The Barclays Premier League is said to be the best league in the world not only because of its highly contested title race, but also because of a relegation battle that is less highlighted yet equally enthralling. The top of the table is where all the teams want to be but from what we see every season, that is not necessarily where the most exciting football is played.
Last season saw the relegation of Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City after a tense battle during the season's business end. These three teams always looked favourites to go down, but during the final months, the situation was never straight forward. With only four games to go, Sunderland were at the bottom of the pile with crucial games against fellow relegation candidates Cardiff and West Brom which they won and in the end, they were safe. Crystal Palace spent half the season in the relegation zone but pulled off a 5 game winning streak during March and April beating the likes of Chelsea and Everton and finished an impressive 11th. West Bromwich Albion hovered on the edge of the relegation zone most of the season and in the end that's where they finished, 17th, 3 points off the bottom three. Aston Villa were relatively safe but shocking form near the end of the campaign, losing 7 out of their last 9 games gave them a big scare and they finished 15th. Hull City had a successful run in the FA cup but finishing 16th, just 4 points off the bottom was probably too close for comfort for the Tigers fans.
As for this season, the newly promoted teams are always favourites to get relegated. Burnley, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers will not be exceptions. Looking at the league table last season, Hull City and West Brom need to get themselves together and put up a fight if they are to survive. Aston Villa have a good manager in Paul Lambert but their squad have lacked depth in the past seasons and they might struggle again. Southampton have enjoyed two successful seasons in the league post promotion but losing their manager and virtually the whole starting line up from last season could hurt them badly. QPR might have rich owners and veteran manager Harry Redknapp, but they have blown favourable situations in the past and might do it again. Newcastle United, Sunderland and West Ham are some highly unpredictable teams and with some injuries and bad decisions they might end up doomed as well.
All the teams mentioned have reasons to get relegated and reasons to survive too, leaving the door open for anything to happen. This beguiling drama only goes to prove that the relegation battle is almost as exciting as the championship race, if not more with way more contenders. 4 teams finished within 5 points of the relegation zone last season, meaning the Premier League saw a 7-way battle for survival in 2013-14. On the other hand, seventh from the top Manchester United finished with 64 points which was 24 points off the top and 15 away from a Champions League spot. Teams near the top of the table seldom look to go full on at their opponents and end up playing it tactical and safe. But the looming danger of relegation creates desperation amongst the strugglers and that desperation transforms into all-out assault on the pitch. Some teams pull off miracles while an equally dramatic failure befalls others. One thing's for granted, the fight for survival means some truly exciting football for the fans.