The Premier League plot continues to thicken with the season nearing its conclusion. Heading into Week 34, most of the EPL table is close, yet distant.
Only seven of the league's 20 clubs boast positive point differentials. The richer teams are separated from the EPL's bottom-feeders, who have fallen well out of contention. While an upset pops up here or there to keep things interesting, the top squads hold a strong grasp on the proceedings.
A few squads sit in between in no-man's land, but Week 34 did not help their cause. Many of them are simply hoping to keep up appearances with four weeks remaining.
With Week 34 in the books, here's an updated look at the EPL table heading into the upcoming slate.
|11||West Ham United||33||10||7||16||-7||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||33||6||15||12||-11||33|
Liverpool, Chelsea Fight for First
Liverpool and Chelsea created some breathing room atop the EPL table as they fight for first place.
The Reds deserve the credit, as they bested third-place Manchester City in a pivotal matchup on Sunday. Liverpool generated a six-point swing by defeating the Blues with a Philippe Coutinho goal during the 78th minute.
The clutch victory puts the red-hot Reds in the driver's seat. According to ESPN's Paul Carr, their title odds bolted up to 52 percent with their 10th straight victory:
Premier League title odds after the weekend, according to SPI: Liverpool 52%, Man City 30%, Chelsea 18%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 13, 2014
Chelsea, meanwhile, held their own with a 1-0 victory over Swansea. Despite accumulating 26 shots on goal, they needed 68 minutes before Demba Ba broke the scoring drought with the match's only score.
According to the Premier League's Twitter page, Chelsea captain John Terry said his squad kept its eye on Liverpool's earlier game. Yet he doesn't mind that his rivals also emerged victorious:
"We knew Liverpool won and looking at the result it is the one we wanted, even though Liverpool are flying" - @chelseafc captain John Terry— Premier League (@premierleague) April 13, 2014
On April 27, Liverpool and Chelsea will compete in a match that is almost certain to bear major title implications. Perhaps Terry would prefer each club enter the contest at its strongest to formulate an epic contest.
Middle Teams Stumble
Southampton fell on the receiving end of the weekend's most surprising loss, falling 1-0 to 19th-place Cardiff City. Despite the Saints dominating time of possession, Juan Cala found the net during the second half to secure the monumental upset.
With Everton and Manchester United lingering as two of their final four opponents, the Saints are in danger of ending their campaign on a down note. Meanwhile, Cardiff boosted their chances of avoiding relegation with their first victory since March 8.
Now nine points behind Manchester United, whose fixture with Hull City was postponed, Southampton has likely plateaued in eighth place, although they could fall behind Newcastle United and/or Stoke City. Those two clubs met on Saturday, with Stoke City getting the upper hand in another 1-0 affair. Erik Pieters shot what appeared to be an attempted cross, yet it turned into the match's lone goal to keep Stoke in the top 10.
One of the EPL's biggest overachievers, Newcastle has fallen off the map with four consecutive losses. They're now three points ahead of Stoke in ninth place.