The 2014/15 season of the English Premier League has been one of the most memorable to date already, but as the season approaches its final weeks all eyes are not only on the top of the table but the relegation battle that is reaching a dramatic climax.
The Title Race Is Nearly Over
Chelsea appear to have the league title within their sights. The London club currently hold a 7 point advantage over the second-placed Arsenal with a game in hand on the Gunners. Jose Mourinho’s side have also got the advantage of no longer being in any other cup competitions so can remain purely focused on the league campaign without the distraction of the FA Cup that Arsene Wenger’s side must still deal with.
So with the league title appearing destined for Stamford Bridge in one of the most dominant Premier League campaigns since Manchester United won the title by a clear 18 points in the 1999/2000 season, the focus has switched to what has fast become one of the most intriguing survival battles in Premier League history.
Relegation is the Real Deal
It was only a matter of weeks ago that Leicester City, Burnley, and QPR were the firm favourites to be relegated straight back to the Championship having secured promotion to the Premier League just the previous season. However, a recent string of results in the league has turned the relegation fight on its head.
Leicester City have only suffered defeat twice in their last six games in a run that has also seen them win their last two games against West Brom and West Ham. Nigel Pearson’s side have shown for a while that they have the fighting spirit to stay up and they produced one of the results of the season back in September when they beat Manchester United 5-3 at home. This incredible run has seen the Foxes move from being favourites with the bookmakers to finish bottom of the table to now being ranked as fifth favourites for relegation at Evens. They have at least a game in hand on their rivals and they still have to face three teams in the bottom five places in their final seven games.
Can Dogged Dyche Save the Clarets?
Sean Dyche has earned credit for even giving Burnley a fighting chance at this stage of the season given how unexpected the club’s promotion from the Championship was last season and the limited budget he had to spend on new players in the summer. However, the former Watford manager has stunned critics by guiding Burnley to within 2 points of safety with just 6 league games to go. They have endured a tough last eight games that have consisted of every opposition side being placed in the top 8 but they have still taken 5 points from those fixtures to keep them in the hunt for survival. Bookmakers still fancy Burnley to be relegated at 8/13 but their run-in will be a lot easier on paper than the last 8 games against teams that are largely mid-table and will have little to play for except pride.
QPR’s Dream Could End in a Nightmare
It has been another season to forget for QPR fans in the Premier League. Their tenure under Harry Redknapp saw them struggle to find wins away from home and that is a trend that has continued under his replacement Chris Ramsey. The West London side are the firm 1/6 favourites to go down having suffered 6 defeats in their last 8 games conceding 16 goals in the process. It will be a big ask for QPR who are 2 points adrift and only have 5 games to play including two tough trips to Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Tigers Have Lost Their Roar
Hull City started this season full of optimism. Steve Bruce had guided them to one of their most successful seasons in the club’s history with a 16th place finish in their first season back in the Premier League plus a brave 3-2 FA Cup Final defeat against Arsenal. It all seemed to be going well this season too. Bruce appeared to have spent well in the summer and the club were looking certain to remain in the Premier League for another season. Unfortunately, the additions of Gaston Ramirez, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Abel Hernandez have not quite worked out as well as the club had hoped and early Europa League elimination quickly culled any morale boost that European action might offer. Things have only gotten worse as the season has progressed and bookmakers are now suggesting Bruce’s men are the third favourites behind QPR and Burnley to be relegated at 10/11 despite currently sitting 2 points above the relegation zone. Their run-in is the toughest out of the relegation candidates with Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United awaiting the Tigers in their final six games.
Has the Black Cats Luck Run Out?
It has also been another season of misery for Sunderland fans. Gus Poyet performed a miracle to save the Black Cats from relegation last season but the Uruguayan was sacked as their manager in March with Dutchman Dick Advocaat named as his replacement. There has been the odd glimmer of hope from Sunderland including a solid 1-0 win against local rivals Newcastle and a harsh 1-0 defeat to West Ham. However, they have also suffered a 4-0 hammering to Aston Villa and a 4-1 humiliation at the hands of Crystal Palace recently. Their obvious defensive frailties have come to the fore at the least convenient of times and with a last two games away to Arsenal and Chelsea, they will be hoping their survival has been sealed before then. They do remain 3 points ahead of the relegation zone and two more wins from their next four games could be enough to secure their place in the Premier League next season. It will be a close call and even the bookmakers cannot decide on Sunderland’s chances of survival offering Evens odds on them going down.
Will Another Team Get Dragged In?
These are the hard facts of the Premier League relegation battle for this season. It is one of the most widely contested survival fights in the league’s history and is almost guaranteed to go down to the last game of the season. Never before has the league been so tightly compact with so few games remaining plus there is the also the drama of a lot of the teams down the bottom still having to play each other.
Every season there is one team that gets sucked back into the relegation quagmire in the closing games but it is hard to see any of the teams above Sunderland being caught. Aston Villa are seemingly doing enough to pick up points now that they have found their scoring touch once again through Christian Benteke. Bookmakers rank them at just 10/1 to go down. West Brom, led by the experienced Tony Pulis, are currently positioned 14th and 7 points ahead of the relegation zone. It is hard to see them being dragged back into the mix and the bookmakers feel the same pricing the Baggies at 14/1 to be relegated. Newcastle are also on a terrible run with just 1 win in their last 9 games. It appears John Carver’s side are safe on 35 points with bookmakers listing them as the 80/1 outsiders to go down this season.
The Best Thing in Football? Hell Yes!
So much still hangs on the remaining matches and as the title race draws to an underwhelming close, the European places appear to be slowly finalising, and mid-table sides look forward to their summer holiday, the real attraction this season is at the wrong end of the table. This is not a matter of players on a pitch competing for trophies or glory. This is about much more. Players fighting for their very survival. Their pride at stake. Three teams will go down but right now there are realistically five teams that are all well and truly in the mix in what has fast become the most exciting battle in world football right now. It really is too close to call and we wouldn’t want it any other way.