Now or never for Premier League’s relegation battling clubs
This season’s Premier League relegation battle is set to go right down to the final day, with clubs facing the daunting drop now needing to finally sink or swim in what could potentially be their final top-flight fixtures for another term.
Sean Dyche’s Clarets currently lie haplessly at rock-bottom of the top-tier, having now gone six league games without a victory since stunningly toppling last season’s champions Manchester City.
For much of the current campaign, following automatic promotion, battling Burnley have looked very much like a Championship side contesting the big boys, showing great drive and determination but lacking a killer instinct and ability to hold out for vital results.
Although, rarely have Dyche’s men been completely turned over, having been beaten by three or more goals on just two occasions this league term, with their worst result being a 4-0 thrashing by West Bromwich Albion in only their sixth top-flight fixture since promotion last year.
Burnley will face an immediate return to the second tier if a triumph over Hull City (11/4 with Coral) is not achieved in their next clash, with Dyche claiming financial restrictions were the key aspect of his side’s domestic downfall.
“Two and a half years ago the club was coming out of Premier League money and all it brings. It brings some challenges. They wanted to learn about that and wanted a different way,” said Dyche.
“I have made them aware this is a really tough challenge and to spend so little money and have such a low wage bill.”
Asked what the club could have done in hindsight, the Scot added: “Got the chequebook out.”
Leicester City have endured a troublesome campaign, spending the majority of their return to the big time bottom of the league table, but a recent revival has boosted hopes of securing their top-flight status.
Controversial boss Nigel Pearson has found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this term, for bust-ups both on the sideline and during media duties, but this has only taken pressure off the Foxes’ attempts to stay up.
Leicester have shown great character in previous weeks, earning more Premier League points in their last six fixtures than they had previously won from August last year up to March. They may find it’s a great time to play Southampton who have won just once in five outings, with the Foxes 8/5 to secure another triumph.
Newcastle United may possess on of the most passionate followings in the country, but the Geordie club are never short of controversy or turmoil, especially this season.
Before the turn of the New Year, the Toon faithful angrily vented their frustration towards former boss Alan Pardew and, having been in 10th position and just five points adrift of a European place under his watch, they have dropped to 15th place and only two points above danger.
It seems the Tyneside outfit are learning that the grass isn’t always greener, with Pardew guiding Crystal Palace to safety, while current coach John Carver will look to overturn their worst ever top-flight run of eight consecutive defeats against the Baggies (8/5 to win) in order to avoid an embarrassing drop down divisions.
Chris Ramsey’s side have struggled all season since promotion via the play-offs, with the R’s winning just one of their last 10 games and dropping six points behind Sunderland, who have four games remaining in contrast to QPR’s three.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Loftus Road outfit, as they are about to find out, with recently dethroned former champions City next up in a troublesome run-in (12/1 for victory) which also includes Newcastle and Leicester.
Hull and Sunderland struggles
Both the Tigers and Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland are desperately fighting the drop, with Hull currently in 17th and the Black Cats stuttering a place below. Of all the relegation-threatened sides, these two strugglers arguably have the toughest run-in.
Steve Bruce can oversee Burnley’s immediate return to the Championship with a win at the KC Stadium (even-odds), before turning attentions to Tottenham and Manchester United, who are sure to be scrapping for a Champions League place on the final day.
Meanwhile, Sunderland hold a game in hand over their relegation rivals with matches against Everton and Leicester their most likely chances of points, as Arsenal and Chelsea await them in the final two fixtures.