Relegation battle examined: Who will maintain their Premier League status?

Southampton, Fulham and Huddersfield in relegation zone

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While Huddersfield and Fulham look stranded at the bottom of the Premier League table, only three points separate the six teams above them.

With 12 games left, we look at a number of the factors connected to the hopes and fears of those involved in this season's battle to stay in the top flight...

Points required

The points required for survival has dropped significantly in recent seasons - 34 points would have been enough to stay up last season, while over the last five campaigns an average of 35.4 points was sufficient. Compare that to the previous 18 seasons (1995-2013) when an average of 36.7 points was required to survive.

But only one team in Premier League history has stayed up on 34 points. In 2004/05, Bryan Robson's West Brom survived with that total when a final-day win for any of the three relegated clubs - Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton - would have seen them avoid the drop instead.

Fewest points won by teams staying up

Team Season Points
West Brom 2004/05 34
West Ham 2009/10 35
Hull 2008/09 35
Southampton 2017/18 36
West Brom 2013/14 36
Fulham 2007/08 36
Bradford 1999/00 36

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Remaining games

Burnley's current run of seven games unbeaten may prove to be crucial as they look to have the trickiest run-in of any of the teams threatened by relegation.

Ashley Barnes of Burnley celebrates after scoring his team's third goal
Image: Burnley are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games

The Clarets' future opponents have an average of 1.63 points per game and they are the only team among the bottom eight who still have five games left against the top six, including visits to Liverpool and Chelsea.

Huddersfield's fixtures also look tough - they have trips to Tottenham and Liverpool to come in April and are the only Premier League team without a single remaining home game against a team in the bottom eight.

Remaining fixtures

Team Points per game of opponents vs top six vs bottom eight
Crystal Palace 1.32 2 home, 2 away 2 home, 3 away
Brighton 1.33 1 home, 3 away 4 home, 2 away
Newcastle 1.34 1 home, 1 away 4 home, 2 away
Fulham 1.40 3 home, 0 away 2 home, 1 away
Huddersfield 1.43 1 home, 2 away 0 home, 4 away
Southampton 1.47 2 home, 2 away 2 home, 2 away
Cardiff 1.55 2 home, 2 away 1 home, 3 away
Burnley 1.63 3 home, 2 away 2 home, 1 away

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Greatest escapes

In fact, the greatest escape in Premier League history would be required for Huddersfield to extend their two-season stay in the top division.

Karlan Grant celebrates a late consolation goal for Huddersfield Town
Image: No team has ever stayed up from Huddersfield's current position

There is no precedent for a team surviving from Huddersfield's current situation of 14 points from safety with 12 games left. However, one more point will at least see them avoid the ignominy of equalling Derby's all-time low of 11 Premier League points, set in 2007/08.

Fulham's current position of 19th and eight points from safety also looks dire, although there are one or two instances in Premier League history of teams rescuing themselves from similar situations, most notably West Ham in 2006/07 who were 10 points from safety in mid-March. It took a Carlos Tevez-inspired run of seven wins from their final nine games to get out of trouble.

Stayed up when 6+ points adrift with 10 or fewer games remaining

Team Season Situation Remaining results
Bradford 1999/00 6 pts from safety, 5 to play W3 D1 L1
Portsmouth 2005/06 8 pts from safety, 10 to play W6 D2 L2
West Ham 2006/07 10 pts from safety, 9 to play W7 D0 L2
Fulham 2007/08 6 pts from safety, 5 to play W4 D0 L1
Sunderland 2013/14 7 pts from safety, 6 to play W4 D1 L1
Leicester 2014/15 6pts from safety, 9 to play W7 D1 L1

Changing managers

In three seasons prior to this one, seven of nine teams relegated from the Premier League changed their manager during the season - the exceptions were Alex Neil at Norwich in 2015/16 and David Moyes at Sunderland in 2016/17. However, there are also examples of when switching manager in the fight for survival can be beneficial.

Ranieri want his players to be 'ready to fight'
Image: Can Claudio Ranieri find a way to guide Fulham up the table?

On four occasions in Premier League history, a club have changed manager after Christmas when in the relegation zone and gone on to survive - most recently when Paul Clement rescued Swansea two seasons ago, albeit with over half the games left to play.

Changing manager after Christmas in relegation zone and stayed up

Club Season Sacked Position when sacked Games remaining Replacement Finishing position
Bolton 2009/10 Megson 18th 20 Coyle 14th
Crystal Palace 2014/15 Warnock 18th 20 Pardew 10th
Aston Villa 2014/15 Lambert 18th 13 Sherwood 17th
Swansea 2016/17 Bradley 19th 20 Clement 15th

On the flip side, there is one instance in Premier League history when a club have changed manager after Christmas while outside of the relegation zone before eventually going down.

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In April 2014, Norwich were 17th and five points clear of the bottom three when Chris Hughton was sacked and replaced by Neil Adams. The Canaries only took one more point that season while Sunderland took 13 points in the same period under Gus Poyet to pull off their great escape.

Head-to-head results

While points against the top clubs can be seen as a bonus in a relegation battle, the head-to-head meetings between teams involved in the survival scrap can be make or break.

Crystal Palace have the best record against fellow bottom eight teams so far this season, taking an average of 1.67 points per game in those matches compared to 0.71 points per game against everyone else.

Wilfried Zaha celebrates with Crystal Palace team-mates
Image: Crystal Palace have a strong record against teams in the bottom eight

However, only taking into consideration results between the six teams separated by three points between 13th and 18th, the Eagles only have one win - at home to Burnley - and one point per game on average.

Burnley themselves can be hugely encouraged by their recent form in these head-to-head clashes - they have taken 13 points from the last 15 available when they have faced another of the bottom eight clubs.

Head to head among bottom eight

Team Played PPG
Crystal Palace 9 1.67
Burnley 11 1.64
Newcastle 8 1.63
Cardiff 10 1.60
Fulham 11 1.27
Brighton 9 1.22
Southampton 10 1.10
Huddersfield 10 0.60
Sol Bamba celebrates Cardiff's 2-1 win over Southampton
Image: Cardiff are aiming to avoid an immediate relegation back to the Championship

Second-season syndrome

Huddersfield could become the ninth club in Premier League history to be relegated in their second season after promotion, and the first for four seasons since Hull in 2014/15.

After securing survival with one game to spare last season, Huddersfield look set to follow the pattern of narrowly staying up in their first season followed by relegation in the second - Bradford, West Brom, Hull and QPR fans have all experienced that in the past.

Should Fulham and Cardiff both somehow dig their way out of trouble, this season would be only the fourth in Premier League history to see all of the promoted clubs survive - most recently it happened last season when Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield secured safety a year after coming up together from the Championship.

Relegated in second PL season after promotion

Team Relegated Previous PL season
Middlesbrough 1996/97 12th
Bradford 2000/01 17th
Ipswich 2001/02 5th
West Brom 2005/06 17th
Reading 2007/08 8th
Hull 2009/10 17th
Birmingham 2010/11 9th
QPR 2012/13 17th
Hull 2014/15 16th

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