23 May Judgement Day: Race to avoid relegation will go down to the wire
As the door slams shut on another exhilarating Premier League campaign, the main talking point ahead of this Sunday’s final round of top-flight fixtures will be which of the three sides battling relegation will manage to escape the drop?
With Southampton’s fate confirmed officially weeks ago (and unofficially months ago), the final two places in the bottom three are still yet to be fully confirmed. After Leicester drew 0-0 with Newcastle – who sealed their spot in next season’s Champions League with that point – on Monday evening, the Foxes need to win their final match at home to West Ham and hope that 17th-placed Everton lose to Bournemouth and 18th-placed Leeds are defeated by Tottenham on Sunday to stay up.
Currently just two points separate the Foxes from the Toffees but Dean Smith’s side do have a much better goal difference than the two sides above them, so they can still survive the drop but it will require a lot of things to go their way if they are to do so.
It seems alien to think that a club who won the Premier League just seven seasons ago and have finished in the top-10 for the last five are now on the cusp of being demoted from the division but such is the nature of this unforgiving sport, which is being increasingly dominated by Pep Guardiola’s faultless Manchester City machine and seemingly gets harder every season, this could soon become a reality for the east Midlands outfit in less than a week’s time.
Leicester are of course not alone in their struggles. Everton, a club who have been mainstays in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, still remain in firm relegation danger but they are in control of their own destiny and know that winning on Sunday will see them retain their Premier League status for another campaign irrespective of results elsewhere.
A draw could be enough for the Blues dependent on how Leeds fare at Elland Road, while they may also stay up even if they lose – that is if the Whites and Leicester both fall to defeats – although Sean Dyche will not want to be relying on other teams’ results in the hope of delivering a positive one to the club he took charge of back in January.
Everton fought back from a goal behind to draw with Wolves on Sunday in a point which could prove to be crucial given the volatility of the current situation at the bottom of England’s first tier.
Unlike most teams, though, their home form leaves a lot to be desired and they have only managed one win in their last six games at Goodison Park, with the hostility of the home support often proving detrimental to the team’s performance. Somewhat bizarrely, Dyche and his side would probably prefer it if this game was played out on the south coast rather than Merseyside.
Leeds need to beat Tottenham and hope that Everton lose to the Cherries to stand any chance of remaining in the top-flight. The Yorkshire outfit have been poor this term and their lack of defensive solidity has cost them dearly, with a goal difference of -27 not helping their cause.
Shipping three against West Ham on Sunday was yet another blow for Sam Allardyce’s temporary employers, especially considering the Hammers’ avoidable third goal was scored in the final minute of injury time at the London Stadium and the result of some really poor defending.
Fortunately for them, they face a Tottenham team in complete disarray for Sunday’s season finale but no matter how poorly Spurs are performing, the sheer threat posed by Harry Kane alone is one which can never be understated. It could well be the final game the England captain plays for the north London side, too, providing added motivation for him to find the back of the net and end his exemplary tenure on a positive note. For a defence that has shipped 25 goals in their last eight matches, that will be a truly frightening prospect.
With the title wrapped up and top-four positions all but secured, the focus on Sunday will be purely on which side can evade the drop and confirm their Premier League status for 2023/24. Each of the three teams in contention play at home, and each face a side who now have nothing to play for. For two of them, the road will run out and it will be the Championship they have to contend with next term.
Quite who that will be still remains to be seen.
Final fixtures for each team – May 28
Everton vs Bournemouth
Leeds vs Tottenham
Leicester vs West Ham