Hull facing the drop
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
Hull started the
season competing in Europe for the first time in their history, and could end it by dropping out of the English Premier League.
The off season last year was full of optimism for the northeast club, which spent freely in the summer transfer window and was buoyant after qualifying for the Europa League through reaching the FA Cup final.
However, the side managed by former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce has struggled to meet rising expectations and fell into the bottom three last weekend. Hull have two games to escape relegation - and their chances are bleak.
Hull are third from bottom, above already-relegated Burnley and Queens Park Rangers, and two points from safety with games remaining away to Tottenham and at home to Manchester United.
"We have got a mountain to climb," said Bruce, who last summer broke the club's transfer record to sign Uruguay striker Abel Hernandez and also brought in Hatem Ben Arfa, Mohamed Diame and Gaston Ramirez - big names for a club the size of Hull - to bolster the squad for a season in Europe.
That didn't work out, though; Hull didn't even progress past the Europa League qualifiers.
Of the four other teams
battling to avoid the drop, Leicester, Aston Villa and Sunderland have started to pick up form and victories. Leicester, for example, have won six of its last seven matches to climb off last place and move three points clear of trouble.
Newcastle, who are fourth to last, are the side most likely to get dragged down if Hull can earn an unlikely win in their final games. Newcastle visit QPR tomorrow and finish at home to mid-table West Ham.
With the title wrapped up and the Champions League qualifiers all but confirmed, most of the focus in the last two weeks of the Premier League will be on the fight to avoid relegation.
Manchester United need just a point from their final two games to secure a top-four place and a return to the Champions League after a one-year absence.
However, United could go into their home game against Arsenal on Sunday already back in Europe's top competition if fifth-place Liverpool fail to beat Crystal Palace tomorrow. Liverpool are six points behind United and have a much inferior goal difference
United would climb above Arsenal into third place with a win at Old Trafford.
GERRARD'S ANFIELD FAREWELL
Steven Gerrard will play his final home game for Liverpool when Palace visit Anfield tomorrow.
The former England captain will end his 17-year professional association with Liverpool when he moves to MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the Premier League season.
"There's plenty of time to be sentimental and emotional after the games are done," said Gerrard, who has played 708 games for Liverpool, "but I don't really want to listen to supporters being emotional face to face, because I'm a little bit afraid of breaking down and showing too much."