As another week of Premier League football comes to a close, Man City and Liverpool strengthened their claims of being the true title contenders this season. With the fight to become champions increasingly becoming a two-horse race, perhaps the more unpredictable and entertaining battle is that for the right to remain in the top tier of English football.
The final fixture of the week saw Burnley take on Newcastle at Turf Moor. Both teams found themselves a point outside the drop zone prior to the game giving some indication of its crucial nature. But it was the away side who came away with the victory pushing themselves up to 13th position. It didn’t take long for the game to burst into action as Newcastle took a 0-1 lead thanks to a Ben Mee own goal before Clark added another less than 20 minutes later. The Magpies’ win is all the more impressive considering Sam Vokes clawed one back just before half time forcing Newcastle to protect a one-goal lead for over an hour. A huge three points for Benitez who takes a step towards keeping up his newly promoted side.
Huddersfield and Fulham are another two teams who have faced difficult starts to this campaign, but both will be more than satisfied with their performances this weekend. Aaron Mooy starred for Huddersfield scoring a brace in an emphatic and greatly unexpected 0-2 away win against a solid Wolves side. That result helped the Terriers leapfrog three teams climbing up to 15th in the table. Unlike Huddersfield, Fulham still find themselves rock bottom but a 3-2 win against Southampton puts them level on points with the other teams occupying the relegation zone, the Saints being one of them. New manager Claudio Ranieri made the best possible start to life in West London after becoming the first new Premier League manager of the 2018-19 season boosting the hopes of the clubs’s fans.
Despite not winning the game, Crystal Palace’s result was arguably just as impressive. They drew 0-0 to giants Manchester United at Old Trafford in a game that they may feel disappointed not to have got more from. Although their form has been poor so far this season, most teams would be pleased to gain a point against United but the Eagle’s are in desperate need of wins. A draw doesn’t particularly improve the side’s position currently hovering a point above the relegation zone in 16th. It appears if Zaha doesn’t pop up with a goal nor Milivojevic scores a penalty then Palace don’t score at all, something manager Roy Hodgson may look to change by adding a clinical striker in the transfer window. One thing a draw against United does do for the South London side, coming out of a tough run of games, is provide them with something to build on in upcoming weeks. They will certainly be looking to gain 3 points at home to Burnley in their next fixture.
Burnley are in fact one place below Palace in 17th and a disappointing loss to Newcastle on Monday Night Football will not have helped their cause. Last season’s heroics in gaining a Europa league place seems like a far cry from what this year has provided the Clarets. Despite being a huge achievement, especially for a club like Burnley, European qualification can often be a curse. Yet, they failed to get past the playoff stages avoiding the fatigue of playing on Thursday nights and again on the weekend, rendering Europa League football a useless excuse for their poor form this season. Manager Sean Dyche will be in fear of losing both his reputation and position in Premier League football.
Finally, it’s safe to say Cardiff City were tipped by many to finish bottom of the league this season. Their match against Everton on Saturday ended with a 1-0 loss, not the huge margin some would have been expecting given that Everton are currently 6th in the table. This is not the first time this year Cardiff have put up a decent fight against a strong side having previously led against Arsenal in a game which ended 2-3 to the Gunners. However, if manager Neil Warnock is unable to turn honourable defeats into impressive wins then Cardiff will inevitably be at huge risk of facing the drop.
Not even halfway through the season a lot can still change, with a single win often pushing sides multiple places up the table. No team in the bottom half will feel entirely comfortable and will want to add all important points sooner rather than later. It’s impossible to tell who will face the dreaded drop, such is the beauty and unpredictability of Premier League football.