Most peoples’ eyes are on the top four this time of year but it seems the relegation battle has started early and it’s piqued everyone’s interest.
While six teams vie for Champions League spots another six (or even arguably seven) are embroiled in a bare knuckle fight to avoid the Championship. Two points separate bottom placed Sunderland and Middlesbrough who sit in 15th. So how did they do at the weekend and what are their chances of survival?
Bournemouth aren’t in this relegation battle are they? Are they? A solitary point in their last five may suggest otherwise. Their unceremonious defeat at the hands of Millwall may actually come as a blessing in disguise so Howe’s men can focus on the league. They’re a hardworking side with a better goal difference than most of the teams below them (although the 6-3 defeat against Everton didn’t help) but their lack of quality may mean it’s tight come the end of the season. For now that five point barrier is enough.
A tough away game at White Hart Lane resulted in a narrow loss, a result they realistically should have expected. Losses for Leicester and Swansea kept them all on twenty one points and a loss for Bournemouth keeps the gap at five points. Their goal difference of minus eight may be crucial in the coming months and may even see improvement with the additions of Bamford and Gestede. More goals would see them stay up and I fancy them to avoid the drop.
Everybody thought Chelsea were terrible champions but Leicester are taking that challenge very seriously. Manchester United at home isn’t an easy game but their poor result this week leaves them two points off the bottom. If the form of key players such as Vardy and Mahrez does not improve they will be fighting for their lives under a manager who has very little experience in that department. Managers more versed in relegation battles may keep their respective sides up while Leicester may be the first champions to be relegated.
Swansea look a million times better under Clement than they ever did under Bradley. The players seem galvanised and January signing Tom Carroll looks to be a good acquisition. They were unlucky to lose at the Etihad and fought brilliantly in the second half. A little more defensive solidity would see them stay up as they’ve got quality going forward. Never replacing Ashley Williams was a mistake but they should avoid the drop and I hope they do as Swansea have brought an entertaining brand of football to the Premiership.
A similar case to Swansea. What a difference a new manager makes. Silva seems to have galvanised his players and pulled off a great win over an out-of-form Liverpool this weekend. I fear though that the sales of Livermore and Snodgrass will have dire consequences. To be fair to them they had a very tough start to life in the top division with injuries but it may be best for them to spend time in the Championship rebuilding, which is likely to happen.
I tipped Palace for a solid mid-table finish this year despite their horrific form during 2016. How wrong was I? Then they hire the best man around for a relegation fight and ship four goals against a woeful Sunderland side. Things really are looking bleak at Selhurst Park but they have the quality to stay up, surely. Things can only get better this calendar year compared to last.
Everyone thought they were dead and buried, then they took a point from both Liverpool and Tottenham and scored four first half goals against Palace. They’re far from safe and their squad is hugely lacking quality but it’s not impossible. Improbably but not impossible. Moyes will have to get the very best out of his team to avoid the drop but I’m not sure it’ll happen.