IT’S HAPPENING, IT’S HAPPENING, IT’S HAPPENING!!!!
Every football fan in England is currently wearing a smile wider than a double decker bus, with the Premier League officially returning on 17 June, subject to any changes in safety guidelines regarding the coronavirus.
However, there may be a handful of clubs who, along with their supporters, aren’t quite so enthusiastic about the news….
The top of the Premier League table has looked a formality for a while now, but the bottom end of the league is as unpredictable as ever.
Just four points separate 15th placed Brighton and Hove Albion and 19th placed Aston Villa, and while Norwich City have already been written off by some, the Canaries have proven their expansive play can glean a result against even the best (ask Pep Guardiola).
Here’s a rundown of each of the bottom six clubs’ remaining fixtures, and where the annual Premier League relegation scrap could be won and lost.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Despite being the best placed of the bottom six, the Seagulls’ stomachs will have dropped at the news the Premier League was returning.
Their final nine fixtures see them face four of the top five, as well as Arsenal. Graham Potter’s men enjoyed a bright start to the campaign, though their form of late has been woeful; they’re yet to win a game in 2020, a stat which will need to change soon if they’re to remain among England’s elite.
A trip to basement boys Norwich offers cause for optimism; less so their two away wins all season. A penultimate game of the season at home to goal-shy Newcastle could prove pivotal in their fight against the drop, before they round off the campaign with a trip to Turf Moor.
18 of Brighton’s 29 points this season have come at The Amex, so the majority of their final nine games being at home could have an impact, though they’ll need to pick up points on the road if they’re to stand any chance of survival.
West Ham United
Yet another turbulent season in east London.
Despite their lofty ambitions of European football prior to the season’s kick off, only goal difference separates the Hammers from the drop zone – and only three goals at that.
Despite a tricky start against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, Moyes will no doubt pinpoint a run of four games with Newcastle, Burnley, Norwich and Watford as games the Hammers are perfectly capable of taking points from.
A penultimate game with Manchester United follows that (the Hammers needing to go to Old Trafford to pick up points for survival – rings a bell), before they host Villa on the final day.
The Hammers have not adapted to life at the London Stadium, but if that’s something they can change then they can secure their place in the Premier League. Three home games against Burnley, Watford and Villa are all winnable games, and if the Hammers can take at least seven points from them, then one more win could see them safe.
If West Ham’s season has been turbulent, then words can’t describe what Watford’s has been. An 8-0 demolition at the hands of City, a 3-0 thumping of the wannabe 'Invincibles', three managers in one season and now a star striker who ideally would rather not play; being a Hornets fan is hard work.
Nigel Pearson’s men kick off by welcoming Leicester to Vicarage Road, before fixtures they could easily take points from against Burnley and Southampton.
A trip to Chelsea follows, before two vital home games against Norwich and Newcastle; if Nigel Pearson is going to complete mission impossible, he surely needs to take a minimum of four points from these two fixtures.
The Hornets then travel to fellow strugglers West Ham, before rounding off with clashes against City and Arsenal.
With two tough assignments to conclude the season, Pearson’s men can ill-afford to go into their final two games adrift of the pack. A three-game run against fellow strugglers - two of which are at home - will no doubt prove crucial in their bid for survival.
It’s been a tough season for Eddie Howe’s side. Injuries to key men and ill-judged transfer dealings have seen the Cherries struggle to stay adrift.
Despite a promising start to the campaign, three wins in 18 league games have seen them slide down the table, and they’re now in grave danger of losing their Premier League status after five seasons in the top division.
Although they find themselves in the bottom three, Howe will be well aware his squad contains enough quality to secure their survival, and home games against Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Southampton afford the Cherries the perfect chance to pick up points.
That being said, those three home games may soon become ‘must win’ rather than ‘can win’, given Howe’s side also face trips to Wolves, Man Utd, Man City and Everton.
The Cherries' other two fixtures see them face Spurs and high-flying Leicester – tough assignments for a team struggling for form. Their three home games against Palace, Newcastle and Southampton may well determine which league Bournemouth are playing in next year.
Dean Smith’s men hold a game in hand over their rivals – a home clash with surprise package Sheffield United – and their home form will be key if they are to avoid a swift return to the second tier of English football.
Villa have won more than double the amount of points at home as they have away, winning as many home games as Wolves - it’s their away form that is hurting them.
Unfortunately for Villa, their remaining fixtures against struggling opposition are all away from home. The Villans travel to Newcastle along with a final day trip to West Ham, as well as tough trips to Anfield and Goodison Park.
That being said, Villa do still have six home games to play, and if the Villa Park crowd can create a white-hot atmosphere and make Villa Park a fortress again, their home form could see them safe.
Smith’s men host Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal before the season is over, but it’s home clashes with Sheffield United, Palace and Wolves where they should be looking to pick up points.
Often when a team is written off around February time, it’s because they haven’t got a goalscorer and they don’t play very good football; Norwich City are neither of these things, so don’t write them off yet.
The Canaries have mustered just a single away win all season, so trips to Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea and Man City may well prove fruitless, though their home form has been a little more encouraging.
Norwich kick off with two home games against Southampton and Everton; Daniel Farke’s men will need to pick up points early on if they’re to avoid being cut adrift.
The Canaries also face Brighton, West Ham and Burnley before the season is out, and if they are to avoid the drop, their home form is bound to play a key part in their run in.