Avoiding the Premier League drop-zone

Niño Paulo Gacusana Niño Paulo Gacusana

Everyone loves a good old title battle, with the likes of Manchester City and United, and if United can’t beat City this weekend, Jose Mourinho might as well drive the bus home to Porto.

Unlike title battles, relegation battles are almost always decided on the last matchday, and it looks like we’ll get another thrilling finish at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season.

Currently, the three clubs in the drop zone are West Brom, Swansea and Southampton, and lurking just above them are Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, and Swansea. With just a handful of matches left, these six teams must do everything in their power to stay in the richest league in the world.

West Brom vs. Swansea

The Baggies are in a fortunate situation of having the easiest match this week as they face fellow strugglers Swansea at home. West Brom are coming off an especially terrible run of form lately, losing eight consecutive matches. While you could perhaps forgive them for losing 3-0 both to Manchester City and Chelsea, recent defeats to the likes of Bournemouth and at home at Burnley have to hurt.  West Brom can rely on Salomon Rondon, who’s usually reliable at home, scoring at least once in their past two matches.

As for Swansea, they do want to get away from the bottom third of the table, and the best time for that to happen is with a convincing win against the Magpies. Unlike their opponents though, the Swans are in a better run of form, with their only losses against Manchester United and Brighton, both away from Liberty Stadium. They’re on the road this time though, and it could be a tricky tie as a bad result could leave them tantalisingly close to the drop zone.

Stoke vs. Spurs

Stoke are in a stuck between a rock and a hard place, with a match against Spurs. They are 7 points above West Brom, and just 1 point behind Southampton. Their opponents, who have not lost since that famous 1-4 loss at Manchester City, and coming off a first win at Stamford Bridge in 28 years, the Potters must have been grasping at straws thinking about how to stop the red-hot Spurs. The Potters have not won since January when they beat Huddersfield at home, and unless they somehow start scoring more goals, they are bound to have a hard time. Even if they score first, it still won’t be easy for Stoke.

Arsenal vs. Southampton

Stoke don’t have to be that down though, as Southampton also face long odds against the Gunners. This will be the 20th match since the Saints won against Everton, and they only won one league since, against West Brom. The Saints have lost consecutive games 3-0 against West Ham and Newcastle, so it seems that Mark Hughes is still adjusting to his new job, while facing Arsenal at the Emirates. Not an enviable job, if you ask anyone.

Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace

It’s not all doom and gloom for the teams in danger of playing in the Championship next season. While the Eagles have, on paper, a match against a team from the top half of the league, Bournemouth, it is a deceivingly fair match-up. Palace have won just five points since a January win against Burnley, though, and Bournemouth is a sleeper team with wins against Chelsea, Stoke and West Brom. So yes, aside from Chelsea, nothing to chew for that much, but they drew against Leicester and Watford, and they have barged into the top half of the table without anyone noticing. Palace will be hoping that Wilfred Zaha is back in form, as they need every bit of help they can get to be totally safe by the time all matches are played this weekend.

Brighton vs. Huddersfield

Huddersfield Town and Brighton know each other all too well, being two of the three promoted teams from the Championship. In fact all three promoted teams are doing rather well. By “well” meaning they’re not in the drop zone this late into the season. Huddersfield Town is the club in the worst shape of the three though as they are just three points above the relegation zone. The Terriers haven’t won in March, with their last league win, against West Brom, coming in February, but an away win would put them level on points with the Seagulls. Town had a sorry loss against Newcastle last week, with an 80th minute goal from Ayoze Perez, but Brighton aren’t in any better form, losing 2-0 in their last two games. The last time Town were in Brighton, they lost 1-0, but they should look forward to a better result this time.

You’re probably asking how these teams will be faring at the end of the matchday. Most likely, the bottom three teams will still be in the bottom three, and the three teams above them can look forward to pulling away from the relegation zone. West Brom are in a must-win situation, as they are at home, and if they lose, they are most certainly done for.