May 13, 2015

EPL roundup: Focus on the bottom

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

While most the season we justifiably concentrate on the top of the table, the race up there is essentially over. In the relegation zone, however, it’s only getting more and more interesting.

There are now five teams just four points apart around the final relegation spot, although Sunderland does have a game in hand – against Arsenal, though.

First, we should say goodbye to the two teams that will be plying their trade back in the Championship next season: Burnley and QPR.

Oddly enough, it was Burnley, who actually sits in 19th, that was relegated before bottom-feeders QPR.

The R’s definitely have the look of a yoyo club, having gone down and come back a couple of times in the past few years.

Burnley, to its credit, never even thought about firing manager Sam Dyche, while most teams at the bottom of the table have gone through managerial change at some point this season.

The Clarets will be much better off than the R’s back in League Championship, with many of QPR’s bloated salaries either likely to leave the club, or be seriously unhappy playing in the second division.

The big story at the bottom of late has been the Foxes. Leicester has kept up its incredible great escape by winning its sixth game in seven and that one loss coming against Chelsea. Last year’s League Championship champs look like they’ll survive their first year in the top flight as they have an easy schedule to finish up the season and are one of the most in-form teams in the league right now after beating a scuffling Southampton side.

Newcastle, well, at least it didn’t lose. The Magpies snapped an eight-game losing streak by grabbing a point against West Brom. Yes, Newcastle hadn’t picked up a point since the last day of February – no wonder it’s sitting just two points above relegation after looking like it could contend for a Europa League spot earlier this year.

Aston Villa continued its solid run of form with another win to move four points clear. You can only think that Tim Sherwood’s boys would love to reach safety before the last week so it can focus on the FA Cup final with Arsenal later this month. If the Villans can continue playing this well, the Gunners will have a fight on their hands.

Sunderland beat a very disinterested Everton, pulling he Black Cats out of the relegation zone and into 16th by virtue of goal differential. The key game remaining for Sunderland is against Leicester this weekend. With Arsenal and Chelsea also on the docket, points will be very tough to come by.

The club with maybe the toughest go of it win the remaining two games is Hull City. To make matters worse, it’s also sitting in 18th after losing to lowly Burnley. With dates against Tottenham and Man United, it will be a tough time for the Tigers to stay up.

With little else to play for except for a Europa League spot that nobody seems to want, the relegation battle is what to watch in the final two weeks of the season.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Chelsea may have already clinched the title, but it isn’t taking it easy by any means. While there was some switches to the lineup – like inserting Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the midfield – but for the most part it was regulars in the starting XI. I can see some more kids getting some run in the final games … John Terry added another description to his “captain, leader, legend” status. That would be record-breaker. Terry’s headed goal was the 39th of his career, the most by a Premier League defender … Speaking of legends scoring, Steven Gerrard may have picked up his last as a Liverpool player. While his farewell tour hasn’t gone exactly as planned, he is also raking in a ton of praise, too. Jose Mourinho went on at length about his respect for the player and how he tried to sign him at every stop of his managerial tour. Would’ve been interesting to see what the two could’ve done together … Think that Manchester City wants to finish second? Look no further than its six-goal effort against QPR. Sergio Aguero may not have made the team of the year – which has for some reason already been announced with two weeks to go – but he now has five more goals than Harry Kane to lead the league … You could’ve spent just 11.8 on defenders this week and still picked up 18 fantasy points. Marcin Wasilewski, Patrick van Aanholt and Michael Duff could’ve been a stellar budget core for your fantasy side.

THE LAST WORD

Stop the presses! Manchester United scores a goal!

Juan Mata converted the penalty to end the drought after three games without a tally.

The Red Devils also ended their losing streak and closed in on Arsenal in third.

With a North American tour this summer already planned, you would think that United wants to secure an automatic place in Champions League instead of having to play a qualifier in the summer.

Speaking of the summer and United, it looks like they already have some transfer business lined up.

While the deal for Ilkay Gundogan fel through, promising Dutch winger Memphis Depay is reportedly Manchester-bound while Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne could be their answer at right back.

Of course, the window doesn’t open until July, but it’s always good to get agreements lined up early. After all, just look at what happened last season.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply