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Project Restart has reignited one of the fiercest relegation battles the Premier League has seen in years.
When the Premier League season was suspended, there were five clubs within two points of each other looking to avoid the drop, while the bottom club – typically left for dead by this stage of the campaign – was just two wins from safety.
All those clubs will now fight for their Premier League lives over a 40-day span commencing June 16. Here’s how things were left at the bottom of the table.
POS. – position; PTS – points; GD – goal difference; MR – matches remaining
And here are the odds for the relegation market.
|CLUB||ODDS TO BE RELEGATED||ODDS NOT TO BE RELEGATED|
Let’s start at the bottom, where Norwich are six points adrift of safety with nine matches remaining. Daniel Farke’s side play an exciting brand of football but that has also proven to be their undoing. They’re too loose at the back and are too reliant on star striker Teemu Pukki – who has had a hand in 14 of the club’s 25 goals this term – to be able to navigate the difficult road to safety. The Championship beckons for the Canaries.
Despite having a game in hand over the rest of their relegation competitors, Aston Villa look to be a solid bet to be joining Norwich in the Championship next season. Dean Smith’s side have plenty of compete, but there’s a real naivety about them, and it’s why the results don’t often match the sort of performances they put in.
Villa have eight matches remaining against clubs in the top 12, including three against the top five, which doesn’t bode well for a side that has claimed just five of their 25 points this season against clubs in the top half of the table. There’s certainly talent in their side, but it’s inexperience that will seal their fate.
Oddmakers are then tipping Bournemouth to round out the bottom three, but I’m not buying it. The Cherries have underachieved in a big way this season but this is a talented side – not to mention one that is wonderfully managed. Eddie Howe is a great tactician and motivator, and I believe this layoff will have done Bournemouth a lot of good as they can come in fresh and hit the ground running.
The Cherries are level on points with the two sides ahead of them, and two points back of Brighton in 15th. They will need one of those three clubs to trip up just enough in order to secure their safety.
West Ham won’t be one of those sides. The Hammers have impressive depth – which is crucial ahead of a busy period with nine matches in 37 days – and manageable fixture list. They play five of their remaining games at home, avoid each of the top-three clubs, and still play three of the four teams below them in the table.
That leaves Watford or Brighton as strong potential relegation candidates. The Hornets are a scrappy side and have impressively turned a corner under Nigel Pearson. They have 18 points from 13 matches since he took over as manager, compared to just nine from their first 16 games this season. They’ve got plenty of goals of late and have been on a clear upward trajectory under Pearson, who has the experience needed to guide them to safety.
That spells trouble for Brighton, a club that narrowly avoided the drop last season and are now flirting with disaster once again. I’m quite fond of manager Graham Potter, but I struggle to see where the goals will come from. They’re bereft of options in attack as Glenn Murray is no longer scoring, and the combination of Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard has struggled to fill the void.
It’s a difficult road ahead as well for the Seagulls. The team plays five of their first six games back from the break against Arsenal, Leicester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Manchester City, before finishing off their campaign with difficult trips to Southampton and Burnley over the final three matches.
Looking at their team and schedule, it’s hard to see Brighton doing enough to stave off the drop, and at a generous price are worthy of backing to join Villa and Norwich in the Championship next season.
Best bets: Bournemouth not to be relegated (+100), Brighton to be relegated (+275)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for BetaSoccer. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.