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Premier League Relegation Battle Reaching Boiling Point

As the end of the season fast approaches, fans of those clubs propping up the table cling to the hopes that next season, Match of the Day will still play an integral part of their Saturday evening ritual.

It’s getting close, though, and for some (we’re looking at you Sunderland) there’s seemingly no light the end of the tunnel. But if we’ve learned anything from football, it’s that there’s always at least one team that makes an unexpected surge out of the relegation places in the final stretch.

Realistically speaking, though, do any of the bottom six look like replicating Leicester’s great escape of 2015?

Interestingly, after a woeful start to the season and league form that saw them flirt with relegation, it would seem that Leicester’s fortunes have changed somewhat. Some might say that the players decided to play after Ranieri’s sacking while others might credit Shakespeare with the upsurge in form but, either way, we probably won’t be mentioning the words relegation and Leicester in the same breath again this season.

 

(Photo credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunderland, on the other hand, are right where they seem to be most seasons: the favourites not only for the drop but also to finish rock bottom of the league. BetStars are offering odds of 1/16 to see them go down, which says a lot about the lack of faith the footballing masses have in the club, the players, and most tellingly, David Moyes. 

With a run-in that includes matches against Man Utd, Chelsea, and Arsenal, it’s hard to see Sunderland playing anything but Championship football next season with a new manager at the helm and Jordan Pickford sold.

Just 26 miles down the road, Middlesbrough face as formidable a task with Arsenal, Man City, and Chelsea to play before the final game away to Liverpool. A better goal difference than their North Eastern rivals might see them avoid finishing bottom of the league, but it’s looking highly likely that Gary Linker won’t be discussing the feisty affair that is the Tees-Wear Derby next season.

 

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

So with the bottom two places looking pretty much nailed on, who will be the third? Burnley have what looks to be, on paper at least, the easiest finish to the season with Man Utd at home their only remaining fixture against a team currently in the top six. They haven’t had a bad season by their own standards, and if Dyche finally lets record signing Brady off the leash, then they should stay up.

Crystal Palace’s fine win against Chelsea will fill their players with confidence, and despite the fact that they still have to face Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Man City, and United, Big Sam has form in relegation dogfights. They’re also the only team in the bottom half of the table that has a negative goal difference in single digits. A factor that just might come into play on the final day.

Both Swansea and Hull, on the other hand, look like they have some serious work to do if they’re to pull off the incredible. The trickiest of their remaining matches will most likely be the trip to Old Trafford and playing Everton at home, but if Sunderland put a string of results together, then the penultimate match at the Stadium of Light could be a relegation decider for both teams.

Hull play Sunderland in the match before that possible relegation decider, and while their run-in looks pretty heartening with City and Spurs being the only teams from the top eight left to play, nothing is certain.

 

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Of all the teams that look likely to drop down to the Championship, Hull is the one club that is seemingly in tatters both on and off the pitch. The strained relationship between the owners and supporters has seemingly had a detrimental effect on the team and the management and to be fair, a drop to the Championship might be the best in the long run. Relegation may force the owners to lower their asking price and open the doors to a complete takeover.

However, the footballing gods are a fickle bunch and although we’re quite sure either Swansea or Hull will join Middlesbrough in the Championship next season, this year’s relegation battle unlike last year’s, will most likely go right down to the wire.

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Author: Maurice Gleeson

Irish exile currently residing in Barcelona but stay up to the date with the latest in League of Ireland and the Premier League.