With Chelsea’s victorious visit to Anfield and City’s win at Crystal Palace, headlines in world football are rightly dominated by the final league games and their implications on the title fight. This is a thrilling conclusion to an admittedly insane season of English Premier League football; however, I wanted to focus on the implication of the weekend’s games on the bottom of the table, focusing on the form, fixtures, and fortunes of teams currently fighting for their lives. While 40 points seems to perennially be the magic number to ensure survival, West Brom was once able to survive with as few as 34 points in the 2004-05 season. This year doesn’t seem so different; since the difference in position for the table’s underachievers is only five points. It appears that their current tally of 36 points will still at least put them at the foot of safety. Let’s take a look at the the relegation trapdoor in detail.
Starting with clubs at 35 points or fewer, I wanted to look at the points total for the bottom five, and closely examine the upcoming run-in for each club using the following metrics: In addition to points needed and goal difference, we want to take a look at the current average odds to survive, the form table, and key player match-ups for each forthcoming fixture.
For the fourth straight year in a row, Aston Villa find themselves desperately clinging to safety at the bottom of the Premier League. History buffs might recall that this is hardly a flattering position for a club credited with founding the Football League, lifting the European Cup, and playing every season in the Premier League since its inception. However, this season would be no stranger to upsetting the status quo.
Unravelled by injuries and with only Grant Holt arriving in January, who has yet to repay the faith shown in him with his loan move from Wigan, Villa are doing little else aside from treading water year after year. With rumors mounting over a club takeover that is contingent on the retention of Premier League status, the next few matches look to be crucial. Villa face Hull at home, followed by Spurs at White Hart Lane, with the rescheduled trip to the Etihad to face title-chasing Manchester City sandwiched in between.
The odds for Villa to be relegated still remain relatively slim, averaging out at around 9/1, but they are well and truly in the mire. Villa are dead last in the Premier League form table, with only one point from their last six fixtures, a dour 0-0 draw against Southampton at home.
Villa v Hull City: Without Benteke, Villa have struggled to break teams down all season, relying on long-ball kick and rush football to try to manifest anything resembling a scoring opportunity. Albrighton, who didn’t play in the corresponding fixture, will be a breath of fresh air, bringing some width against a team whose strengths are admittedly through the center of the park. Earlier this season, Villa and Hull ground out a drab 0-0 result not dissimilar from Villa’s last point. Against Hull City, Villa will struggle to keep an eye on Tom Huddlestone, who seems relatively reinvigorated playing for Steve Bruce’s side since his move from Tottenham. Similarly, Villa alumnus Curtis Davies has been excellent as a center back throughout the bulk of the season, and shouldn’t have to work too hard to keep Holt quiet. With a porous defense, it’s hard to imagine Villa keeping another clean sheet this season. Having said that, I can just see the respective width and engine of Albrighton and Delph helping to combine to create at least one chance that’s bound for the back of the net. These teams seem to have just enough to cancel each other out, and while Hull should start the match as favorites, a point will be just about enough to help Villa breathe a sigh of relief in their most winnable fixture of their forthcoming matches. Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Hull City