Premier League relegation battlers poise themselves for a telling weekend | Paul Wilson

The season has a long way to run but Aston Villa, Sunderland and the other strugglers may find this is a time of year that offers up some house clues

This might not be the end of the football season, hitherto as the old-time saying leads when the fourth round of the FA Cup heaves into view and the days begin to prolong, you can see the end of the season from here.

The good word for Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa is that all three societies have shown a slight upturn in word and fortune, in a number of cases very slight, over the past weeks. The bad news, plainly, is that these grand age-old teams still form the Premier Leagues bottom three in mid-January. Actually it is worse than that. Mid-January has already disappeared, and after this weekends fixtures January will have gone. The Premier League takes a break for the FA Cup next week, so it is likely to be February before we know it.

The better news for the three sororities in trouble, or at the least the less bad news, is that this weekends recreations are all winnable. Yes, I know that is a foolish thought to say. All plays are theoretically winnable, though it may be truer of this season that all competitions are actually losable, and if our doughty trio had managed to win some of their previous winnable activities they would be higher in the counter than they are at the moment. Yet even so, Sunderland are at home to Bournemouth, Newcastle away at Watford, while Villa have the smaller stuff of a Midlands derby at The Hawthorns.

At the start of the season, had anyone told the bottom three they were going to need parts in a hurry to intention January on a positive document, they would not have been too frightened by the fixtures just detailed. Villa arguably have the most arduous task, what with being adrift at the bottom and away from home, but anything can happen in a neighbourhood derby. The two north-east organizations play newly promoted line-ups, and if you cannot take objects in extremis from such competitions “youre supposed to” deserve to be down amongst the relegation candidates.

The flaw in that theory is not hard to place. It is no longer the start of the season. After new year you are not really a recently promoted side any more, you are a Premier League team with more than half of your fixtures ended. And for most of the season Watford and Bournemouth have not been playing like newly promoted slopes with scant suffer of the top flight; “theyve been” playing with trust and no little application, picking up times against bigger adversaries with some notable results.

But, and here is the big question, where has it got them? Surely Watford and Bournemouth have been among the astonish success of a generally surprising season but late January locates all three promoted sides in the bottom half of the table, with Bournemouth and Norwich( at home to Liverpool on Saturday since you ask, maybe thankful that Luis Suarez will not be around) examining particularly vulnerable to recoveries by the bigger organizations beneath them. Watford do not look in too much trouble. They are on the same items as Everton and even Roberto Martinezs biggest reviewers have not mentioned relegation hitherto, though they have lost four straight league tournaments since taking a moment from Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day and it could be that top-flight wearines, sometimes knows as world, is beginning to set in.

Saturday may offer some cursors as to how the rest of the season plays out. Bournemouth established themselves a raise with a convincing win over Norwich at the weekend, though they are still only three points above the descend zone. Should they lose at the Stadium of Light, and Sam Allardyce has apparently had the fixture curved on his docket for some time, Newcastle could close the chink with a acquire at Watford. There seems no obvious reasons for Newcastle should prevail at Watford, except Steve McClarens side finally seem to be improving while Quique Sanchez Flores needs to prove his participates have not thump a wall. With Swansea at Everton on Sunday, where the home area truly be required to liberate the handbrake to prevent their administrators claims of a European finish appearing silly for a team playing so well Everton have been stuck in 11 th for too long this is perhaps the weekend for a few incremental yet important displacements in league position.

Although nothing is ever take a decision on January , not even late January, February can turn into a long month for crews thoughts downwards in the table. Those that can see a glimmering of hope, on the other hand, especially ones already out of the FA Cup, can start weighing out the games to the end of the season and works out exactly what they have to do. So to slashed to the chase, before the last conference games in January, it examines as if the two north-east golf-clubs have a chance of escaping their present situation, while Bournemouth, Norwich and Swansea are in danger of get sucked down.

One would imagine the three squads eventually relegated will come from the present bottom six. Chelsea are still theoretically in hardship, merely one point ahead of Bournemouth, but no one gravely expects the Stamford Bridge crisis to get that much worse now. They descent a got a couple of points at home at the weekend but Everton are a good side, and Chelsea maybe saw it as a spot saved, if not plagiarized. West Bromwich are not as high-pitched in the counter as they would like but seem capable of going over the line in the 16 plays that remain, as do Watford, assuming their slump does not continue for long enough to make panic.

Clearly this is all guesswork until a few more recreations ought to have played; it merely happens that one or two somewhat crucial coincides are coming up this weekend. Not least the one at West Bromwich. The last rites were spoken over Villas survival likelihoods some weeks ago but developments in the situation is not yet futile. On the final weekend in January last year Leicester were tush of the counter with 17 moments, and look what has happened to them since. Villa are foot with 12, with simply two acquires to their figure, and although that appears to be frantic, a winning against local competitors on Saturday would take them to 15 and possibly signal a change in prospect. Villa do not appear to have Leicesters squad strength, it must be said, but if they are going to do anything other than meekly accept their fate they need to start now.

Although no prizes are ever handed out in January, there is no better time to start a improvement. After February, or to be more exact after the first week of March, the remaining activities start to be expressed in single fleshes. Unless you happen to be Leicester, that is when teams near the bottom of the table often find the season stealing away.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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