The sharp end of the English Premier League (EPL) season has come around again, where the top teams scrap for places in the Champions or Europa Leagues. But down at the bottom of the table, the tussle to avoid relegation to the Championship is coming into its closing stages, with high drama and even higher stakes. And Burnley’s win over fellow strugglers Everton could be a pivotal result in determining the outcome.
Sean Dyche’s side overcame the Toffees in a pulsating encounter at Turf Moor, pouring huge pressure on Everton manager Frank Lampard. And the fire will be reignited in Burnley bellies, driven by the younger players, including first-time EPL scorer Nathan Collins. Let’s take a look at the teams battling it out for survival in the world’s toughest league.
EPL newcomers Brentford look almost certain to have ensured top-flight survival with an astonishing 4-1 win away at European champions Chelsea. They sit on 33 points, nine away from the drop zone. Newcastle also looks fairly secure, despite a 5-1 drubbing of Tottenham at the weekend. Leeds is sitting just five points above the line, and has a difficult run into the end of the season, with matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. With Norwich needing a miracle, and Watford facing a real uphill struggle, it looks likely that the final spot could fall to Burnley or Everton.
The Clarets took a sensational step towards safety last night at Turf Moor, drawing themselves just one point behind Everton. Many thought the game would be a cagey encounter, but we were treated to open, flowing, attacking football. Nathan Collins opened the scoring, and his EPL account, with a deft flick following some comical Everton defending. At just 20, Collins could be the next in a long series of great Irish players in the Premiership – one of the reasons many bet on Irish soccer leagues & UK football matches alike across Ireland. Two penalties took Everton into the lead, but a Jay Rodriguez equaliser in the 57th minute, and a late winner from Maxwell Cornet sunk them, with manager Frank Lampard under increasing pressure.
The Clarets will be pleased to pick up a bit of momentum for the last stages of the campaign, and their next game is a must-win. They travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich, who have endured one of their most torrid EPL seasons to date. The Canaries remain rooted to the bottom, with just 18 points to their name, a goal difference of -45, and need a miracle if they want to avoid playing Championship football next season – they are 1/80 favourites with the bookmakers for relegation. Burnley will be buoyed, and can also look ahead to a relatively easy – though nothing is easy in the EPL – run into the end of the season, during which they will face fellow strugglers Newcastle, and almost-certainly-doomed Watford.
Roy Hodgson does not mince words, and the one-time England manager was direct and to the point: “If we’re going to survive, we’ve got to win games.”
And the games they face on the run in are certainly of crucial importance – they are up against four sides also in the relegation battle: Leeds, Brentford, Burnley and Everton. If they can win most or all of those games they would be in good stead for survival, but that is a big ask – and fixtures with Manchester City and Chelsea on the horizon. Hodgson has rejuvenated the side, but will it be too little too late?
A breath of fresh air for many, the Bees have had an up-and-down first season in the top flight. After starting the campaign with a rousing home victory against a lacklustre Arsenal, a last-minute winner at West Ham and a white-knuckle 3-3 draw with Liverpool, they had a major lull, plummeting towards the bottom, and were written off by many pundits. But then Thomas Frank made arguably the best signing – and definitely the best story – of the season, bringing in Christian Erikson mere months after his near-fatal collapse in Euro 2020. Since then, Brentford has renewed its energy and focus, and most fans agree that their continued presence in the EPL is more than welcome.
The relegation battle is always full of drama, tears of joy and tears of despair. Wonderful viewing for the neutral, but supporters will be biting their nails until the end of May.