Although the EPL is currently experiencing a group at the top of the table where any of 6/7 teams could make a serious push for the title and 8 teams having a shot at making the top four, the bottom half of the table also is creating an amazing situation for the relegation battle as we reach the end of the season. As we get prepared for the second half of the season, there are seven squads that, if we double their current point tally, would have been relegated last season. There are also another three or four clubs above that group that could slip back into the relegation fight, meaning that the end of the season will be just as exciting to watch the bottom half of the table as the top.
Last season, Sunderland narrowly survived heading down towards the Championship by accruing 39 points. This season the number might be lower, but most teams will still be fighting to snag enough points to cross the forty-point threshold that typically ensures safety. Which teams could possibly head back down or drop out of the premier English league for Championship football? Let’s take a look…
The three teams that are currently stuck at the bottom would seem like obvious choices to continue sitting down there. However, all three teams will have big hopes that 2014 may hold a much better future than 2013. Fulham will hope that they will not allow another 41 goals (the league worst) in the second half and it seems that the arrival of Clint Dempsey and the fact that no team allowed more than 73 goals last season will bode well for them.
Sunderland will hope that their strikers can start finding the back of the net in the spring and, with the combined talent of Jozy Altidore, Fabio Borini, and Steven Fletcher, it seems like a definite possibility. Jozy may not rake in goals like in the Dutch league, but he will score more than one goal this half of the season. Borini might not have broken through against Suarez and Sturridge at Liverpool, but he is a decent striker that is capable of scoring in the EPL and Fletcher may not score twenty goals a season, but he is a proven scorer in England’s top flight.
West Ham has the benefit of Big Sam at the helm and the possible return of a few big guns from injury in the spring. Andy Carroll may not be worth 30+ million, but he is an England international…and Stewart Downing is still dangerous despite being slightly useless for Liverpool. Couple in those attackers with a defense that will hope to stop giving up late goals and the Hammers have a shot to stay in the top flight in the fall of 2014.
Two teams that should be worried with their current spot this close to the relegation zone will be recent EPL additions Crystal Palace and Cardiff City. Crystal Palace has one of the better defenses in the bottom half, but they have the worst scoring record in the league this season. Cardiff City is undergoing more turmoil than any club in any top flight league right now and they have the second worst scoring stats in the EPL at this point. Both recently-promoted teams will hope that they can stay up when May is over, but they seem the most likely of the bottom group to slip into the bottom 3. Considering how most people feel about Cardiff City’s ownership right now, it might be exactly what he deserves.
As for the teams above these, Aston Villa will not be as terrible the second half of the season. Benteke has to eventually find his feet. West Brom could fall a bit after losing Steve Clarke and it seems amazing that they sit where they are after such an impressive 2012-13 campaign. Norwich have fellow SoccerPro writer Jordon rooting for them, so they should be fine. And Stoke/Swansea have the feel of two squads that will have much better 2nd halves of the season than first halves. For me, the current form of the teams and squads present should end with Fulham, Crystal Palace, and Cardiff City sitting on the bottom.
However, no matter how it all stacks up, it is going to be a ton of fun to watch!