The Premier League relegation run-in: Newcastle United and their drop rivals fixtures, form and prospects assessed
After the weekend results the race to Premier League survival went from a two-horse one to arguably five again.
Unexpected back-to-back wins for West Brom and Sam Allardyce has seen them pull themselves back into the top flight survival reckoning, just, while Newcastle United’s win over Burnley has managed to pull in the Clarets and Brighton and Hove Albion, who’d both previously looked as safe as houses.
So who goes and who remains, two of the below five will drop and three will stay. Here our writers Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin look at what each side has left and make their predictions, including on whether Steve Bruce’s Magpies will start next season in the Championship or the Premier League.
West Bromwich Albion – current position 19th – points 24 – games remaining 7
FIXTURES: Leicester City (a), Aston Villa (a), Wolverhampton Wanderers (h), Arsenal (a), Liverpool (h), West Ham United (h), Leeds United (a).
Liam Kennedy’s view: “We’ve all been wondering when the Allardyce-factor would kick in, and it has done in the last two. But is it too late? Logic would say yes, but you just never know. Their goal difference, which is considerably worse than others around them could be a deciding factor. Three Midlands derbies (Leicester is a push, I know) will prove crucial. Lose to Brendan Rodgers & Co a week on Thursday and things start to look bleak for the Baggies.”
Jordan Cronin’s view: “I’ll admit, I was guilty of completely forgetting about West Brom but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Interestingly, after back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Southampton, Sam Allardyce’s side now averaged the same points per game (1.37) as Fulham and they’ve played one game less. The Baggies are probably one more win away from being within striking distance, so there is definite potential for them to make things interesting...”
Fulham – current position 18th – points 26 – games remaining 6
FIXTURES: Arsenal (a), Chelsea (a), Burnley (h), Southampton (a), Manchester United (a), Newcastle United (h).
Liam Kennedy’s view: “Fulham probably have to win both of their matches against Burnley and Southampton, as well as probably get something against one of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United to make sure the last day means something. It is a tall order and you do have to wonder how much that Aston Villa defeat has taken out of the Cottagers at the business end of the campaign.”
Jordan Cronin’s view: “Last weekend was an absolute killer for Fulham and Scott Parker will do very well to pick his players up after that. Losing in the last minute, Mario Lemina crying on the pitch, Newcastle winning at Burnley. On three occasions, they’ve blown to jump out the relegation zone. When Newcastle play Leicester and Man City back-to-back, Fulham face Burnley and Southampton. Another opportunity could easily come Fulham’s way but I very much doubt they’ll take it based on recent events.”
Newcastle United – current position 17th – points 32 – games remaining 7
FIXTURES: West Ham United (h), Liverpool (a), Arsenal (h), Leicester City (a), Manchester City (h), Sheffield United (h), Fulham (a).
Liam Kennedy’s view: “Newcastle are NOT safe and they arguably have one of the toughest runs of any of the teams in the fight with the next five teams all likely to be in European competition next season, or were this. However, points are on their side and you’d have to think, should they get something in the next three games – for example win one of that trio, with Arsenal at home one to potentially target – the last two games will be a whole lot more comfortable than they might otherwise be.”
Jordan Cronin’s view: “My hearts say yes, Newcastle will be fine. My head says no, it’s far from over. The mentality of this football club tells fans not to expect anything from Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester or Man City but why shouldn’t they?
Burnley, Brighton and Fulham have gone to Anfield and won. Arsenal aren’t anything special at the moment. Leicester often have a wobbler at this stage in the season. Bruce needs to go into games with some belief. Simply save us the drama, pick up some points and maybe, just maybe, be all-but safe by the time Sheffield United visit St James’s Park. It’s wishful thinking though, isn’t it? Newcastle United never do it the easy way.”
Burnley – current position 16th – points 33 – games remaining 7
FIXTURES: Manchester United (a), Wolverhampton Wanderers (a), West Ham United (h), Fulham (a), Leeds United (h), Liverpool (h), Sheffield United (a).
Liam Kennedy’s view: “Things might get worse before they get better for Burnley with the next three looking a little tricky. They’re all tricky when you’re out of form, I suppose. They should be OK, though, they normally are. Have both Fulham and Sheffield United to play, like United.”
Jordan Cronin’s view: “Every time I watch Burnley they’re pretty poor but Sean Dyche has always managed to accumulate enough points for survival.
"Dyche has been up against it this season with no money spent, I think one senior player arrived and that was Dale Stephens from Brighton, so he’s actually done OK in the circumstances, bearing in mind they had an awful start too.
"Burnley have been here and I’m sure they will fancy their chances of coming out on the right side.”
Brighton and Hove Albion – current position 15th – points 33 – games remaining 7
FIXTURES: Chelsea (a), Sheffield United (a), Leeds United (h), Wolverhampton Wanderers (a), West Ham United (h), Manchester City (h), Arsenal (a).
Liam Kennedy’s view: “You could argue this is the toughest run in of the lot. But on 33 points Brighton might only need another three points to guarantee safety. Sheffield United at home is the only real gimme left on their list, with Wolves another they will be looking to pick up points. The Seagulls are going to be an interesting watch between now and the end of the season. And will be even more so, if they fail to get anything against Chelsea and then Sheffield United. That final three games looks TOUGH.”
Jordan Cronin’s view: “Brighton, I think, are one of the most bizarre Premier League teams in a long time.
"All the attacking stats – except goals scored – point towards a team competing in the top half, yet here they are, battling relegation.
"Credit to Graham Potter though, he’s implemented a very attractive style of play and while it hasn’t got the club to where they want to be yet, they’ll learn from it and be stronger for it in the top-flight next season.”
Who out of the five goes down? The verdict
LIAM KENNEDY’S BOTTOM THREE: Sheffield United, West Brom, Fulham.
“I think it’ll be as you were. I’d be surprised if West Brom’s bump continues beyond Leicester and Fulham are hurting. Brighton might get pulled in. I could see them finishing fourth bottom but importantly I think Newcastle will finish at least three points above the dropzone.”
JORDAN CRONIN’S BOTTOM THREE: Sheffield United, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion.
"I’m not sure if I’m being completely naive here but I do believe Fulham are ‘done for’. It’d take a drastic change over the next month to right the wrongs they’ve produced in 32 games already. West Brom are threatening to be what Fulham were a few weeks ago, a team fighting tooth and nail to stay up but unfortunately for Big Sam, it’s probably too little, too late. I don’t think Newcastle are totally out the question but the fitness of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson can alone safe Bruce’s bacon.”