By Antony Jordan
Although it is not mathematically certain that Aston Villa are relegated from the Premier League, the fact that they are 12 points from safety with just 21 points left for the side from Birmingham left to achieve. In addition to the fact that they have claimed just 16 points from 31 matches this season leads us to believe that they will be relegated to the second tier for the first time in more than four decades.
William Hill are so sure of the fact that the Midlanders are gone that they are not offering odds on them to be relegated, but they believe that it could be a number of other sides that join Aston Villa in relegation. In our EPL Relegation Picks, we preview the field of play with so few games left to play. Who’ll be playing in The Championship in the 2016/17 season?
The tale of the tape for The Magpies this season reads six victories, seven draws and 17 defeats as they come into the final stretch of the season having collected 25 points. They have seen two managers leave as the saviour of the club last season, John Carver who kept the side up on the final day of the 2014/15 season, was let go at the start of June to be replaced by Steve McClaren on July 2nd. However, the former England boss was fired with the team in relegation trouble at the start of March and he was replaced by former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez.
The biggest issue that the club has had is the lack of goals as their 29 goals netted this season is second lowest only to Aston Villa and even though they have not set the world alight returning to the top flight in 2010 with Demba Ba’s 16 goals in the 2011/12 season being the most goals netted in a season, Georginio Wijnaldum’s nine goals this campaign shows how they are struggling to find the net. This number is even more damning as only Ayoze Pérez (six), Aleksandar Mitrovic (six) and last season’s top goalscorer with 11 goals Papiss cissé (two goals) are the only players to score more than a single goal this season!
Top this off with the fact that they have conceded the joint second worst number goals in 55 and have kept just five clean sheets in 30 matches leaves them in a precarious position in remaining in the top flight. Benitez has added more steel to the side with much better performance since taking charge to see greatly improved against Leicester and Sunderland, despite losing 1-0 and drawing 1-1 respectively.
They will certainly need to continue this form over their final eight games while coaxing goals from their top scoring trio and adding goals from the rest of the squad in the games they will be targeting for points. These games will be away at Norwich and Aston Villa next weekend and the penultimate weekend of the league as well home to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace in the final game of April. Matches away at Southampton and Liverpool as well as home to Man City, Tottenham and Swansea will be much, much tougher for them to get what they need to survive, but can Rafa get the goals he needs to keep The Magpies up?
While The Black Cats may be a point better off than their local rivals, they are still fancied just as much as Newcastle to be plying their trade in The Championship next season. However, unlike the team in black and white who have appointed a manager who is used to challenging for titles, they have a veteran of relegation battles in charge at The Stadium of Light in Sam Allardyce and Big Sam is slowly guiding Sunderland to safety.
They are the ‘form’ side at the bottom of the table coming into this final charge in April and May as they have won three and drawn five of their last 11 EPL clashes to sit just two points from safety, and had Norwich not claimed four points in their last two games things would be much cheerier for Sunderland. If they are to continue to push upwards in the league towards safety then they will need 12 goal striker Jermaine Defoe to keep firing goals in as they have a tough set of fixtures remaining to stay in the top flight.
At home they welcome West Brom, Leicester, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton whilst facing road trips to Stoke, Watford and the biggest of all relegation six-pointers at Norwich. Arguably, despite their good recent set of results, Sunderland may not pick up another point at home all season and this puts a serious amount of pressure on a side that has lost ten of 16 away games this season.
The next three matches for Norwich will be vital in deciding if they stay in the Premier League or return to The Championship at the first time of asking as they face all three of their closest relegation rivals. First up is home to Newcastle, then away at Crystal Palace and home to Sunderland and if they can win two, or even all three, of these games they’ll be safe for another season, especially considering that they are unlikely to get any further points as they are away at Arsenal and Everton, and welcome Man United and Watford to Carrow Road.
The biggest disadvantage that they have is that they are just two points above Sunderland and three above Newcastle having played an extra game so defeat in these upcoming trio of matches will spell disaster for Alex Neill and The Canaries. They have roughly the same goals scored and conceded as those teams around them in the fight to avoid the drop, but with their top scorer being midfielder Nathan Redmond with five goals – only one of which has come since October – things are looking bleak.
If we’d have written this article about sides possibly getting relegated on the 2015 side of Christmas then Palace would be nowhere near the list of sides spoken about as they ended the first part of the season fifth in the table. They then had 31 points from 19 games and were right on the tails of the current top four sides in the EPL, but the 11 matches in 2016 have seen no wins and just two points for Palace as they sit seven points above the drop zone at this point in time.
These 11 games have seen 24 goals conceded and while they have scored in seven of their last eight clashes they are not playing with confidence and are looking in trouble. They too have a difficult looking run of fixtures to come with matches against West Ham, Everton, Arsenal, Man United and Southampton likely to see them concede and lose games. They must beat both Norwich and Newcastle or they will be desperately be looking over their shoulders at what is to come, but can a side that has not won since December 19th find a way to claim all three points?
EPL Relegation Picks Final Thoughts:
With Villa already down and thanks to Swansea finding some form recently, it is realistically going to be two of these four sides that will find themselves in the second tier next season, but who?
Newcastle’s lack of goals will cost them as will the tough schedules for Sunderland and Norwich while Palace’s lack of confidence will see them dragged into the middle of this fight very quickly.
Newcastle will become a tighter side under Rafa Benitez’s stewardship while Sunderland have the best striker of all from these four sides and while they face a tough run of games having Defoe may help snatch some extra points. Norwich’s battle will depend on their next three games against their relegation foes and Palace are going downwards only.
Who are we backing though? We see Palace losing more games and seeing their price come in and, while they may not go down, they are the pick of the four sides in this relegation battle while we are also spying Sunderland’s fixture list seeing them relegated as Newcastle and Norwich stay above them. If Palace do stay in the league it will be Norwich that joins The Black Cats in The Championship next season.
Our top EPL Picks on the relegation battle are:
Back Crystal Palace to be relegated @ 13.00 with William Hill
Back Sunderland for relegation at odds of 1.40 in the William Hill Sportsbook