Which side has the easiest run-in of the relegation candidates?

Premier League

We analyse the remaining fixtures for Sunderland, Hull City, QPR, Aston Villa, Burnley and Leicester City.

While the race for the top-four is being split between at least six teams and proving to be intriguing for everyone, the relegation battle has proved equally close.

With nearly ever side near the bottom of the table in danger of going down, such is their proximity, it really is looking to be one of the closest relegation battles in Premier League history.

Only five points separate Aston Villa in 18th and Everton in 12th, meaning as many as nine teams could face the drop at the end of the season. However, it is applicable to rule some teams out.

West Brom are likely to be safe having secured Tony Pulis as manager, while Crystal Palace have been reinvigorated by Alan Pardew’s arrival at the club. Elsewhere, everyone is expecting Everton to find themselves again at some point after a disappointing season, and their recent run of clean sheets and performances suggests they may be changing their form. In this piece, we take a look at the bottom six, and who faces the toughest challenge to avoid the drop. 

Sunderland

Sunderland have failed to impress this season under Gus Poyet. The 2-0 loss to Bradford in the FA Cup this weekend was indicative of their season so far. That cup exit came on the back of a shock home loss to QPR, the West London side's first victory away from home all season, having lost all of the others.

The Black Cats do have Jermain Defoe though, a proven goalscorer at Premier League level and probably the key to their survival. They also have a relatively comfortable end of season run-in, only taking on four of the league’s top seven, with those games spread out across the coming months. Tellingly, they take on fellow relegation rivals Leicester in their second to last game.

Sunderland’s remaining fixtures:

West Brom (H)

Man Utd (A)

Hull (A)

Aston Villa (H)

West Ham (A)

Newcastle (H)

Crystal Palace (H)

Arsenal (A)

Stoke (H)

Southampton (H)

Everton (A)

Leicester (H)

Chelsea (A)

Hull City

It’s been a long, hard season for Hull and Steve Bruce. The former Wigan manager had an impressive summer, or so most thought, bringing in the likes of Abel Hernandez, Jake Livermore and Hatem Ben Arfa while Michael Dawson was going to be the one to shore up the defence.

However, Ben Arfa proved a big mistake and Hernandez is yet to form a deadly partnership with Nikica Jelavic. Hull have struggled for goals, like most of the teams at that end of the table, and the January signing of Dame N’Doye may give them a boost. Their remaining fixtures are tough as well, for instance they take on six of the top seven in the games left, with Arsenal, Spurs and Man United all coming in their last four games alone.

Hull’s remaining games

QPR (H)

Stoke (A)

Sunderland (H)

Leicester (A)

Chelsea (H)

Swansea (A)

Southampton (A)

Liverpool (H)

Crystal Palace (A)

Arsenal (H)

Burnley (H)

Tottenham (A)

Man Utd (H)

QPR

Where would QPR be without Charlie Austin? The forward has had an impressive first season in the Premier League and is second only behind Harry Kane in English goal scorers in the division. Despite that, their away form has left them mired in the relegation battle, with the recent win at Sunderland the only away fixture they haven’t lost all season.

Harry Redknapp's resignation may prove pivotal or disastrous, as caretaker manager Chris Ramsey takes charge until the end of the season and provides a fresh outlook. They take on five of the top seven in their remaining fixtures, but also take on fellow strugglers Hull, Aston Villa and Leicester City. Those three games could prove key to their chances, especially the game against the Foxes on the last day.

QPR’s remaining fixtures

Hull (A)

Arsenal (H)

Tottenham (H)

Crystal Palace (A)

Everton (H)

West Brom (A)

Chelsea (H)

Aston Villa (A)

West Ham (H)

Liverpool (A)

Man City (A)

Newcastle (H)

Leicester (A)

Aston Villa

How pivotal could the sacking of Paul Lambert, and subsequent hiring of Tim Sherwood be to Aston Villa’s survival? The side were struggling under the Scot, with their lack of goals a serious problem and star forward Christian Benteke’s form a major worry.

However, Sherwood will be keen to impress and his half-time speech in the game against Leicester in the FA Cup on Sunday has already inspired them to victory there. Tellingly though, they take on four of the top seven, with all those games coming in the last two months and away from home to boot. That means the rest of February, and then March, could prove vital to their survival, while their final game against Burnley could also prove to be key, or inconsequential, depending on how things go in the run up. 

Aston Villa’s remaining fixtures

Stoke (H)

Newcastle (A)

West Brom (H)

Sunderland (A)

Swansea (H)

Man Utd (A)

Tottenham (A)

QPR (H)

Man City (A)

Everton (H)

West Ham (H)

Southampton (A)

Burnley (H)

Burnley

Despite sitting second from bottom, Burnley have been stable in their first season back in the Premier League. Manager Sean Dyche has continued to impress with his rationale and calm thinking, while forward Danny Ings's first season in the Premier League has created talk of him moving on to a number of big clubs in the summer.

Unfortunately for them, the fixture list has not been kind, pitting them against six of the top seven in their remaining games. Fortunately for them, three of those fixtures are at home, while they also take on fellow strugglers Leicester and Hull in their last games and tellingly Aston Villa on the final day. There’s plenty of room for optimism, but those fixtures against the top teams in the league could prove costly.

Burnley’s remaining fixtures

Chelsea (A)

Swansea (H)

Liverpool (A)

Man City (H)

Southampton (A)

Tottenham (H)

Arsenal (H)

Everton (A)

Leicester (H)

West Ham (A)

Hull (A)

Stoke (H)

Aston Villa (A)

Leicester City

It’s been a topsy-turvy season for Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City side. The 5-3 win over Manchester United was their best performance of the season and looked to be the proof that they would be comfortable in their first season back in the Premier League. However, the win over Louis van Gaal’s side has proved a burden with them then going 13 games without a win until victory over Hull in December.

In that game, the Foxes had looked full of attacking threat but have been light up front since, although January signing Andrej Kramaric is looking like a shrewd buy who may score the goals they need to stay up. Their remaining fixtures are kind though, taking on four of their fellow strugglers, while their final day fixture against QPR could be a deciding game.

Leicester’s remaining fixtures

Everton (A)

Chelsea – postponed (H)

Man City (A) Hull (H)

Tottenham (A)

West Ham (H)

West Brom (A)

Swansea (H)

Burnley (A)

Newcastle (H)

Southampton (H)

Sunderland (A)

QPR (H)

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