EPL 1 month ago

Relegation Battle To Go To The Wire

  • Relegation Battle To Go To The Wire

30 matchdays have been completed in the English Premier League and the top of the table is all but done. Manchester City have been the incumbent champions for much of the campaign, dropping just nine points all season. They could be confirmed champions in as soon as three weeks with victory over rivals Manchester United making them impossible to catch.

United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea will challenge for the rest of the Champions League spots, but it is in the relegation zone where the real battle is about to be fought. Several sides are still firmly in the scrap and will be doing all they can to remain in the top tier of English football for 2018/2019.

20th West Bromwich Albion                        20 PTS

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Burnley (H); Swansea (H); Manchester United (A); Liverpool (H); Bournemouth (A); Newcastle (A); Tottenham (H); Crystal Palace (A)

The Baggies look set for the Championship having managed just three wins to this point of the season. Remarkably they started the campaign winning their opening two games, meaning they have registered just one win to go with 11 draws in 28 games since. Hurting the Baggies more has been the 21 points dropped from winning positions and how this hurts their Premier League survival is fast playing out as the games left in the season dissipate. Alan Pardew has been handed the task of trying to keep West Brom up, taking over from Tony Pulis, but sitting seven points behind 19th placed Stoke and eight points away from safety, some results will need to go their way soon.

Their next two matches are now critical with home games against Burnley and Swansea where nothing less than maximum points will be needed ahead of a tough run home. West Brom encounter Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in the final six weeks, although the final two will be at home. Pardew’s men will also have a chance to scrounge points in trips to Newcastle and Crystal Palace but will need to rapidly improve an away record that has seen them manage just one win and four draws, scoring only seven goals.

Apart from their last start 4-1 loss to Leicester (where they actually hit an early lead through Salomon Rondon), Albion haven’t been blown out of the water too often and have shown they can stay in contests with Jonny Evans and Craig Dawson anchoring the defence. However, it is up front which needs to start firing if they are to secure the wins they need to avoid the drop.

Projected Points: 6

Total Points: 26

Projected Finish: 20th


 

19th Stoke                                                           27 PTS

Everton (H); Arsenal (A); Tottenham (H); West Ham (A); Burnley (H); Liverpool (A); Crystal Palace (H); Swansea (A)

Stoke have flirted with the bottom three for much of the campaign and are in danger of exiting the Premier League after a decade long association. However, the signs have been there that they could just do enough, with three draws from their past four Premier League matches before a 2-0 loss to Manchester City in their last outing.

Their next three weeks will be challenging with a home game against Everton, followed by clashes with top-six sides Arsenal and Tottenham. The final few weeks could be their saviour with only a trip to Anfield seemingly beyond their capabilities. Stoke will fancy themselves at home to Burnley and Crystal Palace, with trips away to a capitulating West Ham side and a final day clash against Swansea.

Saido Berahino is set to return to the squad, after a month on the sidelines which saw manager Paul Lambert instigate a special fitness regime. Berahino, along with Xherdan Shaqiri, will have the hopes of the team resting on what they can produce up front. To remain in the top league, Stoke will have to arrest a horror away record, which has delivered just one win and five draws. The final round game against Swansea could be determine which of the two sides keeps their place in the Premier League.  

Projected Points: 5

Total Points: 32

Projected Finish: 19th

18th Crystal Palace                           27 PTS

Huddersfield (A); Liverpool (H); Bournemouth (A); Brighton (H); Watford (A); Leicester (H); Stoke (A); West Bromwich Albion (H)

Crystal Palace find themselves presently in the relegation zone on the back of a four game losing streak, but have been far from disgraced with all games coming against sides in the top half. A 3-1 loss to Everton was followed by a 1-0 loss to Tottenham after a late Harry Kane winner, a 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester United after they gave up a 2-0 lead, and a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

While Palace would be disappointed they couldn’t garner any points from that month, their fixture opens up considerably, with the best run to come of all the teams at risk of relegation. Liverpool and Leicester (both at home) appear to be the toughest games to come, with home games also against Brighton and West Brom on the final day.

Away trips to Huddersfield – whose squad is starting to show signs of fatigue – Bournemouth, Watford and Stoke aren’t overly intimidating and there will belief that Crystal Palace will be able to secure the points to stay up. Roy Hodgson has steered the ship after a disastrous start to the campaign which saw Frank De Boer get the flick after just 77 days at the helm. In a further boost, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye are set to return to the squad and the friendly fixture should see the Eagles reach the safety of 40 points.

Projected Points: 13

Total Points: 40

Projected Finish: 14th



 

17th Southampton                           28 PTS

West Ham (A); Arsenal (A); Chelsea (H); Leicester (A); Swansea (A); Bournemouth (H); Everton (A); Manchester City (H);

Southampton have been the big faller of this campaign, dropping from an 8th placed finish in 2016/2017, to being one of the relegation battle participants. The Saints were inept in a 3-0 loss to Newcastle after dropping points the week before against Stoke at home. Their last win was at the start of February away at West Brom, although they will have a strong chance in their next start when they travel to West Ham. From there though it gets tough.

Consecutive games against Arsenal (away), Chelsea and Leicester (away), a trip to improving Swansea with Everton and soon-to-be-champions Manchester City to finish doesn’t present too many clear cut chances to get points. In fact, failure to get maximum points against the Hammers this week could just about stamp their drop.

In a somewhat surprising move so close to the end of the season, Mauricio Pellegrino was given his marching orders this week, with former Stoke manager Mark Hughes taking over the reins for the final eight games. Despite their poor form in the league this season, the Saints have managed to make their way into a quarter final clash with League 1 side Wigan in the FA Cup, defeating Fulham and West Brom along the way. However, any success in the Cup will mean nothing if they find themselves in the Championship next season.

Projected Points: 6

Total Points: 34

Projected Finish: 16th

 

16th West Ham                                  30 PTS

Southampton (H); Chelsea (A); Stoke (H); Arsenal (A); Manchester United (H); Manchester City (H); Leicester (A); Everton (H)

West Ham are in capitulation mode following three horror weeks. Consecutive 4-1 thumpings at Liverpool and fellow relegation battler Swansea was followed up with a 3-0 loss at home to Burnley, prompting angry fans to storm the pitch in protest. David Moyes has been under immense scrutiny since taking over from Slavan Bilic unable to galvanise a club in turmoil. 

The Hammers sit a win above the relegation zone but are in freefall with one of the toughest run homes. West Ham face six of the top nine, hosting the two Manchester clubs with away trips to fellow London clubs Chelsea and Arsenal, as well as a trip to Leicester.

Despite their recent awful form, West Ham could go a long way to securing top tier football for 2018/2019 in the next couple of matches. Home games against Southampton and Stoke are their best chance of maximum points and if they were to collect wins in those games, they would effectively have a three game buffer on the drop zone which could be enough even if they don’t collect points in the final month of the season.

Projected Points: 4

Total Points: 34

Projected Finish: 17th



15th Huddersfield                            31 PTS

Crystal Palace (H); Newcastle (A); Brighton (A); Watford (H); Chelsea (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Arsenal (H)

Huddersfield started their first ever Premier League campaign as the pundits favourite to drop to the Championship with the thinness and inexperience of the squad expected to have them floundering. However the Terriers were one of the early surprises in the league, with their attacking and free flowing nature bringing impressive results, including a 2-1 win over Manchester United at John Smith’s Stadium.

Huddersfield naturally dropped around the Christmas break as the influx of games started to stretch their squad and have spent the second half of the season hovering above the relegation zone. Wins in recent weeks over Bournemouth and West Brom have strengthened their chances of staying up, although they could end up rueing two dropped points against Swansea at home, after the Swans were reduced to 10 men just 11 minutes in.

The next month will shape Huddersfield’s fortunes with games against Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Brighton and Watford. Huddersfield will feel they are in with a chance in all of them, but none are guaranteed points either, with Palace and Newcastle both the form teams down the bottom, and Brighton and Watford pushing for top ten finishes. A final month consisting of Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal could be too much of a challenge for the top-tier first-timers and they may not secure the points they need to stay up.

Projected Points: 2

Total Points: 33

Projected Finish: 18th

 

14th Swansea                     31 PTS

Manchester United (A); West Brom (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Southampton (A); Chelsea (H); Bournemouth (A); Stoke (H)

Swansea have been one of the form teams in the competition with five wins and three draws from their past 10 matches, including impressive wins over top half sides Burnley, Arsenal, Liverpool and Watford. The returns of Wilfried Bony and Andre Ayew (reuniting with brother Jordan) have given the Swans added firepower up front to complement a stingy defence which has conceded only 42 goals – less than the likes of Leicester, Everton and Watford who all sit in the top ten and only one more than sixth placed Arsenal.

The Swans had a dreadful start to the season but have been able to lift themselves out of the relegation zone since the turn of the new year. Swansea’s form in the league has transferred to the FA Cup with the Welsh side preparing for a quarter-final clash with Tottenham. Following that, Swansea have a mixed bag to round out the Premier League season.

Two trips to Manchester and home games against Chelsea and Everton are relieved with winnable games against West Brom, Southampton, Bournemouth and a final day visit by Stoke. If Swansea can maintain their recent form, they should have premier league survival confirmed before the final day, but they will enter the clash with Stoke as warm favourites to continue their tenure in the top level.

Predicted Points: 6

Total Points: 37

Projected Finish:  15th




13th Newcastle                                 32 PTS

Huddersfield (H); Leicester (A); Arsenal (H); Everton (A); Tottenham (A); West Brom (H); Watford (A); Chelsea (H)

Another of the promoted sides, Newcastle have fought off an immediate return while also dealing with the off-field speculation about the future ownership of the club. Current owner Mike Ashley has confirmed that his club is for sale, and while that remains in the air, the Toon side look set to avoid a straight drop.

A 1-0 win over Manchester United at the start of last month helped Newcastle start their escape from the relegation pack, which was further stamped with a comfortable 3-0 romp over strugglers Southampton last-start. Recent loan signing Kenedy scored twice and with the likes of Matt Ritchie through the midfield and Dwight Gayle up forward, the Magpies have the scoring prowess to take three points from their matches.

Newcastle’s next match is against fellow-promoted side Huddersfield who are starting to falter in the closing stages before a tough run against Leicester (away), Arsenal, Everton (away) and Tottenham (away). Respite comes in the third last week against West Brom, where victory in that game should be enough to confirm survival, with Watford and deposed Champions Chelsea to finish. The Magpies should reach the magical 40 point mark to confirm their place in the Premier League for 2018/2019.

Projected Points: 10

Total Points: 42

Projected Finish: 13th

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