With seven games left in the Premier League (six for some clubs), now’s the time to start thinking about how the table is going to look come the middle of May, when the season finishes up.
I think we can all agree that Chelsea are almost certain to win the division, and at present, it seems likely that they’ll be joined in the top four by Tottenham, with Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool or Arsenal taking the two remaining spots.
But what about at the other end of the table?
Unless something miraculous happens, Sunderland look as good as relegated already, but the four clubs above them all have a chance of finishing the season in the drop zone – it really could go right down to the wire.
Let’s take a look at each team, who they’ve got left to play and their likelihood of going down:
Middlesborough (Played 31; 24 points)
Currently in 19th, Boro face an uphill battle to avoid the drop. They’re six points from safety with a game in hand on the two clubs above them, but looking at their fixture list makes for some pretty grim reading.
Fixtures at home against Arsenal and Man City look somewhat daunting, and that’s before you consider that they must also go to Stamford Bridge and Anfield.
The suggestion is that you need around 40 points to stay up, and I can only see a maximum of 12 from their last few fixtures, meaning they’d end up on 36 points. Sorry Boro fans, but you’re going down.
— Football Shock⚽️ (@FootballShocks) April 10, 2017
Swansea City (Played 32; 28 points)
When Paul Clement took charge at the Liberty Stadium after the brief and disastrous Bob Bradley era, it suddenly looked as if Swansea were going to be fine. But they’re not fine at present, not by a long chalk. The Swans lie third-bottom right now with 28 points – they’d need another 12 to guarantee safety.
The good news is that Man United looks to be the only fixture where you’d write Swansea off before the game begins. Elsewhere they visit Watford and Sunderland and host West Brom, Everton and Stoke City.
It’s a tough ask to extract 12 points from those fixtures, but it’s possible.
🗣 “I believe in this team and I believe we survive.” https://t.co/S468rFkEAa
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) April 9, 2017
Hull City (Played 32; 30 points)
Hull looked destined for the drop early on in the season, but the boss at the KC Stadium, Marco Silva, has kept the Tigers alive; just about.
Hull need 10 points from 8 games to reach the magical 40-point mark, and only their final day fixture with Spurs looks entirely unwinnable.
You’d fancy Hull against Sunderland, so that’s 3 points in the bag straight away, while they’d also be hopeful of doing a job on Palace at home. If those two come to pass, and they can get draws at Stoke, Southampton and at home to Watford, Hull would have 39 points – not quite the magic 40, but good enough this season.
Hull City’s home form across all competitions under Marco Silva:
Magic from Marco. 🐯 pic.twitter.com/N2lY8gftxg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 5, 2017
Points since Marco Silva’s appointment:
Chelsea – 23
Spurs – 23
Everton – 21
Hull City – 17
Man City – 16#hcafc
— Originallambrettaman (@origlambman) April 6, 2017
Crystal Palace (Played 30; 31 points)
Is it unfair for Palace to be considered relegation candidates? Perhaps. But they are.
While Palace are in theory only a few points from safety, their run in is hard by anyone’s standards.
First they host Arsenal on Tuesday morning (AEDT) and then a newly resurgent Leicester. Then it’s a trip to Anfield before heading back to Selhurst Park for fixtures with Spurs and Burnley, and an outing up north to play Manchester City.
A home match with Hull and an away fixture at Manchester United completes their revolting run in.
Hand on heart, I can only see Palace extracting a maximum of six points from these fixtures, which may or may not be enough depending on other results. One thing going in their favour will be their goal difference – vastly superior to Hull, Swansea and Sunderland.
It’s touch and go, that’s for sure.
It’s time to stand up and be counted. 💪
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) April 10, 2017
As you can see – there’s still A LOT to play for down at the bottom, and although the title race gets all the plaudits, the relegation race is just as interesting. I for one will be watching it very closely.