Expect twists in relegation battle

FIT AND WILLING:  Didier Drogba is likely to head Chelsea's attack - Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Didier Drogba – Getty Images

While Chelsea and Man City lead the charge, all the drama is at the bottom half of the log.

As the English Premier League season heads towards its final third, a twohorse title race is in danger of being overshadowed by an intriguing relegation survival battle featuring half the table.

With leaders Chelsea and champions Manchester City matching each other stride for stride, neutrals could miss a few episodes of that particular drama and return with the plot unchanged.

Turn away from events at the other end of the table, however, and the twisted storyline may have altered course.

Only nine points separate bottom club Leicester City (17) with 11th-placed Stoke City (26), while only three points cover the bottom six.

Tomorrow sees two of the clubs in the mire meet in a so-called six pointer when 17th-placed Burnley (20) take on 15th-placed Crystal Palace (20) at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche’s Burnley, promoted last season, have hit form at an opportune time, drawing with Manchester City and Newcastle United and beating Queens Park Rangers in their last three league games.

Palace came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur last week in Alan Pardew’s first game in charge.

Both clubs will see the game as a massive opportunity to strike a direct blow against one of the sides around them and edge towards the predicted 36-point safety target.

Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert will be looking over his shoulder, as will Harry Redknapp at QPR.

Lambert’s side are 13th, having managed only 11 goals all season, none in the last four and are three points above the drop zone. After a 1-0 loss at Leicester last week Villa fans set up an online petition to have Lambert sacked and more woe at home to Liverpool tomorrow would add a few more names.

Redknapp’s 19th-placed QPR host Manchester United at Loftus Road, which has been a refuge for the London side, who have won 19 points at home and none in 10 away games.

Away from the muddied waters of the bottom half, things are more straightforward, at least as far as the title race.

Chelsea, who edged two points clear of City last weekend, visit Swansea City tomorrow, while City face Arsenal at home on Sunday.

– Reuters

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