As the Premier League draws to a close, it’s time to make predictions about what three clubs will get relegated come May. This year’s relegation battle is a little clearer cut than last season’s, but that won’t take away from the drama during those last few weekends in May.

18th: Newcastle United

Rafa Benítez has been placed in charge of a sinking ship. The 55-year-old manager started out this year with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, and now he finds himself in the heart of a losing relegation battle with just eight games to save Newcastle’s Premier League hopes. The Magpies currently sit 18th in the league, and three points behind Norwich City for the last safe spot with a game in hand.

Although Newcastle splashed the cash over the January transfer window in an effort to inject some new life into their dire campaign, none of these new signings have really managed to have much of an impact. Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend cost the club more than £30 million and have combined for just a single goal. Loaned striker Seydou Doumbia hasn’t even managed to start a game yet.

The club has a history of risky transfer dealings that has left fans frustrated. Granted, this time around they made an effort to bring in more established Premier League players rather than random youngsters from France, but it still hasn’t paid any dividends. The winter spending spree was too little, too late to save a once great club and it will be a sad day at St. James’ Park when they get relegated for the first time since 2010.

19th: Sunderland

Sunderland v. Newcastle

I’m honestly still surprised that Sunderland have managed to narrowly avoid relegation for so long. In the last three seasons, the Black Cats have never finished more than five points higher than the relegation zone. Last season, it took a five-game unbeaten run in the final stages of the season to push Dick Advocaat’s (who has since been relieved of his duties) squad to a 16th place finish. This year, it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to pull off the same type of great escape that has come to define their Premier League experience.

In their final eight-game stretch, Sunderland will play host to league-leading Leicester City (it seems like just yesterday I was writing about how they’d barely survive), Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea. When Sam Allardyce’s squad faced off against those clubs earlier in the season, they were beaten every single time and outscored 16-6. Not really the type of results that spark optimism for the fan base.

The Black Cats will also have to travel to some difficult stadiums to close out the season. Visits to Stoke City, Norwich and Watford are never easy and with every result growing increasingly valuable, Big Sam’s men can’t afford to drop a single point. The trip to Norwich (who are currently two points ahead of Sunderland in 17th) will make or break the Black Cats’ season. An even more grim stat for the Sunderland faithful is that out of the eight teams standing between them and safety, Sunderland have only managed to beat one this season (1-0 against West Brom).

20th: Aston Villa

Who else could I have picked to finish dead last this year? Aston Villa have been the laughingstock of the league this year and sit nine points behind Newcastle at the bottom of the table. Earlier this week, manager Rémi Garde left the club after just five months in charge. The Frenchman was handed a glorified reserve team and ownership gave him literally no reinforcements during the January transfer window.

Through 31 games, Villa have won just three games and accumulated a grand total of 16 points. You have to go all the way back to February 6th for the last time Villa won a game (2-0 against Norwich) and then the following week they were clattered 6-0 by Liverpool at Villa Park. The sole bright spot of the season came during a brief three-game stretch in January where they went undefeated (one win and two draws).

It was always going to be a difficult season at Villa Park after the summer departures of Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley and Ron Vlaar, but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be this bad. Jeff Sterling offered a pretty great, concise review of their season here. I feel bad for Villa’s fans because it become abundantly clear this season that ownership and players could care less about what the results are on the field (i.e. Joleon Lescott tweeting about his care just after the 6-0 loss to Liverpool).


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