The Christmas period isn’t often very festive for those clubs lingering around the relegation zone.
Squad depth becomes an issue for most in the bottom half of the table. By the time Jan. 1 rolls around, players are being strapped up and trotted out no matter what niggles they’ve picked up or how fatigued they are.
Devoid of the luxury of 25 competent players, the lower-ranked sides struggle to keep up with the big guns in December.
3 - This is the first time in Premier League history that three permanent managers have departed in December. Cull.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2013
Here’s a look at some clubs likely to fall deeper under pressure once Matchday 17 concludes.
|Liverpool vs. Cardiff||Dec. 21||12:45 p.m. GMT/7:45 a.m. ET||3-1|
|Sunderland vs. Norwich||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||2-1|
|Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||1-1|
|Man United vs. West Ham||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/ 10 a.m. ET||3-1|
|Fulham vs. Man City||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||1-2|
|Stoke vs. Aston Villa||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||2-2|
|West Brom vs. Hull City||Dec. 21||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||1-1|
|Southampton vs. Tottenham||Dec. 22||1:30 p.m. GMT/8:30 a.m. ET||2-1|
|Swansea vs. Everton||Dec. 22||4 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||2-2|
|Arsenal vs. Chelsea||Dec. 23||8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET||2-2|
Schedule via PremierLeague.com
All is not well around Cardiff City Stadium.
Club owner Vincent Tan issued an extraordinary statement midweek in which he said “not a single penny” would be spent on transfers in January—per BBC Sport.
Cardiff’s form this season has been overshadowed by wrangling off the pitch between Tan and head coach Malky Mackay, and Tan’s latest comments will surely have applied more fuel to the fire.
The Bluebirds picked up their first win in six games last weekend, but a daunting trip to Anfield is on the horizon this Saturday.
Liverpool have dropped just three points at home this season, and with Luis Suarez firing, it is difficult to envision Cardiff getting anything from the game on Merseyside.
They currently sit 15th in the table, four points off the relegation zone. But things could be set to get worse before they get better.
West Ham picked up an impressive win in the Carling Cup midweek, but their league form has failed to inspire this season.
5 - West Ham have drawn 5 PL games 0-0 this season, more than there have been in the Bundesliga so far (4). Surprise. [via @danielstorey85]— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2013
The Hammers have collected just one win in their past nine games, and a trip to Old Trafford this weekend could spell further trouble for Sam Allardyce’s side.
Manchester United at home may not be the feared opponent of seasons past, but the Red Devils produced one of their performances of this season in beating Aston Villa on Matchday 16 and they will be eager for all three points again.
A loss for West Ham could see them sucked into the relegation zone with Crystal Palace, who host Newcastle, just one point behind them in 18th place.
Rene Meulensteen has grouped together the players at Fulham and got them playing as a team. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, he took over at a time when a tough run of fixtures—Tottenham, Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester City—lay on the horizon.
Three points against Villa handed Fulham their first league win in seven games, but with Manuel Pellegrini’s free-flowing side visiting Craven Cottage this weekend, the West London outfit could be set to fall deeper under pressure.
Who is most likely to be relegated this season?
City will be without the services of top scorer Sergio Aguero, but they have plenty of other firepower to call upon.
Fortunately for Meulensteen, there are less daunting fixtures on the horizon. He has the chance to carry Fulham from the dark days with games against Norwich, Hull, West Ham and Sunderland to come.
But expect them to remain under a cloud after Matchday 17.