Twists and turns are guaranteed but the Premier League relegation battle looks on course to go down to the final day of the season.
There are potentially decisive matches on that day, 22 May – when Brentford host Leeds and Burnley face Newcastle – but before then there are plenty more points to help swing momentum this way and that.
With three months to go, the scrap starts on Tuesday evening with 18th-placed Burnley taking on a Leicester side just six points above them.
Leicester sit 13th, and having played fewer games than any other side in the division (23) due to postponements they will not want to deem relegation a possibility. That could change at Turf Moor, but below them there are still seven sides aiming to beat the drop – with two seemingly sunk already.
It will take some escape from Norwich to avoid an immediate return to the Championship for a second straight time, likewise Watford, who have only picked up two more wins than managers they have had in the dugout this season.
Still, though, there are some big “six-pointers” in the diary that could prove decisive, while the so-called magic 40-point mark is a target almost certain to guarantee safety.
Based on current points per game, the mark could be closer to 33 or 34 points, around par for the course in recent seasons if you ignore last season when Fulham finished 18th with 28 points, 11 behind Burnley in 17th.
Based on current points per game, to nearest whole number
Once more Burnley are in peril, but out-of-form sides above them must quickly address their own decline if they are to stay afloat.
Here’s a look at the relegation runners and riders…
Position: 14th | Matches played: 25 | Points: 25 | Current PPG after 38 games: 38
A recent upturn in form means there is now distance between Newcastle and the relegation zone. That will be music to their new owners’ ears with a major summer upheaval likely, although an upcoming run of three away games, plus later meetings with Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, means the Toon still have some way to go before planning for next season.
Last five: W W W D W
Next five: Brighton (H), Southampton (A), Chelsea (A), Everton (A), Crystal Palace (H)
**
Position: 15th | Played: 27 | Points: 24 | Current PPG after 38 games: 34
After an impressive start to their first Premier League season, where they won three and drew three of their opening seven games, the Bees have lost their sting. They have picked up just four points from their last 11 games, and could be dragged right into the mire if they stumble against Norwich and Burnley next.
Last five: L L D L L
Next five: Norwich (A), Burnley (H), Leicester (A), Chelsea (A), West Ham (H)
*Fixture dates/times could change for TV
Position: 16th | Played: 26 | Points: 23 | Current PPG after 38 games: 34
A February to forget ultimately cost Marcelo Bielsa his job at Leeds. The popular head coach will go down as a hero in the city, but it looks set to be Jesse Marsch who has the task of saving their season and reversing a run of five defeats in six. Sorting out their porous defence is a must – the 20 goals conceded in February was a record for a single month in the Premier League.
Last five: D L L L L
Next five: Leicester (A), Aston Villa (H), Norwich (H), Wolves (A), Southampton (H)
**
Position: 17th | Played: 24 | Points: 22 | Current PPG after 38 games: 35
All of a sudden Everton are 17th. They have won just two league matches since the start of October, and when you read it like that it is perhaps remarkable they are not closer to Norwich and Watford. A trip to Wolves on Monday means it does not get much easier for Frank Lampard’s side, but with matches against Newcastle, Watford, Brentford and Burnley to come, their fate is still in their own hands – just.
Last five: L L W L L
Next five: Tottenham (A), Wolves (H), Newcastle (H), Watford (A), West Ham (A)
Odds via Betfair and correct at time of writing
Position: 18th | Played: 24 | Points: 21 | Current PPG after 38 games: 33
A spate of postponements had Burnley playing a bigger game of catch-up than those around them, but they have given themselves a strong chance of survival after recent wins over Spurs and Brighton. There have been narrow margins in recent games, plus more draws than Sean Dyche would have liked, while some tricky match-ups in a run of four home games in their next five looks set to define their season.
Last five: D L W W D
Next five: Leicester (H), Chelsea (H), Brentford (A), Southampton (H), Man City (H)
**
Position: 19th | Played: 26 | Points: 19 | Current PPG after 38 games: 28
Roy Hodgson is the third man in the Watford dugout this season, but he will surely see out the campaign for better or worse. A huge win at Aston Villa and draw at Manchester United have put valuable points on the board, but home form is a major concern – they have lost their last seven at Vicarage Road.
Last five: L L W L D
Next five: Arsenal (H), Wolves (A), Southampton (A), Everton (H), Liverpool (A)
Position: 20th | Played: 26 | Points: 17 | Current PPG after 38 games: 25
The sure-fire bet to go down? It looks that way, with that November haul of eight points from four games now a distant memory. Since then, they have picked up just two wins, and they will need to win their upcoming six-pointers against Brentford and Leeds to stand any chance of pulling off a great escape.
Last five: W D L L L
Next five: Brentford (H), Leeds (A), Chelsea (H), Brighton (A), Burnley (H)
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