West Brom – who suffered a last-gasp defeat to Leicester on Saturday – have the toughest schedule on paper, while Burnley can be optimistic despite losing to Arsenal…
WEST BROM – 14th, P32 Pts 33
Fixtures: Palace (a), Liverpool (h), Man Utd (a), Newcastle (a), Chelsea (h), Arsenal (a)
Average position of remaining opposition: 6
After taking over at West Brom on New Year’s Day, Tony Pulis has led the Baggies away from the relegation zone. However, despite building up an eight-point cushion on the drop zone, five defeats in their last six – including 14 goals against – means Albion haven’t escaped the dogfight just yet.
They’re still seven points better off than QPR and Burnley but a run-in featuring six teams who average sixth in the Premier League – including Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – could see West Brom struggle to add to their current total of 33.
ASTON VILLA – 15th, P33 Pts 32
Fixtures: Man City (a), Everton (h), West Ham (h), Southampton (a), Burnley (h)
Average position of remaining opposition: 9.8
Villa boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 win at Tottenham on Saturday, which moved them six points clear of the relegation zone. Christian Benteke got the winner – his eighth goal in six games – and Tim Sherwood will hope the Belgian can continue to fire them to safety.
Trips to Man City and Southampton will be tough tests but Sherwood will aim to earn sufficient points in home fixtures with Everton, West Ham and Burnley to maintain Villa’s ever-present Premier League status.
“There is still a lot of hard work to be done but we fancy our chances of staying in this division. That’s the idea,” Sherwood said on Saturday.
SUNDERLAND – 16th, P32 Pts 29
Fixtures: Stoke (a), Southampton (h), Everton (a), Leicester (h), Arsenal (a), Chelsea (a)
Average position of remaining opposition: 8.3
Sunderland suffered a morale-sapping 4-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday and Dick Advocaat – who enjoyed a Wear-Tyne derby win last time out – will now truly appreciate the task on his hands.
He’ll have to pick his squad up for a testing run-in, with tricky trips to Stoke, Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea to come.
HULL – 17th, P32 Pts 28
Fixtures: Palace (a), Liverpool (h), Arsenal (h), Burnley (h), Tottenham (a), Man Utd (h)
Average position of remaining opposition: 8
Six games without a win have seen Hull slip to the edge of the relegation zone, just two points clear of third-bottom QPR. What’s worse for Steve Bruce is that his men face a run-in against six teams which average eighth in the Premier League.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United are all on the menu for Hull, while a home game with relegation rivals Burnley could be crucial to their survival chances.
QPR – 18th, P32 Pts 26
Fixtures: Chelsea (h), West Ham (h), Liverpool (a), Man City (a), Newcastle (h), Leicester (a)
Average position of remaining opposition: 8.8
Results went their way on Saturday, but QPR fell to a demoralising 1-0 defeat late on to table-topping Chelsea on Sunday. Liverpool and Manchester City feature in a tough run-in for Chris Ramsey’s side.
However, West Ham, Newcastle and Leicester offer opportunities to earn vital points and Ramsey – who has steered his side to a win at West Brom and draw at Aston Villa in their previous two games – has called on his side to dig-in.
“Any way we can get a point is important,” he said. “We need to show the same grit and determination from the last two games.”
BURNLEY – 19th, P32 Pts 26
Fixtures: Everton (a), Leicester (h), West Ham (a), Hull (a), Stoke (h), Aston Villa (a)
Average position of remaining opposition: 13.8
Of the bottom six, Burnley have the best run-in. Fixtures with Leicester, Hull and Aston Villa also offer the chance to take points off their relegation rivals.
With a game in hand and just a two-point deficit on Hull, Burnley’s hopes are far from over. But boss Sean Dyche warned there is little margin for error.
“We feel we have quality,” he said. “We’ve got different challenges coming but they won’t be like the ones we’ve had recently. We’ve got good belief in our performances. We still need to add quality to our performance, but there’s certainly a will and a demand to go and get more points this season.”
LEICESTER – 20th, P31 Pts 25
Fixtures: Swansea (h), Burnley (a), Chelsea (h), Newcastle (h), Southampton (h), Sunderland (a), QPR (h)
Average position of remaining opposition: 11.4
Jamie Vardy’s stoppage time winner against West Brom – on the back of Leicester’s 2-1 win over West Ham – has given the Foxes a lifeline. The victory at the Hawthorns means Leicester can pull level with fourth-bottom Hull if they win their game in hand.
A run-in against teams which average 11.4 in the Premier League offers opportunities and Nigel Pearson will no doubt be aiming for maximum points from their next two, at home to Swansea and away to relegation rivals Burnley. With bottom-five pair Sunderland and QPR to play in the final two games of the season, Leicester fans will keep on believing right to the end.
“I believe we can avoid relegation, but there is still work to do,” Pearson said. “Back-to-back wins at this stage are very important and we’ve got to try and make it three now.”