Our estimate is 37 points, based upon what has gone before in years past and also based upon the merits of the teams involved this term.
So who are the best bets to beat the drop….and who face dreaded demotion?
In truth, Sunderland have been ‘relegated’ for quite some time. Maybe not mathematically so, but the whole mood of the club has been one of despair and gallows humour as the North East prepares to lose another well-established Premier League club.
David Moyes has got his tactics all wrong this term, hamstrung by a lack of quality and depth in his squad. Solely relying upon a 34-year-old to score the goals to keep you up is madness, and while Jermain Defoe has stuck to his task manfully with 14 goals to his name, the next top goalscorer for the Black Cats is Victor Anichebe with three.
It doesn’t take Miss Marple to deduce that Sunderland have no hope of overturning the ten-point – and counting – deficit they face.
The same theme has gate-crashed Middlesbrough’s season. They face the very real prospect of returning the record low goal tally in the Premier League; they currently have 22 to their name with seven games to go. Even that hapless Aston Villa side of 2015/16 netted 27 times.
The problem for the Boro is that the die has been cast for some time. Aitor Karanka’s pragmatic tactics were a necessity for a talented squad but one lacking in top flight experience but the downside to that is once you get stuck in a rut it is very hard to elevate yourself out of it.
Caretaker boss Steve Agnew has found that out to his cost. His side travelled to Hull in the proverbial relegation six-pointer, and the temporary gaffer realised that he had to try and deliver a more attack-minded side in this must win game.
The result? A 2-4 defeat, as Hull City took advantage of the gaps left by a Boro side not used to playing on the front foot.
They are now six points adrift of safety, and will need to pick a minimum of 12 points you would think to beat the drop. For a side that has won 4/31 so far this term, that looks a highly unlikely proposition.
The bookmakers don’t disagree with our assertions either. You’ll get prices of 1/40 on Sunderland and 1/25 on Middlesbrough going down; and those bookies very rarely get things wrong.
One from Two
Which of course leaves one relegation spot vacant. We would assume that Crystal Palace have done enough to secure their place in the Premier League for the 2017/18 campaign following a run of five wins in six. If our projection of 37 points for safety is correct, then the Eagles only need to win one of their last seven games to preserve their top flight status.
That leaves us with a two-horse race that neither wants to win. Hull (30 points) and Swansea (28) will duke it out in the ultimate winner-takes-all battle.
The Case for Hull City
If avoiding relegation is an exercise in accumulating points, then the Tigers have to be favourites to avoid the drop. They are unbeaten in seven at home (W5 D2 L0), and with three fixtures still to come on their own turf they will be looking to pick up a couple of wins there and maybe the odd draw on the road.
Here are their remaining fixtures:
15 April – Stoke (a)
22 April – Watford (h)
29 April – Southampton (a)
6 May – Sunderland (h)
14 May – Crystal Palace (a)
21 May – Tottenham (h)
If Hull need seven more points for safety then the mission is clear: beat Watford and Sunderland at home, and get a point at Stoke, Southampton or Crystal Palace.
The Tigers have a few more things in their favour. In Marco Silva, they have a shrewd boss who realised he needed to score goals in order to win matches; since pairing Abel Hernandez and Oumar Niasse up front, Hull have won their last three home games – scoring eight goals.
Also, Swansea’s main goal threat, Fernando Llorente, is back from injury but not fully fit. If the Spaniard doesn’t find his scoring boots straight away then the Swans are in even deeper trouble than the league table suggests.
The Case for Swansea City
We can talk about points projections and who needs what to stay up, but if you want to simplify things to the most basic level then we can say that Swansea are just two points behind Hull; a margin that can be overturned in 90 minutes of football.
We’ve mentioned Llorente already, and he will play a massive role in the Welsh side’s push for safety. He’s notched eleven goals this season, including five in eight prior to his injury lay-off, and so clearly Swansea are a stronger side with the Spaniard than without.
Here’s their remaining fixtures:
15 April – Watford (a)
22 April – Stoke (h)
30 April – Manchester United (a)
6 May – Everton (h)
13 May – Sunderland (a)
20 May – West Brom (h)
The crucial timeframe in this relegation race could be April 29-May 6. Here Hull have the potential to win four points (Southampton away, Sunderland home), while it is possible that Swansea won’t win any from their trip to Old Trafford or home date with Everton.
You can find odds of 4/5 still available from the likes of William Hill and Stan James on Swansea to be relegated, and with that pivotal fixture double-header just around the corner, now might be the time for punters to pull the trigger on the Swans.