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Premier League survival: relegation dogfight reaches pivotal weekend

The quietest Premier League weekend of the season is set to be the loudest in the battle to avoid the drop. With Sheffield United and West Brom left needing a miracle, all interest at the bottom of the table is on the following state of affairs;

Brighton – 29 points (played 28), Newcastle – 28 points (played 28), Fulham – 26 points (played 29).

The race to avoid the final relegation place looks to all intents and purposes a three-way fight. Whoever drops through the trapdoor will almost certainly look back at this weekend in late March as a defining factor in their downfall.

Fulham host Leeds on Friday night knowing that a victory will hoist them above the cut line. Defender Ola Aina has already stated they are ‘raring to go’ and Scott Parker will not need to explain the importance of the game to anyone at Craven Cottage. Marcelo Bielsa’s visitors have provided an abundance of entertainment this season but, thanks to their open and expansive style of play, offer the Cottagers a realistic route to three points. The Cottagers’ surge in recent weeks has brought them within touching distance of their immediate rivals who, as the fixture list would have it, will face each other less than 24 hours later.

Brighton shouldn’t be in a relegation scrap if performances are anything to go by. Unfortunately for them, only points count in the end. The mood at the Amex, despite a lowly league standard, is easily the most optimistic of those in immediate danger thanks to a deserved three points last time out at Southampton. Regardless of Fulham’s result, a Brighton victory would see them put breathing space between themselves and danger, whilst plummeting their opponents from the North East into real peril.

Should Fulham get the job done on Friday, Newcastle will arrive at the Amex in the drop zone and without a win in five games. A late, late Jamaal Lascelles equaliser against Aston Villa last time out boosted the points tally but did little to change the mood on Tyneside. Should, as is certainly possible, Newcastle end Saturday in the unwanted 18th position, pressure on Steve Bruce will intensify to new levels.

From a neutral’s perspective, the importance of these two clashes between bottom half clubs adds an element of intrigue to a Premier League weekend lacking in action. For players and supporters of those involved the situation is far more serious. For Brighton, a mouthwatering opportunity awaits to surge clear of trouble. For Fulham and Newcastle, defeat feels as if it would bring more damaging consequences.

On the final day of the 20/21 season, Fulham will host Newcastle at Craven Cottage. The results of this coming weekend will have an enormous say on whether relegation will ride on the result.

Dan Fox

Long suffering Saints fan, Le Tissier disciple and extremely limited non-league target man.

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