The Premier League hierarchy is eyeing the resumption of the 2019-20 season following repeated discussions with the government, the clubs and various football governing bodies in the last few weeks.
The league executives appear to have developed a protocol through which the season can recommence amid the coronavirus crisis, as footballers will likely be subjected to regular testing before playing games in neutral venues.
The date of resumption is believed to have been set for June 8, with the government expected to allow athletes to begin the first phase of restricted group training later this week.
However, relegation-threatened clubs in the Premier League have openly opposed the idea of resuming the season in these conditions, with the financial repercussions they would endure once they get dropped to the Championship believed to be the primary reason behind their rivalling view.
The relegation battle in the English top flight is as tight as ever this season, with only two points separating 18th-placed Bournemouth and 15th-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.
League chiefs only have until May 25 to inform UEFA about their decision to either cancel or complete their season. No matter what decision they make by then, however, three clubs are likely to be relegated in order to avoid legal consequences and schedule-related problems in the future.
Having said that, we take a look at three clubs who are expected to be relegated from the Premier League this season.
#1 Norwich City
Norwich City secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2016 after winning the Championship title last season but all hopes of maintaining a successful run in England’s top-tier appear to have been shattered.
Daniel Farke’s men sit at the bottom of the standings with 21 points and have occupied the same position since their defeat to Aston Villa on December 26. This does not bode well for the club when one considers the fact that only three teams who have been at the bottom of the table on Christmas have managed to escape relegation in the Premier League’s history.
Moreover, the Canaries hold a joint unwanted record of four relegations from the top flight and will need at least 15 points from their upcoming nine games to avoid increasing their tally.
Norwich City initially enjoyed a decent start to the present campaign, with their victory over Manchester City as well as their draws against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur believed to be promising signs of their Premier League season.
However, their failure to convert home leads into wins and their easily-avoidable defeats to relegation rivals have done enough damage to make them the most likely candidates to be dropped to the second tier of English football at the end of the season.
#2 Aston Villa
Aston Villa’s massive gamble in the transfer market last summer has not paid any dividends as they are now engaged in a relegation dogfight in the Premier League, occupying the 19th spot with 25 points.
The Villans almost equalled Manchester United’s expenditures in the summer transfer window of 2019 with £144.5 million worth of spendings. However, an injury crisis- which saw the likes of Wesley and John McGinn restricted to the sidelines- soon resulted in the shortage of influential players within the squad and an over-reliance on their captain, Jack Grealish.
Moreover, inconsistent performances from defensive signings like Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, coupled with the injury of their first-choice goalkeeper Tom Heaton, have led to one of the worst defensive records in the English top-flight this season, with 56 conceded goals and only four clean sheets.
Dean Smith’s men were also in the midst of a wretched run of form leading up to the campaign’s suspension as they suffered four consecutive defeats in the Premier League, thereby becoming the only club in the top tier to have lost their previous four matches.
They are scheduled to play Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in their upcoming fixtures and are unlikely to escape their relegation fate unless they manage 11 points from their remaining games against the bottom-half sides.
#3 Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton and Hove Albion may have won many admirers for their aesthetically-pleasing style of play this season, but if they don’t convert their expansive football strategies into positive results soon, they could well be on their way out of the Premier League.
Graham Potter’s men occupy 15th place on the table with 29 points but their two-point cushion from the drop zone will hardly guarantee survival in the English top flight when the season resumes.
Like Norwich City, the Seagulls initially enjoyed a good run of form in the Premier League, with the flexibility of their tactical set-up allowing them to get the better of clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. However, their inability to create clear-cut chances and the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal has since led to a downward spiral of fortunes.
Brighton have not won any games in the entirety of 2020, with their last win coming in a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth in December last year. This means they have not established a win in their past nine matches, thereby becoming the club with the longest current run without a win in the Premier League.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth currently sit at 18th place on the Premier League standings but the quality within the squad and the experience of their manager, coupled with their decent home form this season, maybe enough for them to narrowly escape relegation at the end of the campaign.
Moreover, Brighton’s upcoming fixtures, which include games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Leicester City, together with their inability to get results, means they are one of the favourites to get dropped this season.