This week, I want to take a look at the relegation battles around the big 5 leagues and see who could be in trouble, and who will need to fight to stay in the top flights.
In the Bundesliga, there are only 18 teams. Of these 18 teams, 15 will automatically be back in the Bundesliga next year. The bottom 2 teams are automatically relegated to the 2. Bundesliga and the team that finishes in 16th plays a two-legged play-off with the team that finishes third in the 2. Bundesliga. So who is in these places? Currently Hannover is on the bottom of the table with 14 points. Hoffenheim is in 17th place with 18 points. Werder Bremen is in 16th place with 20 points. The race is not very tight as points can come at a premium at the bottom of the table. Eintracht is two points clear of Werder and Darmstadt 98 and Augsburg are 4 points clear. These teams have 12 games remaining on the schedule and will need to get points in some big results. Some of the fixtures in this relegation battle to keep an eye on… Eintracht hosts Werder in the last week of the season, Hannover hosts Hoffenheim in the second to last week. Next weekend Werder hosts Darmstadt, and in 4 weeks Darmstadt hosts Augsburg. This is not the closest race to the finish line, but Werder Bremen will need to keep themselves within 3 points of Eintracht to give them a shot at safety on the last weekend.
Italian Serie A
In Italy, there are 20 teams in the top flight and the bottom 3 gets relegated to Serie B. While the race at the top is really starting to heat up, the race at the bottom is also fairly tight as well. Right now, Verona (18 points), Carpi (20), Frosinone (23) are in the bottom 3 spots. In my opinion, these teams are in danger of being dragged into the bottom 3: Sampdoria (25), Palermo (26), and Udinese (27). If Udinese are able to win their next two games then I think they will be safe this season. While Verona looks to be in some real trouble, they came away with 3 points this weekend after defeating Chievo 3-1. The next two weeks will be huge for Verona as they want to survive when they travel to Udinese and then host Sampdoria. Frosinone could get out of the bottom 3 if they can put a string of results together as they travel to Sampdoria next weekend, host Udinese the following week, and then travel to Carpi. It is really going to be an interesting couple of weeks as many of the teams in the bottom face each other.
French Ligue 1
In France, there are also 20 teams and despite them trying to change it, the bottom 3 will all get relegated. There were discussions about changing it to just the bottom 2, but in January they decided that it would be the bottom 3. These teams will be relegated to the Ligue 2 in France. Troyes will need to win the rest of their 11 games in order to survive and then probably still need some help. Toulouse also seems to be gone as they have just 22 points and are 6 points behind Ajaccio. GFC Ajaccio is in the third relegation spot with 28 points. They are just one point from safety as Stade Reims has 29. The only other team that is likely to be in some sort of trouble is Guingamp who have 31 points. During matchday 31, Stade Reims host Guingamp in what could be a big match to assure safety. However, Ajaccio ends the season with Lyon, PSG and then Lorient. Those will be three tough games and could seal their fate.
Spanish La Liga
Of the 20 teams in the top flight of Spain, the bottom 3 will be relegated to the Segunda Division. Three teams in the Primera Division have never been relegated since the league was founded in 1929. Those three are Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Athletic Bilbao. History is not going to happen this year as all three look very safe. The bottom 8 teams in the league are separated by just 7 points. The bottom 3 is currently Granada (20 points), Levante (20), and Las Palmas (21). These three are very close and all look to be in some trouble. The distance from safety is 3 points for Las Palmas as Sporting have 24 points. Espanyol and Rayo each have 25 points. Getafe and Betis are probably safe as they have 26 and 27 points respectively. Next weekend is going to be really big as Sporting hosts Espanyol and Real Betis hosts Rayo. The following week we see Granada hosting Sporting and Espanyol hosts Real Betis. As you look through the calendar, there seem to be a ton of relegation 6 pointer. I think that the bottom 3 might stay the same for the rest of the season, but it could get a lot tighter at the bottom in the next two weeks.
English Premier League
The bottom 3 teams of the English Premier League get relegated to the Championship for next season. This is a big deal, as the new TV deal kicks in next season and relegation will cost them a lot of money. Aston Villa has flirted with relegation for the last couple seasons, and this year they look set to finally get relegated. They currently are 8 points from safety and while they have gotten some points recently, they looked doomed to get relegated. The next 3 teams in the table are separated by just 1 point. Sunderland has 23 points; Newcastle and Norwich City each have 24 points. Norwich is ahead on goal difference. There is a bit of a gap to the next team as Swansea City seems to be righting their ship. They currently have 27 points. The only other team that could get drawn in is Bournemouth who is on 28 points. The race to avoid the last two spots should be really good. Newcastle and Sunderland meet in March is what will be a huge game for those two. Three points against their biggest rivals will be beneficial for them and detrimental for their rivals. The next weekend, Newcastle travels to Norwich. Norwich and Sunderland meet a couple weeks later. This will be three big games in the relegation battle. Who will survive and get to see the riches of the Premier League?
FA Cup Recap
The fifth round of the FA Cup took place the weekend with a place in the quarterfinals on the line. Watford defeated Leeds 1-0 at home. Their opponent will be decided next week since Arsenal drew 0-0 with Hull City. The replay will take place in Hull on March 8th. Everton defeated fellow Premier league side Bournemouth 2-0. They will meet Chelsea after they dismantled a weak Manchester City squad. This squad featured 5 first team debutants. Manchester United got to back to winning ways today when they beat Shrewsbury 3-0. West Ham went to Blackburn and won 5-1. They will travel to Manchester City in the next round. Crystal Palace defeated Tottenham 1-0. They will face the only non Premier League side to advance so far in Reading, who will hope to get back to Wembley for the second straight year. The quarterfinals are scheduled to take place on March 12th.
Goals of the Weekend
My Pick: I am going to go with this goal from Domenico Berardi against Empoli in Serie A for Sassuolo. This is a name to remember.
James’ Pick: He is going to go with Thomas Muller for his brilliant finish against Darmstadt. What a finish!
Champions League Predictions
This week there are four Champions League Knockout matches.
Arsenal vs. Barcelona – Emirates Stadium, London – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1
This should be an interesting game. Arsenal will need to keep a clean sheet if they want to really have a chance. I think it will be tough for Arsenal to stop the front 3 of Barcelona. I think Arsenal has a great advantage on set pieces but that is not enough. Barcelona 2-1.
James’ Thoughts: Barca has too much pace, star power and minimal injuries. They are just a better team that won’t struggle against an opportunistic Gunner team, 2-1 Barcelona.
Juventus vs. Bayern Munich – Juventus Stadium, Turin – Tuesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 2
This is the best matchup of the round, the champions of Italy against the champions of Germany. Both of these teams can make it all the way and possibly win the whole thing. I think this leg will be very tight and could go a long way in deciding who wins the competition. Juventus 1-0.
James’ Thoughts: This is going to be a fun one to watch. Great play up and down the pitch, but Bayern get a huge away win to set themselves up to close in on the quarterfinals. They rise to the occasion and play at their best. Juventus 1, Bayern 2
PSV Eindhoven vs. Atletico Madrid – Philips Stadion – Wednesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 2
I think this one will be fairly straight forward as Atletico Madrid should advance over two legs but crazier things have happened. PSV could get a result this week but I think that it will be too tight. I think it will be a draw 0-0.
James’ Thoughts: Madrid are way too strong defensively and get 2 of their own, and one own goal on a poor play from PSV, Madrid 3-0.
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Manchester City – NSC Olimpiyskiy, Kiev – Wednesday at 2:45 pm EST on Fox Sports 1
Can Manchester City make it to the quarterfinal? I think they can but I am not going to say that they will win this leg. The long trip to the Ukraine coupled with possible hostile environment leads to a draw or home victory. I think 1-1.
James’ Thoughts: City plays off the miserable late performances and come out the team they should be with strong possession and great finishes from Aguero. Kyiv 1, Manchester City 2.