The 2017-18 season is limping to a close, and at the end of all things football three teams will leave the ‘paved with gold’ streets of the EPL and be replaced by three teams from the Championship. Here we take a look at the three likeliest teams to booted out of the EPL, and the three teams who look best-suited to replace them.
‘Down with the Baggies, you’re going down with the Baggies”
West Bromwich Albion started this season in Champions League qualification form, winning their first two games, but that form did not last and neither did Tony Pulis’ tenure as manager. A run of twenty games without a win followed, and after beating Brighton in January the Baggies then lost eight EPL games in a row. Sports books universally consider West Brom to be doomed, and you get can 1000/1 at some of them for the side to stay up.
So, who are going down with the Baggies? Second favourite has to be Stoke City, who replaced Mark Hughes in January with Paul Lambert, but to little effect, and indeed Stoke have only won once in the league in 2018. Stoke are around 1/10 to go down.
Speaking of Mark Hughes, the former Welsh international striker is in line to relegate two teams in one season, having been appointed by Southampton in March to replace Mauricio Pellegrino. The difficulty the Saints have in keeping their star players seems to have finally become too much, and their five-year top flight spell seems all but over. Southampton are 4/9 at most sports books to be relegated.
If you’d put cash on three teams to go down after results up to October this season your most likely picks would have included Swansea City and Crystal Palace. However, both these sides have made key adjustments, with the replacement of Paul Clement and Frank De Boer with Carlo Carvalho and Roy Hodgson respectively being the most effective. After dreadful starts to the season both the Swans and the Eagles have been in mid-table form, enabling them to haul themselves away from the dreaded drop zone. Swansea are around 9/2 to be relegated, and Crystal Palace as distant as 20/1.
Of the other sides, sports books only seem to be giving Huddersfield Town any chance of returning to Championship football next year, with the Terriers being quoted at 9/2. After a promising start Huddersfield began to sink, going on an eight-game winless run in December and January, but have since recovered. They do have a terrible run-in though, playing Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their final three games.
The only other sides who could be in trouble at the end of term are Brighton & Hove Albion (14/1), West Ham United (16/1), Watford (150/1) and Bournemouth (250/1), but it would take a dreadful run of results to relegate any of these teams. The smart money when it comes to reliable tipsters like FootballTips for relegation picks is going on West Brom, Stoke City and Southampton.
“The only way is up”
There are only two spots left for promotion from the Championship, as Wolverhampton Wanderers have already claimed one of them. Wolves have held on to the top spot virtually all season, so it came as no surprise when their promotion was confirmed at the beginning of April.
As for whom will be joining them in the second automatic promotion spot, it’s currently a three-way tussle between Cardiff City, Fulham and Aston Villa. Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds have been the side thought ‘most likely’ for the majority of this term, but recent defeats to Wolves and Aston Villa as well as a draw at Sheffield United have derailed the Welsh promotion train somewhat. Cardiff are still the bookies favourites at 1/4, though.
Fulham’s season under Slavisa Jokanovic has definitely been one of two halves. At the end of the 2017 the side were rock solidly in mid-table, but since December 16 (when they were defeated by, of all teams, basement-dwellers Sunderland) Fulham haven’t lost a league game, and indeed have won sixteen of twenty matches. Led by ‘superstar of the future’ Ryan Sessegnon, the Craven Cottagers are around 4/6 to gain promotion.
Aston Villa are another team who have had a much better second half of the season than the first. Under the stewardship of Steve Bruce, Villa fell as low as eighteenth after seven games with one solitary win, but by the end of November the Clarets and Blues had reached fourth. They actually made the top two in February after a run of seven successive league wins, but form ever since has been all over the place. Villa are probably the least likely of the three sides mentioned above to be able to attain that second automatic promotion place and are quoted at around 11/4 by most sports books to be playing in the EPL next season.
With two out of three from Cardiff, Fulham and Villa virtual shoo-ins to earn a playoff place at least, that leaves two other spots up for grabs. Of the chasing pack, Middlesbrough are thought most likely to end the season with an open-top tour of the city, priced for promotion at 9/2 at most online bookies.
It doesn’t bear thinking about, but Millwall could be playing in the EPL next season. Neil Harris’ side are currently on a seventeen-game unbeaten run and have hauled themselves up from mid-table to become genuine playoff contenders. Sports books do not seem to fancy the Lions’ chances of actually winning promotion though, especially as their final three games are against Fulham, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa. Millwall are priced at 9/1 to go up.
Of the other potential candidates, Derby County are currently undergoing their annual capitulation and recently lost three-one at Burton. The Rams are still priced at 7/1 for promotion. Other possible include Brentford (33/1), Preston North End (33/1), Sheffield United (40/1) and Bristol City (50/1).
So, who will join Wolves in the EPL next season? Despite Cardiff being the bookies’ favourite, Fulham seem to have that little bit more when it comes to grinding out results. As for the playoffs, Villa should do enough to return to the top flight after two seasons on loan to the Championship, but rule out Millwall at your peril!