English Premier League, Week 30 preview and fixtures: Derby day

Michael Regan

Don't let anyone trick you into thinking that there are actual implications on the table in Sunday's derbies, but they'll be fun anyway.

Hull City vs. Manchester City

KC Stadium; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/8:45 AM ET

Manchester City's title hopes are likely quite a bit better than a quick glance at the table would indicate; though they're nine points behind current leaders Chelsea, City's three games in hand make the gap quite a bit less daunting. Of course, that assumes City manage to take care of business the rest of the way; yes, they have an opportunity to pick up nine points before they're level on games with Chelsea, but Chelsea have actually put those points on the board (so to speak) which gives them an upper hand.

In any case, City isn't going to be in the title picture for much longer if they don't manage to beat teams like Hull City, games in hand or otherwise. It's been a decent return to the Premier League for the Tigers, but only a handful of teams in the world have comparable firepower to City and Hull aren't one of them. Anything can happen in a single game, of course, but City will likely view anything less than a win as a pretty major disappointment and depending on how Chelsea fare later on in the day, it could make those games in hand practically irrelevant.

Everton vs. Cardiff City

Goodison Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

The relegation battle is such a gut-wrenching place to be, and it leads to a lot of really unpleasant mental calculations by fans. Cardiff are currently level on points with 17th-placed West Brom, but the Premier League's second-worst goal difference of -28 has them in the drop zone. Unless Fulham find a way to pull it together and enter the survival mix-which doesn't seem likely, to say the least-the Bluebirds are at a pretty significant disadvantage when compared to all of their relegation rivals. So while West Brom might see a draw away to Everton as a major step towards survival, Cardiff's position makes every point vital because they have to do more than everyone else the rest of the way. And the worst part is? It's almost certainly not going to come down to goal difference; that hasn't happened since 2008. But it's yet another reason to worry, as if there weren't plenty of those already.

Fulham vs. Newcastle

Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

It's still going to be another four games at the very least before Fulham are officially relegated, but it feels more and more as though the end to the Cottagers' 13-year Premier League run is all but a foregone conclusion. Though they're only 4 points out of 17th, given the way they've played it might as well be 40; the wheels have truly come off, and there's been nothing about their play-recently or otherwise-to suggest it's going to get better anytime soon. Of course, strange things happen; teams figure it out at some very opportune times, and it isn't as though this would be the greatest of great escapes that's ever been seen. But the clock is running out, and if Fulham can't find a way to get at least a point against Newcastle, it's going to be another nail in the coffin.

Southampton vs. Norwich City

St. Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Talking about relegation all the time is pretty depressing, but when fully half of the league is close enough to the drop to be considered in the mix, it's going to be a theme. Norwich are oh so close to the "not entirely safe but significantly more comfortable" section of the table, and another win would likely get them there. And as solid as Southampton have been this season, they're a team the Canaries are capable of beating without it coming as too much of a shock. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know ahead of time which team will show up; will it be the team that played Manchester City to a stalemate and pulled off a stunning upset over Spurs? Or will it be the one that were crushed by the likes of Aston Villa and West Ham? Until the better of the two start making more frequent appearances, it's going to be difficult for Chris Houghton's side to feel too safe.

Stoke City vs. West Ham United

Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

I'd rather not.

Sunderland vs. Crystal Palace

Stadium of Light; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Seeing as how Sunderland have three games in hand over the majority of their relegation rivals, one could call them the Manchester City of the bottom of the table. One could do such a thing. It would probably not be a great idea, though.

Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion

Liberty Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

While the utterly bonkers relegation race that West Brom are involved in should prove to be good fun until the end of the season, the real story here is the best subplot in this Premier League season: Garry Monk trying to coach his way into a job. He's been a significant upgrade on Michael Laudrup, mostly due to his reinstatement of Leon Britton, a national treasure. Laudrup should be exiled from the country for dropping him.

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

Villa Park; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/1:30 PM ET

Aston Villa are likely safe, but they haven't yet gotten to the point that makes the fear of relegation a relic of the past. That's a moderately intriguing narrative, but it's nowhere near as much fun as Chelsea's; the Blues appear to hold a commanding lead in the race for the Premier League title and it's reasonable to say that they hold their fate in their own hands, but Manchester City's games in hand are certainly an interesting variable. There's not much excuse for the Blues taking fewer than three points from this contest and if things turn out otherwise it's something worth talking about, but most likely this won't be a game worth acknowledging come the end of the season.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Old Trafford; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/9:30 AM ET

Well, this is a game that sure does seem important, but in reality isn't likely to matter all that much. It's really difficult to see the Reds falling out of a Champions League spot and it's equally difficult to see United coming anywhere near the top four.

But, still. It's United-Liverpool; no matter how bad this game appears to be on the surface of things, it's still United-Liverpool, and that's always going to be worth watching. That's the cool thing about games like this; even if they're terrible, there's going to be something at stake.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal

White Hart Lane; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/12:00 PM ET

There's a not-insignificant number of football fans that think all top-flight English games should begin at 3:00 PM, and that think things like television should never come into play when determining kickoff times. It's easy to see where folks like this are coming from, and as an outsider I'm not in any position to second-guess age-old football traditions, but still; I'm going to be able to watch United-Liverpool and Spurs-Arsenal back-to-back and both games are likely to have pretty resonant impacts on both the title race and the top-four battle, and it's hard to argue that's anything other than pretty cool.

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