EPL Relegation Race Heats Up After Bottom 3 All Win on Boxing Day

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Scott Parker (2nd R) of Fulham celebrates with team-mates after scoring the winning goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Fulham at Carrow Road on December 26, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

While most fans of the English Premier League at the moment are concerned with the title race, there is another heated spectacle brewing at the opposite end of the table. 

Thanks to wins by Crystal Palace, Fulham and Sunderland on Boxing Day, the race for survival was kicked up a notch. 

After the first set of holiday fixtures, there are 11 teams separated by just eight points, which means one small slip-up in form could cost a team their spot above the relegation zone. 

The three teams that entered Thursday's clashes in the drop zone all got off to pitiful starts and consequently fired their managers. 

Now that Ian Holloway, Paolo Di Canio and Martin Jol are all out of jobs, their former clubs have been revived by their successors. 

Sunderland, who still sit in last place with 13 points, extended their unbeaten streak to three games with a shocking 1-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park that saw Toffees keeper Tim Howard sent off for the first time in his EPL career. 

Rene Meulensteen's Fulham also won on their travels as they took down Norwich City, 2-1, at Carrow Road thanks to a Scott Parker strike in the 87th minute. 

Palace played in a disappointingly boring affair with Aston Villa at Villa Park, but one moment of brilliance from Dwight Gayle handed the Eagles their third win in five matches.

With their fifth victory of the season, Palace shot themselves out of the bottom three for now, and in the process they sunk West Ham down to 19th. 

While West Ham officially joined the fight for survival on Thursday, there are a few other clubs close to being dragged into the slugfest as well, with Aston Villa, Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff all sitting below the 20-point mark. 

Even the three teams barely over the 20-point threshold (Stoke, Swansea and Hull) are not safe from the pressure-packed relegation fight due to the parody that has been seen in the EPL so far this season. 

With two more sets of fixtures before the break for the FA Cup ahead in the next week, the bottom of the table could fluctuate once more with a few relegation six-pointers mixed into the schedule. 

Saturday's list of games could flip the table on its head, as West Ham host West Brom, Aston Villa host Swansea, Fulham visit Hull and Sunderland head over to Wales to face Cardiff. 

New Year's Day sees three potential relegation six-pointers on its fixture list, with Sunderland hosting Villa, Palace welcoming Norwich to Selhurst Park and West Ham travelling to London rivals Fulham.

Much like the race for the league title, when the dust settles on the holiday season, we will hopefully have a much clearer picture on who the favorites to stay alive in the EPL are.

If nothing is cleared up, the teams involved in the relegation race could be in for the hardest-fought survival showdown in years. 


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