With three games of the season left to go, the fight for survival appears to have finally come down to two teams.
Shortly after the halfway stage of the season, when Norwich already looked to be down, it seemed the remaining spots would be filled by two of Watford, Newcastle and Burnley, none of whom were bigger than Evens for the drop. At 4/1, Leeds couldn’t be discounted, but at the time, it seemed hard to think that more than one of those teams would get themselves out of danger to drop Leeds in it.
However, since 4th January, Newcastle have taken more points than everyone in the Premier League bar Liverpool and Manchester City. Meanwhile, from 4th January until two weeks ago, Everton had taken just 10 points from 14 games – the second fewest in the league – only one better than Watford – and were in huge relegation danger.
But back-to-back wins – so crucial at this stage of the season – against Chelsea and Leicester, earmarked as two of their tougher games in the run-in, have hauled them out of the bottom three. It's left them a point ahead of Leeds and Burnley with a game in hand, and with games against Watford, Brentford and Crystal Palace to come, the Toffees are 12/1 shots to go down.
Watford were confirmed as relegated last week, the appointment of Roy Hodgson not the silver bullet fans were hoping for. The Hornets have picked up just two wins in 15 games under Hodgson, their fate sealed at Selhurst Park of all places.
All that means it’s likely either Burnley or Leeds who’ll be playing in the Championship next season.
Leeds fans must be wondering how it’s come to this: three games to go and Evens to be relegated from the top flight, just two years into their stay.
After last season’s performances, they were priced at 12/1 to be relegated this season, but with Patrick Bamford injured for most of the season, as well as spells on the sidelines for Kalvin Phillips and most of their defenders, results took a major turn for the worse, with Marcelo Bielsa sacked in February with the side 13/8 to go down.
After defeats to Leicester and Aston Villa, a huge, dramatic win against Norwich sparked a run of 11 points from five games which, had things played out differently, could have left Leeds feeling rather comfortable right now.
Across Jesse Marsch’s first four games, Leeds put up an xG total of 6.8, which included that incredible turnaround at Molineux as Leeds went eight points ahead of Burnley, who had three games in hand.
But relegation rivals Burnley, having sacked Sean Dyche – harshly in the eyes of many at the time – saw a turnaround of their own, drawing with West Ham, then winning against Southampton, Wolves and Watford. The defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend was a big setback, particularly with Everton picking up a win against Leciester, but the message from Mike Jackson must be that they’re going in the right direction.
|Wed 11th May - 7.30pm||Chelsea (h)||-|
|Sun 15th May - 12pm||-||Tottenham (a)|
|Sun 15th May - 2pm||Brighton (h)||-|
|Thu 19th May - 8pm||-||Aston Villa (a)|
|Sun 22nd May - 4pm||Brentford (h)||Newcastle (h)|
In Dyche’s last 20 games as boss, Burnley had reached 1.5xG once – ironically in his final game against Norwich – and it’s a figure they’d only reached once this season before that. Under Jackson, they’ve hit 1.5xG in four of his five games.
The Tottenham game promises to be a test for the Clarets, but if it comes after Leeds lose to Chelsea, it might be looked upon as a free hit, if there is such a thing with three games left in the season.
However Leeds’ game with Brighton later that afternoon could put enormous pressure on the Turf Moor side, which they’re currently 11/8 to win.
Burnley will then face a game in hand over Aston Villa, with the final game of season seeing Burnley host Newcastle while Leeds travel to Brentford.
Who’ll stay up now is anyone’s guess.
All you can say is good luck to both clubs – and their fans.
Burnley - 10/11
Leeds - Evs