It may be the less glamorous end of the Premier League table, but we are undoubtedly amid one of the English top flight’s most enthralling relegation battles in many a year. There are just three points separating Swansea in 18th and West Ham in 13th, and no side outside the top six has managed to reach the magical 40-point mark just yet – although clubs may well need more to survive this season.
Accordingly, predicting who will suffer relegation to the Championship feels like Russian roulette at this moment in time. Pick out a few teams and in a few weeks’ time, you could easily end up with a reputation in ruins. But as we’re all death-wishing lunatics at Football FanCast, we’re going to give it a go anyway. Here’s who our writers think will fail to beat the drop…
Southampton – That the Saints’ only win Premier League win in 14 matches came against West Bromwich Albion is rather telling. They may not quite be as bad as the Baggies but they’re not much better and with Mauricio Pellegrino floundering tactically when it comes to winning football matches, the run-in isn’t looking great for supporters. They do have one or two players, like James Ward-Prowse, that can provide moments of inspiration and they’re tough to beat. But when the action really heats up, they look like a team that will wilt under the pressure rather than thrive.
Stoke City – The appointment of Paul Lambert may have stopped the rot of losing almost every match, but the Potters are still struggling to find that winning touch in matches, drawing three of the five he’s been in charge of. No club has an easy run-in but Stoke find themselves in the difficult position of having to play away to most of their relegation rivals alongside trips to the Emirates and Anfield. Lambert has an almighty task on his hands to keep them up and I just can’t see him getting it done.
West Brom – They’re as good as dead and buried already. A bizarre season which has somehow been a mixture of stubbornness, panic and extreme change all at once has culminated in an on-the-pitch outfit that know they’re playing Championship football next season.
West Brom – Losses at home to Southampton and Huddersfield in February were disastrous and considering they have 20 points with just 10 matches left to play, they face a huge battle to stay up and to be honest already look to be down.
Huddersfield Town – They may have picked up crucial successive wins against Bournemouth and West Brom, but I still fear for David Wagner’s side. They will be lucky to get anything away at Tottenham on Saturday before they face a crucial run of fixtures against Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Brighton and Watford. If they fail to pick up points in those they will be in a pickle, with the Terriers finishing the campaign against Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Southampton – I have said for a long time that Saints will go down if Mauricio Pellegrino remained in charge, and my viewpoint on that hasn’t changed. The Argentine boss continues to fail to learn from his mistakes, while his team have no style of play and no cohesion on the pitch. Five wins from 28 Premier League games – only West Brom have fewer – is why they find themselves where they are, and their abysmal home form will come back to bite them during their tough run-in. Another disappointing performance against Burnley on Saturday was a further signal that they are slipping towards the Championship.
West Brom – Already down as far as I’m concerned. Any managerial change comes too late and attempts to step away from the Tony Pulis philosophy have only highlighted an ageing team’s obvious flaws. They need a miracle at this point and Taxi-gate has only added to the toxic atmosphere surrounding the club.
Southampton – A shock choice for some but Southampton still need to face Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City while their clashes with relegation rivals are predominantly on the road. Mauricio Pellegrino’s negative substitutions continue to cost the side valuable points and I think Saints will end up picking too many draws rather than wins. You can’t stay up if you can’t beat teams at home, and St. Mary’s hasn’t seen a league victory since November.
Crystal Palace – Still one of the best squads in the relegation scrap on paper but injuries are decimating Roy Hodgson’s side – Wilfried Zaha, who Palace haven’t won a league game without in their last ten attempts, being the crucial casualty. Roy Hodgson’s done a fantastic job but he’s now relying on square pegs in round holes, youth players and a striker who has scored just twice all season. Throw in upcoming clashes with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United and the Eagles could have an impossible mountain to climb in a few weeks.
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