Two basement skirmishes – the very definitions of relegation six-pointers – standout in Game Week 33 as Premier League strugglers continue their battle to avoid the drop.

Meanwhile, as three or four teams start to peel off the embattled group on the back of their improving fortunes, the relegation picture is also firming up and becoming a lot clearer.

The splinter group

Not long ago it was a nine-carriage relegation train. A few weeks later a splinter group whose survival prospects appear to be improving with each passing week is emerging and looking to detach itself from the doomed relegation locomotive.

The disengaging carriages have the names of Crystal Palace (12), West Ham (13) and Wolves (14) on them. They are not safe just yet. Their survival bids could yet be derailed, but they are steadily pulling away from the rest. Bournemouth (15) could yet join this group if they avoid defeat at Southampton on Thursday evening, even better if they can come away from St Mary’s with all three points.

That leaves Southampton (20), Nottingham Forest (19), Everton (18), Leicester City (17) and Leeds United (16) as the chief protagonists in the escape drama.

It’s do or die for Saints

It’s too close to call, but it’s increasingly beginning to look like Southampton and two other for the drop to the second tier. The Saints are most at risk not just by virtue of being bottom of the pile, but also because of the size of the gap to safety. They are four points adrift of safety and will need a couple of maximum hauls to give themselves a fighting chance.

With six games to play, unlike their rivals, Ruben Selles’s men have very little room for error. Even if they win against Bournemouth and their rivals lose, that still won’t be enough to take them out of the drop zone. Therein lies the problem.

Yet Southampton must continue to believe and try to stay within striking distance of rivals. The performance at Arsenal last Friday suggests they are not ready to give up the ghost just yet. They were terribly unlucky not to come away with all three points. To throw away a two-goal advantage right at the death was a sickening blow.

Victory over Bournemouth on Thursday is imperative. Anything other than a win could be a near-fatal blow to the Saints’ survival hopes.

The match is more do-or-die for Southampton than it is for Bournemouth, whose purple patch came to a screeching halt against West Ham on Sunday.

Can the Cherries bounce back and continue their steady march up the table?

Gary O’Neil’s men know what is at stake: beat Southampton and put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack, or lose and get sucked back into the relegation dogfight.

Toffees in a sticky situation

Everton host Newcastle United whose five-goal first-half blitz against Tottenham on Sunday sent shockwaves across the Premier League. A defeat against the Magpies on Thursday would leave the Toffees in a really sticky situation.

Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest will take heart from their gallant performance during the 3-2 defeat at Liverpool last Saturday. Steve Cooper’s men tried to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool only to be reminded, cruelly, that teams don’t always get what their performances deserve. Twice Forest fell behind and twice they drew level. A third time proved a bridge too far.

Nonetheless, the performance should stand them in good stead for the visit of Brighton on Thursday. Forest fans will be hoping that their team does not suffer the backlash of the Seagulls’ excruciating FA Cup semifinal defeat by Manchester United on Sunday.

Can Leeds trap wily Foxes?

My beloved Leeds United’s recent performances don’t inspire confidence at all. We go into the clash with Leicester on be back of another confidence-sapping defeat at Fulham, our third loss on the trot.

By contrast, the Foxes will arrive at Elland Road with their tails up, thanks to a 2-1 morale-boosting win over Wolves to snap a four-match losing streak.

There is nothing to choose between the two teams separated by one point and one place in the league standings. The Foxes sit out of the relegation zone on goal difference, while Leeds have a one-point buffer.

The raucous and unwavering Elland Road 12th man will again be in full voice. That’s guaranteed.

Hopefully Javi Gracia’s men will keep their end of the bargain on the pitch.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!

9 April – Leeds United 1-5 Crystal Palace
17 April – Leeds United 1-6 Liverpool 21:00
22 April – Fulham 2-1 Leeds United
25 April – Leeds United v Leicester City
30 April – Bournemouth v Leeds United 15:00

6 May – Manchester City v Leeds United 15:00
13 May – Leeds United v Newcastle 15:00
20 May – West Ham v Leeds United 15:00
28 May – Leeds United v Tottenham 17:00


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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