Up and down they go on the Premier League table.
Places on the EPL table this year are like a keyboard without a caps-lock key—constantly shifting. The relegation battle is ever-changing, sucking in new teams seemingly every week and spitting out others. The title race remains fluid, though Liverpool have the throne in sight. And places for Europe will be contested right until the whole thing wraps up.
If you thought this weekend would retain the status quo, well, think again. Let's break down which teams benefitted from the action and which took a hit.
|12||West Ham United||35||10||7||18||38||48||-10||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||33||6||15||12||40||51||-11||33|
Holy smokes, Sunderland beat Chelsea! Be honest, you didn't see that one coming, nor did you ever see Sunderland taking four points from Manchester City and Chelsea in one week.
As Squawka Football tweeted, Chelsea dominated every stat except the one that mattered:
Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland FT. Possession 57%-43%. Passes completed 378-198. Shots 31-7. Tackles won 14-12. Successful take ons 18-3.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 19, 2014
Final score: 2-1 in favor of Sunderland.
Of all people, it was Fabio Borini—on loan from Liverpool, because only real life could cook up such delicious irony—who won the game for Sunderland late in the second half with a converted penalty.
While the result didn't technically move either team on the table, Chelsea could quickly find themselves moving down the table and further away from Liverpool, while Sunderland's standing in the relegation battle has improved immensely in the past week.
Sunderland is now a point behind both Fulham and Cardiff City with a game in hand on each, and just three points behind Norwich City. More on why Norwich's place on the table is so tenuous later.
The hottest team in the Premier League is Liverpool, which is no secret. After all, the Reds have won 10 straight league games and are unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League matches. But the second-hottest team in the EPL might surprise you.
Did you guess Crystal Palace? Because, yes, it's Crystal Palace. Consider this, from OptaJoe:
5 - Crystal Palace have won five consecutive games for only the second time in their top-flight history (December 1992). Soaring.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 19, 2014
How did Palace get No. 5? With some strong defense, as Squawka Football tweeted:
Crystal Palace made 78 clearances against West Ham, the highest amount in any of their EPL matches this season. pic.twitter.com/tf3AkOnp5d— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 19, 2014
It's pretty amazing to think that back on March 22, Palace lost to Newcastle and were stuck on 28 points. Since then, they've grabbed 15 points and ascended to 11th on the table. For a team that many thought would be one-and-done in the Premier League this season, the turnaround has been astonishing.
Tony Pulis may not be the manager of the year, but his work with Palace since taking over in November has been top class.
Swansea City's win bumped them up to 13th on the table, as Wilfried Bony's brace put the Swans six points clear of the relegation zone. Speaking of relegation, Cardiff City's 1-1 draw with Stoke City saw them leapfrog Fulham on the table and move within two points of troubled Norwich City. Fulham lost to Tottenham, 3-1.
If you think the Canaries aren't worried about their place on the table, consider that they have to play Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to finish the season. Yikes.
Of course, you won't hear anything about Liverpool taking Norwich lightly, especially after Manchester City dropped points mid-week. Brendan Rodgers told his club that was a warning sign, via Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph:
I said to the players this morning before training that if there is anyone looking at a rival dropping points, then also take it as a warning sign, it is never easy at this stage...
When you're so close to the finish line, you can maybe think that the job can be done and is done.
Teams can think that they are playing teams towards the bottom and that the games might be easy but actually it's the contrast - they can be even more difficult.
People are fighting for their livelihoods, fighting for their lives, fighting for their children, for the supporters. They're fighting to play in the best league in the world.
Last night was a warning sign for everyone that, at this point of the season with four games to go, there is nothing guaranteed.
True words. Still, given the form of both clubs, Liverpool dropping points to Norwich would be about as shocking as it gets.
Aston Villa's scoreless draw with Southampton didn't see either team make substantial gains on the table, but it did put the Villains five points clear of Cardiff with a game in hand. At this point, every point is a valuable commodity for Aston Villa in their disappointing campaign.
In the latter games, we likely won't see much movement on the table. The aforementioned Liverpool, along with Chelsea, City and Arsenal will all be expected to win. Meanwhile, Everton facing Manchester United won't move either team on the table, but failing to take all three points would be a huge blow for Everton's Champions League aspirations.
And a loss for United could see them miss out on European football altogether, an entirely unacceptable conclusion for one of Europe's most historically successful teams.
Up and down they go, indeed.