Who will be relegated from the Premier League?
With just eleven games to go in the 2016/2017 Premier League season, the battle at both ends of the table looks set to go down to the wire in what could be the most exciting and dramatic finishes in recent history. The big guns have reclaimed their dominance at the summit following Leicester’s remarkable title-winning story, with six teams set to battle it out for a top four finish, while there are up to seven clubs who could become embroiled in a relegation dogfight. Although Betway believe that Chelsea have already wrapped up the title by making them 1/33 odds-on favourites on March 24th, trying to predict who will survive and who will drop into the Championship is certainly less clear, and with just twelve points separating those in danger, every point will prove crucial between now and the end of May.
Struggling at the wrong end of the table has become an all too familiar feeling for Sunderland fans who would be forgiven for believing it is a matter of when, and not if, their team drops into the Championship. Eighteen defeats in twenty-seven matches reflects just how difficult it has been for David Moyes at the Stadium of Light, with the former Everton and Manchester United manager failing to find the same spark and fighting spirit that Sam Allardyce instilled as they survived relegation once again for the fourth consecutive year. This battle could prove to be one too many, and although the Black Cats can always rely on Jermaine Defoe to score goals, Sunderland (1/16 on March 24th to be relegated) do not appear to have the quality, strength in depth or confidence to remain in the Premier League.
It is difficult for any team to remain in the top flight if they cannot score goals, and although Middlesbrough are certainly strong and resilient at the back, their clear lack of firepower is starting to prove costly. Steve Agnew, who has stepped into the role after Aitor Karanka’s departure, has to find a way to get a team, who have only won four games all season and failed to pick up three points in 2017, firing on all cylinders. Boro have gradually slid down into the relegation zone, with a distinct lack of shots on goal in recent weeks telling a tale of their demise. Twenty goals is by far the lowest in the Premier League, and given that Middlesbrough have to face the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, the newly-promoted side (2/9 on March 24th) could find themselves back in the Championship after just one season.
Allardyce was valued as Crystal Palace’s saviour when he arrived at the club in December following the sacking of Alan Pardew, but although he got off to a poor start, three straight wins have created renewed hope that the manager who has never tasted relegation from the Premier League can weave his magic again. Two wins in eleven games led critics to believe that the 62-year-old was damaged goods after his extremely brief and controversial spell in charge of the England national team, and that Crystal Palace were heading for a relegation battle under him. However, a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Middlesbrough on February 25th was followed up by a 2-0 victory at West Brom and 1-0 win against Watford which illustrated a team that looked rejuvenated, hungry and ready for the fight, and although it remains to be seen if their mini-revival can continue, Crystal Palace (3/1 on March 24th) could well pull themselves away from a precarious position.
The only team that stand a great chance of hauling themselves out of the bottom three at the present moment are Hull who have been rejuvenated since the arrival of Marco Silva in January. Many were sceptical over the club’s decision to replace Mike Phelan with a manager who has no Premier League experience, but the former Estoril and Olympiakos boss has proved his doubters wrong by leading his team from what was a perilous position in the Premier League drop zone into one of considerable promise. Four straight wins in his first four home games at the KCOM Stadium has certainly been the best way for Silva to endorse himself to the Hull fans, and although they lost key players Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore in the January transfer window, Hull were proactive and made a number of good signings. Add in the fact that Hull are starting to play some good quality football, despite a small blip which has seen them pick up just one point from a possible nine before their recent 2-1 win against Swansea, and it is easy to see the Tigers defying odds of 4/9 on March 24th to avoid the drop despite on-going protests aimed at the owners.
Only one team in English football history have been relegated the season after being crowned champions, but Leicester may have saved themselves from following in the footsteps of Manchester City in 1938. Claudio Ranieri’s sacking was greeted with shock and anger by those who witnessed them surpass the expectations of Betway and other bookmakers as they stormed their way towards the Premier League title in a fairytale story that nobody saw coming, but the decision appears to have paid off. Caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare, who has been given the job until the end of the season, has reignited the fire in a team that looked devoid of confidence, belief and the identity which took them so far last season, with the 3-1 victory against Liverpool on February 27th and win over Hull on March 4th by the same scoreline providing some much-needed parity. They are far from being out of the woods entirely, but if Shakespeare can continue to rediscover the Leicester of old, then their odds of 20/1 on March 24th to go down will grow even further.
Crystal Palace and Leicester’s upsurge in form has dragged Watford into the relegation picture, with Walter Mazzarri’s team showing signs of struggle at the wrong time of the season. Recording just wins in their last thirteen league fixtures is an indication of their demise, with the 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park pushing the Hornets further towards danger. Upcoming games against Sunderland and Swansea have now become games that Watford cannot afford to lose, but while their odds of 11/1 on March 24th suggests that they should survive, their inability to keep clean sheets could prove detrimental.
Swansea are another side who have hugely benefitted from a managerial change, with Paul Clement making a big impact since arriving at the Liberty Stadium. Four win in his first eight Premier League games in charge have put Swansea in a wonderful position to get themselves out of the mess that was left behind by Bob Bradley’s ill-fated spell in charge, with the likes of Leroy Fer, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente stepping up to the mark with some outstanding performances. However, losing to Hull and Bournemouth have pushed the Swansea back into the mire, and while they were 11/4 to go down on March 24th, Clement will need to pick his team up if they are to remain in the Premier League.
Relegation prediction: Swansea, Middlesbrough, Sunderland