While Liverpool dare to dream, twisted nightmares transpire at the other end of the table. It's the fight to remain in the top flight that is so unique to the sport and so riveting for the neutral eye. We watch the relegation battle like observers to a brutal fist fight, one that culminates in exile for some and narrow survival for others.
Various factors (most of them trivial) cause us to root for and against certain teams, managers, and players in the struggle to stay up. Let's discuss.
Who do you want to stay up?
First and foremost, I want Sunderland to survive even though I haven't yet gotten over the beach ball incident and Lee Cattermole pisses me off. They just seem like a team that belongs in the top flight, and their fans are likable. I also want Swansea to stick around since they gave us two fantastic matches this season and unlike other strugglers, they play attractive football. (loyal2reds)
I'd like to see Sunderland stay up, because of Fabio Borini. I hate John O'Shea and Wes Brown obviously, and Phil Beardsley is dirty, but I have a fondness for Fabio and want to see him in a red shirt, and being relegated would no doubt be a big blow for his confidence. I'd like to see Palace stay up, they've been involved in some great games this year and their fans are brilliant, despite having Tony Pulis as boss.
I'm kind of on the fence with Fulham, they've been around for so long.... It would be like when Newcastle went down, or when West Ham took the plunge in the early 2000s. Everyone in the league would just feel empty. But then again, they've become a laughing stock. 3 managers in one season? What??? (JAceKopite16)
I'll stick with Fulham and Sunderland as well. I think it'd be a shame for Fulham to go down considering the memorable ride they've had since coming up, the Europa League run and incredible victory over Juventus sticking out in my mind. They've had a terrible year so you can't say they haven't earned it, but in a lot of ways they really are Americans' club over in the Prem. Bocanegra, McBridge, Dempsey were all huge players at Craven Cottage and for the Stars and Stripes at the same time.
As for Sunderland, I think the Paolo Di Canio affair really hurt and it was a massive mistake to have him continue full-time. He motivated them to avoid the drop last year, but that's a totally different job from reorganizing and reconstructing a squad. More clubs need to realize that and be a little more cold-blooded, rather than simply saying "he earned the chance." Their fans are alright in my book, and, despite Lee Cattermole being a bridge troll, it's hard to see Borini and Altidore so bereft of confidence. (Matt)
Conversely, which team would you like to see relegated?
West Brom. Everything about our 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns bothered me, including the whininess of their fans. They aren't the worst team to watch, and they have some talent, but there's nothing about them that I'd particularly miss. Except the name of their stadium. "The Hawthorns" just sounds cool. (loyal2reds)
Cardiff. I'm surprised Vince "Psy aged 20 years" Tan isn't in hospital right now for what he did to Malky Mackay, and how he changed the name and colors of a team that's been around for so long. They, and he, deserve it. Other than that, I'll be sad to see any of them go. Plus I think we could go in for Jordan Mutch, and if they go down we could get him cheaper (JAceKopite16)
Palace, no doubt. Tony Pulis should not be allowed to manage anywhere outside of Scotland and Australia -- for Australian Rules Football. His playing style is the anti-poon of footy. Also, I despise Vincent Tan as well and, should they go down, wouldn't mind Liverpool making a move for Steven Caulker who has been superb. But I tend to have more sympathy for their fans and like the Wales derby. So, Tan out, Cardiff up? (Matt)
Who's bottom of the table position surprises you most?
Fulham are shockingly awful for a team that finished 12th last year, so I guess that's the most surprising. (loyal2reds)
Swansea. Okay, they're not THAT far down, but their position belies the football they've played. Not to mention the caliber of players they have and their previous campaigns. Europa League sure does hurt a team... (JAceKopite16)
Has to be Swansea for me. The Europa League has obviously stretched their squad, but I think the weird managerial turbulence stretching back to last summer started them off on the wrong foot in the league. "They have too much talent to go down" has been sufficiently proven a worthless adage by West Ham and Newcastle in the past, but I think they'll stay up and right about 13th place. Hopefully they get it back on track next year, a great club to watch when in form. (Matt)
Which player (or players) would you miss most if they were relegated (assuming they don't transfer to an EPL club)?
Shane Long because I've always liked him, although I don't know why. Jordan Mutch and Gary Medel for the puns. Scott Parker for the laughs. (loyal2reds)
Jordan Mutch is much like Henderson, you just can't NOT like him. The kid works hard. (JAceKopite16)
The nationalist in me says Altidore, the fan in me says Caulker, and the Red in me says Craig Bellamy and John Arne Riise. Let's stick with those last two. (Matt)
Which player do you want to see toil in the Championship until the end of time?
Lee Cattermole. (loyal2reds)
Cattermole, Brown, Beardsley, O'Shea.... Also Ashley Williams, even though I wanna see Swansea stay up. (JAceKopite16)
Nothing more needs to be added here. Cattermole should be put in Witness Protection and sent to Uzbekistan. (Matt)
Bias aside, at the end of 38 games, which three teams are on their way to the Championship?
Fulham are goners and Cardiff are in a deep hole that will be difficult to climb out of, and with Sunderland's two games in hand, that third spot presents a real scramble. It's slightly irrational, but I think Sunderland escapes on the last day with either West Brom or Norwich getting their hearts broken. (loyal2reds)
I think we broke Cardiff's backs. Either we did, or West Brom did the following week. Sunderland have a chance, but I think Palace will also get sucked in. Fulham are done. (JAceKopite16)
Fulham's toast though it pains me to say it. I thought Sunderland's games in hand and, relative, uptick in form would see them make a more comfortable escape than they should, but now it seems like it'll go right til the end. I still think they will, so let's send both Cardiff and West Brom down. That draw only served to condemn the pair of them. (Matt)