With just over a month left in this season’s Premier League, the race for the title has begun to heat up. Chelsea sits comfortably atop the standings with a seven-point lead, but a late-season push by Tottenham could give Chelsea a run for its money.

Barring some epic catastrophes, the current top four teams – Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City – will likely hold on to their positions.

It is time to turn our attention to another race that is just as packed: the race to the bottom.

As has been the case for the last few seasons, parts of the bottom half of the table are still tightly stacked, meaning that some teams are still in jeopardy.

In fact, Sunderland is the only team at this point that is truly doomed for relegation back to the Championship. With only 20 points to show for the entire season, it is highly improbable that the Black Cats suddenly go on an unbeaten run from now to the end of the season.

Sunderland is one of those teams that is always on the bubble: too good for the Championship, but not quite good enough for the Premier League. This season, manager David Moyes’ players have continued to struggle, with the only  true exception being striker Jermain Defoe.

Watching Sunderland play, one questions the Black Cats’ passion for soccer. The team has looked completely lifeless under former Manchester United manager Moyes, and while Sunderland will likely keep its manager through the summer, management should begin wondering if it is time to look in a different direction.

Another team that is sadly on pace for relegation is the tiny Middlesbrough, which sits firmly in control of 19th place with only 24 points.

Since being promoted from the Championship last year — the first time the team had accomplished that feat in seven years — Middlesbrough started off in the classic “new-team-defies-all-odds” tale that has become a Premier League staple, only to see it all come crashing down.

Striker Alvardo Negredo, who became a must-have on all fantasy teams, has seen his form disappear to the point that he was benched in last weekend’s defeat against Burnley.  Goalkeeper Victor Valdes has become more infamously known for his disastrous slip-up against Manchester United.

Hoping to spur the team into action, Middlesbrough fired manager Aitor Karanka, but, to the team’s dismay, it has yet to show improvements. At this point, Middlesbrough needs a miracle to keep its Premiership hopes alive, and the team will most likely go back down once more, reminiscing about the season that could have been.

While two of the three relegation spots seem fairly locked in at this point, there are still several teams in contention for the unwanted third.

Currently, Swansea City is in possession of 18th place, with Hull City only two points ahead and Crystal Palace only three points ahead of the Premier League’s only Welsh team.

This is a scenario that Swansea has faced many times before. After a disastrous start to the season, in which American manager Bob Bradley replaced Francesco Guidolin before being fired only 85 days later, things seem to have settled under Paul Clement.

Notable wins over Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester and Burnley had many thinking that Swansea would be safe yet again. Unfortunately for the Swans, the team had a dismal March slide that has continued into April.

In my opinion, the fight for safety is really between Swansea and Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace is a team that has had so much potential in the last few seasons. At one point, the team was actually in contention for European football.

This season, however, Palace has done rather poorly. Manager Alan Pardew was sacked around the midpoint of the season, making way for the disgraced Sam Allardyce.

Say what you will about Allardyce, but the man known as “Big Sam” does have the distinction of never having been relegated, which likely is what motivated Crystal Palace to hire him.

While Palace seemed doomed for relegation, things have really changed in the last month or so. Over that period, Crystal Palace has beaten Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion, Watford and most notably Chelsea.  

While it certainly made things more comfortable for Palace, but the question is now whether or not Allardyce’s men have done enough to stay safe. It looked as though Crystal Palace’s luck was finally up, recent wins against both Chelsea and Arsenal seem to have guaranteed the team safety, meaning that Allardyce’s record of never having gone down is still intact.


VanessaCraige-150x150Vanessa Craige is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. THE BEAUTIFUL GAME appears every Tuesday.

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