Premier League relegation battle – who will come out alive?


With 10 gameweeks remaining, things are heating up in the lower echelons of the Premier League. Liverpool’s sixth consecutive home loss last weekend to relegation candidates Fulham has begun to cast a shadow over their title defence, with its own implications for the chase for European qualification.

However, these precious points for Scott Parker’s Fulham are making the mini-league at the bottom of the table just as exciting. Let’s take a closer look at those involved.

20th – Sheffield United (14 pts, GD -29)

Last year’s surprise candidates for European Football are currently favourites to be playing Championship football next season. Sheffield United are a side lacking in confidence after failing to capitalise on their shock success last season. Finishing the 19/20 Premier League season in ninth with 54 points, the Blades simply didn’t bolster their squad over the summer and have failed to build on their impressive season.

Their demise can partly be attributed to some key injuries in defence, though overall they’ve endured a disappointing campaign which many fans will hope to soon erase from their memory.

19th – West Brom (18 pts, GD -36)

Achieving automatic promotion on the last day of the Championship season, West Brom returned to the top flight after just two years of Championship football. The Baggies suffered a series of disappointing results which led to the sacking of Slaven Bilić after 18 months in charge.

In comes Sam Allardyce, fresh from a two-year hiatus from football, to attempt what is potentially the hardest of survivals he has had to face. Big Sam has struggled to improve their abysmal defensive record and would require a record-breaking set of results to reach the target of 35 points. A team, it seems, that are doomed for the plunge.

18th – Fulham (26 pts, GD -11)

Promoted alongside West Brom after winning their second play-off final in three years, Scott Parker’s Cottagers have been tagged “the unluckiest team in Premier League history”. Their performances simply haven’t matched the results, but this seems to be changing. With the best defensive record in the bottom half of the table, only Man City have conceded fewer goals since Christmas.

From an 11-point deficit and being pundits’ favourites for relegation to winning away at Anfield last weekend, Fulham have improved at a meteoric rate. They could, and probably should mount a late survival charge.

Unless Newcastle find someone to score goals and win them football matches, they could get caught.

17th – Brighton (26 pts, GD -8)

In their fourth consecutive Premier League season, Brighton face their fourth consecutive relegation battle. With a game in hand and three goal differentials on Fulham, Graham Potter’s Seagulls are perched just above the drop zone. Like Fulham, his side have struggled to finish the chances they create, scoring just three goals from their last 65 shots on target.

Potter has been praised for his bold approach in games, taking advantage of his players and using wide areas to really trouble sides, and with a better finishing rate, Brighton could survive another testing season in the top flight.

16th – Newcastle United (27 pts, GD -17)

The position of Newcastle manager has always come with incredible scrutiny and Steve Bruce has been no exception. A large fanbase, starved of success in recent years, is putting a lot of pressure on the Magpies and their maligned man in charge. Picking up just nine points since Christmas, there has been little to cheer about on Tyneside. This poor form has correlated with injuries to Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almirón and top scorer Callum Wilson.

With these three players out, they have lost players responsible for over half of their current goal tally. Unless Newcastle find someone to score goals and win them football matches, they could get caught especially when you factor in their final game of their season: Fulham away. Perhaps it’s time to wheel out Andy Carroll.

15th – Burnley (30 pts, GD -16)

After a poor start to the season and an injury-riddled campaign, Burnley are beginning to pull away from the pack at the bottom. Losing only one of their last seven games, the Clarets are beginning to bring back the type of football which saw them finish 10th last season. Although their football is rarely pretty, their steely resolve to avoid defeat at all costs could see them safe for another season. However, they’ve still to play at Old Trafford, Goodison Park and away against two of the bottom three teams, so Burnley’s safety is by no means confirmed.

Overall, the relegation battle this season could be the closest we have seen in years, with likely four teams flirting with the trapdoor to Championship football. To be frank, West Brom and Sheffield United haven’t really put up a fight and it is doubtful that many will be surprised when their relegation status is eventually confirmed. However, the battle between Fulham, Brighton, Newcastle and Burnley is alive and kicking.

The fixture list has thrown up a potential final day decider when Newcastle travel to SW6 to face Fulham, but we will have to review each club’s status closer to the time. It should be a enthralling denouement.

Image: Ronnie Macdonald via Creative Commons

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