Three teams will go down, and the trio will come from the five teams sitting at the bottom of the Premier League table. And there’s just three games left to play.
Everton’s miraculous victory away at Brighton & Hove Albion moved them out of the bottom three but not quite away from trouble as yet. However, their fate is once more in their own hands and the players should be feeling just that much more confident given how well they’ve been playing and the schedule ahead.
Here is what the current bottom of the table looks like, up until the mythical 40 point mark which usually guarantees safety though this season it’s looking like 35-36 points could be enough.
Nottingham Forest and Everton sit just above the drop zone and another couple of wins or a win and draw combination could save them as it would leave Leeds United and Leicester City needing more than two wins in the remaining three games to clamber away.
The Toffees last three games are: (1st) Manchester City [H], (13th) Wolves [A] & (14th) Bournemouth [H]. Everton drew away at City earlier in the season, lost at home on Boxing Day to Wolves and were beaten convincingly by the Cherries twice — away both times, in the league and the League Cup.
The Toffees have five points in their last five games having rediscovered their scoring touch, and on paper have the easiest remaining schedule. The Everton supporters have been outstanding both at home and away and Sean Dyche will be earmarking at least a win and a draw from the last three games. Both Wolves and Bournemouth have only just secured safety in recent weeks with gutsy wins, so who knows what their motivation will be by the time they play the Blues.
Forest and their horde of new signings have fluttered about the relegation zone all year long, and right now sit just a point above the Toffees. They have two wins in their last five and face a trio of London sides to close out their campaign: (11th) Chelsea [A], (2nd) Arsenal [H] and (12th) Crystal Palace [A].
Chelsea and Palace are playing for pride right now, while the Gunners will still be clutching onto hopes of overhauling City for the title. On paper, this is the second-easiest of the remaining schedules, but Forest are also the worst away side in the league (Everton are 14th comparatively). Also, their only home game (where they are 12th best) left is against Arsenal, who are the best away side in the league.
The Yorkshire side could be in a worse predicament than last season when they finished below the Blues and just above the bottom three. One draw in their last five games and with relegation survival specialist Sam Allardyce their fourth manager of the season, they face a challenging set of fixtures: (3rd) Newcastle [H], (15th) West Ham [A], (6th) Tottenham [H].
The Magpies are having an offensive resurgence as they bid to secure Champions League football, while Spurs have had an odd season where they’ve looked utterly awful for large parts of it and yet are still in contention for a European berth. Speaking of Europe, Leeds will be hoping that West Ham are going to be tuckered out for the game at the Olympic Stadium after playing the second leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final away at AZ Alkmaar.
The former Premier League champions are in deep trouble. Despite being the highest-scoring side in the relegation battle and the best goal difference of the five, they sit in the bottom three with five points from their last five games, including a home draw with Everton where they came from behind to lead the Blues at the King Power, but conceded an equalizer in the second half and could have easily won or lost the game in the closing stages.
Their remaining schedule is: (5th) Liverpool [H], (3rd) Newcastle [A] and (15th) West Ham [H]. Five wins on the trot have put the Reds firmly back in European contention and they will be pushing for the top four, while as already mentioned, the Toon will be looking to stay ahead of Manchester United behind them in fourth. This is just about the toughest of the fixtures left.
The Hammers are just about safe from relegation and will be looking to rest players if they qualify for the final of the Europa Conference League, which will be held ten days after the domestic season ends. Everton will be looking for former boss David Moyes to do them a favour or two in his games against Leeds and Leicester.
The Saints’ inability to hold on to a two-goal lead at Arsenal and then subsequently falling behind to Forest last weekend pretty much sealed their relegation fate. They currently sit six points adrift at the bottom and will need three wins to close out the campaign, and even that might not be enough.
Their remaining fixtures are: (10th) Fulham [H], (7th) Brighton [A] and (5th) Liverpool [H]. The Cottagers are basically playing out an excellent first season back in the top flight, with Aleksander Mitrovic and Marco Silva both back. Their loss of composure during the FA Cup game against Manchester United saw their ambitious bid to make Europe fall away unfortunately. Brighton will be smarting from their home spanking by the Blues, but also face Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester City in their last five games, so they will likely rest a few starters for the Saints tilt.
Last season pivotal wins away at Leicester City and at home to Crystal Palace, fueled by the Blues rabid supporters, ensured safety in the main. The Evertonians are playing their part once again with the noise they brought to the King Power and then the Amex in successive weeks, but if the Toffees can steal even a point this Sunday against champions-elect City it will help their chances immeasurably.
Going into the game at Brighton the Toffees had only a 41% chance of staying up, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Premier League Projections, but that resounding win resulted in their survival odds going up to 78%.
On paper Everton should be safe from relegation, but as we know very well, the games are still played on the pitch and Sean Dyche cannot let the players ease up at this juncture, and neither can we as Evertonians backing our team in what has been a very, very difficult season.