The relegation countdown is on.
Ten games remain in the Premier League, leaving up to seven teams with the chance to secure their top flight future.
Sunderland seem doomed, Watford look good to remain in the league, but – cliche alert – football is a funny old game, and pressure can do strange things to teams.
As we head towards the business end of the season, Yahoo Sport UK’s sport writers make their predictions on which teams are destined for the drop, and which teams can finish above the relegation zone.
James Dickens (@JamesYahooSport)
Doomed: Watford (18), Middlesbrough (19), Sunderland (20)
Bit of a shock this. When I started I was convinced Hull were going down, but I can see them picking up maximum points in games against direct rivals Middlesbrough, Watford, Sunderland and Palace. The threat of Everton loanee Oumar Niasse has given them pace and power up front and has taken the goal scoring weight from Abel Hernandez’s shoulders. The decision to dispense with Mike Phelan’s services and bring in Marco Silva has proven inspired and the Portuguese will be the man to take the lion’s share of credit for their revival.
Watford are my pick to drop into the Championship. They currently look an insipid, uninspiring mess They struggle to score goals, and have Gomes in goal so they also can’t keep them out. There is a lack of distinct style and ethos at the club and their run-in sees them face Spurs, Liverpool, City and Everton along with matches against Palace, Sunderland and Swansea. All teams with a lot to play for. If Watford aren’t careful, they will slip into a relegation battle without noticing. The clubs below them are ready for it. Are they?
Swansea and Palace escape mainly thanks to the ineptitude of others. On the part of the Swans, it will be considered a success but there will be a lot of work for Paul Clement to do over the summer. Sam Allardyce seems to have solidified Palace at the back just in time as they don’t look like scoring much. Christian Benteke has struggled to justify his inflated fee and there is precious little end product from the likes of Townsend and Zaha. Again, much work to be done this summer if Palace are to avoid a similar battle next season.
Not much to say on Sunderland or Boro. Sunderland’s January dealing was shameful and gave no support to Jermaine Defoe. The injury to Victor Anichebe was unfortunate, but then relying on him is about as cunning a plan as Blackadder sticking two pencils up his nose to avoid going into battle in ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’. Boro’s version of two pencils/Anichebe was Ruby Gestede. ‘Nuff said.
Matt Lewis (@MattLewis27)
Doomed: Hull City, Middlesbrough, Sunderland
Hull City: Marco Silva appears to be a fine manager but even he won’t be able to save the Tigers from relegation. Steve Bruce’s departure just before the big kick-off meant the club was fighting a losing battle from the start and it all stems from poor leadership at the very top.
Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka has been given the boot and this has worked for Leicester and Crystal Palace, however I fear it may have been too late to save Boro this year. They can’t score goals and unless Patrick Bamford turns out to be their surprise saviour then they are heading for the Championship.
Sunderland: A truly dreadful season and one that seems to have been accepted by the powers-that-be at the Stadium of Light under David Moyes. They would already be long gone if Jermain Defoe wasn’t wearing the red and white shirt but there is just too much to do to save them at this point.
Mark Lawford (@Lawford62)
Doomed: Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hull
Sunderland and Middlesbrough look doomed: One can’t defend the other cannot score.
Hull City’s improved form might have come too late – but they could catch Watford if the Hornets fail to get out of their slump in the next couple of weeks.
Hamish Williams (@HamishYahooUK)
Doomed: Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace
Sunderland and Middlesbrough are doomed, and joining them will be Crystal Palace. I twice predicted the relegation battle and on both occasions I had Palace going down, just ahead of Watford.
Yes, they have the ‘Sam Allardyce factor’ but look at their fixture run-in: of their remaining 10 matches, they play all of the top six, and only two of those matches – against Arsenal and Spurs are at home.
Crucial to their survival will be home matches against Leicester, Burnley and Hull in the penultimate week but for the team with the equal-worst home record in the Premier League that could be cold comfort for Eagles fans.
Mohab Magdy (@Mohab_Magdy1983)
Doomed: Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hull.
Middlesbrough: Boro have a clear problem upfront, they can’t score enough goals to survive in the Premier League. Sacking Karanka made the situation even harder, as it will be almost impossible for Steve Agnew to turn things around with only 10 games to go.
Sunderland: Despite having Jermain Defoe, the Black Cats have the second worst attack in the Premier League with 24 goals in 28 games, which make their fifth consecutive relegation escape very unlikely to me.
Hull City: The Tigers probably have the best chance to survive among my picks given the great work done by their new manager Marco Silva, but I still think that they will come up short behind Paul Clement’s Swansea and Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace.
Dimitri Kondonis (@dkondonis)
Doomed: Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland
Hull: Marco Silva has come in and somewhat rejuvenated a side seemingly sleepwalking towards the Championship. He brought in some clever January signings, and has Hull looking a lot better. It seems his appointment was just too late for the Tigers, but you never know.
Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka’s inevitable departure from Middlesbrough has left the Riverside club in somewhat of an awkward position. They’re devoid of goals, and unless Steve Agnew can pull off a miracle, Boro seem destined for the drop. Matches against Swansea and Hull precede a run against four of the top six Premier League clubs.
Sunderland: The Black Cats must be involved in one of the longest-running relegation battles in history, having been fighting the drop
since time began for the last five seasons and it now seems inevitable that they will become reunited with the Championship. It could give Sunderland the chance to give their side a much needed refresh.
Kevin Darling (@DarlingKevin)
Doomed: Swansea (18), Middlesbrough (19), Sunderland (20)
Swansea: The Paul Clement new-manager bounce has ended and, while they’ve improved, I think Marco Silva is going to get Hull out trouble. Need to beat Boro in next match but I can see it being a draw that helps no one.
Middlesbrough: They can’t score goals in the Premier League, and they attempted to remedy the problem in January by signing strikers with a proven track record of not being able to score goals in the Premier League. Not sure Steve Agnew has the pizzazz to turn things around.
Sunderland: This will be the fifth season running they have failed to reach the “magic” 40-point mark – it’s finally time to put them out of their misery. Any team who can be this bad despite having the best striker in the bottom half doesn’t deserve to stay up.
Kevin Palmer (@RealKevinPalmer)
Doomed: Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hull
The teams currently sitting in the bottom three positions will struggle to get the wins they need to clamber clear of the drop zone.
Jermain Defoe’s goals alone cannot save Sunderland, Middlesbrough are doomed and Hull have missed so many chances to get more points on the board, which will come back to haunt them.