The Race For…Premier League Survival

Having predicted the race for promotion from the Championship and (lack of) race for the Premier League title, we finally come to the race to avoid relegation from the top flight, which in the last couple of seasons has gone to right to the wire. Here are the teams battling to preserve their Premier League status…

Sunderland

CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Current position: 20th (Games played: 28 / Points: 20)
  • Current relegation odds: 1/16

Verdict

A look at their odds suggest that the bookies feel that Sunderland have virtually no chance of staying up, and their recent form backs that up, with the Black Cats losing three of their last four without even scoring a goal. Before that though, David Moyes’ side beat Crystal Palace 4-0 away from home showing that there is quality in the team, but that game is looking more and more like a fluke result against an equally poor outfit. Jermain Defoe will be key to their chances, as he has scored 14 of their 24 league goals this season – the biggest contribution of any player in the league. It may have earned him an England recall, but he won’t be able to keep Sunderland up by himself. 19th

 


Middlesbrough

CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Current position: 19th (Games played: 28 / Points: 22)
  • Current relegation odds: 1/4

Verdict

Middlesbrough sacked Aitor Karanka with 11 games of the season to go last week, having not won in ten league games and only scoring three goals in that run. It is this lack of firepower that has really cost the Teeside club this season, with no side hitting the back of the net fewer times than their tally of 20. Alvaro Negredo, a major disappointment since signing on loan last summer, and January buy Rudy Gestede need to step up to the plate. However, only five clubs have conceded fewer goals than Boro, and this impressive defensive record needs to be kept in tact with games against four of the top six left to go. It’s a huge task for Steve Agnew, or anyone who takes permanent charge, to prevent an immediate return to the Championship. 20th


Hull City

CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Current position: 18th (Games played: 29 / Points: 24)
  • Current relegation odds: 4/9

Verdict

Unknown quantity Marco Silva stepped into the Hull City hotseat in January with the club bottom of the table, and fans were given hope after seeing their side take four points off Manchester United and Liverpool in early February. However, things haven’t quite taken off on Humberside since then and the Tigers remain three points from safety having played a game more than most of the teams around them. The loss of Robert Snodgrass to West Ham in January was a huge blow, with no other player having scored more than three league goals for Hull this season. However, six of their final nine fixtures come against bottom half opposition so you have to say it is certainly possible for them to survive. For this to happen though, they need to sort out their atrocious away record – no team has lost more matches on the road this season than Hull (12). 18th


Swansea City

CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Current position: 17th (Games played: 29 / Points: 27)
  • Current relegation odds: 5/2

Verdict

Much like Silva at Hull, Paul Clement’s arrival at Swansea at the start of the year did seem to give the Welsh side some sort of momentum with three wins from four games in January including a 3-2 victory at Anfield. However, they are also yet to escape from danger and recent defeats to rivals Hull and Bournemouth mean that the Swans remain in the thick of the battle to avoid the drop. Yet three successive home wins is a record that only Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham can better, so keeping the Liberty Stadium as a fortress will be key. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente provide a genuine threat and quality that sides around them don’t seem to have, and this should keep them up – but it won’t be comfortable. 15th


Crystal Palace

CREDIT: Rex Features
  • Current position: 16th (Games played: 28 / Points: 28)
  • Current relegation odds: 3/1

Verdict

On paper, this is a Crystal Palace side that shouldn’t even have been contemplating relegation at the start of the campaign. £27 million summer signing Christian Benteke started life at Selhurst Park pretty well, but the goals have recently dried up, with the Belgian netting just three times in his last 13 games. What will be worrying for Palace fans is that they still have all of the top six to play in the remaining ten fixtures, so really need to make their other matches count, especially a home clash with Hull in the penultimate game of the season. Sam Allardyce is very proud of the fact that he has never been relegated in his career, but just like last season, that record is in serious danger. He kept Sunderland up by only two points a year ago, and it will be just as a tight once again with Palace. 17th


Leicester City

  • Current position: 15th (Games played: 28 / Points: 30)
  • Current relegation odds: 20/1

Verdict

It feels great to prove the masses wrong, doesn’t it? Four weeks ago, Leicester City sacked title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri, a decision for which they were abused (putting it lightly) by almost the entirety of the football world. I piped up with the view that they were right to do so, but that was barely seen amongst the countless comments of ‘snakes’, ‘no respect’ and ‘heartless’. But low and behold, since Ranieri’s departure the Foxes have won three out of three in the league and have moved themselves six points clear of danger. New boss Craig Shakespeare has gone back to basics, back to the formula that created so much magic last season and Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are back in the goals again. The only thing that might work against Leicester is their Champions League commitments, but with just two games against the top six left to go, I’d expect the champions to survive pretty easily. 11th


Hoping That They’re Not Dragged In

CREDIT: Getty Images

I think you’re probably looking at a battle between five teams to avoid relegation this season, and if anyone is to make that six, in my opinion it will be Watford. The Hornets (9/1 to go down with SkyBet) currently sit seven points above the bottom three and have won just two of their last 13 games. Let this slide continue against Hull, Swansea and Sunderland, all of whom are below them, in the next month and Walter Mazzarri’s side will be nervously looking over their shoulders. 16th

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth (33/1 to go down with SkyBet) looked to be in deep trouble a month or so ago, but seven points from their last three games has moved them away from danger. April is a key month for them with clashes against three of the top four as well as Sunderland and Middlesbrough. If that run goes badly then the Cherries will find themselves back in the battle to avoid the drop. But Benik Afobe and Josh King are a strike partnership in form and should ensure the South Coast outfit stay up. 14th

West Ham‘s (40/1 to go down with SkyBet) first season at the London Stadium hasn’t quite gone to plan, with the Hammers having real relegation worries at the start of the campaign before a run of three wins in a row in December eased their fears. However, they’re currently struggling for form once again, having won just one of their last seven games. January signing Robert Snodgrass hasn’t had the impact many had hoped for, with the midfielder still looking for his first goal in claret and blue. The pressure is on Slaven Bilic, and even though West Ham might survive fairly comfortably, the Croatian could still lose his job at the end of the season. 13th

A run of no wins in six has meant that Burnley (18/1 to go down with SkyBet) have slipped down the table, and should that form continue then the Clarets may just have to be careful that they don’t get dragged into the battle to avoid the drop. It’s fair to say that their form at Turf Moor has been a saving grace this season and they have the sixth best home record in the league, having taken points of Chelsea and Liverpool in Lancashire. With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely Sean Dyche’s side will get dragged in, even if they are the only team not to win an away game in the top flight this season. 12th

Disagree with my predictions? How do you think the race for the title, or perhaps more interestingly, the race for Champions League qualification, will pan out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter!

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