The Premiership returns this weekend after a fortnight break and the battle to avoid relegation can therefore rage on. With Chelsea running away with the title, it is the relegation scrap that is currently providing the most intrigue, with several teams at the bottom improving drastically in recent games, so here we have run through the leading contenders for the drop:
A Ladbrokes review of the odds shows that Sunderland are the heavy favourites to go down at 1/5. They are bottom of the table but it is very tight indeed: Sunderland are level on points with 19th placed Crystal Palace (but with a worse goal difference), a point behind 18th placed Hull, and just two points behind last season’s champions Leicester City, who are hovering one place above the drop zone. Middlesbrough, Swansea and Bournemouth are all looking precarious too. But what makes Sunderland favourites to go down is their recent capitulation against Southampton, where they lost 4-0 at home.
Palace are 4/6 second favourites in the Ladbrokes review, and that looks a very good set of odds. This was not supposed to happen: when Sam Allardyce took over, everyone thought he would galvanise the struggling squad and they would finish mid-table. It has not happened and they are just as bad defensively but worse in attack than they were under Alan Pardew. Back-to-back defeats against Sunderland and Stoke have left them in trouble. On paper they look far too good to go down, blessed as they are with the talents of Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye, but many teams that looked to good to go down have done just that and it’s not looking good for Palace right now.
Hull are 4/5 third favourites with Ladbrokes, but they look like they have a fighting chance of staying up. They have been resurgent since Marco Silva took over and, despite the small squad and lack of investment, they have the requisite pluckiness to make a good fist of it. At those odds it looks a risky bet as they are much improved since the turn of the year.
At 5/4 Boro look a great bet to go down. After a strong start they have been slowly but surely sucked into the relegation dogfight and the reason is a lack of goals. They miss having an out and out goal scorer, like Jermain Defoe at Sunderland and Benteke at Crystal Palace, and that could ultimately cost them. They defend very well and have ground out strong results against the likes of Man City and Arsenal this season, but at this stage of the campaign goals get you out of trouble and it is hard to see them finding the net many times between now and the end of the season.
Surely Leicester cannot go from winning the league last season to relegated this time around? They defied logic and odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League last season, but now they are just 13/8 with Ladbrokes to be relegated. The stars of last year have waned, the cohesion, unity and fighting spirit has evaporated and manager Claudio Ranieri has gone from genius to clueless in a matter of months, with some fans even calling for him to get sacked. Still, when you look at their team, they have plenty of goal scorers: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and so on should be able to fire them clear of the drop zone, but they really need to start picking up points soon as they are in woeful form.
Swansea have already changed managers twice this season but seem to have finally clicked under Paul Clement and have shot up to the giddy heights of 15th after winning three of their last four. Keep it up and they will be fine, but odds of 10/3 still look interesting on them.
At 7/1 the Cherries look a great outside bet to go down. They have not won in 2017 and have been defending horribly. They have a six-point cushion over Hull but the way they ship goals you would fancy them to get sucked deep into the battle.