Crystal Palace’s showdown next Sunday with Hull City will be the first £100million relegation decider in English football.
Yesterday’s results leave Palace at perilous risk of relegation, after they were torn apart by a rampant Manchester City, 5-0 at the Etihad. “City thrashed us,” Eagles manager Sam Allardyce was frank enough to admit.
And while Hull lost at home on Saturday, they will travel to Selhurst Park next weekend knowing that they must win that game to stand any chance of Premier League survival. The stakes have never been higher.
With television and associated payments for the 2017-2018 season to the 20 clubs in the Premier League next season amounting to £105million each – yes, each – there will be plenty to pay for. Clubs in the Championship next season will receive just £5million each. Relegation for Palace, Allardyce says, would amount to “devastation”.
It looks as if there are three clubs at risk of ending up in the third, final and costly relegation place. Sunderland are already doomed and Middlesbrough seem set to join them. Palace find themselves in a end-of-season dog-fight with Hull and Swansea City, who scrapped for three precious points yesterday.
- Palace are in 16th place this morning, with 38pts. They play Hull next Sunday, and then travel to Old Trafford on the final day of the season. They cannot afford not to take some points from either – or both – of those games. A draw next week will be enough to put them out of reach of Hull.
- Swansea are 17th, on 35pts. They travel to already relegated Sunderland next Saturday, and are at home to West Brom on May 21. They need only to match Hull’s results to survive.
- Hull are 18th, with 34pts. After their head-to-head with Palace, their final game of the season is against Spurs. Because of goal difference, a win and a draw probably won’t be good enough for them, but if they manage to win 6pts in the next fortnight, Palace will be a heap of trouble.
How did Palace get into this hole?
Wins at Chelsea and Liverpool and beating Arsenal last month ought to have provided the security they so have sought so desperately since bringing in Allardyce mid-season. But the thinness of their squad was fully exposed yesterday at Man City, where injuries forced Allardyce’s into playing four full-backs, strung across his back-line.
“All five goals could have been avoided if we had defended properly and losing like that is unacceptable,” Allardyce said after yesterday’s capitulation.
And it was Allardyce who called it a capitulation.
“We recovered from their first goal quite well, then fell into the same trap at the start of the second half. After that it was capitulation.”
Allardyce’s record shows that no club he has managed has been relegated. But Palace’s form over the past few weeks has been no better than the sides below them.
The win over Chelsea on April 1 was their third on the bounce, but a month on and they have now suffered three successive defeats, including at home to Spurs and Burnley.
“We were so deep in the mire before, look how much it has taken to get out of it, and we’re still not safe,” Allardyce said this week.
“It’s an achievement to get to where we are, but there’s only one goal, the goal is to stay safe in the Premier League so we can build next season.
“We can’t have the devastation of being relegated. It’s a massive task to deal with that today and fight to come back.”
Allardyce knows that just a draw against Hull will be enough to avoid such “devastation”.
It’s just that never before in English football has a single league point been worth £100million.
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