Mar 23, 2014, 3:57 AM EDT
The Premier League’s ninth, 10th, and 11th placed teams are in action on Sunday, with only the presence of sixth place Tottenham preventing Sunday from being a mid-table-only affair. But contrary to what the standings suggest, Spurs are the most vulnerable side going into the day’s action, with Tottenham’s four-game winless run standing in contrast to three teams coming off Round 30 victories.
For Tim Sherwood, Sunday’s visit from Southampton represents his team’s best chance to claim victory since Cardiff City’s trip to White Hart Lane on Mar. 2. If Spurs’ slide continues, they’ll hand a valuable three points to one of the teams that can still keep them from a Europa League spot.
In the days’ second match, two teams who’ve pulled themselves clear of the relegation muck will try to continue their March resurgence, with Aston Villa hoping its win over Chelsea will help reverse recent poor form against Stoke.
With both games available on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra, here’s more on the two matches that will close the 31st round of Premier League action.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton, 9:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN
- Tottenham is winless since Mar. 2 with a -8 goal difference
- Southampton allowing the fewest shots per game in the Premier League (9.6)
- Emmanuel Adebayor expected to return after missing mid-week match in Portugal
Tim Sherwood hopes Tottenham can build on its mid-week draw at Benfica, a somewhat naive wish considering the nature of their result. The team was down 4-1 on aggregate before two late goals from Nacer Chadli gave them hope. While Spurs technically got a 2-2 draw at the Estadio Da Luz, Benfica never relinquished their lead in the tie. Sherwood’s grasping at straws.
For Southampton, qualifying for Europe is still a possibility, though sitting ninth, Saints would need to pass two teams to make it happen. Pile on to Spurs’ miseries, and a Tottenham slide down the table becomes much more likely. Southampton needs this game if it’s to mount a challenge.
Aston Villa vs. Stoke City, 12:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
- Stoke City without a win away from the Britannia Stadium since August
- Last there between teams at Villa Park have ended in draws
- Teams are first (Stoke) and second in the league in fouls committed
Two teams who’ve experienced minor surges in March meet with a place in the table’s top half at stake. Thanks to a goal difference edge, Aston Villa currently sits 10th, while Stoke City is only one place back.
The Potters come in having claimed seven points in their last three games, with wins over Arsenal and West Ham pushing Mark Hughes’s team nine points clear of the drop. After last week’s win at Stamford Bridge, Villa is also nine points clear, their 10th place meaning it’s unlikely the club will face a third-straight relegation battle. In an up-and-down season, Paul Lambert‘s team is back on the ascent.
Though they’ve won only one of their last eight meetings with Stoke, Villa’s chances will be buoyed by the suspensions of Charlie Adam and Jon Walters. Robert Huth will also be absent, with a knee injury expected to keep the starting central defender out until August.
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