With only a couple of months remaining in the English Premier League, there’s still all to play for in the title race – and at the other end of the table, too. Although the fates of some teams looked sewn up several weeks ago, managerial changes and upturns in form have sparked a revival that now means as many as seven teams could face the drop come May.
Indeed, the dynamic of the situation has changed so dramatically that games involving those seven teams have become wildly unpredictable, with momentum shifting from one moment to the next. That has made in-play betting on football extremely exciting, as punters try to correctly predict which way the chips will fall within 90 minutes. But what about the bigger picture? Here’s a look at our picks for the three teams most likely to go down to the Championship next year.
Too little, too late for Norwich
Despite the astute appointment of former Aston Villa coach Dean Smith and the new-manager-bounce he initialled afforded them, it now appears as though normal service has resumed at Carrow Road. They remain rooted to the foot of the table and although Smith has done an excellent job in injecting some fight and finesse into his players, the job of saving them from relegation might just be a bridge too far this season. Nonetheless, he’s surely a safe pair of hands to bring the Canaries back up to the topflight at the first time of asking next year.
Brentford in freefall
After an impressive start to the season, it looked like Brentford might replicate the astounding achievement of Leeds in 2020/21 and attain a top-half finish. However, the loss of goalkeeper David Raya for much of the season, as well as the sporadic form and niggling injuries of star man Ivan Toney, has seen their form fall away sharply in recent weeks. Indeed, their sole victory in the Premier League in 2022 thus far came on the second day of the year, when they recorded an impressive 2-1 home win against Aston Villa. Since then, it’s been almost entirely losses, with just one other draw. That’s relegation form if ever we’ve seen it.
Leeds on the slide
Speaking of Leeds, their fortunes this season stand in stark contrast to those they enjoyed last time around. Star striker Patrick Bamford has missed almost all of the season and they have suffered serious injuries to other key players, including Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha. Nonetheless, they have admirably (though perhaps foolishly) stuck to their swashbuckling brand of all-out attack – and it has cost them some heavy defeats, as well as iconic manager Marcelo Bielsa his job. Will replacement Jesse Marsch fare better? With such a threadbare squad, we can’t see it.
The great escape
Of course, there are plenty of other teams in danger of the drop. Newcastle looked all but buried at one point, but the Saudi takeover, the appointment of Eddie Howe and the smart signings he has made look to have seen them safe. Everton and Watford are also on the brink, but bringing in Frank Lampard and Roy Hodgson (respectively) should steady the ship and allow their natural qualities to keep them afloat, while Burnley will do what Burnley have always done: churn out a result.
With much of the season still to play, it’s impossible to say who will find themselves in the second tier of English football next season – but these are our picks for the drop.