Stoke were ripped apart by Man Utd on Monday night and remain marooned in the Premiership relegation zone, leaving new boss Paul Lambert with a mountain to climb. The Scotsman is one of seven new managers brought in to try to rescue relegation-threatened teams this season, and the battle is intensifying down there. There are now just 15 games to go, it will only become more gripping going forwards. Here are the leading contenders for the drop:
The Swans have scored the fewest goals in the Premiership this season and that looks set to cost them dearly. They have registered just 14 strikes in 23 games and badly miss Gilfi Sigurdsson, sold to Everton in the summer. Carlos Carvalhal is an uninspiring replacement for sacked boss Paul Clement, and the Swans look in real trouble. They are bottom of the table and 1/4 to go down with on the football betting odds with Betfred and Bet Stars, which looks like a banker.
The Baggies went out to 6/5 in the relegation betting after beating Brighton 2-0 at the weekend, their first win in five months. Alan Pardew was parachuted in to save the day, but initially struggled to turn around the sinking ship. But victory over Brighton will give fans hope of a great escape. West Brom spent several years as a yo-yo club, bouncing between the Premiership and the Championship with regularity, but now they are playing their seventh consecutive season in the top flight. Like Swansea, they have become mainstays of the division, but their status is in grave danger. Upcoming games against Man City and Chelsea look ominous, so they need maximum points against teams like Everton, Southamton and Huddersfield. You can get 6/5 with William Hill on West Brom going down and that looks interesting.
The Potters dropped down to third-favourites for the drop after they lost to Man Utd and they are now 13/8 with William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power. That looks a little risky as Stoke still have a decent spine to their side: Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross, Kurt Zouma, Darren Fletcher, Joe Allen, Xherdan Shaqiri and Peter Crouch. If they can get any one of Saido Berahino, Mame Biram Diouf or Joselu firing in the goals, and if they can bring back some animosity to the Bet365 stadium, they should beat the drop.
Chris Hughton’s men are looking in real trouble. Only Swansea have scored fewer goals than them and that is a real worry for Seagulls fans. They are strong defensively, disciplined and diligent in their approach, but they lack pace and spark going forwards. A dip into the transfer market could turn their season around, meaning they would rely less on veteran striker Glenn Murray, but nobody is currently linked. They are yet to win a league game in 2018 and are sliding perilously close to the drop zone, so the 15/8 on offer with Bet Victor and Sky Bet looks really attractive.
Huddersfield are also in a perilous situation, hurtling down the table after a strong start to the campaign. They had a strong home record but were pretty tame in losing 4-1 at the Kirklees Stadium last weekend. The Terriers are four points clear of 18th placed Stoke, but that sort of cushion can quickly be eroded. Huddersfield have won plaudits for their hard work and battling style, but that can only get you so far and they appear to lack the quality to beat many teams in the remaining 15 games of the season. They have taken three points from their last five games and that is worrying form at this time of year, so 15/8 on them with various Green Listed Bookmakers also looks really enticing.
Four teams rolled the dice, changed managers and it worked: Crystal Palace, Leicester, Everton and West Ham all seem to be steering clear of trouble. Watford probably picked up enough points in the first half of the campaign to survive again. Bournemouth do not battle, but they have enough quality going forwards to ensure they have no serious relegation fears. There are two long shots that could get sucked into the battle: Newcastle and Southampton. Rafa Benitez has been frustrated by the lack of investment in the Magpies’ squad and his managerial nous is their only real asset. He has Championship quality players and is bidding to keep Newcastle in the Premiership, but they are only three points above the drop zone. At 3/1 with Paddy Power, Newcastle are a tempting option. And how about the Saints? They have sold star player Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool for £75 million – joining Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren in making the journey from St Mary’s to Anfield – but where is the reinvestment? You can only get away with selling your best players for so long before it comes back to bite you. Southampton now find themselves 17th in the league, one point above the relegation zone, and in dreadful form. They have not won a league game since November, and yet they are still 5/1 to go down with various Green Listed Bookmakers and 11/2 with Betway. That is largely down to them achieving four consecutive top-eight Premiership finishes, but the current team is bereft of star quality and ideas, and they could be in real danger.