One relegation place, two teams: Between Brighton and Cardiff, who wants it less?
Background photo: Jbmg4, CC BY-SA 3.0
While the world was wondering how David De Gea let that ball get past him and Juventus allowed to Ajax do the same, Cardiff beat Brighton 2-0 away at the Amex. The relegation race is back on. The Bluebirds are two points behind the Seagulls who, fittingly, are crapping on everything in sight. Chris Hughton's side holds a game in hand but that is useless unless they start finding results.
Southampton are not mathematically safe but, at 39 points, it appears to be a matter of crossing their Ts and dotting their Is. That leaves Neil Warnock and Chris Hughton duking it out for the right to spend another year in the Premier League table's bottom half. While Cardiff proved predictably bad as the one promoted Championship side not to invest heavily in the summer market, Brighton seemed to lose their way after being pushed to the limit by Millwall in the FA Cup semifinal on St Patrick's Day. Hughton's side are yet to register a goal since, losing 12-0 on aggregate to Southampton, Chelsea, Manchester City [FA Cup semifinal] Bournemouth and Cardiff before eking out a goalless draw at Molineux yesterday. The Cherries defeat was the nadir, a 5-0 debacle with the floodgates opening after Anthony Knockaert was sent off on 68 minutes.
The point away to Wolves lifted the Seagulls to 34 points and pushed the gap with Cardiff to three. Unfortunately, it might be the final point the South Coast club claim this season. In their four remaining games, they must visit Tottenham and Arsenal before hosting Manchester City on the final day of the campaign. Only Newcastle's visit to the AmEx next week offers any hope.
The season could end as it did in 2012 when City faced Queens Park Rangers on the final day, the title on the line for the Sky Blues, survival for the Hoops. Sergio Aguero proved the difference then. Will he again or can Brighton find a miracle to extend their Premier League lives?
Cardiff host Liverpool today, wind up the season at Old Trafford against Manchester United and face Fulham and Crystal Palace between. Resigned to the drop, the Cottagers are making the best of their remaining time in the top flight, winning their last two while Palace can be dangerous on their day. That said, two good bites at the apple give Warnock's crew an advantage over Hughton's.
Both coaches are known for their no-nonsense styles and work ethic. Two mules can work as hard as they like but still won't make as much progress as two teams of Clydesdales. Manchester City and Liverpool wage a two-club war for the Premier League title. Their win over Tottenham yesterday gained the smallest measure of revenge for City but more importantly extended their winning streak to ten league games since being stunned by Newcastle on 29 January. Liverpool are on a five-match run. Neither side seems capable of losing. At the other end, the question is whether Brighton and Cardiff are capable of winning?