Poised to drop? Premier League relegation candidates examined

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on as Cardiff City boss

It’s that time of the season again, right? Battles begin to form at either end of the table, with the most worried supporters finding their team at the base of the Premier League. Fulham, Cardiff City, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Norwich City, and indeed Swansea City all figure in perilous situations.
With April fast approaching, the remaining two game weeks of March could go a long way in defining who will remain England’s top division for the 201415 season. While Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool battle it out to be crowned the league’s elite, a handful of teams sweat it out in an equally fascinating contest.

The Contenders:

As a Newcastle United fan, I know how it feels to linger in positions of discomfort in the Premier League table, but even at the end of March - there is quite the possibility that the entire bottom three could swap places with teams above them before the final whistle on the last gameweek.

1. Fulham

In November of last year I questioned where Fulham would pick up the points to place themselves in a respectable league position. So far those points just have not arrived. A beleaguered, yet much-needed 3 points were secured against a lacklustre Newcastle United last weekend, but up next for Felix Magath’s men is a daunting trip to the Etihad to face Manchester City.

Ties against Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Stoke City also lie in wait for the Cottagers and quite frankly it is hard to see the London outfit pulling away from the dangerzone any time soon. A nervous wait Steve Sidwell and co.

2. Cardiff City

Many questioned the decision to sack Malky Mackay after a reasonable start to life in the top division and replace him with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and perhaps rightly so. The baby-faced assassin has recorded very few points in charge of the Welsh side, and the Bluebirds have to face Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle and Chelsea before the end of the season. It doesn’t look too good for Vincent Tan.

Can they survive the drop? It’s possible and will be largely reliant on their home form, but with a couple of sides ahead of them having a number of games in hand I’d be surprised if Cardiff are not in the relegation zone come the end of the season.

3. Sunderland

Life may not be all rosy on Wearside but saying that, Gus Poyet has done a pretty good job in his time so far. A respectable trip to Wembley will no doubt remain the highlight of the Black Cat’s season, and although there are many pessimistic souls anticipating a drop to the Championship, there is enough quality in the side to avoid taking the plunge.

While there are many tough fixtures ahead for Sunderland they do have 3 games in hand on various teams around them. They’ll do just enough to stay up, and could take a big step towards safety at Carrow Road on Saturday.

4. Crystal Palace

Things looked abysmal at Selhurst Park before Tony Pulis took over and steadied the ship. The experienced manager remarked that he would regard it as the biggest achievement of his managerial career if he managed to keep the Eagles afloat and perhaps you can see why. A number of decent results at home have restored hope however with 5 of their future fixtures being played away from home it will take something special for Crystal Palace to remain a Premier League team.

5. West Brom

I’ve been keeping an eye on Pepe Mel’s Albion of late and can’t say that signs are encouraging at the Hawthorns. A recent victory against a struggling Swansea City secured a big result in their season but a quick look at the fixture list does not make nice reading for the club’s fans. 

The question I have is where will the goals come from? Victor Anichebe was recruited to fill the void left by the departed Romelu Lukaku while Shane Long also left to further reduce the striker count. To put it simply, the Brom will be very close to the drop in my opinion - I’ve yet to see signs that prove me wrong (last week aside).

6. Norwich City

Chris Hughton would not have anticipated a nervy finish to the Premier League when he unveiled Leroy Fer, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond in the summer but things have not been too rosy at Carrow Road in 2014. Home form has improved of late, marked by an impressive three points against a then Champions League chasing Tottenham Hotspur.

Rather than rambling on, just take a look at their fixture list - to say that that the next couple of fixtures are absolutely crucial would be a slight understatement.

Notable mentions: Swansea City — the quality in that squad should pull away to safety sooner rather than later.

Summary: There is a lot of people to be played between now and gameweek 38, but in my book, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Cardiff could be cursing their luck at the end of the season.

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