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The relegation dogfight - Who will go down?

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With two thirds of the competition gone, and only 12 games left, the bottom of the Premier League is as tight as it's ever been.

Eight points separate bottom team Fulham from tenth placed Swansea. But who is likely to go down and who will be able to produce a timely run in the home straight?

Starting at the bottom, Fulham have had a dreadful season. With an ageing squad, Martin Jol looked like he had nothing left to give to the team and was swiftly given the chop in at the start of December. Rene Meulensteen replaced him in what seemed like an excellent change.

Three months later, Meulensteen is out of a job after another managerial change. Felix Magath became the first German Premier League manager when he took over, but whether the former Bayern Munich boss can make an instant impact or not remains to be seen.

Fulham have a tricky run in, still to play Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham. On a positive note, games against West Brom, Cardiff, Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace await, giving them plenty of opportunities to pick up points. If the Cottagers can get results from at least four of these five games, Premier League football could still be on show next season at the home of the west Londoners.

Cardiff have had a tough first season in the Premier League. Despite a shock win against Manchester City at the start of the season, Vincent Tan's intervention within the squad has had a worrying impact on the Welsh side. Malky Mackay's departure was a surprising one, as was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appointment.

The introduction of Wilfred Zaha could give the team the required kick to push for safety. As with Fulham, Cardiff have six fixtures against teams around them that will all be must win games. The final fixture against title chasing Chelsea could have major ramifications at both ends of the table.

As for Sunderland, they haven't recovered from the painful Paulo di Canio regime. The awful start to the season has been tricky for the Black Cats to get over despite Gus Poyet's best efforts. The rediscovery of Adam Johnson's form could be essential to the team's success.

Their fans will be hoping that Sunderland don't suffer too much due to the League Cup final appearance. With games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United still to come, the run in will be a difficult test of the squad's ability.

West Brom have struggled to reproduce the form that saw them finish 8th last season. Losing Romelu Lukaku at the end of his loan spell and replacing him with the misfiring Nicolas Anelka has proved costly. With only four wins this season, Pepe Mel has a real challenge on his hands. Games against Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal in quick succession near the end of the season means West Brom need to start winning. Soon.

Norwich have had a troubled season. They spent big over the summer but the transfers haven't reached anywhere near their expected potential. Pressure on Chris Hughton hasn't relented all season, and with the team only one point above the drop zone, it could be a tricky few months for the Canaries faithful.

The last four fixtures don't make for easy reading either. Norwich's final four fixtures are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Gaining points against these teams is never easy and with Norwich's current poor run of form, it could all end in disappointment.

Tony Pulis has done a remarkable job at Crystal Palace. Written off as the team certain to go down, the ex-Stoke boss has turned it around. Whilst being only two points away from the relegation zone isn't safe, Pulis has got the team playing his way and have picked up points against teams around them. Anyone who can get five goals out of Chamakh deserves to stay up.

Moving onto Stoke, they have improved under Mark Hughes and whilst far from safety, look like they have the depth to stay up. Stoke have a favourable run in, with only Chelsea and Tottenham the big name teams they have to face from April onwards.

Now to Hull, where Steve Bruce has had an effective season, with his team grinding out results. With a strong team, and the chance to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup, staying up this season would be a real success. The 6-0 win against Fulham was a definite highlight.

Aston Villa, West Ham and Swansea are all tied on 28 points. The youth of the Villa team have benefitted from last season's exposure and will be looking to finish strongly.

West Ham are out to prove their critics wrong. At times Sam Allardyce's decisions haven't worked but the quality within the team should see them survive. Swansea have been preoccupied with the Europa League this year and consequently haven't performed as well in the league.

The change in manager may work against them as Garry Monk seeks out his best team at a crucial stage. All three times know that a poor run of form could see them plummet down the table and put them in real danger.

Each of the 10 teams will be battling it out to maintain their Premier League status. Based on the current form and taking the run in into consideration, Norwich, Fulham, West Brom and Cardiff are all in real danger of playing Championship football next year.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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