It would take an incredibly brave person to confidently predict which three sides will be relegated from the Premier League in May.

In stark contrast to Manchester City seemingly romping to the title, with all 10 teams in the bottom half of the table separated by just six points, it could turn out to be the tightest and most exciting battle to avoid the drop for many years.

Adding to the drama is the fact that the managers involved are of the highest pedigree including a Champions League winner in Rafa Benitez and others, such as Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes, who have managed massive clubs and their countries.

Often by this stage of the season, one side has been cut adrift and are all but certainties to go down. Think Aston Villa in 2014/15 or even Sunderland last season.

Not so this time. When Crystal Palace limped to four points from 11 matches under Frank De Boer, they looked to have assumed that role only for Hodgson’s arrival to spur them on a run that lifted them to as high as 17th, even if only briefly.

Swansea City are currently propping up the rest, but with a deficit of just a couple of points, they are still very much in the hunt.

However, their biggest problem is a lack of goals. Every other side has reached double figures for the season, yet Paul Clement’s team has netted just nine times. Unless Tammy Abraham and Wilfried Bony can start scoring again, they are the side most at risk.

David Moyes is slowly addressing West Ham’s leaky defence (32 goals conceded is better only than Stoke City’s 36).

For all the criticism he took when appointed, he has already tightened the Hammers up. The results against Chelsea and Arsenal were both enormous boosts for the club and huge blows for the sides around them.

Making the side hard to beat is one thing, but he recently conceded that how the January transfer window pans out, and how quickly the players he brings in adapt, could define the season.

That is true for everyone involved. If a couple of signings do not settle quickly or a couple of key players pick up injuries, any side can soon lose their way and drop down the table. Has a January transfer window ever taken on more significance?

Palace under Hodgson are now getting results even if they are not playing consistently well. That is all very well if the late goals continue to come, but he admits they still have a mountain to climb.

If Wilfried Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek stay fit and if Christian Benteke remains in form, they have the firepower to survive, but it may still be a close-run thing.

Only once since their return to the Premier League have West Bromwich Albion finished lower than 14th, but with just two wins all season, they would take that position now. Alan Pardew will be keen to add some new faces in January although their biggest transfer gain might be holding on to Jonny Evans.

Newcastle United are hard to judge. If Rafa Benitez is given money to spend in January and he can bring the players he wants in, the club should survive comfortably.

The board has so far stuck with him, and he has worked within their restrictions. However, their relegation odds would fall if new owners arrive and want a completely fresh start.

Stoke City have been dragged into the battle in recent weeks, and have not been helped by injuries to big players. Visiting them on a cold, wet Tuesday night does not hold the same fear factor that it used to. No team has conceded more than their 36 goals, although 12 of them came in the games against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

They have not beaten a side above them in the table since October, so their upcoming games against West Ham, West Brom and Huddersfield Town are vital. Already the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next to leave his job, Mark Hughes desperately needs results in those matches.

Both Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield have impressed since promotion from the Championship last season. Both have developed the happy knack of getting a result when they need it but will need to stay injury-free and recruit well in January to avoid getting sucked in.

Furthermore, as other clubs below them improve and kick on in the New Year, how the managers and players hold their nerve as it gets close could be a significant factor in whether they survive or not. If Huddersfield do not tighten their defence, they will be in trouble.

That leaves Bournemouth and Southampton, two teams that aren’t scoring many goals but aren’t conceding many either. Both have young managers in Eddie Howe and Mauricio Pellegrino, but neither has experienced a Premier League relegation battle.

You get the feeling they should be safe, but with so many teams involved, so many quality players and exceptional managers all battling to survive, the only certainty is that this will be a battle that goes right down to the wire.


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