The race for the Premier League title may be already won with Liverpool the equivalent of seven wins ahead of their rivals, but at the other end of the table, things are far from settled.

 

With 13 games to go, no one in the bottom half of the Premier League can truly say they are out of trouble – with 11th-placed Burnley still only seven points above the drop, and 13 ahead of bottom side Norwich.

Further down the table, five teams are separated by just three points and one – West Ham – go head to head with champions Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday from 4pm; Kick-off at 4.30pm.

Collectively, the relegation landscape could not be more congested – and it would appear that the old adage of hitting the magical 40-point mark may well apply this season for the first time in a decade.

Birmingham were relegated with 39 points during the 2010/11 season. That year, Wolves finished 17th with 40 points – they had 24 points after 25 games that season, one fewer than 17th-placed Aston Villa have now.

The previous time a team needed 40-plus points to survive was in 2002/03 when West Ham were relegated in 18th with 42 points. Bolton finished 17th that year with 44 points, and they had 20 points after 25 games.

With rock-bottom Norwich still not totally out of contention on 17 points, could we be heading for the most dramatic, unpredictable relegation battle in Premier League history? We assess the endangered clubs, the key fixtures, and what might seal their fate…

10. Arsenal (31 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Although it seems unlikely, Arsenal’s woeful season has left them level on points with three sides concerned about the drop – so they cannot be overlooked completely.

Add in the fact they have won the same number of games as 18th-placed West Ham this season, and their form to date looks even less impressive.

Of the teams below them, only Crystal Palace have conceded fewer goals, but they are not exactly firing on all cylinders going forwards – and have found the back of the net the same number of times as Aston Villa.

What could decide their fate? Little more than Mikel Arteta, most likely. The new head coach has already overseen an improvement on the pitch but a succession of draws – four in a row in fact – have hindered their rise up the table.

Ultimately, barring one of the most shocking collapses of a major side in Premier League history, Arsenal will be safe – but given the points tally they have amassed to date, they are not out of the woods yet.

11. Burnley (31 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? A run of seven points from their last three games has lifted the Clarets away from the relegation zone, but Sean Dyche’s side have shown a streaky nature this season which they will hope does not turn south again before the end of the campaign.

Prior to their three-game unbeaten run, Burnley had lost seven of their previous nine games, and were looking perilously close to the drop.

Further back, this is the Clarets’ longest unbeaten run since early October, and only a bright start – which lifted them to fifth in the early weeks of the season – is keeping them out of danger as things stand.

What could decide their fate? In the 13 games where Burnley have picked up points this season, they have kept clean sheets in nine. Dyche has always built his sides on solid foundations, and when they have crumbled, as in the early part of last season, the Clarets have looked in big trouble.

That defensive stoutness makes their lack of goals – only 28 in 25 games so far – less of a concern, but seven in their last 10 games is still a worry.

Any injuries to Chris Wood, who has contributed more than a third of their overall goal tally with 10, or defensive regulars Ben Mee or James Tarkowski may play a big part in their fortunes and survival hopes.

12. Newcastle (31 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Newcastle struggle to score. They have relied on a relatively watertight defence this season, barring a couple of notable indiscretions like their 4-0 hammering at Leicester and a 4-1 reverse at Manchester United, but just as it has for the last few seasons, Newcastle’s backline has played a huge part in their season.

Whether that solidity remains is no guarantee and without it, Steve Bruce’s side may come up short as they are the third-lowest scorers in the Premier League this season, and have scored only five goals in their last eight games.

What could decide their fate? Clean sheets. Failing to add a striker in January and with Joelinton struggling to find the net regularly, Newcastle are arguably more reliant on a stoic defence than any other team in the relegation picture – and now the Brazilian, their only fit striker, has found himself injured too, after picking up a knock in the Magpies’ FA Cup win at Oxford on Tuesday.

The arrival of Danny Rose, a Champions League finalist less than a year ago, could aid with that hope, but ultimately a lack of goals could easily end up being their downfall, something all the more frustrating for Newcastle fans given their lack of forward investment in the window.

13. Southampton (31 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? The third side locked on the same number of points in the bottom half of the table, Southampton are arguably the best-placed of all the sides in the bottom half of the table to avoid the drop.

They have enjoyed a remarkable run of form over the last couple of months, from looking in real trouble on the night of their 9-0 home defeat by Leicester in late October, to within five points of sixth-placed Sheffield United even after a 4-0 reverse at Liverpool this weekend.

That result was nothing to worry about for Ralph Hasenhuttl but a 3-2 home defeat by Wolves, especially from 2-0 up, was a more pressing reminder the Austrian manager and his side are not out of the woods yet.

What could decide their fate? The form of England Euro 2020 hopeful Danny Ings, who is enjoying his most impressive season to date spearheading the Saints’ attack.

Momentum will also play a big part – of the sides in and among it, Southampton have form on their side to suggest they can beat the drop, and maybe even end with a season to remember if they can push towards a European place.

It was their performance in the second half of the season which kept them up in 2018/19, but equally, they have shown under Hasenuttl they are capable of going on long runs of poor form with little end in sight – so their mentality in bouncing back from defeats will be crucial.

14. Crystal Palace (30 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Roy Hodgson has not minced his words about his disappointment that Crystal Palace did not do more business in January, with little investment beyond the loan arrival of out-of-favour Everton forward Cenk Tosun.

That leaves him another transfer window on with largely the same squad as he had before, after only minor additions in the summer too. The former England boss has worked his magic with the Eagles before but as the Premier League’s lowest scorers, this iteration is, like Newcastle, overly reliant on a defence lacking depth.

What could decide their fate? The shortage of goals is a big problem for Hodgson, and Palace need to start finding some wins. Their victory against West Ham over Christmas is still their only win in their last 11 Premier League matches, but equally, they have taken points off Manchester City and Arsenal in the last month.

It says a lot that Palace have only scored in one of their nine Premier League defeats this season, and only managed more than a single goal themselves seven times across 25 games.

Their relatively solid away form which impressed during 2018/19 has contributed to almost half of their 30-point haul, unsurprisingly thanks to a watertight defence. They will need it to stay that way to keep their heads above water.

15. Brighton (26 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Graham Potter’s start impressed the Brighton hierarchy so much they gave him a new long-term contract less than six months into his first deal – but things have stalled at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton have won only one of their last 10 Premier League games, a long shot from moving into the top eight on the back of a 2-0 win over Norwich back in early November.

A 3-3 draw at West Ham on Saturday, from 3-1 down, was a welcome show of resolve from Potter’s players but they need to tighten up a defence which has kept only one clean sheet since that Norwich win.

Potter spent more than £20m in the summer on the Seagulls’ backline and while his side have improved the style of football on display on the south coast, it will count for little if their leaky defence sends them down.

What could decide their fate? Brighton can start their survival campaign with a win against 19th-placed Watford this Saturday, but more generally their defence – including Lewis Dunk, who was linked with Manchester City this week, and Adam Webster, who cost £20m only six months ago – needs to improve.

They cannot afford to keep having such a porous defence, though; they have conceded two or more goals in 12 games, almost half of the full list they have played, this season – and picked up only eight points in that time.

16. Bournemouth (26 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Bournemouth’s own Eddie Howe publicly questioned his own ability to arrest the team’s shocking decline across the winter months but two wins on the spin have lifted them two points clear of the bottom three and, tentatively, looking up the table.

Prior to those back-to-back victories, they had picked up only four points since November 2, and are still well in danger with three of the teams below them beating them in consecutive games this calendar year already.

In previous years Bournemouth have produced some of the most exciting games in the Premier League, but having improved their goals against column, they have suffered at the other end of the pitch, and scored only 25 in as many games.

What could decide their fate? Injuries will play a big part in an already thin squad at Howe’s disposal. He has suffered the absence of big-name players including Nathan Ake, Chris Mepham, Callum and Harry Wilson during the season so far, and has not had the strength in depth to replace them adequately, with 34-year-old right-back Simon Francis having to play as an emergency centre-back at times.

17. Aston Villa (25 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? A lack of bodies. Aston Villa have suffered injuries in key areas like none of their relegation rivals.

Despite almost matching Manchester United as the highest spenders in the summer transfer window with a £144.5m outlay, they have still found themselves short and were even forced to bring in Swansea squad player Borja Baston as attacking back-up on Deadline Day, only days after signing Tanzania forward Mbwana Samatta.

Villa’s £22m club-record signing Wesley and first-choice goalkeeper Tom Heaton will not feature again this season after both suffered knee ligament damage in the 2-1 win over Burnley on New Year’s Day.

They join the influential John McGinn on the sidelines, with the Scot absent for up to three months with a fractured ankle. The arrival of Danny Drinkwater on loan from Chelsea will, Dean Smith must hope, inspire them forward-wise because no other side in the Premier League has conceded as many goals as the Villans – so a strong end to the season is needed at both ends of the pitch

What could decide their fate? Or more accurately, who? Jack Grealish has taken his game to another level in the past couple of months and an England call-up must surely only be a matter of time.

A slow start to the campaign by his own admittance, the 24-year-old has grown into his role as Villa’s talisman, and his display in the victory over Burnley was his most complete yet in the Premier League.

Keeping hold of him in January was a major objective for Smith and one he completed, and Grealish’s goals and creativity will play a big part in staying up.

18. West Ham (24 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? In September West Ham were dreaming of Europe, now they are desperate to stay in the Premier League. A winter of discontent at the London Stadium has put paid to the careers of manager Manuel Pellegrini and goalkeeper Roberto, who have both departed east London – but the new man in the hotseat, David Moyes, has not enjoyed a much better start.

Since beating Bournemouth 4-0 on New Year’s Day, West Ham have picked up two points from five games and threw away a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 with Brighton on Saturday. Things do not look to be getting much better either, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea their next seven games.

They have conceded 11 goals in that time, having shipped 43 all season – the fourth-worst tally in the division – and only Norwich have lost more games during the campaign. Momentum is not on Moyes or the Hammers’ side.

What could decide their fate? The defence. It seems obvious, but it’s doubly true for West Ham – of the six games they have won, they have kept clean sheets in five.

The arrival of Jarrod Bowen in January could provide a springboard at the other end of the pitch, as the Hammers had scored only twice in their previous five league games before Saturday’s 3-3 with Brighton.

But without getting anything out of that horrible run of games up until early April, Moyes’ team look in big trouble.

19. Watford (23 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? The incredible upturn under Nigel Pearson has stuttered in their last two games, throwing away leads at Aston Villa and at home to Everton to end pointless on both occasions.

That will worry Pearson. The atmosphere of optimism around Vicarage Road is looking a little more fragile now, and facing Manchester United and Liverpool after visiting Brighton this weekend looks an uphill task.

Watford kept four clean sheets in six games in the early days of Pearson’s reign but have now shipped four in their last two, and while they have had no problem with scoring since the return of Troy Deeney, they need to tighten up at the back.

What could decide their fate? How they bounce back from this mini-blip, their first under Pearson, will play a big part. Their fine run of form was enough to get them back in contention to stay up after a dreadful opening four months of the season, but now they need to build on it or face a first season back in the Championship since 2015.

Regaining that defensive solidity, which is very much Pearson’s raison d’etre, will prove important, and picking up points on the road may be equally crucial with Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City and Southampton all yet to visit Vicarage Road.

20. Norwich (18 points from 25 games)

Why could they go down? Simply put, they are seven points from safety. Things are looking tough for Daniel Farke’s inexperienced side, especially given the injuries they have suffered this season – but they are not out of it just yet.

Five points from as many games mean a good run of form could propel Norwich towards survival, but it’s precisely that consistency they are lacking.

They have only managed consecutive games unbeaten twice this season, and their four wins to date are spread fairly evenly across the six months of the season to date.

What could decide their fate? Norwich strengthened in January with the additions of Lucas Rupp and Ondrej Duda, which has coincided with their upturn in form. But they will need at least one run of consistency to beat the drop, and aside from West Ham and Brighton, the lowest side to visit Carrow Road before the end of the season is 13th-placed Southampton.

A tough away calendar, with visits to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Wolves makes survival look even tougher for Daniel Farke’s side.

Could it take a record points tally?

Maybe. Back in 2002/03, when 44 points were required to beat the drop, the team in 17th at this stage of the season, Bolton, had only 21 – four fewer than Aston Villa this time around.

Villa’s tally is the highest points tally a team teetering above the brink has had at this stage of a season since 2011, when West Brom hovered over the drop with 26, and that season ended with 40 points being the marker for survival.

Norwich’s relative gap to the rest of the chasing pack skews the grouping in the bottom half of the table – while only eight points separate 10th from 19th, Norwich’s season performance has them even five points further back.

The difference from mid-table to the bottom of the league is still fairly routine at this stage, however – Norwich are, in fact, the fifth-highest point scorers for a 20th-placed side at this stage of a season over the past decade; the lower half of the Premier League is about as competitive as you would expect, on average, with 25 games gone.

Who are the bookies backing?

Norwich remain hot favourites to end their stay in the Premier League after just one season. The Canaries are currently 1/12 to make an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa are 10/11 to be relegated following their spate of injuries, with Bournemouth third most likely at 5/4.

(c) Sky Sports 2020: Premier League relegation battle assessed: Who is going down?