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With a third of the season to go.

There is a congealing bundle of teams at the bottom of the table, writhing desperately.

Who will be relegated from the Premier League?All of them gnashing and spitting, clambering over one another to avoid the drop.

This season’s relegation battle looks the most crowded in some time, with a staggering array of contestants involved, from the newly promoted Middlesbrough, to the relatively established Swansea City, to the reigning Champions Leicester.

A baker’s dozen of matches remain, and each team fighting for survival will be surveying them now, highlighting the must-wins, looking fretfully at their squads, and hoping for the best. Let’s go through all the teams, from the bottom upwards, and assess their chances.

Sunderland

19 pts – 20th place – W5 D4 L16

David Moyes’ hangdog expression broadcasts a feeling of hopelessness, but his team have, at times, looked more than capable of resisting the drop for the fourth straight season. In Jermain Defoe they have a finely-aged, vintage goalscorer; had they lost the striker over January, relegation would have been all but assured.

The worrying thing about the Black Cats is that they have paired encouraging results – the draws against Spurs and Liverpool, and the 4-0 thrashing of their drop rivals Crystal Palace – with horribly contrasting performances, like their latest loss, 4-0 to Saints.

They have propped up the table for longer than any other team this season, and this kind of volatility will not help them. Moyes needs momentum, a sense of steady progress; his final three fixtures are against Bournemouth, Hull City and Swansea.

Their fate, assuming they’re still in touch by then, might well come down to these games alone.

Crystal Palace

19 pts – 19th place – W5 D4 L16

Palace, equal on points with Sunderland and ahead only on goal difference, have been in free-fall for a full year now, with only seven wins in their last 45 league games. This torrid run has spanned the reign of two different managers, and the current one, Sam Allardyce, is at serious risk of losing his ‘never-relegated’ status.

In spite of serious investment – as well as enjoying the best support in the league – the team has insisted on making a habit out of losing. Their 4-0 loss to Sunderland a fortnight ago was a harrowing blow; Allardyce has spoken of the need for, first and foremost, clean sheets. He knows how hard it will be to turn around a ship that has been sailing towards the abyss for some time.

They only play three teams currently in the bottom six over their final 13 games, the hardest run-in of all the relegation candidates.

Hull City

20 pts – 18th place – W5 D5 L15

When Mike Phelan was sacked by Hull in January after the loss to West Bromwich Albion – his replacement Marco Silva was met by many with suspicion and nay-saying. The groaners have since faded away, as Silva has immediately shown what an astute, capable manager he is, leading his beleaguered squad to a series of fine results since taking over.

Wins over Bournemouth and Liverpool, and a creditable draw with Manchester United have buoyed hopes of survival. There were even encouraging signs to take from their loss to Arsenal last weekend, with Lazar Markovic and Oumar Niasse lively and involved. They bought or loaned liberally and well in January; the Tigers have got their teeth back.

Hull play all five of their bottom six colleagues before the season’s end, and will be, on current form, confident of securing a positive result against all of them.

Leicester City

21pts – 17th place – W5 D6 L14

The last time the reigning English Champions were relegated the next season was in 1938, when Manchester City succumbed to gravity twelve months after scaling the summit of the league. Leicester, the current champions, are apparently hell-bent on doing the same; theirs has been the worst title defence in Premier League history, currently on a five-match losing streak and yet to score a league goal in 2017.

Their most recent defeat, to Swansea – who were equal on points with them before kick off – had Claudio Ranieri exasperated and clawing for answers. His words post-match were tinged with anger and disappointment, speaking of how he has been “too loyal to his players”.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been shadows of the players they were last season, and the defence that was so obdurate in 2015/16 has conceded regularly over this campaign. Leicester play Sunderland twice, and Palace once over the next 13 games, but they also have the FA Cup and Champions League to negotiate.

A squad struggling mightily for form will get no opportunity to recoup; they will have to play their way out of this deadly rut.

Middlesbrough

22 pts – 16th place – W4 D10 L11

Boro have slogged through a very curious season. A glance at the results column tells a monotonous story; draws, draws and more draws.

Four of their last six league results have been stalemates, and although their inability to score has certainly hurt them this season, their stolid defence has helped them stay afloat, for now. They have by far the best goal difference out of all the bottom six, which can mean as much as an extra point or two when things are this tight.

They have a tough final stretch, with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea three of their final four opponents. They do, however play four of their relegation rivals before then, and so will hope to have secured safety before the last few rounds arrive.

Swansea City

24 pts – 15th place – W7 D3 L15

Paul Clement, the former Bayern assistant, won the manager of the month award for January. He has, since taking over from Bob Bradley at Swansea, won more games in his last six outings than the American did in the previous 19.

Holding onto Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente has proven invaluable, as their fine play has led the Swans to wins over Liverpool, Palace, Southampton and Leicester over the past month and a half. What was once a club that looked nailed on for the drop is now an outfit taking clean, confident strides up the table.

They play Hull, Borough and Sunderland in the run-in to the end of the season, but are likely looking at some of the more mid-table fixtures as a chance to prove their worth.

Bournemouth

26 pts – 14th place – W7 D5 L13

The Cherries, in spite of their league place, aren’t out of the woods yet. Since beating Swansea on January 1st, Eddie Howe’s team have entered a win less run of seven matches in all competitions, a run that has included some awful losses; 3-1 to Millwall in the FA Cup, and 6-3 to Everton in the league come most immediately to mind.

Their most recent result, a 2-0 loss to Manchester City, came as little surprise, but the longer this run goes on, the stronger the suction will be pulling them down. They are still to play Borough, Swansea and Sunderland, as well as a number of mid-table team they could reasonably expect to beat, provided they return to the sort of form that saw them draw 3-3 with Arsenal.

Howe is a fine manager, and his squad are more than capable of staying up, but that 3-1 loss to Hull, in January, might well come back to haunt them if they can’t quickly get back to winning ways.

Predicted final positions

14th Swansea City
15th Bournemouth
16th Middlesbrough
17th Hull City
18th Leicester City
19th Sunderland
20th Crystal Palace

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Evan Morgan Grahame, Blog: wildwordsofsport.com, Twitter: @WWofSport
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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