Now that Liverpool has clinched the Premier League title, Champions League qualification and relegation are the most important matters yet to be decided in England’s top flight. Being sent down to the Championship will be especially crushing this year for clubs that are feeling the economic crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic and will sorely miss the millions of pounds paid to Premier League teams each year as part of television rights deals.
There are five clubs with at least a 32% chance to be relegated and another that’s not fully out of the woods yet, according to FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model. Which ones may be left wishing that the English FA had followed France and the Netherlands’ example by canceling the season and suspending relegation? Let’s take a look at how each club is shaping up, in current table order.
15th, 33 points, -7 goal differential
Restart Form: 2-1 win vs. Arsenal (H), 0-0 draw at Leicester City (A)
Remaining Matches: Manchester United (H), Norwich City (A), Liverpool (H), Manchester City (H), Southampton (A), Newcastle (H), Burnley (A)
Reasons for Optimism: The Seagulls have soared out of the break, picking up their first win of 2020 at home against Arsenal to resume their campaign before managing a draw at third-place Leicester. Those sorely needed results likely saved their season. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 1% chance of being relegated, as they’re now six points above the drop zone with a far superior goal differential to their competitors.
Brighton boasts the best defense among the relegation pack with 41 goals allowed. Among clubs outside the top five, it also ranks first in passes and possession after transitioning to a more progressive style under first-year manager Graham Potter. Its last couple results show that it may be well-equipped for any remaining match, especially without fans involved in away games to disrupt their possession-based system.
Reasons for Pessimism: Three of the club’s next four matches are against teams in the top five, with the other being against 20th-placed Norwich. If it emerges from that run with at least three points, Brighton fans should be able to breathe easy. If not, then things could get dicey. Potter doesn’t yet have the most technically skilled players to carry out his ideal attack, and Brighton could struggle to break down the two compact sides that finish out their fixtures in Newcastle and Burnley.
X-Factor: Center back Lewis Dunk ranks first on the team in passes (1,945) and clearances (95) and second in interceptions (44), goals (three) and assists (three). The 28-year-old also has the most yellow cards (nine), which is a pretty fun statistic for a club captain to lead his team.
Prediction: 15th with 39 points. For the fourth straight season, Brighton appears poised to finish between 15th and 17th.
16th, 28 points, -20 goal differential
Restart Form: 1-1 draw vs. Leicester City (H), 1-0 loss vs. Burnley (A), 1-3 loss vs. Southampton…