 2014
  3. Blaque Costeau April 30, 2014
  4. samuel Walden May 1, 2014
  5. Richie May 1, 2014

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