For the neutral football fan, the bottom of the Premier League table is tantalizingly poised as we are about to enter the last month of the season. No club is already relegated even mathematically, though two sides sit lower than a pack of three and it’s looking like it’ll be the bottom two and one of that trio to be relegated to the Championship.
Norwich City have five games left to play and have 21 points, and would need to win all of those matches and possibly still find themselves going down. Just above them at 22 points are Watford FC who also have five to go and unlikely to survive the drop, but they could play spoiler should they so choose with home games against Burnley and Everton upcoming.
Which brings us to the two key protagonists in the battle for survival, with a third side that could could get dragged into the mire. Everton’s miserable form and inability to pick up points in key games has seen them drop into the bottom three while Burnley on current form have clambered over the Toffees, having picked up ten points in their last five games including a morale-boosting win over the Blue in a recent relegation six-pointer.
The Toffees do have a game in hand though over their immediate rivals, and will need to capitalize to make sure their battle goes on right through to the end of the season. Everton have six games to play, and are at 29 points. Burnley are above them with five games to play but have 31 points, while Leeds United sit just above that also with five to go, and on 34 points.
Despite sacking long-term manager Sean Dyche, the Clarets have managed to continue their excellent recent run, and start off their closing spell with a trip to Watford on Sat Apr 30th. They then have two games against an Aston Villa side that have slipped from 9th all the way to 15th in less than a month and look like they have given up on the season as it stands. Burnley close out the season with a trip to Tottenham who are still chasing a Champions League spot but are struggling currently and then a home game against Newcastle who have surged from the bottom three into the top half of the table.
Ahead of the Blues, Leeds under new manager Jesse Marsch face a challenging close to their season. This weekend they are home to league leaders and defending champions Manchester City who will not be letting up the gas after a thrilling Champions League semifinal first leg win on Tuesday and Liverpool breathing down their necks in the title race. Then they travel to Arsenal who are sitting in the final Champions League spot but will be looking to secure that spot after two big wins against Chelsea and Manchester United. Leeds’ last three games of the season are at home against Chelsea, then Brighton who aren’t playing for anything but pride, and finally away at Brentford who have also scrapped their way out of relegation trouble.
That brings us to Everton and the six games that could determine their destiny, either ending in another great escape of the nature we haven’t seen since the nineties, or else the utter disintegration of the proud history of a club that has counted itself as one of the mainstays of the sport in the nation.
The Toffees will play half a dozen times in 22 days, the fixture congestion a result of previous postponements, three each home and away starting with Sun 1st May hosting Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge side have pretty much sealed third spot and Frank Lampard will be desperately hoping his former team go easy against his new charges this weekend.
A week later the Blues travel to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City, having just battled back to snatch a draw against the Foxes last week at Goodison Park. Three days later they go to Watford to face a side that might already be mathematically relegated at that point. After Everton allowed the Hornets to come surging back in the second half to win at Goodison earlier in the season, anything is possible and the Blues should not consider these as points already in the bank.
On Sun 15th May Everton are at home against Brentford who will certainly give them a scrap, and then four days later they will host an exciting Crystal Palace side that gave them a 4-0 hiding in the FA Cup quarter finals, albeit at Selhurst Park in a game the Blues started in dominant form before falling away dramatically.
Three days later the Toffees end a season that will not be remembered fondly with a trip to Arsenal who hopefully will have fourth place already all buttoned up. The Emirates has not been a happy hunting ground for the Blue over the years, and as fans we can only hope that survival is already sealed before that climax to the campaign.
Everton remaining fixtures -
Sun May 1st - vs Chelsea (3rd), Home
Sun May 8th - at Leicester City (10th), Away
Wed May 11th - at Watford (19th), Away
Sun May 15th - vs Brentford (12th), Home
Thu May 19th - vs Crystal Palace (14th), Home
Sun May 22nd - at Arsenal (3rd), Away
Burnley remaining fixtures -
Sat Apr 30th - at Watford (19th), Away
Sat May 7th - vs Aston Villa (15th), Home
Sun May 15th - at Tottenham (5th), Away
Thu May 19th - at Aston Villa (15th), Away
Sun May 22nd - vs Newcastle (9th), Home
Leeds remaining fixtures -
Sat Apr 30th - vs Manchester City (1st), Home
Sun May 8th - at Arsenal (4th), Away
Wed May 11th - vs Chelsea (3rd), Home
Sun May 15th - vs Brighton (11th), Home
Sun May 22nd - at Brentford (12th), Away