Talking Soccer: Relegation race tighter than ever

Leicester City's Wes Morgan, left, and Jamie Vardy leave the pitch after the English Premier League match Swansea against Leicester at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales, Sunday Feb. 12, 2017. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

While the Premier League season still holds about a third of the fixtures left to it, the bottom four teams looking at relegation have already managed to secure more points than Aston Villa did last year with 17 total.  While nobody will have a season as bad as that team, Hull City, Leicester City and Middlesbrough all sit with 22 or less points, with Sunderland and Crystal Palace sitting in last with 19.

The relegation race is sitting tight this year, and any team could crack their chances of staying afloat or have a spell of great games and manage to escape relegation. While Sunderland, Hull City and Middlesbrough are not surprising anybody by struggling to stay in the Premier League, Crystal Palace has managed to finish in the middle of the table for the past few years and Leicester City is the most surprising of all after winning the entire season last year.

Compared to the 81 points Leicester City finished the season with last year, their 21 points two-thirds of the way through this season looks pretty abysmal. In fact, if the Premier League Champions of last year manage to be relegated at the end of the season it would be the first time in Premier League history. It isn’t surprising that they have fallen from their place atop the league after their Cinderella story last year, especially due to the offloading of key players like defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante this past summer to Chelsea and left-back Jeffrey Schlupp to Crystal Palace during the winter transfer window. Although the team still has central pieces that should be able to lift them out of the relegation battle, the fact that the club refused to set striker Leo Ulloa for a generous 8 million pounds to Sunderland shows they are afraid to help out relegation rivals and are worried going into the end of the season.

Crystal Palace is an interesting case as well, having managed to finish quite decently in the four seasons they have been in England’s top flight. After reaching the league for the 2013/2014 season, they were immediately successful and finished in 11th place that year. The following year they did better, managing 10th overall, however they showed a lack of momentum when they finished the 2015/2016 season in 15th place (albeit going to an FA Cup final against Manchester United). Their place in the Premier League looks to be slipping as they sit tied for last with Sunderland, but they hope the signing of manager Sam Allardyce in December of 2016 can help them stay in the top flight.

Hull City has managed to take solid points away from teams fighting for the top of the league like Manchester City, Manchester United or Arsenal, however they do not look consistent enough and would be one of my choices for relegation. Sunderland has continued to disappoint and without much improvement made through the winter transfer window it looks like they will have a hard time finishing the end of the season in suitable shape. Lastly, Middlesbrough has just risen to the Premier League and if they do not get themselves on a run it will be hard for them to stay above a fighting Leicester City team and Crystal Palace squad with new management.


Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.burns@uconn.edu.