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Premier League, Week 21 preview: relegation battles already?

Saturday features two relegation six-pointers, while on Sunday, Liverpool and Newcastle look to prove themselves.

Harry Engels
Hull City vs. Chelsea

The KC Stadium; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Hull continue to hang around the middle of the table, their imminent demise seemingly all but written, and yet we're more than halfway through the season and here they are, 6 points off the drop and 4 points off the top half. Chelsea have been likewise stuck around their expected station, and they're just behind Arsenal for the top spot in the league; the Tigers will be thrilled with a point, given the ever-shifting nature of the bottom half of the table, while Chelsea will need a win to stay level with the top sides.

Cardiff City vs. West Ham United

Cardiff City Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

This is the time in the season where it's more than reasonable to begin paying attention to the relegation battle. It's not quite yet the time in the season to actually begin paying attention to the games, which is good, because holy hell no one should have to watch this.

Everton vs. Norwich City

Goodison Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Everton are still very much in the Champions League race, their transition from David Moyes going smoothly (to say the least) and legitimate questions regarding their performance over the past few seasons beginning to be asked. Norwich is in an altogether different realm, only trying to hold on to their Premier League status, with questions being asked of Chris Hughton given their significant transfer outlay in the summer.

Fulham vs. Sunderland

Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Again, huge game where the relegation battle is concerned; no plausible reason outside of personal loyalty to give it the time of day. These are both bad, uninteresting teams right now; you have something better to do.

Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

St. Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

We're back to the middle of the table once again, with the cream of the mediocrity crop squaring off against a side that's looking to find its feet with the bottom of the table creeping up. Southampton is still talented enough to leave the rest of the mid-table pak in the dust, but they're not so talented that such an outcome is guaranteed; these are the games the Saints need to win, because a Champions League push or anything near it is still several years away and the cachet of challenging for Europe may well be what's needed to get them over the hump.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Crystal Palace

White Hart Lane; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Spurs are swimming very much upstream at the moment, with the door to the Champions League seemingly wide open yet somehow continuously and comically battering Spurs in the face as it battles the wind. Palace are legitimately one of the league's worst teams and a clear candidate for the relegation battle, but Spurs weaknesses are so numerous and unpredictable that Tony Pulis' side must be given a fighting chance.

Manchester United vs. Swansea City

Old Trafford; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Just shy of a week ago, Swansea defeated United at Old Trafford to advance to the 4th round of the FA Cup, in a 2-1 win that was likely more one-sided than would be indicated by the final scoreline. But it's okay, you see, because United won a bunch of games against a bunch of garbage teams in December and David Moyes was nominated for the Manager of the Month award, so clearly everything is very much hunky-dory.

Newcastle vs. Manchester City

St. James' Park; Sunday, 14:05 GMT/9:05 AM ET

Look, we've all been fighting it for nearly three months now, but if Newcastle manage a victory here* we all owe Alan Pardew one hell of an apology. At least on some level. Yes, he went on a pretty impressive spending spree last January, but given the way his new recruits have performed this season, harping on that now is just a little bit embarrassing.

*The apology is probably** already owed, but he's just so damned smarmy that it's tough to give him his due.

** Definitely.

Stoke City vs. Liverpool

Britannia Stadium; Sunday, 16:10 GMT/9:10 AM ET

I was all set to talk about of garbage about Stoke, but then it turns out they're actually respectable. Thanks a lot, Mark Hughes.
Liverpool still look like a team with a very legitimate shot at the Champions League, and if they're going to lay claim to it then games like this are a must; it's a pretty significant step between very good and Champions League quality, and being able to reliably take full points off of tough but ordinary league foes is part of that evolution.

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

Villa Park; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

On the season's opening day, Aston Villa defeated Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates.

Anyone care to make a financial wager on the same result?