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Let's talk relegation: who goes down this season?

Hey, we've almost made it! The English Premier League kicks off tomorrow, with Man United and Spurs getting things started at 7:45 ET Saturday morning.
I'm anxiously anticipating the season and have been doing some previous about my pick for eventual champions, player of the year, and more; check it out here.
In this card, I'm taking a look at one of my favorite parts of the EPL: the relegation battle. I'm naming the six teams that I believe have the best shot of going down, and I'll finish by picking the three that I have my money on (or, rather, against!)

Which teams are set to finish in the bottom three?

Sunderland

Former Manchester City winger Adam Johnson may be Sunderland's best player. The problem is, Johnson was charged last season of having sex with an underage girl. So, that's really bad. Fuck Adam Johnson.
They're also led by Old Man Jermain Defoe, big Romanian keeper Costel Pantillimon (another ex-City player) and newcomers Jeremain Lens and Yann M'Vila, both legitimately good players. Outside of that, though, Sunderland are completely devoid of innovation and energy. They finished 16th last season and just barely escaped relegation, and haven't gotten much better. There isn't much to get excited about here.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth won the Championship last year, gaining automatic promotion to the Premiership. It's their first time in the Premier League in the club's history. They scored tons of goals in the Championship last season and had a solid defense too, meaning they could make some noise. However, it could be a suicide kind of squad, a la QPR last season - despite last year's success, their defense probably isn't good enough to lock down Premiership-quality attackers and they could suffer for that. It's a tiny, tiny club, and based on that and their lack of star power (of which there is essentially none), no one gives them too great a chance of beating the drop.
Overall, they're something of a mystery to most who didn't watch them last season, so there's really no telling what they're capable of. My bet? Not much.

Leicester

Leicester had a nightmare of a summer. After pulling off one of the greatest escapes in recent memory to avoid getting relegated last season, they were everyone's favorite minnows; then, a NSFW vide of three of their players (including the manager's son) with a prostitute in Thailand surfaced and the club has been mired in controversy since.
On the pitch, they lost their most important player in Esteban Cambiasso. Striker Jamie Vardy might actually be good, but beyond him the pickings are slim: Riyad Mahrez is a fine midfielder and Rob Huth is a reliable center-half, but not good enough, really. They'll rely a lot on strikers Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa, but the rest of the team will struggle to match their energy and quality.

Watford

Watford were the second team to gain automatic promotion to the Premiership in last year's Championship. They have made some legitimately great signings this summer, bringing in quality players with experience all around the world: Etienne Capoue, Valon Behrami, and Miguel Britos will form a really solid defensive base. There isn't a whole lot to be excited about up front, but they could well be a team that is very tough to break down.
It's not impossible to imagine them giving some top teams real trouble, especially at home - they figure to be a difficult squad to beat, even if they don't often secure all three points.

Aston Villa

Villa just barely stayed up last season, finishing 17th. They have a few quality players - baby-faced Jack Grealish, for one, looks to have a true breakout season, while defender Micah Richards hopes to revive his once-promising career and competent players Cieran Clark, Scott Sinclair and Charles N'Zogbia figure to be major keys for the squad.
However, they lost their two best players over the summer - goal-scoring machine Christian Benteke (Liverpool) and midfielder Fabian Delph (Man City). Can the squad they have make up for the absences of the two true quality stars?

Norwich City

Owners of the Premiership's best kits, Norwich City gained promotion the hard way, via the Championship playoff. They were in the Prem just two years ago, then fell down after one season, and are now back; it's a ping-pong style that is totally unsustainable.
Key players for Norwich are defender Sebastian Bassong, left wingback/winger Robbie Brady (who starred for Hull City last season despite their relegation), strikers Cameron Jerome and Ricky van Wolfswinkle, and most importantly promising winger Nathan Redmond. Redmond could well develop into a serious star, as he one was maybe the best player in the Championship last season.

So, who goes down?

With these six the most likely to drop down (with the possible inclusion of West Brom, who will probably be safe), it's going to be an interesting season at the bottom.

My picks are Bournemouth, Leicester and Sunderland.

Villa and Norwich will barely survive, while I see Watford having a solid season.
Bournemouth simply don't have enough quality. Am I picking them to go down just because I know the least about them? Yes. But maybe the fact that I know so little says something about how good they are...
Leicester are a mess after the Thailand scandal and were required a miracle late-season run to avoid relegation last season. The squad has lost its most important player and will not pull off the same escape this time around.
Sunderland have been on the verge of going down too many season in a row to avoid the drop again. Average management, average players. They'll be relegated.

Who are your picks?

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[25th-Apr-15] Match Preview: Man City - Aston Villa
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EPL Match Day 23: What we learned
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[Discussion] Who will win the EPL?
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What to Watch: This weekend in the EPL
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[Discussion] EPL's most UNDERrated player?
So after we talked about the most overrated players yesterday, it only makes sense to do the opposite today! Who are the most underrated players in the EPL? Riyad Mahrez - Leicester City While teammate Jamie Vardy gets lots of the headlines for his goal scoring, Mahrez has been an absolute standout for Leicester this season. He's turned in great performance after great performance and has even added to his game with some goals. He definitely deserves more credit. Yannick Bolasie - Crystal Palace You knew I had to include a Palace player on the list! At his best, Bolasie is an absolute terror down the wing or through the middle. He has pace and strength like any player in the league and just needs to round out his goalscoring form to make his game complete. He nearly made a big money move to Spurs over the summer but Palace held onto him, and with his form this season they'll be happy they did. Jack Butland - Stoke City While Butland is beginning to accumulate some accolades for his play this season in net for Stoke, it's time we start considering him one of the league's best keepers. He's got a little while to go before he unseats Joe Hart as England's #1, but it looks like the future of English goalkeeping is in safe hands with Butland's talent. Philippe Coutinho - Liverpool Sure, everyone knows that Coutinho is a great player, but I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for what he does for Liverpool. His work rate is off the charts and he has come up with some truly ridiculous goals to go along with amazing assists over the past few seasons. For my money, he's as good as attacking midfielders come in the Premiership. Romelu Lukaku - Everton Lukaku is a player whose stock has gone from way up to way down and now he's flying high again. After being a highly touted Chelsea youth product, Mourinho sold him away to Everton. He struggled for the Toffees at first but has come up with the best form of his career this season. At just 22 years old, the Belgian has a huge future ahead of him. I'm going with Coutinho as my choice. The man simply cannot be stopped and does not get enough credit! Who do you think? @InPlainSight @AbdulrahmanSaad @trinityarcangel @thefeels @MarcusJiles @DerekGumtow @havic @yaakattackk @bnzatton @SherzTYCi @krishntejanand @addri @mishthi @andwas @NimishMathur @Sydsocquet @starli @kyleatekwana @BenjiPhilip @Eduardo14 @AshfakEjaaz @EmanueleYagoda
[31st-Jan-15] Sunderland 2-0 Burnley
Sunderland move 4 points clear of the relegation zone as Burnley remain just a point above the drop after the weekend’s results. For Sunderland, the win is also just their 4th of the season, with their 11 draws being the key to their current survival status. The Black Cats controlled the game early as Connor Wickham was able to find his head on the end of a beautifully placed cross to open the scoring just 20 minutes into the affair. Jermaine Defoe was then easily picked out after Burnley attempted to catch Jordi Gomez offsides, allowing the former Spurs and Toronto FC striker to score his first goal for the Black Cats since his signing last month. The win is massive for Sunderland as they now sit 4 points clear of the drop. Their 11 draws would normally be a sight to sound the alarm over, but there as worse teams than them and the team is clicking at the right time. Their 8 defeats is lowest out of any team in the bottom half and can hope another 5 wins in their remaining 15 games, a daunting but possible task, would be enough to secure another season in the top flight. Sunderland are a club without a lot of money and have been able to survive in the bottom half for quite a few seasons now. Poyet managed to spring a miracle last season beating Manchester United away and a Chelsea side unbeaten in 76 consecutive games at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho to ensure their survival, and while he will need a few more wins to do the same this season, he is certainly in a better position now with 15 games to go. Burnley on the other hand need to continue to be the scrappy and defiant side that has led them to some of their victories. They are the definition of a small town club, with only 70,000 in the town the Clarets are based in and virtually no money to spend to players. Sean Dyche has done a good job so far, and the club need to focus on beating the three below them, while picking up a few draws against the top half to help secure their status. They can do it despite not really buying in the January window but they will need a lot of help. Their next game against West Brom is a particularly vital one before having to make trips to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, but if the Clarets take all three against Tony Pulis’s side, they could stand a chance of keeping their 17th place position after that run of three games. Sunderland face a trip to Wales next to take on Swansea City.
What's with the Chinese football league?
There's something strange happening in the football world right now. Even with all the money and appeal that the world's top leagues bring - the EPL, La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, France's Ligue 1 and Italy's Serie A, some top players have recently departed their clubs and gone to accept enormous contracts in the Chinese Super League. The latest star to make the move is Chelsea's Ramires, a player at the peak of his career at age 28. I'm stunned. There is a history of great players making the move to China, but in the past it has been players at the very tail end of their careers moving across the world to make huge amounts of money before they retire. Think Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, who in recent years went to Shanghai to play. And I understand the appeal for an aging player. Someone like Drogba couldn't keep up with the pace of the top European leagues anymore, but could still be a huge star in China, where the league quality is extremely low. They are major marketing moves for the Chinese teams too, who can bring in world superstars to boost their image. But recently, the players making the move have not been aging stars. They are players in the prime of their careers, like Chelsea's Ramires. Other players to recently make the move are Roma's Gervinho (formerly of Arsenal), who is just 28 years old and Colombia and Inter Milan's Freddy Guarin, a young midfielder of enormous quality and potential. He has been on the radar of the top EPL clubs for years, and to see him turn them down in exchange for a move to the low-level China league is shocking. Alessandro Diamanti, Momo Sissokho, Demba Ba and Paulinho are other players who have recently moved from their European clubs to play in China under huge contracts. It's a bizarre phenomenon. Football in China is not known to be a very popular sport, but the Chinese owners have loads of money and are doing a good job convincing top players to come and join them. I'm sad to see exciting players like Ramires and Gervinho leave Europe, where I could watch them in the Champions League, but I'm fascinated to see what they will make of themselves in China, and to follow along to see if the Chinese league continues to pry away great talent from Europe. @InPlainSight @AbdulrahmanSaad @trinityarcangel @thefeels @MarcusJiles @DerekGumtow @havic @yaakattackk @bnzatton @SherzTYCi @krishntejanand @addri @mishthi @andwas @NimishMathur @Sydsocquet @starli @kyleatekwana @BenjiPhilip @Eduardo14 @AshfakEjaaz @EmanueleYagoda @Bobs What do you make of this recent trend?
[11th-Apr-15] Tottenham Hotspur – Aston Villa
Spurs keeper Hugo Lloirs will be out with a knee injury while Kyle Walker is also unavailable due to injury. Defender Jan Vertonghen is a game-time decision as the Belgian is currently battling an illness. Aston Villa are without Carles Gil, Ashley Westwood, Alan Hutton, and Scott Sinclair due to injury, but wingback Aly Cissokho has been training with the squad all week and should be ready to make his return. Head-To-Head Tottenham come into the game unbeaten in their last 12 fixtures against Aston Villa, with 9 wins from those 12 including the last 5 straight. Spurs are also unbeaten in 10 Premier League games at White Hart Lane running back to November, having won 7 of those games during that time. Tottenham have also scored 26 goals in the calendar year so far, with only their North London rivals, Arsenal better. Harry Kane is still the target man, with 11 goals in his last 9 appearances for the club, and his 19 goals so far in the league have won or rescued 22 points for Spurs, more than any other player. Kane’s goal vs. Aston Villa in November is also the only goal scored by a Spurs substitute all season despite Tottenham having used more substitutes than any other Premier League side at 91. Aston Villa are the only side worse than Spurs at substituting scoring, having not scored any in the campaign so far. Villa’s last win at White Hart Lane was back in 2008 and Villa have this season lost 7 of their last 8 games on the road, with the 4-0 smashing of Sunderland, a game that ultimately cost Gus Poyet his job at the helm of the tyre-wear wide, being the exception. Villa are still on course for their worst ever points total in the Premier League of 38 points, which they secured in 2 of the last 3 seasons. Manager Tim Sherwood’s spell as Interim Manager saw him in charge of 22 games in the Premier League, with a 59% win rate; no other manager in Spurs history has a better win rate in the competition. Christian Benteke is the man to watch for Villa, with 7 goals in his last 5 appearances in all competitions for the Birmingham based side, including a hat trick in Tuesday’s 3-3 draw with QPR. Prediction: Villa will put up a hell of a fight but I don’t see them winning this. Can see Kane snatching a goal in the final 10 minutes to secure a point Spurs 2-2 Villa
EPL Match Day 22: What we learned
Match Day 22 is just about in the books in the EPL, with one match later today yet to be played (Watford vs. Swansea). Let's recap the weekend's action. Rooney won't quit You just can't count that man out. He's now scored in four consecutive matches for United and is keeping this team afloat on his own, answering critics left, right, and center. United weren't great in their 1-0 win over Liverpool (Rooney's goal was actually their only shot on goal), but they played extremely well defensively, as they have done for most of the season, and Rooney knocked in a scramble off a corner kick from good work by Fellaini to steal the win late on. Tough loss for Liverpool, who just have not gotten enough results recently. They can pretty much say goodbye to their top-4 hopes. City are reemerging as favorites Does anyone actually want to win the title? Arsenal and Leicester continue to drop points (both are winless in their last two), leaving the top of the table open again for Manchester City to climb their way back. After their 4-0 shellacking of Palace (sigh), they are within 1 point of joint leaders Leicester and Arsenal. Kun Aguero looked the best he has all season in this one and it's time that we start really looking at City as one of the favorites - not just handing it to Arsenal. Game on. The relegation battle is on This is the time in each season when it feels like even the teams at the very bottom start to put together some form and work to fight their way out of the basement. It's true of Villa, who now have four points in their past two matches (though they are still 8 points from safety); it's true of Newcastle, who surprisingly beat West Ham 2-1 to move up to 17th; and it's true of Bournemouth, who look like they may be staying up after all, especially after a big 3-0 win over rivals Norwich. I love watching the teams at the bottom of the table scrap for points, and today's Watford - Swansea match is a huge won for the Welsh side. Did you see any of the matches this weekend? @InPlainSight @AbdulrahmanSaad @trinityarcangel @thefeels @MarcusJiles @DerekGumtow @havic @yaakattackk @bnzatton @SherzTYCi @krishntejanand @addri @mishthi @andwas @NimishMathur @Sydsocquet @starli @kyleatekwana @BenjiPhilip @Eduardo14 @AshfakEjaaz @EmanueleYagoda
Five questions that the EPL's first weekend asked
It was eventful Match Day 1 in the English Premier League, with some surprising results, some cracking goals, and some telling performances across the league. Let's take a look at how it all shook out. Arsenal in trouble? How much should we read into Arsenal's 2-0 loss to West Ham on Sunday? New goalkeeper Petr Cech was at major fault for both goals. It was a really uncharacteristic display from one of the league's most competent - and experienced - keepers. Arsenal have been heavily linked with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, and I say Benzema would be the perfect signing for a team relying on the inconsistent Olivier Giroud for a whole lot. No reason for major panic for the Gunners, but the loss was disappointing for sure. Respect to West Ham for putting in a great performance on the opening day. Swansea ready for European push? On the strength of their impressive 2-2 draw away at Chelsea, Swansea City look like they could be primed for another serious push. Will they crack the top 6? It's unlikely, but they looked really, really strong against the league's best team on Saturday. New signing Andre Ayew was energetic and scored a goal, while big striker Bafetembi Gomis was as imposing as ever and Ash Williams rewarded the Swans' efforts to keep him at the club with a solid shift at the back. They were aided by Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois's red card and played a large part of the second half with an extra man, but it was an impressive match all the same for one of the league's up-and-coming squads. Promoted sides here to stay? While two losses and a draw from the league's three new sides may not seem all that impressive, anyone watching the teams play knew that all three made solid showings for themselves. Watford were the most impressive, as they played to a thrilling 2-2 draw with Everton (conceding one of the goals of the week to Ross Barkley). Bournemouth had opportunities but ended up falling to Aston Villa 1-0 in another tight contest. And Norwich City will feel hard done by the referee following their 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. They had an equalizing goal ruled out for a strange high leg call and a legitimate cry for a penalty turned away. In any case, upon first glance these look like three teams that can outfit themselves well, maybe score some goals and, at the very least, entertain viewers. Coutinho to step it up? Liverpool's key player is Philippe Coutinho, and he showed his quality with a stunning goal, certainly the goal of the week. It broke a 0-0 deadlock in the 86th minute in the match vs. Stoke. An important win for Liverpool, definitely - and against a very well organized opponent on the road. But maybe even more important is Coutinho's contribution - if he can be the talisman this season, he will make everyone around him better, including newcomers Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. Sunderland worse than we thought? Sunderland got whopped by Leicester, 4-2. Now, we didn't expect much from either of these sides entering the season, but a huge defeat to another potential relegation candidate has to be worrisome for Sunderland. They were totally overrun by last year's success story and showed hardly any bits of excitement. On the other hand, Leicester were outstanding, let by the under-fire Jamie Vardy (a video has surfaced showing Vardy making a racial comment in a casino) and the under-rated Riyad Mahrez. Might they have what it takes to survive another season in the Prem, maybe building on the terrific form they showed toward the end of last season?
[The Sports Guru] EPL Match Day 21 Preview
It's an unusual week in the English Premier League, with the FA Cup fixtures over the weekend interfering with the normal schedule. So that means we've got a full fixture list coming up today and Wednesday - here's what to look forward to! Manchester City vs. Everton City's form has been all over the place this season, but it has done them some good to this point, as they sit in 3rd place on 39 points, just 3 behind leaders Arsenal and one behind second place Leicester. Kevin de Bruyne has been an absolute standout, while the return to fitness of Kun Aguero and David Silva have City fans dreaming of a really solid second-half of the season and another title. But Everton is no easy match, much less at Goodison Park. Most interesting of all is that these two teams faced off in the League Cup just a week ago, and Everton took it 2-1, so they'll no doubt be feeling good about their chances. In the end, though, I think City will use their strength in attacking to take it to to Toffees. My pick: City 3, Everton 1. Spurs vs. Leicester Two teams that are going to be absolutely sick of each other in a week's time are Spurs and Leicester. After playing to an entertaining 2-2 draw in the FA Cup over the weekend, the two face off in the league on Wednesday, only to play their FA Cup replay next weekend. Three matches in two weeks will be a lot for these two teams and it'll be interesting to see if either of them really go for this one. Spurs have been really positive in the league recently and have risen to 4th, 4 points behind Leicester who sit on 40. I'm really looking forward to this one, which will be played at Spurs' White Hart Lane, giving them the upper hand. I think they'll manage a win and send Leicester down the table a spot. My pick: Spurs 1, Leicester 0. Arsenal vs. Liverpool *Match of the Week* A great match to look forward to will be leaders Arsenal vs. Liverpool. Two of the league's most historic sides face off at Anfield on Wednesday, and while Liverpool's form has been rocky since Jurgen Klopp arrived, they are never to be counted out. They have some awful injury troubles and are really struggling, especially in the back, where they are missing Sakho, Srktel and others, leaving them with mostly youth players. Arsenal looked strong in their 3-1 win over Sunderland in the FA Cup over the weekend and have been playing the best football in the league over the past few months. I think they continue their form in this one despite playing on the road. My pick: Arsenal 2, Liverpool 1. Enjoy the matches everyone! @InPlainSight @AbdulrahmanSaad @trinityarcangel @thefeels @MarcusJiles @DerekGumtow @havic @yaakattackk @bnzatton @SherzTYCi @krishntejanand @addri @mishthi @andwas @NimishMathur @Sydsocquet @starli @kyleatekwana @BenjiPhilip @Eduardo14 @AshfakEjaaz @EmanueleYagoda @mchlyang