Bottom clubs battling relegationIt’s the time of year when nerves get raw and necks get sore as managers involved in the Premier League relegation scrap look anxiously over their shoulders.
With the end of the season in sight, only bottom club Sunderland looks like it will be cut adrift with the teams directly above it all beginning to show signs of life.
Second-from-bottom Cardiff City’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday has thrown the Welsh club a lifeline while one place above them Fulham racked up a second straight win to get within touching distance of the safety zone with four games left.
Fulham’s 1-0 victory over fourth-from-bottom Norwich City means Felix Magath’s side is just two points behind Norwich, which has a horrendous run-in coming with matches against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Cardiff, which hit back from a 3-0 defeat by Palace last week, is three behind Norwich with winnable games to come.
“Sometimes when things happen in football it can galvanize you. We were really hurt by the performance last week,” manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer told the BBC.
“The fans know we’re right in it and we won’t give up until it’s over.”
Norwich sacked manager Chris Hughton after last week’s home defeat by West Bromwich Albion which on Saturday squandered the chance to pull away from trouble when it let go of a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
Temporary manager Neil Adams said his side had been unlucky.
“We probably deserved to win,” he said. “Felix will probably see it differently but we were delighted with the play, the effort, the attitude, the tactics.
With Hugo Rodallega sealing Fulham’s win and Juan Cala earning three points for Cardiff, the sides just above the drop zone are right to be getting a little twitchy.
Crystal Palace beat Aston Villa 1-0 to move to 37 points, seven clear of the drop zone and almost safe. But Villa’s worries are deepening.
Villa has a four-point cushion from the bottom three but has lost four matches in a row.
“It is where it is, there’s loads of teams and games still to play and you have to get over that finishing line as quick as you can,” Villa boss Paul Lambert said.
West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel must have thought a first home win was in the bag as his side went 3-0 up in half an hour against Spurs but was left biting his nails as the visitors clawed back the deficit and leveled in stoppage time through Christian Eriksen.
They are now three points above Fulham but Spaniard Mel was doing his best to stay positive.
“We had a good first half but the result has gone against us.
“The problem is we are so keen to win the points, we need to play the same way regardless of being 3-0 up or if 0-0,” he said of the anxiety that swept his team.
“This is very difficult for me, the players are very down but we have five games to come. Every point is very important.”
Swansea City has also been sucked into the mire and will kick off against title-chasing Chelsea on Sunday just three points above Fulham, albeit with a massively better goal difference.