As the Premier League season reaches its closing stages, Alex Bonner examines all those teams in danger of dropping out of the top division and gives his verdict.
Swansea – Premier League position 10th (28 points)
Swansea, despite their current mid-table position, find themselves only four points from the relegation zone having lacked consistency this season, but the quality available to them should ensure that Swansea comfortably avoid the drop come the end of the season. New manager Gary Monk knows the club inside out, and with the return of Michu in the near future looking likely, Swansea should be aiming to hold their position in the table come the season’s close.
Predicted finish – 10th
West Ham – Premier League position 11th (28 points)
West Ham have recently won three Premier League matches in a row, but with away games against Everton and Stoke scheduled in the coming weeks, the East London club could easily find themselves flirting with the relegation places. Consistency, like Swansea, is imperative for the Hammers, especially on the road, but with Andy Carroll recently declared fit, West Ham have now regained some potency in attack, meaning, along with their tight defence, they should do enough to avoid relegation.
Predicted finish – 15th
Aston Villa – Premier League position 12th (28 points)
Villa have recently encountered a poor run of form, meaning the Villans now only lie four points clear of relegation. But, under manager Paul Lambert, Villa have excelled on the road, making their form at Villa Park key in their quest to stay up. In Christian Benteke, Villa have a first class striker who has recently regained his excellent form of last season. Villa should have too much potency up front for the lower teams, with a mid–table finish still a realistic aim for Lambert’s side.
Predicted finish – 11th
Hull City – Premier League position 13th (27 points)
The Tigers, like Villa, have struggled for form lately, winning only one of their last seven matches. This run has seen them drop from a conformable mid–table position to only three points above the relegation spots. Hull, who typically excel at home, have a woeful away record, meaning an improved away record is an absolute necessity to avoid relegation. However, the recent additions of Nikita Jelavic and Shane Long should provide the necessary goals that will keep Hull in the top division for an additional season.
Predicted finish – 12th
Stoke City – Premier League position 14th (27 points)
Mark Hughes, who is currently in his first season at Stoke, has succeeded in altering the way the team play; however, only one win in eight has seen the Potters fall dramatically in the table. The recent addition of Peter Odemwingie will add some much needed pace to the team, which should cause Stoke’s opposition more problems than previously. As an experienced Premier League outfit, relegation seems a remote prospect, but Stoke’s inability to score goals could cause them problems in the season’s latter stages.
Predicted finish – 13th
Crystal Palace – Premier League position 15th (26 points)
Palace’s decision to replace Ian Holloway with Tony Pulis seems inspired considering the team’s recent run of form which has seen the Eagles pick up three wins in their last four games. Pulis utilised the January transfer market well to strengthen the squad in some key areas, with notable addition Tom Ince adjusting well to the rigours of the Premier League. Indeed, Palace look wholly capable of maintaining this consistency, meaning another season in the top flight appears to beckon for Pulis’s squad.
Predicted finish – 17th
Norwich City – Premier League position 16th (25 points)
Norwich have encountered a terrible run of form of late, the Canaries having picked up only one win in ten games. Chris Hughton has tried to instil a more attacking mindset into his team; however, the high profile acquisitions of Rickie Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper have failed to deliver so far. Norwich desperately need to improve their fortunes up front, with relegation looking likely if this area is not improved in the foreseeable future.
Predicted finish – 18th (Relegation)
West Brom – Premier League position 17th (24 points)
The Baggies, under recently installed manager Pepe Mel, have struggled throughout the season, meaning relegation at this stage looks a real possibility for West Brom. Mel has to improve West Brom’s creativity, with his team at present failing to manufacture enough chances to see off their opposition. That said, in Stéphane Sessègnon, they have a highly creative player, meaning West Brom should have just enough quality to avoid relegation this season.
Predicted finish – 14th
Sunderland – Premier League position 18th (24 points)
When Gus Poyet was appointed Sunderland manager in October, many reacted to his appointment with scepticism. While the Uruguayan has proved his doubters wrong, Sunderland showing some sensational cup, the Black Cats currently occupy the relegation zone. Sunderland certainly have creativity and potency up front, but a tighter defence is what is required to avoid relegation. Under Poyet and in-form winger Adam Johnson, Sunderland should avoid the drop, with a piece of cup silverware also a possibility.
Predicted finish – 16th
Cardiff City – Premier League position 19th (22 points)
Having scored the joint fewest goals in the league this season, along with fellow strugglers Norwich, Cardiff will need to rapidly add to their goal tally to have any chance of avoiding relegation at the end of the season. The Bluebirds have experienced a troubled period of late, with the services of Malky Mackay dispensed of in controversial fashion in late December. Cardiff seem to have lacked real Premiership quality throughout their duration in the top flight, meaning relegation for the Welsh outfit looks like a real possibility come the end of the season.
Predicted finish – 20th (Relegation)
Fulham – Premier League position 20th (20 points)
Fulham have managed to stay in the top flight for a considerable period but their pitiful struggle to accumulate points this season means time may well be up for the Cottagers. Fulham have the worst defensive record in the league, with 58 goals conceded, leading to a goal difference of minus 32, meaning the team have to improve defensively to even have a remote chance of staying up, the addition of centre-back John Heitinga a help in this department. However, maintaining their Premier League status looks unlikely, with Fulham’s poor away record likely to cause their eventual relegation.
Predicted finish – 19th (Relegation)bookmark me