Following Chelsea’s recent win and the remaining Champions League spots essentially decided, one will find much more competition between the teams at the bottom of the table.
At a glance, the bottom 7 seven teams enter the final month in some form of crisis: Newcastle, Hull City, Aston Villa, Leicester City, Sunderland, QPR and Burnley. Their survival hopes will be analysed below, followed by a prediction of how the bottom of the table will look like at the end of the month.
Newcastle: Despite being the current leader in the relegation battle, they have an interesting final four games that could be at best, profitable, or at worst make things more awkward for everyone. They start off away against Leicester City, who have shown great form in recent weeks. They then face West Brom, who will most likely fight for a win to completely ensure their own safety, as they will struggle to pick up any points from Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal. They will then be going away to yet another combatant, QPR, before finishing against West Ham, who will do them a favour if they beat Burnley and Aston Villa on their way to St James’ Park.
Hull City: Currently on a 2 game winning streak, the Tigers are somewhat unlucky to facing Arsenal at the start of their six-game barrage, where teams such as Sunderland may be able to steal points from a fatigued side. They’ll want to hit Burnley hard the following game in order to recover any lost goal difference, as their final games against Tottenham and Man United, still fighting to ensure European competition, won’t be easy.
Aston Villa: While they start off against the mid table Everton and West Ham, they will need as many points as possible prior to their game against Southampton, who will not relent in their chase for Europa League football, before ending their premier league campaign against a Burnley side who may or may not already be relegated on the day. Like Wigan two years ago, they are tasked with winning the FA cup against a top four side whilst fighting relegation. Perhaps they will be able to do better than Wigan, who were relegated upon lifting the cup.
Leicester City: Having not being able to take advantage of their game in hand against imminent champions Chelsea, the Foxes remain deeply rooted in the battle, starting off against a worried Newcastle and a Southampton side that will look to go on a winning streak after fighting their rivals for Europe, Tottenham, for a point. However, Leicester seem to be blessed with having a key say in the battle with matches against Sunderland and QPR, who are highly likely to drop points against the top 8 teams they will face.
Sunderland: Despite having a game in hand, their final games will be anything but easy. Their gap of three points could easily close when they host European hopefuls Southampton before going away to Everton. They then host currently in form Leicester City (ignoring the recent loss to Chelsea, where they were the better team in the first half), which will probably be the relegation blockbuster, given their current positions in the league, before two cruel away fixtures against a most likely fatigued Arsenal side that they may be able to steal a point from and the ever-consistent Chelsea.
QPR: I don’t know if it’s possible to make life any harder for Chris Ramsey’s men. Following a most likely fall at Anfield to a Liverpool side looking to prove themselves after a loss to Hull City and get into Europe, they go away to Man City before hosting a Newcastle side that can’t afford to lose, all before facing Leicester City, who are unlikely to take pity on them after a pressure filled game against Sunderland.
Burnley: Despite residing at the very bottom with the worst goal difference in the league, they still have a realistic chance of coming 17th, given their generally nicer final matches in comparison to other potential relegation survivors. Since they were able to beat Man City and draw against Tottenham a few weeks back, perhaps they could hope to grab some points away at West Ham and, more importantly, Hull City, before facing Stoke City, who can mathematically just about sneak into the Europa League – as long as the four teams ahead of them fall on great misfortune. They then face Aston Villa, who may or may not have to go all out to ensure they stay in the top flight.
After speculating over the final month of the season, the predicted final places are as follows:
14th: Newcastle (or potentially West Brom)
15th: Leicester City
16th: Hull City
17th: Aston Villa