Premier League relegation battle analysed with key fixtures over the next seven days

Watford, Newcastle, Burnley and Norwich are embroiled in a mighty scrap to stay in the Premier League; using stats and fixtures remaining we analyse the pros and cons of each team's survival hopes; our tipster Jones Knows reveals who he is backing for the drop

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Image: The battle for the drop: Watford, Newcastle, Burnley and Norwich

The battle for Premier League survival continues this weekend - but which team is best placed to avoid the drop?

After taking a useful point away from St James' Park with a late equaliser against Newcastle, Watford remain just outside the drop zone and head into a huge game against fellow relegation rivals Norwich, live on Friday Night Football.

Norwich will certainly be buoyant after Dean Smith's side achieved their first league win in nine - and first goals since November - against Everton at Carrow Road on Saturday.

It means just three points cover four sides at the bottom of the table.

Here, we take a look at the fixture list to gauge which team has the easiest run-in, we assess the stats to find reasons for supporters to be hopeful and fearful, and our tipster Jones Knows analyses the odds...

Watford

Claudio Ranieri has been appointed as Watford's new manager

Position: 17th
Games played: 19
Points Per Game: 0.74
Relegation Sky Bet odds: 8/15

Key fixtures to note: Jan 21: Norwich (h), Feb 26: Man Utd (a), April 2: Liverpool (a), April 23: Man City (a), April 30: Burnley (h), May 22: Chelsea (a), TBA: Burnley (a),

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Reasons for hope

Dennis is a menace. Emmanuel Dennis has contributed 13 goals and assists combined to Watford's survival bid - only two players have more goal involvements this season, Mohamed Salah who is way ahead on 25 and Michail Antonio (14). Dennis has certainly made his presence felt in his debut Premier League campaign, also conceding the most fouls (39) and picking up the second-most yellow cards (six).

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That winning feeling. With four, Watford almost have as many league wins as the three teams below them combined. In Premier League history, only five teams have avoided the drop with fewer than eight wins (most recently Southampton in 2017/18, with seven). With over half of their season remaining, eight wins feels a lot more achievable for Watford than for any of their bottom-four rivals. As the table below shows, Watford also have the slightly easier second half to the season in terms of fixtures remaining.

Reasons for fear

Clean break. Watford are the only team in the top four divisions without a clean sheet this season. The Hornets' run without a Premier League clean sheet now runs to 29 games - they need one in the next few weeks to avoid surpassing West Brom's all-time Premier League record of 34 games without a clean sheet, set in 2010/11. They are the only ones of the bottom four to still have to play Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea away from home still.

Home discomfort. Season-ticket holders at Vicarage Road have seen 33 goals this season, but two-thirds of them have been scored by the visitors - 22 home goals conceded being the joint-most in the division this season. For Watford to survive, they need to tighten up at the back, their 57 shots on target faced at home also being the second-highest of any team this season, behind Newcastle (61).

Norwich

Dean Smith shows his frustration on the touchline

Position: 18th
Games played: 21
PPG: 0.62
Relegation Sky Bet odds: 1/10

Key fixtures to note: Jan 21: Watford (a), Feb 12: Man City (h), Feb 19: Liverpool (a), April 9: Burnley (h), April 16: Man Utd (a), April 23: Newcastle (h), May 22: Tottenham (h)

Reasons for hope

The Great Escape of 2005. Worryingly for Norwich fans, 10 of 11 teams who previously reached 19 games with 10 points or fewer in Premier League history went down. But one did survive, West Brom pulling off the greatest escape in 2004/05. Boosted by the January arrivals of Kevin Campbell and Kieran Richardson, the Baggies survived by a single point after only five defeats in the second half of the season. Could those big three points at home to Everton on January 15 after a run of six losses kick-start a Norwich charge?

Still right in touch. Although they have played more games than their direct rivals - four more than Burnley, in fact - wins have proved incredibly hard to come by for all the immediate relegation rivals too. Watford's last win came on November 20, while Newcastle and Burnley's only victories of the season were back on December 6 and October 30 respectively.

Reasons for fear

A lack of goals. The Canaries have only scored 10 all season and set a new Premier League record for the fewest goals by any team (eight) at the halfway stage.

The defence. Coupled with their goalscoring concern, Norwich also have big issues at the back, ranking behind only Leeds for shots on target faced per game (5.6) and joint-bottom for penalties conceded (six). They have conceded eight goals more than their xG faced, meaning they need to improve at both ends to hold any hope.

Newcastle

Eddie Howe is the new head coach of Newcastle

Position: 19th
Games played: 20
PPG: 0.60
Relegation Sky Bet odds: 10/11

Key fixtures to note: Mar 12: Chelsea (a), April 23: Norwich (a), April 30: Liverpool (h), May 7: Man City (a), May 22: Burnley (a)

Reasons for hope

Getting ahead. Newcastle have scored the opening goal in 10 games, a figure bettered by only eight teams. Eddie Howe has a successful track record of coaching a Premier League attack - his Bournemouth side ranked seventh, ninth and seventh for goals scored in their second, third and fourth seasons in the top division.

Match winners. Newcastle possess the division's top dribbler in Allan Saint-Maximin (144 take-ons attempted this season), a pinpoint crosser in Kieran Trippier (1.9 chances created per 90 mins in his most recent league season with Tottenham in 2018-19) and have signed Wood who has scored the second-most headed goals in the Premier League (17) since joining Burnley in August 2017.

Reasons for fear

Leaking goals. Newcastle are the only team to have three different goalkeepers start three or more Premier League games this season, but none of them have helped matters much - their combined save ratio of 55.65 per cent is the lowest across the division. Forty-two goals conceded was the club's most after 19 games of a league campaign for 61 years, since the 1960/61 season which ended in relegation.

Holding leads. Dropping 19 points from winning positions is a concerning record over the course of an entire season, let alone at the halfway stage. Only four Premier League teams dropped more than 19 points from winning positions in the whole of last season, while Newcastle themselves last did so back in 2004-05 (31 points dropped).

Burnley

Burnley manager Sean Dyche applauds the fans after the Premier League match at Turf Moor, Burnley. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021.

Position: 20th
Games played: 17
PPG: 0.65
Relegation Sky Bet odds: 4/7

Key fixtures to note: Feb 8: Man Utd (h), Feb 13: Liverpool (h), March 5: Chelsea (h), April 2: Man City (h), April 9: Norwich (a), April 30: Watford (a), May 22: Newcastle (h), TBA: Watford (h)

Reasons for hope

Hard to beat. Burnley have actually avoided defeat in more games (nine) than they have lost (eight) this season, something none of the other bottom four can claim. They have the best defensive record in the bottom half, conceding fewer goals (27) than West Ham and Man Utd who both have their eyes set on potential Champions League qualification.

Max power. Once he returns from the ongoing AFCON, Maxwel Cornet will be crucial to Burnley's survival hopes. The Ivory Coast international has the best shot conversion among the 27 players with five or more non-penalty Premier League goals this season, scoring six times from only 17 attempts.

Reasons for fear

Age concern. The starting XI from Burnley's most recent Premier League game against Leeds had an average age of 30 years and 317 days, the oldest in the division this season and the oldest in the club's Premier League history. With more games remaining than any other team, will Burnley have the legs to run away from trouble?

Losing Wood. With Chris Wood gone, Burnley have lost a player who has scored 28 per cent of their Premier League goals since his arrival in 2017. Only one of his team-mates, Ashley Barnes, has even reached double figures across the last five seasons combined, while Wood also leads the way for the Clarets this season for shots, touches in the box and aerial duels won.

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