The title race may take up most of the attention, but the Premier League’s relegation battle is shaping up to be a tense affair.
Norwich City’s drop was confirmed with a defeat against Aston Villa, and Watford joined them a week later after a loss to Crystal Palace. Just one spot remains, with three sides desperately looking to secure their place in the top flight for next year.
With two weeks to go, here is how things are at the bottom of the table.
League position: 16th
Goal difference: -19
Remaining fixtures: Watford (A), Brentford (H), Crystal Palace (H), Arsenal (A).
Record in reverse fixtures: 1 win, 0 draws, 3 defeats, 5 goals scored, 10 goals conceded.
The decision to bring in Rafa Benitez as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement was not a popular one at the time, and it has proven to be the wrong one. The former Liverpool boss already had a hard enough time getting the fans on his side, and his record of 18 points from 20 games made him public enemy number one at Goodison Park.
Benitez was sacked back in January and replaced by another ex-Chelsea man, Frank Lampard. The 43-year-old has overseen a slight improvement, picking up 16 points from 14 outings, but this is still far from the level expected of them.
As things stand, Everton sit one point above the relegation zone, having played one game fewer than the teams below them.
On paper, the Toffees have the most quality of the sides in the scrap for survival. The likes of Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Allan, and Abdoulaye Doucoure ought to be in a better position. If Lampard can get these players into their best form going into the closing stages, they should have enough to stay up.
Their next fixture is away to an already-relegated Watford side, followed by back-to-back home matches against Brentford and Crystal Palace. None of these sides have anything to play for aside from personal pride.
They will be hoping to seal their survival in these three games, because they end the season with a trip to Arsenal. Getting a result at the Emirates Stadium is a far tougher task, especially if the Gunners haven’t already secured a top four spot.
League position: 17th
Goal difference: -17
Remaining fixtures: Tottenham Hotspur (A), Aston Villa (A), Newcastle United (H).
Record in reverse fixtures: 1 win, 0 draws, 2 defeats, 2 goals scored, 4 goals conceded.
When Burnley made the difficult choice to replace long-serving manager Sean Dyche, many considered that to be the final nail in the coffin.
But, to everyone’s surprise, interim boss Mike Jackson has turned their fortunes around, accumulating ten points from his five games in charge. In fact, only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool have won more points since Jackson’s arrival.
Despite this, the Clarets remain in deep trouble. With just three games to go, they are hovering just above the relegation zone on goal difference alone.
It is difficult to predict how many points they’ll get from their final three fixtures. First, they face Tottenham Hotspur away. At the time of writing, the Lilywhites are still battling for top four, but those hopes could end if they lose to Arsenal on Thursday.
After this, they travel to Aston Villa. Their season is effectively already over, but that didn’t stop them from taking all three points from their trip to Turf Moor over the weekend.
Finally, they end with a home clash against Newcastle United. The Magpies also have nothing to play for, but have enjoyed an encouraging 2022; since the turn of the year, only Liverpool and Man City have picked up more points.
League position: 18th
Goal difference: -35
Remaining fixtures: Chelsea (H), Brighton and Hove Albion (H), Brentford (A).
Record in reverse fixtures: 0 wins, 2 draws, 1 defeat, 4 goals scored, 5 goals conceded.
Back in February, Leeds United parted ways with manager Marcelo Bielsa. The Argentine was incredibly popular with the fans, but the results were concerning.
The consensus on Bielsa’s sacking was split. Some believed that he deserved the chance to keep them in the Premier League, while others felt like he had been found out and would have taken them down.
New boss Jesse Marsch came in with one simple objective: steer them away from the bottom three. If he couldn’t do this, Leeds’ board would have replaced a widely admired manager for nothing.
The American has earned more points-per-game this season than his predecessor, but has also taken them two places further down the table. As of now, it’s difficult to assess his time at Elland Road.
Going into the final fortnight, Leeds face two major issues. Firstly, they have conceded 74 goals this season – only Norwich City have shipped more. Secondly, they have a significantly worse goal difference than Everton and Burnley, giving their rivals a slight advantage.
Coming up for the Yorkshire club is a home game against Chelsea. The Blues are in mild danger of missing out on a top four spot, so will be aiming for three points to get over the line. However, they also have an FA Cup final three days later, which will likely take precedence.
They end the season with matches against Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford, both of whom are in fine form. The former have won four of their last six – including victories over Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United – while the latter have got 19 points from their previous nine games.
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