The big game is yet to come, but the table took further shape on Saturday. There were risers and fallers, those rejoicing and those crestfallen, clubs with satisfaction nearly ensured and other clubs in dire straits.
While Premier League fans eagerly await Chelsea facing Liverpool on Sunday, Saturday's action took us one step closer to determining which teams will reach Europe next year and which teams will be demoted to the Championship.
Let's break down Saturday's risers and fallers on the table:
|Premier League Table|
|14||West Ham United||36||10||7||19||38||49||-11||37|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||35||7||15||13||42||54||-12||36|
Fulham should have been on the "risers" list for this weekend. In the 58th minute of their match against Hull City, they held a 2-0 lead and looked sure to earn a vital three points in their efforts to avoid relegation.
But this is Fulham we're talking about, the club that has allowed a league-worst 79 goals (only Cardiff City, which has allowed 65 tallies, is anywhere close to that dreadful mark). So it was hardly a surprise when Hull found two late goals and earned a 2-2 draw against the Cottagers.
Still, technically speaking, Fulham was a riser, at least for a day, as they moved to 18th place and just one point behind dreadful Norwich (who was crushed by Manchester United and still has Chelsea and Arsenal to come).
Speaking of Manchester United, the club certainly felt like risers after spanking Norwich 4-0 in Ryan Giggs' managerial debut. The club played an attacking, proactive form of football and looked—at least for a day—like the United of old.
Juan Mata started the day on the bench but made his impact felt when he was subbed on, notching a brace (Wayne Rooney had one as well). Giggs might be wise to start him in the next contest given Mata's recent form.
Whether that resurgence will be enough to get them into the Europa League—oh, how far they've fallen—remains to be determined, as Tottenham also won on Saturday over Stoke City, 1-0. Tottenham remain six points clear of the Red Devils, though United have a game in hand and the goal differential advantage.
If Spurs falter, United could overtake them.
Everton continued to drop points in their quest for a Champions League spot, losing 2-0 to Southampton on two own goals, adding insult to injury. That keeps the Toffees a point shy of Arsenal, who hold a game in hand and seem virtually assured of maintaining their place in fourth. Everton's loss also tied the teams in goal differential, hurting their Champions League hopes even further.
Aston Villa is trending downward hard after losing to Swansea City, 4-1. The Villains are now in 16th place and just four points clear of Fulham. Worse, they still have to face Hull City, Manchester City and Tottenham left on the schedule, so points will be hard to come by.
The Villains are in serious trouble. If Fulham win their last two games, the Villains may very well end up going down. Plus, Sunderland are six points behind with a game in hand, and Cardiff are five points behind. Suddenly, facing Hull is the most important game of Aston Villa's season.
Manager Paul Lambert, sitting on a seat so hot you could cook a meal on it, knows just how important that meeting will be, as he told Sky Sports:
I don't know all the results but I heard one or two and that keeps you there above that line which is the most important thing. But next week's game is a must win game. Three very tough games we've got. The lads know how big the game is next week and they know it's a cup final.
Finally, West Brom probably vaulted themselves into safety with a 1-0 win over West Ham. With a game in hand on Fulham, West Brom holds a five-point advantage. Nothing is guaranteed, but it would be shocking if they were relegated.