Premier League rel­e­ga­tion dread her­alds Eng­land's New Year


The chill winds of rel­e­ga­tion anx­i­ety have blown across the Premier League ahead of Thurs­day s New Year s Day pro­gramme, with a burst of man­age­rial com­ings and go­ings ush­er­ing in 2015. A week ago, all 20 man­agers who had started the sea­son were still in place, but two clubs ap­proach the new year with­out a man­ager, while New­cas­tle United are poised to lose Alan Pardew.

Crys­tal Palace were the first club to press the panic but­ton, fir­ing Neil Warnock the day after a Box­ing Day de­feat at home to Southamp­ton that saw the south London club slip into the rel­e­ga­tion zone. Pardew is in line to re­turn to Palace, where he spent four years as a player, after be­ing given per­mis­sion to speak to his for­mer club by New­cas­tle. Palace visit As­ton Villa on Thurs­day and Keith Millen, who has been placed in charge on a care­taker ba­sis, has called on the club to ap­point a suc­ces­sor to Warnock swiftly. "You d think that it would cause a lot of un­rest among the play­ers, but they have coped un­be­liev­ably well," said Millen.

"But you wouldn t want it to con­tinue for weeks on end, be­cause that s when I think the lads want some guid­ance on where the club s go­ing. So hope­fully this can get solved pretty quickly." Two days after Warnock s sack­ing, West Bromwich Al­bion an­nounced the dis­missal of Alan Irvine fol­low­ing a re­turn of one win from nine games that has left the Mid­lands club just a point above the bot­tom three. West Brom, who have re­port­edly opened talks with Tony Pulis and Tim Sher­wood, travel to West Ham United on Thurs­day. While Palace and West Brom are des­per­ate for points, New­cas­tle are in a po­si­tion of rel­a­tive pros­per­ity, hav­ing climbed to 10th place in the ta­ble after Sun­day s 3-2 win over Ever­ton.

But although many New­cas­tle fans will not mourn Pardew s exit, they will be wary of a down­turn in for­tunes ahead of a home game against Burn­ley, who fought back to draw 2-2 at cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City last week­end. With Pardew ap­par­ently head­ing for the exit, as­sis­tant coaches John Carver and Steve Stone will take charge for the match against Burn­ley. Bot­tom club Le­ices­ter City kick­started their fight to beat the drop by win­ning 1-0 at Hull City on Sun­day, which left them three points from safety.

Le­ices­ter visit im­prov­ing Liver­pool on Thurs­day, whileHull, who are above third-bot­tom Palace on goal dif­fer­ence alone, host out-of-form Ever­ton. City s slip-up against Burn­ley meant that Chelsea pre­served their three-point lead at the sum­mit de­spite be­ing held to a 1-1 draw at Southamp­ton on Sun­day.

But Jose Mour­inho s side face a tax­ing trip to a Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur team who have moved to within two points of the Cham­pi­ons League places after a five-game un­beaten run. "I think it s go­ing to be tough. We knew it was not over," said Chelsea striker Di­dier Drogba of the ti­tle race. "A few years ago, I think we were 11 or 12 points in front of Man United and then they won the league. So eight points or nine points -- I don t know how many points we had on top of Man City -- I think it is not enough. "At that time of the sea­son, it was too early, but I think now we start again a new cham­pi­onship. I think the game is on." City will also be seek­ing to re­turn to win­ning ways when they host Sun­der­land, while third­place Manch­ester United, who drew 0-0 at Spurs on Sun­day, raise the cur­tain on 2015 with a match at Stoke City.

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