Ahead of key clashes, is this weekend the relegation resolver?

Inside Loftus Road

Huge bottom of the table games featuring Sunderland, Aston Villa, QPR, Burnley, Leicester and Hull offer intriguing line-up of fixtures.

 

Roll up, roll up - the relegation race is about to whir into action for fans of heartbreak, underperformance and the reddening of managers' faces.

As the Premier League reaches its home straight, this weekend should play a big part in flagging who will go, go, go down.

The headline act will see Sunderland host Aston Villa, with 16th taking on 17th in a crucial face-off, the significance of which is enhanced by the away side's relative surge in form, and the home team's lack of it.

If only they had a catchy-phrase to describe fixtures such as this.

Tim Sherwood's Villans beat West Brom twice last week, to climb out of the drop zone, and move a point behind Gus Poyet's men, who haven't won a league game since January.

Whatever the result, neither side will be doomed or saved come Saturday evening, and the fight to avoid the final drop-zone spot can rumble on for a few weeks yet.

The battle for the bottom two spots, though, is less competitive, with Burnley and Leicester seriously mired.

The rock-bottom Foxes surely have to beat 15th-placed Hull, who they host on Saturday. The visitors have pulled away from the bottom three a little, sitting five points clear, after picking up eight points from their last five games.

Defeat at the King Power Stadium, however, would suck them back into the picture.

Burnley, though, have an altogether tougher task of improving their fortunes, with the visit of champions Manchester City.

For QPR interim boss Chris Ramsey, this weekend surely offers the best chance of a positive result ahead of a frankly disastrous-looking run-in.

His strugglers travel across London to face Crystal Palace, who have climbed away from the relegation fight since employing Alan Pardew in January.

Defeat for each of the current bottom three will leave the likelihood of each staying up looking very bleak - especially as they've amassed just six points between them from their last six outings.

A few surprise victories, though, and the relegation stakes will be upped once more. Race on.

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