I keep stats of the five relegation favourites at the bottom of these posts, and what’s becomng clear as things go on is that all these teams are competitive. I mean they’re losing more than they win, but they’re not conceding too many, and while they’re scoring still less, there are goals in them. Only Fulham, really, are letting the side down so far. Here’s how we’re going six weeks in…
Premier League: Fulham (evens to go down) 1-1 vs Sheffield United at away
Is it possible to have a relegation six-pointer only five games into the season? On the evidence of these two sides so far this season, I’d say that it is. Both are not only losing, but looking like they’ve not got a lot to offer.
This game was both competitive and highlighted where many of the problems are. Both clubs look incompetent up front, with Fulham struggling to fire at all even with the sometimes brilliant Mitrovic, and Sheffield United looking nothing like a team that threatened European football for most of last season.
Lookman and Loftus-Cheek, though, are quality signings, and an obvious lift to the overall strength of the team that might give them hope. Lookman fired in the Fulham opener here, though Mitrovic’s silly penalty miss cost them the game. In fact, both teams conceded ridiculous penalties. Still, at least it’s a point on the board for Fulham (game link). Arguably a good one, given they were away.
Bundesliga: Arminia Bielefeld (5/6 on to be relegated) 1-4 at home to Bayern
This was a no-hoper really, wasn’t it? The highlight of the game, honestly, was a Bayern defender lying down behind the defensive wall after Bielefeld launched a minor comeback in the closing stages.
Muller and Lewandowski did the damage once again, though one of each of their goals were more than a little lucky. Arminia were never going to win this one, though they didn’t disgrace themselves either, creating a couple of chances that might have come to something on another day.
The goal from Japanese international Ritsu Doan was nicely taken, but largely chalk this one down to experience, point to the three-point lead over the relegation zone, and move on for Armenia.
La Liga: Elche CF (8/15 to go down), 2-0 away to Alaves
Elche were always going to need a strong start given the quality of their early opposition, drawn almost exclusively from the bottom echelons of La Liga, and they’ve definitely had it. Seven points from the last three games is the kind of form that gives real hope in this relegation battle.
Morente and Milla got the goals here, neither of them spectacular, with Elche the better side throughout, and providing a comedy moment when Milla booked the referee after he lost his yellow card, a little reminiscent of Gasgione a few years back.
The result leaves Elche three points above the drop zone with two games in hand, and above even struggling giants Valencia, on whom they also have two games in hand. Promising.
FC Metz (1/6 on to go down), 1-1 away to Angers
Metz are now unbeaten since they were narrowly toppled by PSG in the dying seconds of a game in mid-September, wiht their releagion odds – the worst of the whole of this project – looking increasingly ridiculous.
Unfortunately, Ibrahima Niane, who’s done virtually all the damage so far for Metz, is now out for the next six months, and that’s likely to be a serious issue.
They were good value here, celebrating the return of their head coach, who has been away from the club for an incredible two years caring for his now sadly passed wife. Angers took the lead, but Metz immediately hit back, and both teams could have had several more. Eight points from seven games is pretty good value so far, I think.
Serie A: Spezia (1/4 on to go down) 2-2 at home to Fiorentina
At 2-0 down to Fiorentina after just four minutes – their second big name opponent in a row after a comfortable defeat to AC Milan last week – Spezia looked on for an absolute drubbing this weekend, but this side have real fight, the same spirit that brought them to Serie A against all odds in the first place.
Like Metz, Spezia have lost their main attacking threat in Bulgarian forward Galabinov, who scored the majority of their goals so far this season, and that’s going to make life difficult; frankly they weren’t even in this game in the opening half an hour. Then came a break away goal from Verde to bring them back to 2-1, and Spezia actually controlled the game from then on, coming out with an impressive point. They should probably have won.
They might be firmly embedded in the bottom half, but how about the below for company…
The stats (across my five teams, league games only)
Played 23 Won 6 Drawn 6 Lost 11
Goals for 22 Goals against 34
Average score – 0.96-1.48