The Premier League relegation picture: Favourites for the drop, the run-in and much more

The international break can serve as a much-needed bookend from terrible form, or equally stunt some building momentum in a bid to beat the drop.

Last Saturday marked the return of the Premier League after the year's first pause for breath, and the battle to avoid relegation ensues with six potential teams in the mix.

After a barnstorming return to the top flight last season, Sheffield United are lost in the 'Wilderness' after sacking their long-time manager, sitting 13 points adrift of safety.

Last season's promoted sides, Fulham and West Brom are on the brink with them sitting 18th and 19th respectively, while Burnley, Brighton and Newcastle are all in the mix for the second tier next campaign.

Here is the breakdown of every potential candidate for the Premier League relegation battle.

(All odds sourced from SkyBet unless stated otherwise, all odds correct as of April 8 2021)

Burnley

Current position: 15th

Current relegation odds: 16/1

Relegation odds at the start of the season: 11/4

Key player: Nick Pope - the perennial candidate to take Jordan Pickford's number one spot in the international setup has had a stellar season for the Clarets. He became the first England goalkeeper to keep clean sheets in his first six internationals over the international break, but it's his performances between the sticks for Burnley that have caught the attention of many. Pope has made the fourth-most saves (106) and has the third-highest save percentage in the league this season (76.6%), while also attaining the highest cross-stopping percentage (12.5%) according to FBref.com.

There was a school of thought at the season's conclusion that manager Sean Dyche may have done his best with Burnley and that pastures new were calling. The Turf Moor side notoriously overachieve in relation to wage and transfer expenditure, but new signings in the form of Jay Rodriguez and Josh Brownhill aided in an impressive 10th-placed finish last season.

The club's top-half finish was their first since 2019, when they finished in the Europa League qualification spots. With slim chances of such fortunes being replicated this season, the Clarets may have to turn their attention to a dog fight at the other end of the table.

They replicate their footing in the Premier League form table at 15th (W1, D3, 2L in last five games), while sitting seven points above Fulham with a game in hand may be seen as a comfortable enough situation. The Lancashire outfit have recently capitalised on a winnable draw against West Brom with two respectable stalemates against Arsenal and Leicester, with a win at Everton to boot.

Dyche will be cautiously optimistic that he can add to his side's five-year run in the top of the footballing pyramid, yet will be aware of the ever-changing nature of the bottom half of the division. The shape of the run-in for Burnley looks complimentary, facing only three top-half opponents this spring.

Burnley's remaining fixtures with accompanying league positions (as of April 8):

April 11 - Newcastle (h), 17th

April 18 - Manchester United (a), 2nd

April 25 - Wolves (a) 14th

* May 1 - West Ham (h), 4th

* May 8 - Fulham (a), 18th

* May 11 - Leeds (h), 11th

* May 15 - Liverpool (h), 7th

May 23 - Sheffield United (a), 20th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

Burnley's remaining fixtures offer up some intriguing potential modifications to the Premier League table come the end of May. Perhaps one of the most diverse and varied schedules in terms of league positions, potential scalps against the likes of Manchester United and then top four hopefuls West Ham and Liverpool could offer a leg up to other budding European hopefuls.

They too face middle-of-the-pack opposition in the likes of Wolves and Leeds, the results of such fixtures could have an impact on whether the season was business as usual or a disappointing one for fellow perennial overachievers. Nonetheless, mouth-watering fixtures against other relegation candidates Newcastle, Fulham and then Sheffield United on the final day will determine the makeup of the league this season.

Burnley could be in the comfortable position of playing to decide others fate, or even perhaps less likely, playing to secure theirs in the top flight.

VERDICT: SURVIVE - Barring any late mishaps, Burnley should remain on course to stay in the Premier League for another campaign under Sean Dyche, who has only tasted relegation once in his managerial career.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Current position: 16th

Current relegation odds: 33/1

Relegation odds at the start of the season: 7/2

Key player: Lewis Dunk - Dunk is said to have courted some admirers via north London, where Jose Mourinho is said to be looking for 'a new central defensive leader' according to football.london. The imperious captain has been with the club for twelve years and was tied down to a new five-year contract last year, potentially keeping him at the club until the age of 33.

Alongside his rallying performances at centre-back this season, Dunk is in the 94th percentile of shots per 90 vs centre-backs in the Premier League this season according to FBref.com. He has reaped the rewards four times thus far, with an important goal in the win against fellow south coast side Southampton.

Graham Potter made a solid start to life at the Amex Stadium last season, finishing 15th and making a deep run to the FA Cup semi-finals. Potter assumed the vacant role in wake of Chris Houghton's harsh dismissal the summer previous.

This season however, has been plagued by a series of misfortune events for the Seagulls. From amassing an expected goals tally of 2.51 to Crystal Palace's 0.23 and still losing, to conceding a decisive goal awarded after the final whistle had blown against Manchester United, it's been a tough sophomore effort for the 45-year-old in the dugout. One of the highlights so far this season was picking up four points against reigning champions Liverpool this season, contributing to the Anfield side's awful title defence.

A recent uptick in form was preceded by a hat-trick of disappointing defeats for the Seagulls, against rivals Crystal Palace and fellow relegation contenders West Brom no less.

Two wins on the bounce against Southampton and Newcastle preceding their most recent loss to Manchester United will serve as a confidence boost heading into the home straight.

Brighton's remaining fixtures with accompanying league positions (as of April 8):

April 12 - Everton (h), 8th

April 20 - Chelsea (a), 5th

April 24 - Sheffield United (a) 20th

* May 1 - Leeds (h), 11th

* May 8 - Wolves (a), 13th

* May 11 - West Ham (h), 4th

* May 15 - Manchester City (h), 1st

May 23 - Arsenal (a), 10th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

Few relegation contenders will be envious of the remaining fixtures faced by Graham Potter and co. over the next two months. They only play a team currently below them in the table once, away at Bramall Lane to take on rock-bottom Sheffield United. With that fixture their only potential nailed-on three points, Albion will look to take important points off mid-table dwellers Leeds and Wolves (unbeaten against both this season, W1, D1). A scalp or two wouldn't go amiss either, going up against sides such as Arsenal who will respectively have little to play for come the final day.

VERDICT: SURVIVE - A minefield of a fixture list will pose problems for Brighton, but if they can recapture some of the promise shown earlier on in the campaign, they should live to fight on another year in the Premier League - in part due to the poor quality of sides below them.

Newcastle United

Current position: 17th

Current relegation odds: 11/10

Relegation odds at the start of the season: 15/8

Key player: Callum Wilson - Purchased for £20million at the start of the season, the former Bournemouth man has 10 goals and five assists to his name in his maiden campaign at St. James' Park. The returns equate to 50% goal involvements in the Magpies' measly 30 Premier League goals this season, despite missing eight league games through injury. His potential return to the line-up this Sunday against Burnley has sent the Newcastle faithful into raptures, with his team without a victory since his injury on February 6.

Winless in their last six games, it is fast becoming a perilous situation for Steve Bruce on Tyneside. To make matters worse, winnable games against Brighton and West Brom were squandered, with just a point to show for the two outings.

Bruce was able to match the 13th-place finish in the final season of Rafa Benitez's tenure, despite fan scepticism and expensive signings such as Joelinton (£40million) leaving a lot to be desired since his arrival in the north east.

A potential takeover bid to bring a close to the Mike Ashley era faltered in 2020, leaving a crestfallen fanbase disenfranchised with the occurrences on and off the pitch. While the season is not littered with silver linings, encouraging results such as a point against Tottenham, remaining unbeaten against the Merseyside clubs and beating Southampton will nevertheless create a belief that they can get big results from big games.

A three-point cushion with a game in hand over Fulham at present has put the onus on Newcastle to secure their own fate. A potential return of the likes of the aforementioned Wilson and fan favourite Allan Saint-Maximin could just be what the doctor ordered as the storied club face yet another battle for top-flight survival.

Newcastle's remaining fixtures, with accompanying league positions (as of April 8):

April 11 - Burnley (a), 15th

April 17 - West Ham (h), 4th

April 24 - Liverpool (a) 7th

* May 1 - Arsenal (h), 10th

* May 8 - Leicester (a), 3rd

* May 12 - Manchester City (h), 1st

* May 15 - Sheffield United (h), 20th

May 23 - Fulham (a), 18th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

Newcastle's remaining fixtures are a daunting task, facing only three teams in the bottom six with five of the remaining six sides sitting in the top half of the Premier League form table. The Sunday lunchtime game with Burnley could very well reignite a survival bid and drag Burnley back down into the relegation conversation. No mean feat, but the most eye-catching section of their matchups is the back-to-back encounters with Sheffield United and Fulham. While much can change between the present and mid-May, it couldn't be more finely poised for season-defining games towards the close of play for the season.

VERDICT: RELEGATED - Unless the likes of Callum Wilson can hit the ground running, there is a massive possibility that Newcastle could be in the second tier for the third time under Mike Ashley next season. Much could hinge on the final two games of the season, but the fixtures before that may condemn their status as a Championship club before the shootouts against Sheffield United and Fulham.

Fulham

Current position: 18th

Current relegation odds: 8/11

Relegation odds at the start of the season: 10/11 (favourites)

Key player: Ademola Lookman - the RB Leipzig loanee's return to the Premier League has been one of value for his current club in south-west London. With four goals and assists each to his name, only Bobby Decordova-Reid has netted more times this year, with Ola Aina the only Fulham player to complete more progressive passes (93 to Lookman's 92) according to FBref.com.

Fulham's Ademola Lookman vs Liverpool
Fulham's Ademola Lookman vs Liverpool

Fulham's route back to the Premier League was nothing if not dramatic, climaxing in a late play-off final win against local rivals Brentford. Fulham's outside chance of even being promoted last season meant many tipped the Whites to take the plunge yet Scott Parker, only in his second full season of management, has gained plaudits for his recent recovery of relegation-stricken form that plagued the club at the start of the season.

The Craven Cottage side had only two wins to their name at the start of February, and have since picked up 12 points from an available 30. While not exactly the form of contenders, Fulham have persuaded many that their light in the Premier League may not be out just yet - with three wins coming against the Merseyside clubs and vitally, Sheffield United.

Fulham's remaining fixtures, with accompanying league positions (as of April 8):

April 9 - Wolves (h), 14th

April 18 - Arsenal (a), 10th

* May 1 - Chelsea (a), 5th

* May 8 - Burnley (h), 16th

* May 12 - Southampton (a), 13th

* May 15 - Manchester United (a), 2nd

May 23 - Newcastle (h), 17th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

Fulham's remaining outlook remains relatively favourable. While playing two more games away from home in the run-in, they only encounter two teams currently situated in the top six of the Premier League, in comparison to Newcastle who face three. Again, the final day encounter between the two most likely to contend until the last may just settle it.

VERDICT - SURVIVE (just) - Their willingness to hold onto slender wins, highlighted in their triumph against Liverpool earlier on in the campaign, may just be the decisive factor between themselves and others such as Newcastle who before their recent draw against Tottenham, have appeared limp and acquiescent.

West Bromwich Albion

Current position: 19th

Current relegation odds: 1/100

Relegation odds at the start of the season: Evens

Key player: Sam Johnstone - Earning his first England call-up in the recent international break, Johnstone has proved his worth for West Brom this season. His standout performances often came against the bigger sides, ensuring points were earned in visits to the Etihad and Anfield alike.

It was in that respectable draw architected by Johnstone against Manchester City that the West Brom hierarchy had seen enough of Slaven Bilic and made him the first managerial dismissal of the Premier League season. The Croat had led West Brom back to the Premier League but indeed had only won one of their games but still were only two points away from safety at the time. His successor, Sam Allardyce has only just begun to show signs of the notorious great escapes he has become known for, picking up six points in February and into March.

Nevertheless, the midlands outfit are nine points from safety and boast the worst goal difference in the league, something that could be so decisive going into a dramatic final day of the season.

West Brom's remaining fixtures, with accompanying league positions (as of April 8 2021):

April 12 - Southampton (h), 14th

April 22 - Leicester (a), 3rd

April 25 - Aston Villa (a), 10th

* May 1 - Wolves (h), 13th

* May 8 - Arsenal (a), 9th

* May 11 - Liverpool (h), 7th

* May 15 - West Ham (h), 5th

May 23 - Leeds (a), 11th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

West Brom's reintroduction to the Premier League after the international break against one of the league's form sides in Chelsea, who were unbeaten under new manager Thomas Tuchel, made for scintillating and almost unbelievable viewing for the neutral, wrapping up a stunning 5-2 win at Stamford Bridge. They also take on the likes of Liverpool and Leicester, both of whom with an incentive to play for in the form of European football as the season draws to a close.

VERDICT: RELEGATED - All good things come to an end, and Sam Allardyce's record of never being relegated as manager looks to be under severe threat this season. With the obvious recent caveat in the win against Chelsea, very little in the way of encouraging signs have been shown by the Baggies under the 66-year-old since his arrival in December and their stay in England's top division looks to be a short one.

Sheffield United

Current position: 20th

Current relegation odds: N/A

Relegation odds at the start of the season: 4/1

Key player: David McGoldrick - The frontman has somewhat delivered the goods for his side this season, currently the top scorer with seven goals, while club talisman Billy Sharp is next closest with five. This is perhaps a symptom of the Sheffield United dilemma this season, relying on elder statesmen for impact up front with the likes of Oli McBurnie and Oliver Burke not delivering in front of goal.

From unprecedented highs to disastrous lows. This season has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for Sheffield United, with few bookmakers even offering a glimmer of hope that the Bramall Lane side will prevail. Chris Wilder, a man who oversaw promotions in two divisions, was let go after five years of service; maintaining their status in the top flight clearly a step too far to prevent a side playing like they were destined for the Championship.

A misfiring front line, Jack O'Connell's absence and quite simply burnout after a barnstorming first Premier League season in 13 years last time out are all said to be contributing factors to the demise of the once promising Blades, who are now 13 points from safety. A recent victory over Aston Villa, only their fourth of the season in the league, was the only time they walked away with three points in the previous seven fixtures.

Sheffield United's remaining fixtures, with accompanying league positions (as of April 8):

April 11 - Arsenal (a), 10th

April 17 - Wolves (h), 14th

April 24 - Brighton (a), 16th

* May 1 - Tottenham (a), 6th

* May 8 - Crystal Palace (h), 12th

* May 11 - Everton (a), 8th

* May 15 - Newcastle (a), 17th

May 23 - Burnley (h), 15th

*subject to change due to TV fixture scheduling

The Blades have a fairly comfortable remaining set of games to have a go in order to attempt to recover some pride in the season's remainder, whose only encounter with a top-six side comes in the form of Tottenham. Paul Heckingbottom's team can still have a hand to play in who is likely to join them in the Championship next year, facing the likes of Brighton and Burnley as they plan their own escape maps away from the bottom three.

VERDICT: RELEGATION - Perhaps the Blades' biggest takeaway from the league this season is that they escaped the label of 'worst Premier League side of all time', whose honour is still bestowed upon the 11-point Derby County side of 2007/08.

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