For fans of clubs at the foot of the Premier League table it was a pretty woeful weekend, as the bottom five teams heading into that set of fixtures all suffered defeats. Some losses were more damaging than others, though, and one team made a daring leap for survival.
Here is how the table looks after Week 33:
Manchester City 5-0 Fulham
On the face of it, this is the biggest hiding that any of the teams at the bottom of the table took on Saturday, but a loss that was always expected is not going to be too damaging to Fulham's confidence. No one would have admitted it in front of the menacing Felix Magath, but a drubbing at the Etihad was always on the cards and will not cause Fulham fans to give up all hope.
What does not help is the Cottagers’ woeful goal differential, which now reads minus-40. They are some way off Derby County’s record low of minus-69, per eplmatches.com, but it could cost them come the end of the season. With the fight to stay up likely to go down to the wire, their leaky defence could see them fall behind a rival in the final reckoning.
Cardiff 3-6 Liverpool
Similarly to Fulham, most Cardiff fans would not have been expecting great things against a rampant Liverpool side, but to concede six at home is going to worry anybody connected with the club. The loss was their fifth in their last seven games, and they must buck that trend soon if they are to stay in the division.
The three goals against a team second in the division will give Cardiff hope, and with games coming up against West Brom, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Sunderland they will back themselves to score. However, their defence, which has let in 58 goals this campaign, could be set to cost them.
Norwich City 2-0 Sunderland
Arguably the most significant result for the relegation battle came at Carrow Road, where Norwich dragged themselves away from the dogfight and left Sunderland right in the middle of it.
The Canaries are far from safe on 32 points, but as they are sitting in 13th place in the table the pressure is off for now. Chris Hughton will know that his side need points in the forthcoming games though, as their last four fixtures see them take on Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
On-loan defender Joseph Yobo clearly believes they can beat the drop, as he told James Nursey of the Daily Mirror:
I strongly believe Norwich will stay up. At home we are very dominant, we just have to improve our away form.
Sunderland are in the mire after the loss in East Anglia. The Black Cats have two games in hand over the teams above them but those clashes, away at Liverpool and Manchester City, are unlikely to be fruitful trips. Gus Poyet’s team are also still to face Tottenham, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United, so their loss against Norwich does not bode well for them.
Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace
The fine margins of football were on display in the North East as Crystal Palace were left heartbroken by a last-minute loss. If they had held on for a goalless draw against Newcastle it would have been seen as an excellent result and moved them one place higher in the table. That did not come to pass, though, and the Eagles are perched precariously just one position outside the bottom three.
What the result proved once again is that Palace are short of firepower. They have scored just once in their last five games, and their 19 goals in 30 games is startlingly bad. Tony Pulis’ side have four home matches left but three of them are against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, so unless they find a goalscorer on the road they could be in serious bother.
Hull 2-0 West Brom
The Baggies may have had more of the ball and more shots at goal than their hosts, but it was yet another poor result under the hapless coach Pepe Mel. The Spaniard has still managed just one win since taking over in January, and his side remain just three points away from the relegation zone.
Mel needs to find a way to win, and fast, with his side taking on Cardiff next in the Premier League followed by a trip to Norwich. If those games go by without victories the Baggies will certainly be favourites for the drop.
With the bottom five teams losing the impact on the relegation zone was not massive, as we are left pretty much as we were. However, the team that really lost out most in Week 33 was Sunderland, who were the only ones to suffer defeat against another team within the relegation scrap. With their fixture list looking ominous, it was a chance to pick up points missed, one they may regret come May.
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