The relegation battle: Could West Brom pull off the ultimate escape?

We're in the Premier League home straight, but whilst the title race is all but done and dusted, the battle to avoid the drop is not quite wrapped up.

How will the relegation run-in go?
How will the relegation run-in go?

In mid-February, there was a notable chasm beginning to open between the bottom three and those club's hoping to avoid the drop - that gap of eight points remains in place, but there are some signs of life in the bottom three.

West Brom have won their last two, but it's not just the results which are raising eyebrows over a potential escape, it's the manner of the performances.

The 5-2 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was cast off by some as a fluke, but by following that up with a similarly controlling display, this time at home against Southampton, shows that despite their struggles this season they are the side most likely to mount a realistic survival bid.

Yes, Fulham are a place above Sam Allardyce's side, but they've also played a game more - and have lost their last four. The manner of those defeats too is one which raises serious questions over their hopes of avoiding the drop. There's still hope for the West Londoners, but it's fading fast.

The only team truly out of the picture are Sheffield United, now 18 points away from 17th with only 21 points to play for.

It's the teams above the relegation zone which Albion need to drag in, but could they really do it? Could they somehow make the ultimate escape?

Here we take a look at the run-in for each side in the picture to see if the Baggies could pull it off.

Brighton - 15th - 33pts, -5GD

Brighton and Hove Albion's Danny Welbeck (second left) celebrates

Remaining fixtures: Chelsea (a), Sheff Utd (a), Leeds (h), Wolves (a), West Ham (h), Man City (h), Arsenal (a)

Conceivably the highest placed side still realistically involved in the battle at the bottom, Brighton have regularly impressed on the pitch but have struggled to get points on the board.

Graham Potter's side create countless chances, but profligacy in front of goal is costing them and still threatens to be the issue which could well see them cast down to the Championship if sides beneath them go on a run.

A run of two wins in a row over Southampton and Newcastle looked like it had been enough to secure Premier League football for another season, but results elsewhere do keep them in with a chance of going down - albeit a small one.

It's a tough run-in for the Seagulls, with Chelsea, Leeds, West Ham, Man City and Arsenal all sitting in the top half of the table. Two wins could see them home and hosed regardless of what happens elsewhere, barring a freakish run of results from other sides.

There are no easy games in the Premier League, but trips to Bramall Lane and Molineux could be targeted as fixtures in which wins would seem more likely.

One thing which certainly does go Brighton's way is their goal difference, which is far better than any other side in the lower reaches. That basically acts as an extra point now.

Likelihood of going down: Very slim, but the run-in isn't great.

Burnley - 16th - 33pts, -17GD

Burnley's Dwight McNeil reacts to a missed chance

Remaining fixtures: Man United (a), Wolves (a), West Ham (h), Fulham (a), Leeds (h), Liverpool (h), Sheff Utd (a)

Sean Dyche has regularly worked wonders to keep Burnley in the top flight on a modest budget, but their safety this term is not assured yet.

They've only managed one win in their last five, and more worryingly have lost their last two to some sides far from being in dazzling form, Southampton and Newcastle - games in which they had taken the lead too.

Defeats like that do little for confidence, and with a mixed run-in, Burnley could be sucked in by teams below them given those sides pick up results.

Manchester United at Old Trafford can be considered something of a free hit, but games against West Ham, Leeds and Liverpool will be very tricky too.

Burnley do have the bonus of facing two fellow strugglers in the run-in, although both are away from home. Those six pointers will undoubtedly be crucial - although it's bold to say that their final day clash with the Blades will have much riding on it for the hosts.

In terms of goal difference, Burnley are right in the thick of it with Newcastle and Fulham.

Dyche is an expert at picking up results just when needed, without him at the helm most would tip the Clarets to be in serious bother.

Likelihood of going down: Unlikely with Dyche in charge, but could the bubble burst?

Newcastle - 17th - 32pts, -19 GD

Newcastle United's Joelinton reacts after a missed chance

Remaining fixtures: West Ham (h), Liverpool (a), Arsenal (h), Leicester (a), Man City (h), Sheff Utd (h), Fulham (a)

It's been a nightmare season on Tyneside, with fans fuming and serious questions being asked of Steve Bruce in recent weeks and months with the Magpies flirting with the drop.

Their recent win over Burnley looks a huge one, but West Brom's win over Southampton ensured no ground was lost by the Baggies in the battle for survival.

Newcastle hadn't logged three points since the start of February before that result and looking at their run-in it's very hard to argue for them picking up many before the final two games of the season.

The Toon face three of the current top four, and no side lower than ninth before that crucial double to finish the campaign - if any side outside the bottom three are to get caught, Newcastle look the best bet.

Their final two fixtures could well dictate if they stay up or go down - and their goal difference could take a battering in those fixtures beforehand too.

If Fulham have anything riding on that final day fixture, it promises to be the most nervy 90 minutes of the season.

Likelihood of going down: A horrendous run in, the most likely team to get dragged in.

Fulham - 18th - 26pts, -18GD

Fulham's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (right) and Bobby Decordova-Reid appear dejected

Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (a), Chelsea (a), Burnley (h), Southampton (a), Man United (a), Newcastle (h)

Have Fulham peaked too soon? The Cottagers looked like getting themselves right out of trouble a few weeks back with wins over Everton, Sheffield United and Liverpool - but they've tailed off catastrophically of late.

The were leading Aston Villa with less than 20 minutes to go at Villa Park before losing 3-1 and then went on to follow that up with a last-gasp defeat to an out of sort Wolves side just a matter of days later.

To make matters worse, they've also played a game more than all of their fellow strugglers, meaning only six games remain for them.

The run-in could be better, but it could be worse for them too. Arsenal and Chelsea away from home are daunting, but Burnley and Southampton are very winnable games.

As mentioned earlier, a game with Newcastle at Craven Cottage (with fans) could be huge for their survival hopes if anything is riding on it on the final day.

You'd probably argue that their goal difference could well be better than the Magpies by the time the season's over, that could play a role.

Likelihood of going down: Down but not out - yet. Confidence is needed.

West Brom - 19th - 24pts, -31GD

Callum Robinson of West Bromwich Albion celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 3-0. (AMA)

Remaining fixtures: Leicester (a), Villa (a), Wolves (h), Arsenal (a), Liverpool (h), West Ham (h), Leeds (a)

It's been a season of constant shifts and changes for Albion, but they've put the car into gear just in time to have fans dreaming of the ultimate escape with their last two fixtures.

The manner of the two wins over Chelsea and Southampton is the most impressive thing, with the Baggies genuinely outplaying both sides en-route to six points.

What's more, their upcoming run of fixtures could result in more points going on the tally. Leicester have lost their last two, but also have an FA Cup semi-final to worry about before welcoming Albion to the King Power Stadium, could that play into the Baggies' hands?

Following that, two huge derbies await, up against two sides struggling for consistency and with potentially little to play for in terms of the Premier League table in Villa and Wolves. Of course, bragging rights will be on offer for both sides, but neither look a truly nightmarish prospect at the moment with injuries hurting both clubs.

It might be a case of getting through those games and seeing where the club stand, with a daunting quartet of fixtures to finish the season off. You can certainly picture better places to go than Elland Road on the final day, especially with fans back in stadia.

Goal difference is an issue at The Hawthorns though. The side have done well to remedy that slightly of late, but at -31, it's well below that of their competitors. It essentially acts as a point against them.

The key for Albion is keeping confidence high. Keep one eye on Newcastle's results too, if they go the right way for the Baggies there could be a late sting in the tail.

Likelihood of going down: Some hope remains, and it seems to be growing.

Sheff Utd - 20th - 14pts, -38GD

Sheffield United's David McGoldrick (right) reacts

Remaining fixtures: Wolves (a), Brighton (h), Spurs (a), Crystal Palace (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (a), Burnley (h)

What a horrible season it's been at Bramall Lane. Nothing's gone right for the Blades and a return to the Championship is now inevitable.

Chris Wilder is gone, and having lost the last four what little confidence they had left has gone with him. Mathematically, they still have a chance of survival, but at this point it would be beyond miraculous. They could still have a big role to play in dictating who joins them in the second tier though.

Games against Brighton, Newcastle and Burnley remain, and whilst they can't do themselves much good, they could still offer an olive branch to the likes of Fulham and Albion in their hopes for survival.

They key for the Blades will be playing for pride, if they can do that and maybe pull some shock results out, they could still have a part to play.

Likelihood of going down: All but down, but they could dictate who joins them.

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