Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has delivered his verdict on which team he expects to take the final relegation place – and reckons it will be Leeds United celebrating come Sunday.
The Whites finished an impressive ninth during their first season back in the Premier League last time around. But the 2021/22 campaign has been a very different story, with Leeds clinging on to survival by the skin of their teeth.
A lack of investment, together with an scarcely-believable list of injuries has left Leeds in 17th place with one game left.
United, now under the management of Jesse Marsch, looked safe having recorded a 3-0 win at Watford on 18 March. But Burnley were to play four times before Leeds next kicked a ball, producing a remarkable run of form to claw their way back into contention.
Leeds actually slipped into the bottom three, but clawed their way back out after a 1-1 draw against Brighton. After the match, Marsch praised Leeds for their resolve, but insists he needs an improvement in one area when they travel to Brentford.
And United could find themselves back in the drop zone if Burnley take a point against Aston Villa on Thursday night. The Clarets travel to Villa Park to play their match in hand, before a final day showdown with Newcastle.
Everton are also in the mix but can make themselves safe by beating Crystal Palace on Thursday evening.
Paul Merson gives his verdict
Assessing the run-in, Merson expects Burnley to take nothing from their trip to Villa Park and begin the final day in the relegation places.
“If I had to pick which camp I’d rather be in out of the relegation candidates, it’d be Leeds because of that point against Brighton – one that I think will keep them up,” Paul Merson wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“I was covering their game on Sunday and Pascal Struijk’s late equaliser was a massive goal for them.
“I don’t expect Burnley to get anything at Aston Villa. So it will be completely out of their hands with one game to go – which is not where you want to be.
“Yes, they have Newcastle at home and Leeds have Brentford away, but it should be in those two teams’ hands.”
Leeds United relegation struggles has been horrendous
The last few weeks have been torturous for Leeds United and their supporters.
A decent run of results saw them go five unbeaten under Marsch. That appeared to have put them on the brink of safety. But three defeats to Manchester City, Arsenal and then Chelsea have left Leeds firmly in the mix.
While the football has not been pretty under Marsch, results are all that counts at this stage.
The Leeds board decided to roll the dice and sack legendary boss Bielsa at the back end of February. And they will feel their decision will be vindicated if the club avoids the drop.
However, if Burnley usurp them and leave them facing Championship football, there will be very serious questions to answer.
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The Leeds crowd made their feelings clear about the ownership during Sunday’s draw. And the anger will only increase ten-fold if Leeds succumb to relegation.
And if they survive, strong questions will need answering about their recruitment policy. Fans are, quite rightly, furious over the failure to strengthen in January when the side clearly needed it.