November 4, 2018 / 9:31 PM / 14 days ago

'Usual suspects' already battling at the foot of the Premier League mountain

LONDON (Reuters) - After 11 matches the Premier League table is beginning to take shape, and though it remains a little early for panic stations to be deployed, there is a hint of familiarity about the sides already battling for top flight survival.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - November 4, 2018 Crystal Palace's Wayne Hennessey and teammates look dejected after Chelsea's first goal REUTERS/David Klein

Between them, the bottom seven of Crystal Palace, Burnley, Southampton, Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Fulham and Huddersfield Town have combined for just eight victories from 75 matches.

They have claimed just 42 points between them and their combined goal difference reads -90 — that compares unfavourably to last season where them bottom seven already had 64 points and a superior goal difference of -69 after 11 games.

While 27 games remain for most of the teams, none of the seven will be close to comfortable with their start.

“Results will come,” Roy Hodgson, whose Crystal Palace side sit 14th, said after his side were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea on Sunday.

“You have to keep going. I am convinced that the way we play, the players we have and the determination we show, things will start to turn around.”

After 10 games, Newcastle United were one of two sides — with basement dwellers Huddersfield Town — without a win, but a nervy 1-0 victory against Watford on Saturday saw them climb out of the relegation places.

“After 10 games (without a win), that was important for us,” manager Rafa Benitez told the BBC.

“Getting out of the bottom three is a big psychological boost. If you are in a better position in the table, you get more confidence.

“Inside the training ground the atmosphere is really good and in general we don’t have any big issues. Outside though, there is a little bit of noise, but we are really focussed on doing our job.”

Cardiff City were many people’s tip for an instant return to the Championship — and though manager Neil Warnock has been happy with his sides effort, passion and commitment — it already looks like a long season ahead.

“It comes down to fine margins, and you need one or two things to go your way,” he said. “But nothing has been dropping for us yet though.”

While many of the bottom sides could be considered the ‘usual suspects’, the sight of Sean Dyche’s Burnley — who finished seventh with 54 points last season — is a little surprising.

“The resilience you need in the Premier League is what we’re renowned for, and we will be resilient,” Dyche told the BBC after his side were beaten 4-2 by West Ham United on Saturday.

That resilience will be needed on Monday, when bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield host 19th-placed Fulham in a game that could already be considered a relegation six-pointer.

Victory for either side, even at this fledgling stage of the Premier League season, would be huge.

Reporting by Tom Hayward, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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