Premier League state of play: How the relegation battle stands before restartPublished on: June 10, 2020Author: Daniel Hubert
As the Premier League gets set to resume next week, much of the focus will be on the relegation battle. Six clubs are fighting for survival yet only half can succeed.
Remaining in the Premier League is worth a huge amount every year, but staying up this season could be even more significant than normal, given the financial hits clubs have already taken due to English football’s three-month hiatus.
It is possible to argue, then, that this campaign’s relegation battle is the most significant in recent history.
Canaries strong favourites to lose relegation battle
Norwich City are faced with the most difficult task. Daniel Farke’s side went up as surprise Championship winners last season, but they opted against spending big in the transfer market.
They memorably beat Manchester City back in September yet have spent the vast majority of the campaign in the bottom two. The Canaries have occupied last place since a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Norwich have earned plaudits for the way they have conducted themselves this term but, with a six-point margin separating them form 17th, Farke’s men need to start winning games fast.
Upcoming contests against Southampton, Everton, Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham United and Burnley at Carrow Road all look winnable, although the very concept of home advantage will be different given the absence of supporters.
Norwich must also travel to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, all of which means their fate is likely to be determined in Norfolk. They are long odds-on at 1/11 with SportNation for the drop.
Villa also up against it
One place and four points above the Canaries are Aston Villa, who will get the 2019-20 season back underway against Sheffield United on 17 June.
Victory over the high-flying and Champions League chasing Blades would move Dean Smith’s charges out of the bottom three.
Villa fans must hope that their team does not turn in too many more performances like the one that saw them lose 4-0 to Leicester City in the final game before the season was paused, however.
Unlike Norwich, the Villans were heavily active in last summer’s transfer market yet remain mired in the relegation battle ahead of the run-in.
In Jack Grealish they possess arguably the Premier League’s best player outside the big six, but they cannot rely solely on their captain for inspiration in the coming weeks.
Villa will look at meetings with Newcastle United, Crystal Palace, Everton and West Ham as opportunities for them to collect the four wins they probably need to secure safety. It’s 2/5 with Ladbrokes that they go down.
Cherries buoyed by Brooks return
Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham are all two points better off than Villa. The Cherries complete the current bottom three due to their inferior goal difference.
Eddie Howe’s side made a good start to the season and were a top-half team in the middle of November, but they have faded badly since then.
Back-to-back victories over Brighton and Villa halted Bournemouth’s slide, and they also drew 2-2 with Chelsea shortly before the season was interrupted.
The return to fitness of David Brooks is a major boost for Howe, whose team relied on the Welshman’s creativity in 2018-19, but the Cherries will need to tighten up defensively if they are to finish above the dreaded dotted line.
A home game against Crystal Palace next weekend will be seen as a must-win by the Bournemouth faithful. Odds of 4/5 with Betfred say they will be relegated.
Hornets hoping to avoid sting in the tail
In many ways, Watford have followed the opposite course to Bournemouth this season. The Hornets began 2019-20 in disastrous fashion, sacking manager Javi Gracia after collecting just one point from a possible 12.
Quique Sanchez Flores returned for a second spell in the Vicarage Road dugout, but the Spaniard managed only one victory – a 2-0 triumph over Norwich – before departing.
With just one win from their first 17 games, Watford’s Premier League stay looked to be coming to an end. Nigel Pearson has done a brilliant job of re-energising the side, however, and has given them a fighting chance of survival.
A run of four wins and two draws in six matches lifted the Hornets out of the bottom three, although they did go on to emerge victorious from just one of their subsequent six matches – a memorable 3-0 defeat of champions-elect Liverpool.
Watford end the season with games against Manchester City and Arsenal, so they will hope to have their Premier League status secured before then. Bookies seems confident of that, though, with BetVictor a standout 5/2 on them for relegation.
Hammers have tough restart to deal with
West Ham are also level on points with Watford and Bournemouth, and their form did not make for positive reading before the break.
Indeed, David Moyes’ men won just one of their last nine outings and face a trio of European contenders – Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea – in their next three assignments.
The fixture list becomes a little more straightforward thereafter, with Newcastle, Burnley, Norwich, Watford and Villa on the horizon.
Those final three matches will be particularly significant, but the concern for West Ham is that their confidence could become rather brittle if the Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea games yield zero points.
There is enough talent in the Hammers squad for them to steer away from danger, but question marks about the team’s fighting spirit remain. Moyes is 21/10 with Betfair to take West Ham down as he did with Sunderland.
Seagulls most favoured to win relegation battle
Brighton are in the healthiest position in terms of points tally, having amassed 29 to date – two more than West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth.
However, their trajectory is worrying and, remarkably, they have not won a Premier League match since 2019.
Form, of course, is unlikely to hold after a three-month absence, but the Seagulls have been performing poorly for longer than just a short sequence of games.
Albion must face Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United in their next three games, a run that is unlikely to raise spirits around the Amex Stadium.
Graham Potter will no doubt have his eye on subsequent showdowns with Norwich, Southampton, Newcastle and Burnley as key to his side’s push for survival.
Despite best odds of 3/1 with Paddy Power for the drop, and Brighton’s relatively healthy position now, things could ultimately go down to the wire.
The relegation battle to the Championship should prove intriguing over the coming weeks. There will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.