Avoiding the drop to the Championship is of paramount importance to teams in the Premier League. The Championship is a tough league, with more games, less TV revenue and lower fan turnout (unless you’re Newcastle United). Although there are parachute payments and support available for relegated teams, nothing can be done to remedy damaged egos and the loss of players who don’t want to slog it out for a season in a lower league.
In an unusual but not unsurprising twist, all eyes are now on the bottom of the Premier League table as we head into the second half of the season. The bottom half has never been so tight and as of the 6th of February, only three points separate Hull City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Middlesbrough. Quite literally anyone in that group could be relegated at this stage and even the teams in 13th and 14th aren’t safe with both Southampton and Bournemouth only 5 points ahead of the trailing group, meaning a tough job to predict the drop for both the pundits and the bookies and there are still some great odds available on each of the bottom six teams.
Relegation battle regulars Sunderland haven’t looked good all season and it took them until the start of February to beat anyone convincingly, with a 4-0 away win over fellow underachievers Crystal Palace. Moyes and Big Sam cannot seem to get their players to perform, despite decent squads and respectable resources available to them in both the January and summer transfer windows. Allardyce has a history of either getting clubs out of trouble (see Sunderland in 2015) or sowing the seeds for clubs who were doing OK previously to have a tremendous fall from grace (See Newcastle 2009, Blackburn Rovers 2012). Palace looked good at the start of the season with the signings of Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend, but Alan Pardew’s inept management and eventual sacking may have created too big a problem for Allardyce to remedy.
Hull City were nailed on for relegation at the start of the season after losing key players and becoming reliant on their youth squad. They seem to be one of the only teams putting up a fight however, registering wins against Liverpool and Bournemouth recently. Players like Robert Snodgrass are really pulling their weight at the moment, but if injuries and fitness start to become issues as they usually due late in the season, Hull don’t look like they have enough depth to keep afloat.
Swansea, Middlesbrough and Leicester are all sitting on 21 points, with Leicester experiencing an incredible but half-expected fall from grace after lifting the title last season. Star players from last term Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy haven’t found form and extra Champions League games mean the foxes have had a tough season so far. Swansea were expected to struggle after sacking Bob Bradley after only 85 days and Middlesbrough are experiencing a tough return to the Premier League despite solid performances from Manchester City reject Alvaro Negredo. These three seem to be most likely to stay up based on current availability and remaining fixtures.
Betting on which three teams will be on their way down is pretty much ‘finger in the air’ at the moment, so there are still some great odds available on each of the bottom six teams. It will be interesting to see if the big names can start performing or if the underdogs can dig their way out in the last few games of the season.