A good set of results this week for my sides, though they broadly remain in trouble, with exciting survival battles (except for the fans) on the horizon. With the top five European divisions well past half way now, three of my five sides look in imminent danger of the drop.
Of the four sides that played this week, though, it was the three in trouble that got results…
Elche CF 2-2 v Villareal at home, 19th place
A sign of fight for Elche? The Catalan club went 0-2 down to Villareal at the weekend, before battling back to grab a point that isn’t quite enough right now, but certainly beats the alternative.
This had the odd sensation of being played mostly at one end, with Villareal dominating the first half, in which their key man Gerard Moreno could have had four (and did score two), as they outpassed Elche.
Both of Elche’s goals had more of a ‘scrappy’ feel to them than holding marks of pure quality. It’s now been 15 league games dating back to October since they won, a really worrying stat, and one that’ll have to end in the coming weeks of they’re to survive.
Fulham 0-0 at home to West Ham, 18th place
Personally, I think the battle to stay up in the Premier League is already over. Fulham have two wins all season, and even if they were to go on a run, I don’t think it would be a good enough one to catch nearest ‘safe’ rivals Burnley. In fact, of the bottom three, I’d give last place Sheffield United the best chance of closing the gap, simply on recent form, and that’s a real long shot, too.
The main talking point in this game was the harsh late sending off of Soucek, who’s been some player for West Ham this year (it was reversed on appeal later). I actually think it distracted from Fulham’s chance of putting the freekick away, such was the strength of protest.
Still, Fulham dominated this game, and probably should have won it on the balance of chances, with West Ham surprisingly poor given their lofty league position right now. Little consolation when you need wins to have a shot at escape.
Spezia Calcio 2-1 away at Sassuolo, 16th place
I’ll hold my hands up, alongside Spezia, Sassuolo are one of the Italian sides I have a real soft spot for – a team from a tiny town that’s punching far above its weight at the top of the table: what’s not to love.
Spezia have been consistently better away from home, though, and Sassuolo are really off form. That pattern continued here. In fact, almost every goal seemed to come against the run of play. Sassuolo were being outplayed when they took the lead, and Spezia’s late goal came as Sassuolo pushed for a winnter.
This kind of away win is what Spezia’s season has been built on, though, and it lifts them away from danger at a critical time again. The winner being a real scrambler of an effort won’t bother them in the least as they grab a six point gap on the drop zone.
Metz FC 0-1 away to St Etienne, 7th place
Before traveling to St Etienne at the weekend, Metz were unbeaten in an impressive six league games, a run that had dragged them up to sixth space in a league the bookies thought they didn’t belong in.
We can forgive the occasioanl loss, then, even if it is to a team on the brink of a relegation battle ahead of kick off. This really was a poor game from the underdogs, though, who created precious little aside from one decent nearly moment from a cross.
The fact that St Etienne’s goal was a bizarre effort that came off both posts from a free kick and then got put into his own net by a Metz defender doesn’t help their cause, but what can you do. They’re seventh, and Europe looks an outside possibility.
Arminia Bielefeld no game this week, 16th place