Aston Villa got the weekend off from having to battle for their premier league survival. Instead they got to press for a spot in the FA Cup final. You may remember that they beat Liverpool at Wembley and secured that spot in the final. (/shameless joyful plug) But while they got the weekend off, the rest of the Premier League were busy fighting it out, and the relegation picture has changed a bit.
At the bottom, the suddenly on-fire Leicester City have managed to lose their death-grip on 20th and jump to 18th. Meanwhile QPR and Burnley have continued to struggle. Sunderland and Hull each have a match in hand on the rest of the competition (except Leicester), but their pitiful form lately isn't doing them any favors.
So, as we do every week, let's take a look at the relegation battle from the bottom up.
Points/Goal Difference: 26/-25
This weekend's result: An 1-0 loss at Goodison Park to Everton
Next up: Leicester City, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
Here's a team I'd like to see stay up. But they've dug themselves such a hole that even a relatively easy run-in probably won't be enough to save them. Nevertheless, the final-day match against Villa looms large for both teams. Villa will likely have secured safety by then (//knocks on all the wood) but Burnley may have left themselves in a place to get safety. If that's the case and Villa wins, I hope our fans will be nice to our claret and blue brethren.
Points/Goal Difference: 26/-21
This weekend's result: None
Next up: West Ham, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
I've never met a QPR fan that I disliked, and yet there is no team I want to see drop more than I do QPR. For some reason I just sort of hate them. The good news for me is that they're terrible and probably going to do just what I want. Not much more to say about them. Unless they have another meteoric moment like they did in their trips to West Brom and Villa, they're doomed.
Points/Goal Difference: 28/-17
This weekend's result: A 2-0 win while hosting Swansea
Next up: at Burnley, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
Hey Foxes, you can stop winning any day now. They've taken three in a row and look like a team who have finally realized that they may not be in the Premier League next year if they don't come to life. If they revert back to form, they may still drop, but there is no sign of that coming. And a list of at Burnley, Chelsea, Newcastle, Southampton, at Sunderland, and QPR to finish the season doesn't look overly daunting. Given the tailspins of Hull, Sunderland, and even Newcastle, I'm starting to think the Foxes will be safe.
Points/Goal Difference: 28/-16
This weekend's result: None
Next up: at Crystal Palace, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
I want them to stay up so much more than I do Sunderland, but I can only talk about their terrible run-in so many times. You know the story by now, so only a brief recap is needed: in their past six matches they've gotten two draws, and things get harder from here. This weekend's trip to Crystal Palace (4-0-2 in their last six) may be their easiest match. If it's not that, it's the much-improved Burnley on May 9. Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester United all look to be zero-point matches.
Poor Tigers. Poor, doomed Tigers.
Points/Goal Difference: 29/-23
This weekend's result: None
Next up: at Stoke, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
Not playing this weekend meant that Sunderland didn't have the chance to lose. So, hooray? But it also meant that they have to play three matches in the final week of the season, including the make-up trip to Arsenal. Given Leicester's hot run of form, it feels as if the Black Cats are doomed. At this point they're relying on other teams to be even more doomed than they are. That's not a formula that's going to give many Sunderland fans restful nights, but it may be one that keeps them in the Premier League.
Points/Goal Difference: 32/-21
This weekend's result: None (unless you count beating Liverpool in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley as a result)
Next up: at Manchester City, Saturday, 5:30 PM GMT
Still feeling decently comfortable with 32 points and five matches remaining. A lot of that has to do with the sheer number of teams below Villa right now, but a significant chunk is the way the club have been playing lately. Tim Sherwood finally have Villa playing football that they should have been doing all season. They're not a team who should be in relegation trouble, and if they play like they should they'll be fine.
That said, this weekend's trip to Manchester City could be a big stopper of momentum. While there is the chance that they steal another victory that no one would predict, there is also the very real chance of a drubbing. Even an out-of-form Manchester City is better than Villa. Add to that the fact that depth in the defense is critically low and we could have trouble.
But on the flip side, if Villa take a point or three, I think we can all finally exhale. A loss this weekend is not a big deal, but a win could finally put this relegation scrap to an end.
Points/Goal Difference: 35/-20
This Weekend's result: a 1-3 loss at home to Spurs
Next up: Swansea, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
A newcomer! Newcastle were doing pretty well for a stretch this season but they have lost seven of their last eight matches. Their only bright spot in that patch was a February 28 1-0 win against Villa. Their last six matches have all been losses and they look a shambles right now. Luckily for them, their run-in has three matches against relegation contenders. Unfortunately, those matches include a trip to Leicester and a visit from West Brom. From what they've got left, only their trip to West Ham looks like a certain win. Their 35 points already should be enough to save Newcastle, but if their terrible form continues and some other clubs catch fire, they could be in serious trouble.
West Bromwich Albion
Points/Goal Difference: 36/-14
This Weekend's result: a 0-2 win at Crystal Palace
Next up: Liverpool, Saturday, 3 PM GMT
Sadly the Baggies righted the ship against Crystal Palace. Their remaining schedule (and their recent form is bad enough) is such that I'll keep them here for a bit. God only knows what will happen against Liverpool this weekend, as those are two teams I can't figure out.