The Premier League run-in: Who's going down?

With the Premier League resuming after the international break this weekend, we look at Brighton's season so far and the relegation battle at the bottom of the table.

Wednesday, 28th March 2018, 5:15 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 6:37 am
Lewis Dunk celebrates scoring in Albion's 2-1 win against Arsenal. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Lewis Dunk celebrates scoring in Albion's 2-1 win against Arsenal. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

How has the season gone so far?

You won't find any Albion supporter grumbling about the club's first ever season in the Premier League.

With eight games to go, the club are 12th in the top flight and six points above the relegation zone. Add in a cup run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and, to date, it's been a campaign any Seagulls supporter would have snapped your hand off for at the start of the season.

Pascal Gross celebrates scoring against West Brom. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

A strong team spirit, excellent additions to the squad last summer and a cool and calm manager in Chris Hughton have been behind the success, while several players previously unproven in the Premier League have shown they can perform at the top level.

Pascal Gross has been a stand-out performer and has arguably been the season's bargain buy, after Albion signed him for just £3m from Ingolstadt last summer. Five goals and eight assists is an outstanding return and top-scorer Glenn Murray admits his goalscoring form has owed much to Gross's delivery.

But Gross is one of many Albion signings who adapted to life in the top flight quickly. Mathew Ryan, Davy Propper, Jose Izquierdo and Ezequiel Schelotto have also shone and become fans' favourites at the Amex.

Add in Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, Dale Stephens and Murray all seamlessly stepping up from the Championship last season and it's no surprise why Albion have enjoyed a solid season to date.

Mathew Ryan. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Is it better than expected?

Most definitely. Brighton, along with Huddersfield, were the favourites to go down at the start of the season.

They were two of the clubs immediately mentioned when pundits spoke about who would be relegated in the summer. But Albion haven't been in the bottom three all season, with a five-game unbeaten run through October and November and then a seven-game undefeated streak from January to March showing the club can compete with the best.

With so many established clubs in the Premier League, many thought the relegation scrap would be between just five or six clubs - with the three promoted clubs, Newcastle, Albion and the Terriers right among them.

Burnley's strong start immediately saw them ruled out of the equation but there's been little to choose between the teams from eighth to 20th in the Premier League this year.

Liam Rosenior said last summer that there is little difference between the top of the Championship and bottom of the Premier League and it's hard to disagree.

For the first time since 2011/12, the three clubs who came up from the Championship could stay in the top flight.

Albion's form at the Amex has proved invaluable, with defeats to just Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

They have also picked up crucial points on the road, even if their tally of seven away goals (three of which came at West Ham) in 15 games is a disappointment.

Are Albion going to stay up?

Yes. With 34 points from 30 games, as few as two, three or four points could be enough to ensure another season in the Premier League.

Albion will want to reach the magical 40 figure sooner rather than later as that would leave the clubs in the bottom three with a lot to do to finish above the Seagulls.

Back-to-back home games against Leicester and Huddersfield represent the opportunity for Brighton to get themselves all but safe. With a tricky finish to the season, they'll want at least one win from the two matches.

Following the Amex matches, Albion travel to arch rivals Crystal Palace, then finish the season against Tottenham, Burnley, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. They won't want to go into the final five matches needing too many points to ensure their survival.

Who's going to go down?

West Brom are as good as down and Stoke look likely to join them in the Championship but the third relegation spot could be between one of several clubs - with Southampton, Huddersfield and West Ham the most under threat at the moment.

West Brom didn't get an upturn in results when Alan Pardew replaced Tony Pulis and they are ten points from safety with just seven games to save themselves. With matches still to come against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, it's difficult to see how the Baggies will get anywhere near enough points to stay up.

Stoke's next two games are against Arsenal and Tottenham - and they also still have to play Liverpool. They'll probably need to pick up maximum points from their matches with West Ham, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Swansea but, on current form, you can't see that happening.

Southampton will hope Mark Hughes' arrival brings a new manager swing and results start to pick up. The Saints progressed past Wigan to reach the FA Cup semi-finals in his first game in charge but will that prove to be more of a hindrance than a help?

Five of their last eight games away may, bizarrely, also be of benefit to Southampton who have struggled at St Mary's this season and have picked up just three home league wins.

If the Saints do turn things around, West Ham and Huddersfield are the sides who will be looking over their shoulders.

A toxic atmosphere isn't helping the Hammers and they have five of their last eight matches are at the London Stadium. Saturday's match with Southampton is a massive six-pointer.

Huddersfield will face a nervy finale if they don't pick up decent points from their next three matches against Newcastle, Brighton and Watford.

Albion's arch rivals Crystal Palace, Swansea and Newcastle have run-ins which should see them pick up enough points to stay up, Brighton need another victory or two and just one win from their remaining seven games will more than likely be enough for Bournemouth and Watford.

Who's been Albion's key player this season?

Take your pick. Arguments can be made for several players and it will be interesting to see who wins the club's player of the season award.

A poll on fans' site NorthStandChat suggests Pascal Gross is the frontrunner but plenty of votes will also be made for Lewis Dunk, Mathew Ryan, Glenn Murray, Shane Duffy, Davy Propper and Dale Stephens, among others.

The stats show how valuable Gross and Murray have been to the Seagulls this season but would Albion be so high in the table without Ryan's saves, Dunk and Duffy's blocks, tackles and bravery, or Stephens and Propper's effective work in the middle of the park?

It will be a close vote and the fact votes will be spread around shows how well Albion have fared in their debut Premier League campaign.

Who plays who?

Bournemouth - 10th; 36 points from 31 games

March 31, Watford (a); April 7, Crystal Palace (H); April 14, Liverpool (a); April 18, Manchester United (H); April 28, Southampton (a); May 5, Swansea (H); May 13, Burnley (a).

Watford - 11th; 36 points from 31 games

March 31, Bournemouth (H); April 7, Burnley (H); April 14, Huddersfield (a); April 21, Crystal Palace (H); April 30, Tottenham (a); May 5, Newcastle (H); May 13, Manchester United (a).

Brighton - 12th; 34 points from 30 games

March 31, Leicester (H); April 7, Huddersfield (H); April 14, Crystal Palace (a); April 17, Tottenham (H); April 28, Burnley (a); May 5, Manchester United (H); May 13, Liverpool (a).TBC: Manchester City (a).

Newcastle - 13th; 32 points from 30 games

March 31, Huddersfield (H); April 7, Leicester (a); April 15, Arsenal (H); April 23, Everton (a); April 28, West Brom (H); May 5, Watford (a); May 13, Chelsea (H). TBC: Tottenham (a).

Swansea - 14th; 31 points from 30 games

March 31, Manchester United (a); April 7, West Brom (a); April 14, Everton (H); April 22, Manchester City (a); April 28, Chelsea (H); May 5, Bournemouth (a); May 13, Stoke (H). TBC: Southampton (H).

Huddersfield - 15th; 31 points from 31 games

March 31, Newcastle (a); April 7, Brighton (a); April 14, Watford (H); April 28, Everton (H); May 5, Manchester City (a); May 13, Arsenal (H). TBC: Chelsea (a).

Crystal Palace - 16th; 30 points from 31 games

March 31, Liverpool (H); April 7, Bournemouth (a); April 14, Brighton (H); April 21, Watford (a); April 28, Leicester (H); May 5, Stoke (a); May 13, West Brom (H).

West Ham - 17th; 30 points from 30 games

March 31, Southampton (H); April 8, Chelsea (a); April 16, Stoke (H); April 22, Arsenal (a); April 29, Manchester City (H); May 5, Leicester (a); May 13, Everton (H). TBC: Manchester United (H).

Southampton - 18th; 28 points from 30 games

March 31, West Ham (a); April 8, Arsenal (a); April 14, Chelsea (H); April 19, Leicester (a); April 28, Bournemouth (H); May 5, Everton (a); May 13, Manchester City (H). TBC: Swansea (a).

Stoke - 19th; 27 points from 31 games

April 1, Arsenal (a); April 7, Tottenham (H); April 16, West Ham (a); April 22, Burnley (H); April 28, Liverpool (H); May 5, Crystal Palace (H); May 13, Swansea (a).

West Brom - 20th; 20 points from 31 games

March 31, Burnley (H); April 7, Swansea (H); April 15, Manchester United (a); April 22, Liverpool (H); April 28, Newcastle (a); May 5, Tottenham (H); May 13, Crystal Palace (a).