With just five games left in this year’s edition of the Barclays Premier League, the bottom six teams in the league are separated by just six points. All three of the promoted clubs from last season are in the thick of the relegation battle and Aston Villa are dangerously close to being excluded from the top tier for the first time in the Premier League era. All of the remaining fixtures have massive relegation implications for the bottom six teams and the Premier League script writers couldn’t have created a more exciting end to the year.
Currently, the bottom three is made up of Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers and Burnley. The most impressive pick of this bunch at the moment would have to be Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City. After occupying the bottom of the table for almost the entirety of the season, the Foxes have strung together three straight victories and elevated themselves to 18th in the league. With a game in hand, Leicester are level on points with Hull City and only one point behind on goal differential. Leicester’s remaining fixtures include trips to relegation competitors Burnley and Sunderland, and the King Power Stadium will also play host to league-leading Chelsea and a potential season decider against QPR to finish out the year. The form that the Foxes are in put them in possibly the best situation to survive for another year in the top flight.
It seems like every time QPR claws its way back into the Premier League they find a way to disappoint. In the last five years, the London club’s best ever result to finish the year was a 17th place finish in 2012 where they finished just one point ahead of Bolton to survive. With the talent that Rangers have on their roster, it’s almost hard to believe their current predicament. The strike force of Charlie Austin and Eduardo Vargas had the potential to be a deadly combination, but only Austin has been able to establish himself in the Premier League. The Englishman leads the club with 17 goals, but the next closest scorer only has four strikes. The biggest problem for QPR, however, is their defense. The club has let up a league-leading 59 goals in 33 games, and hasn’t kept a clean sheet since a February match against Sunderland. The last five games of QPR’s season are anything but easy. Trips to Anfield and the Etihad and a season-ending trip to Leicester will only discourage QPR fans’ belief of another year in the Premier League.
In my opinion, the only team currently above the survival line that will be playing in the English Championship next season is Hull City. The Tigers haven’t tasted victory since February and the final stretch of the campaign sees them playing four teams currently in the top six. Only two matches provide Hull with a reasonable chance of winning and earning any life-saving points. A trip to Crystal Palace and a visit from bottom-of-the-table Burnley could provide Hull with a slim chance of staying in the top flight if they can somehow steal a point from their games against one of the top six teams. Even with the adrenaline of fighting for survival, I can’t see Hull fending off Leicester City to stay in the league.
When the curtain finally falls on the Premier League, I predict that QPR, Hull City and Burnley will see their dreams of playing the best teams in England next season fall as well. Fans of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Leicester will rejoice in their survival act, but this season will serve as a warning for how easily their Premier League dreams can come to a swift halt.