The 2022/23 Premier League relegation battle is shaping up to be one of the most intense and nerve-wracking in league history, and The Hard Tackle predicts the three teams who will ultimately fall short.

There’s a huge amount to play for at both ends of the Premier League table, with the title race, top-four tussle, and relegation battle all perfectly poised heading into the final eight matchdays.

The top 11 teams in the Premier League are as good as safe and will be playing top-flight football next season unless we’re witnessing an absolute freak of a season where teams with 39 points, like Chelsea and Fulham, are pulled into the relegation scrap in the Premier League.

The London duo currently boast a 12-point buffer over 18th-placed Nottingham Forest but are enduring a slump. More bizarre things have happened in football, such as when West Ham got relegated after finishing in 18th position despite amassing 42 points, which remains the highest tally recorded by a relegated team in a 38-match Premier League season. A total mystery, remember.

That said, it would take a dreadful eight-game losing streak combined with the positive results of other bottom-half clubs for the aforementioned to happen. Nevertheless, the nine clubs below them are all within striking distance of the relegation zone or sitting in it, so a poor run of form could doom any one of those teams and send them down to the second-tier Championship next season.

The race includes some prominent clubs with large fan bases and a long history in the English Premier League, including Leeds United, Everton, West Ham United, and Leicester City. Nottingham Forest, who spent extensively throughout both transfer windows, is one of two promoted sides fighting for safety.

This is undoubtedly one of the tightest in Premier League history, with only four points separating Wolves in 12th from relegation-zoned Forest. It is going to be a titanic struggle to survive and could easily go to the last kick of the season.

With the games coming thicker and faster than ever in the Premier League this term, relegation could partly be determined by which teams are best able to deal with the unprecedented intensity of the season.

The Hard Tackle gives you an overview of the Premier League relegation fight as it stands, and our predictions on who could go down. We’ll also provide a list of six-pointers at the end of the piece.

Crystal Palace (12th – 33 points) — Safe

Palace were on a slippery slope before they decided to part ways with Patrick Vieira and opt for former boss Roy Hodgson, who has returned to the Selhurst Park dugout at the age of 75 until the end of the season to provide experience.

New manager bounce has well and truly kicked in, more so because Hodgson knows his players and relegation scraps. In the Englishman’s first game back, Hodgson’s side were passing and moving with elegance and artistry with purpose than they ever did under Vieira this season. In fact, the half-time reading showed 1.22 xG (Expected goals) versus 0.00 xGA (Expected goals against), which hinted Palace are cooking something under their new boss.

The Eagles eventually grasped a last-gasp winner in the 2-1 deserved victory over Leicester City last midweek.  That was the first time Palace had scored more than once in a match since New Year’s Eve and that will surely provide a much needed confidence boost to an attack that has flattered to deceive this season.

It was telling when one of lowest scorers in the Premier League fired five goals past relegation rivals Leeds to stage a remarkable second-half turnaround to give a significant boost to their Premier League survival hopes. The stunning win moves Crystal Palace up to 12th in the Premier League, six points clear of the relegation zone.

It is now two wins secured and seven goals scored in two games, and Palace are already likely out of the relegation battle.

Eyebrows were raised when Palace turned to their former manager Hodgson at the end of last month, but his impact has already been felt and nothing short of incredible. It has taken the veteran a little over two weeks to effectively complete the job he was brought in for.

There’s definitely a more optimistic feel and old safety vibes around Selhurst Park, so that bodes well. Palace also face a favourable fixture list across the run-in. Six of the club’s remaining eight games are against teams below them in table, so they will reach the safety points tally easily.

Remaining fixtures: Southampton (A), Everton (H), Wolves (A), West Ham United (H), Tottenham (A), Bournemouth (H), Fulham (A), Nottingham Forest (H)

Wolverhampton Wanderers (13th – 31 points) — Safe

Julen Lopetegui’s appointment as manager has not quite pulled Wolves clear of danger as hoped, but at least they’ve shown green shoots of recovery lately, and are now well-positioned to avoid the drop.

For all of their good play and easy-on-the-eye style, Wanderers remain the joint lowest scorers in the Premier League, and their attackers have been consistently struggling for goals for months, which is the cause of their lowly position.

January recruit Matheus Cunha has scored just once since arriving from Atletico Madrid, with Ruben Neves and Daniel Podence the club’s joint-leading scorers on just five each. Adama Traore (2) is the only other player in the squad to have scored more than one league goal this season.

That said, they were good value for their win against Chelsea at Molineux, which came courtesy of a stunning strike from their sought-after midfielder Matheus Nunes. Wolves’ second win in eight games was built on solid foundations at the back as they restricted their opponents to just one attempt on target.

Lopetegui’s side have been accused of being too slow in progressing the ball forward and not testing opposition goalkeepers enough this season. But this was a much-improved performance, and these three points could go a long way towards securing another season in the Premier League.

The former Real Madrid and Sevilla boss is a shrewd and vastly experienced tactician, probably the best among the lot embroiled in a relegation battle, which gives Wolves a clear advantage as the Spaniard is a master at setting up compact defences to build the rest of their play from.

Add to that, the presence of well-versed pros like Craig Dawson, Joao Moutinho, and Ruben Neves, plus the fact that Pedro Neto is finally fit again, and they’ve got all the tools required to beat the drop.

They will face Leicester City and Crystal Palace in the space of three days in late April. A win against the Foxes would kick-start Wolves’ push away from relegation, and at home against Palace, under the Molineux lights, they have a great chance to make it four points from a possible six.

Looking at the remaining fixtures, these two are likely to be the most crucial, and those Wolves need to collect points from teams in a similar predicament.

Remaining fixtures: Brentford (H), Leicester (A), Palace (H), Brighton (A), Villa (H), Man Utd (A), Everton (H), Arsenal (A)

West Ham United (14th – 30 points) — Safe

David Moyes should save his job by avoiding relegation from the Premier League with West Ham. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The Hammers have hardly had the greatest of campaigns so far. Indeed, with just 10 Premier League games to play, they are flirting with the relegation zone, three points from safety.

Given that they were threatening to break into the top-six in the last couple of seasons, and reached the Europa League semifinals only last season, that’s some fall from grace. This is despite heavily on the likes of Gianluca Scammaca, Maxwel Cornet, and Lucas Paqueta, among others.

And it feels as though certain sections of the fanbase have lost patience with manager David Moyes. For instance, following a shocking 5-1 home thrashing against Newcastle United, the West Ham fans booed their own manager and walked out well before the final whistle at the London Stadium.

Many of the clubs on this list have changed their head coach once this season. With not much left in the season, however, it seems as though the club’s board will stick with the Scotsman, barring an absolute disaster, instead of looking to replace him soon, a decision they might take at the end of the season.

As underwhelming and uninspiring as it may sound, Moyes may just be the right man to keep them up, which is all the more evident after their mid-week victory against Fulham.

The Scotsman deployed a genuine 4-4-2, with Michail Antonio and Danny Ings starting together for the first time and Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen operating as wide midfielders, tucking in and running their markers.

It was pretty much the old guard, with the starting XI not including a single one of the eight players signed in last summer’s £170 million spree. West Ham defended with some much-needed desperation and dug out three points.

Expect similar hard-fought, gritty performances from them between now and the end of the season as Moyes looks to mould them into a solid unit, similar to the one he created to dig them out of the hole on his second coming in 2020 during the first lockdown period.

Signing Ings in January was a shrewd move from West Ham, given their lack of goals, and he could ultimately prove to be the man who keeps them up. West Ham are also the only side in the Premier League relegation scrap with dual commitments, having progressed with ease to the Europa Conference League quarter-finals.

One of the favourites to win the European third-tier competition, it would represent long-awaited silverware and a route back into Europe next season. However, Moyes must ensure continental football does not come alongside the rigours of the Championship.

They are too good to go down, and with games against Bournemouth, Leeds, and Leicester all to come, they will pick up the points needed to stay up. In fact, since the start of the new year, the Hammers have gone 4W-4L-4D in their 11 league matches in 2023. The respectable tally of 16 points picked up from 12 games have been valuable, giving Moyes and his players a strong chance of survival.

Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (H), Bournemouth (A), Liverpool (H), Palace (A), Man Utd (H), Brentford (A), Leeds (H), Leicester City (A)

Bournemouth (15th – 30 points) — Safe

Bournemouth moved out of the Premier League’s relegation zone with an impressive victory that piled more misery on beleaguered Leicester City. It was a huge result for the Cherries, who showed they are up for the fight for survival and looked the more purposeful and organised of the two sides.

Philip Billing scored the winning goal in the first half, latching on to Maddison’s shocking attempt at a backpass to coolly score his seventh goal of the season.

Given Dominic Solanke has failed to step up to the Premier League after two excellent goal-scoring seasons in the second tier, the club’s reliance on the Dane, who’s the club’s leading scorer, is evident.

The visiting set of supporters in their corner of the King Power stadium serenaded the players with chants of ‘The Reds are staying up’ at full-time, and they have given themselves real hope of doing just that.

There are issues at both ends of the pitch for Gary O’Neil’s side, who average the fewest shots on goal per game this season and the most shots against. A total recipe for disaster, and a combination unlikely to lead to survival.

However, there are some silver linings for Bournemouth, which could come into play for them in the business end of the season. They are the only team in the bottom nine to have played Manchester City and Arsenal twice, and they still have six matches left at home. Gary O’Neil side’s committed style of play is likely to get the fans behind the team.

Can beat anyone on their day, as their win against Liverpool and a pair of draws against Newcastle illustrate. Bournemouth faces six sides around them before the season’s end, but just one of those fixtures is at the Vitality Stadium.

Bournemouth’s form on the road has been rotten, losing eight of their last nine on their travels before the Leicester win, a record that must improve if the club are to avoid an instant return to the Championship.

Bournemouth have found goals this season by exploiting the gap between their opponents’ full-backs and centre-backs in transitional moments, with Dango Ouattara and Marcus Tavernier stretching the flanks, and Billing cashing in on purposeful darts.

If they can continue to effectively exploit this space and generate scoring opportunities, they may have a chance to score enough goals to stay up, but on a knife edge.

Fixture list: Tottenham (A), West Ham United (H), Southampton (A), Leeds United (H), Chelsea (H), Palace (A), Man Utd (H), Everton (A)

Leeds United (16th – 29 points) — Safe

Javi Gracia is getting the job done at Leeds United. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Leeds’ decision to sack manager Jesse Marsch at the start of February and bring in Javi Gracia as his replacement has proved to be astute, with the former Watford boss supervising the collection of 10 points from six Premier League games,  but there second-half capitulation against Palace is concerning to say the least.

There were doubts that Leeds would pay the price for not making the most of their first-half dominance, but no-one could have foreseen what would unravel at Elland Road after the break.

For as sharp, hungry and  enterprising as they were in the first 45 minutes, they were disjointed and lethargic after the break as the players and fans were left in disbelief as Palace put them to sword with clinical efficiency in a 5-1 thrashing.

Leeds have made an improvement in the final third since Gracia took charge and they have only failed to score in one of his seven games in charge, that being a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.

While the Whites look more threatening in attack, they do still appear fragile at the back and have conceded 15 goals in their past six league assignments, taking their season’s tally to 54 against.

Only Bournemouth have shipped more goals than Leeds’ this season and that is the area Gracia will need to address quickly to ensure his side are playing Premier League football again next season.

Prior to their Palace defeat, the Whites were unbeaten at Elland Road under the Spanish tactician, beating Southampton and Nottingham Forest either side of a Brighton draw, and it is clear that home form will be crucial to the club’s chances of top-flight survival.

With six of their final 11 league games at home Leeds can secure survival if they take advantage at Elland Road. Leeds left it until the final weekend to survive last season and the club’s fans will not want a repeat, given there are some seriously difficult encounters on the horizon as they top-six sides Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs in their final four games.

They can score goals, and if not, they always look the more likely to find the net even against top sides. This collective ability to drive forward after regaining possession or finding players advancing towards the final third with sharp passes has been a key strength, which is why we believe they will pull off a remarkable escape at the very death.

Remaining fixtures: Liverpool (H), Fulham (A), Leicester City (H), Bournemouth (A), Manchester City (A), Newcastle United (H), West Ham United (A), Tottenham (H)

Everton (17th – 27 points) — Safe

Sean Dyche is wielding the magic wand again. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Sean Dyche. That is the reasoning. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. Why bother discussing much? The brick-wall manager has visibly restored a resilience and toughness to an Everton side that previously looked jaded and short of ideas, delivering results with a much improved, solid defensive base and the raucous home support at Goodison Park.

They had their four-game unbeaten run destroyed on their visit to Old Trafford in their Premier League clash with Manchester United at the weekend. But make no mistake, Dyche will be disappointed with the result and will make his players sweat ahead of the decisive run-in.

With such fine margins, every goal matters more. Having scored the least amount of goals from open play in the entire division, and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s niggling injury woes persisting, a question mark remains over where goals will come from.

But then again, Burnley rarely had a prolific striker, so they had to keep things tight with an organised defence. There’s always a chance of nicking a goal and stealing all three points if you stay alive in games long enough, and Everton have already secured some wins in similar fashion.

One may even say Everton have better quality attackers and midfielders capable of scoring than Burnley ever had. Like Dyche’s Burnley, Everton have been impressive at set pieces as there are players who can provide good delivery from corners and free-kicks, and there is plenty of height in the team.

Dyche will have designated the games in which his team needs to collect points to stay up, and they won’t be against the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle, or even high-flying Brighton. Of course, if they got a win or draw, it would be a bonus, but the real work starts when they face rivals in the bottom half of the table.

The next two games will be crucial to their survival, as they need at least three points to not get deflated down the line. Last season, the Everton supporters played a massive part in keeping the team in the league with such incredible atmospheres for the final few home games.

Expect something similar this time around; survival is all that matters at the moment. The Hard Tackle expects Dyche and Everton to get the job done, albeit in a nail-biting manner, on the final day of the season against Bournemouth.

Fixture list: Fulham (H), Crystal Palace (A), Newcastle United (H), Leicester City (A), Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Manchester City (H), Wolves (A), Bournemouth (H)

Nottingham Forest (18th – 27 points) — Relegated

Nottingham Forest fans might have to prepare for life in the second division again if their team suffers relegation from the Premier League. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Can Steve Cooper stop the slide? Nottingham Forest are without a win in nine and in deep relegation trouble. The 2-0 defeat against Aston Villa piled the pressure even more on Cooper, who looked on glum-faced and understands this result leaves him hanging onto his job by a thread.

The question now is: how will owner Evangelos Marinakis respond to Nottingham Forest dropping into the relegation zone? Marinakis handed Cooper a new contract in October to dispel talk of him dismissing his manager when they were bottom of the table and backed the Englishman even more by bringing in established Premier League names in Chris Wood and Jonjo Shelvey and European high-profile stars as Keylor Navas and Felipe. But it is difficult to envisage the Forest owner being quite so generous this time.

The Nottingham Forest owner made his feelings clear in the statement Forest released last Wednesday, improve results quickly or risk becoming the 13th Premier League manager to be sacked this season. Cooper’s failure to find a solution to their wretched away form could ultimately be his undoing; Forest have taken six points from a possible 45 on the road, the last of which came at Southampton in January.

Cooper looked forlorn from the touchline by the time Watkins chipped in the second to seal the game, clutching his jacket with his hands behind his back. And it was impossible not to wonder whether Marinakis will ask him to fetch his coat and leave the City Ground.

Cooper said Marinakis need not have stressed the need for positivity, hinting that his owner’s comments were unhelpful. But there is no doubt the manager knows football is a ruthless sport, especially when it comes to managerial sackings.

He remains a popular figure in the Nottingham Forest camp for achieving the unthinkable by leading Forest back to England’s top flight. The City Ground will be crucial to Forest’s hopes of survival, however, things do not get any easier for him as they face a tricky run-in, with games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Brighton, Brentford, Chelsea, and Arsenal all set to come. It is difficult to see where the points will come from for Forest, which could lead to their demise.

Fixture list: Manchester United (H), Liverpool (A), Brighton & Hove Albion (H), Brentford (A), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H), Crystal Palace (A)

Leicester City (19th — 25 points) — Relegated

As if things were not difficult enough already, Leicester City slumped to a slender 1-0 defeat at the hands of relegation rivals Bournemouth. After falling to a midweek defeat against Aston Villa, this was a must-win game if Leicester wanted to get out of trouble.

However, James Maddison was guilty of gifting the only goal of the game, playing a blind back pass which was picked off by Philip Billing before he fired past Daniel Iversen five minutes before halftime.

Of course, this comes after the chaos of sacking Brendan Rodgers, who was facing mounting dissent from a section of unhappy fans. And that rarely helps a team improve their form. With each passing week, that pressure mounts.

When Leicester City axed Claudio Ranieri nine months after lifting the Premier League title, the decision was made amid fears the club were heading for inevitable relegation. While there was a similar feeling this time around, the Foxes’ faithful must have been careful of what they wanted.

Yes, we are saying all this in light of rumours that Leicester are in advanced talks with Jesse Marsch over their vacant manager’s job and are expected to confirm his appointment if all goes according to plan.

Final details are being ironed out with the American, who was fired by Leeds United in early February with the team 17th in the table. Leicester’s position is even more perilous, the club second-bottom after this home loss to Bournemouth. Marsch was on the verge of taking over at Southampton shortly after his exit from Leeds. But the deal collapsed over the length of the contract.

Marsch had wanted a deal beyond the end of this season, something he may get at Leicester, with Athletic reporting he will be willing to steer their promotion push if they do get demoted. We think that appointing the former RB Leipzig boss would backfire on the Foxes. See it from any angle, Rodgers to Marsch is a significant downgrade, one they may come to regret.

You might have already heard countless times from pundits: If Leicester City can tighten up at the back, they should have enough firepower and creativity with the likes of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Jamie Vardy to stay up.

Leicester cannot defend for their lives, and one of Marsch’s specialties is building fragile and porous defences. Other options, such as Rafael Benitez or Sam Allardyce, would be better since they know how to construct well-organised backlines. This appointment hints that the Leicester hierarchy are preparing for life in the second-tier even before their eventual demise, which does not send a positive signal to the players’ camp.

Remaining fixtures: Manchester City (A), Wolves (H), Leeds United (A), Everton (H), Fulham (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle United (A), West Ham United (H)

Southampton (20th – 23 points) – Relegated

The St. Mary’s has become a resident Premier League stadium. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Southampton are still bottom of the Premier League after losing to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.

The appointment of Ruben Selles breathed new life into their survival fight after the disastrous tenure of Nathan Jones, as they showed they can play their way to safety if they stick to the attacking philosophy of the new boss, who led the team to victories over Chelsea and Leicester, along with notable draws against Manchester United and Tottenham.

However, that was nothing more than just a false dawn, with just one point accumulated from their last five league games. The south coast team’s upcoming fixtures do not seem too favourable, with matches against the top two Premier League teams and visits to West Ham United and Newcastle United lined up.

Having predominantly been at the foot of the table in recent weeks, the Saints will certainly be up against it for the rest of the campaign and face a difficult task to stay in the Premier League.

The upcoming home games against Palace and Bournemouth could be the ones that ultimately what the fight for survival may come down to. Resilient displays and a pair of wins from this young and inexperienced side could give them a glimmer of hope in their fight for survival. Otherwise, they are deader than a dead thing from dead land.

Fixture list: Crystal Palace (H), Arsenal (A), Bournemouth (H), Newcastle United (A), Nottingham Forest (A), Fulham (H), Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Liverpool (H)

Six-pointers to look out for

History suggests that 38 points is the new safe threshold for staying in the Premier League. However, this is a narrative that will not be completely revealed until the final day, leaving you to wonder what is on the final screening of this blockbuster.

On the final day of the season, Crystal Palace host Nottingham Forest at Selhurst Park, Everton welcome Bournemouth to Goodison Park, and Leicester City host West Ham United. All of the bouts are set to be dramatic. Wolves must go to Arsenal for their last game, while Southampton, who must show signs of life by then, must play at home against Liverpool.

All nine clubs participating in this drama will be hoping to be safe before then. But this race is so tight and stressful that it appears to be going straight down to the wire. Below is the full list of pivotal games that may change the complexion of the Premier League relegation zone in the coming weeks.

Saturday, April 15: Southampton vs Crystal Palace

Saturday, April 22: Crystal Palace vs Everton

Saturday, April 22: Leicester City vs Wolves

Sunday, April 23: AFC Bournemouth vs West Ham United

Tuesday, April 25: Wolves vs Crystal Palace

Tuesday, April 25: Leeds United vs Leicester City

Thursday, April 27: Southampton vs AFC Bournemouth

Saturday, April 29: Crystal Palace vs West Ham United

Sunday, April 30: AFC Bournemouth vs Leeds United

Monday, May 1: Leicester City vs Everton

Saturday, May 6: Nottingham Forest vs Southampton

Saturday, May 13: Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth

Saturday, May 20: West Ham United vs Leeds United

Sunday, May 28: Crystal Palace vs Nottingham Forest

Sunday, May 28: Everton vs AFC Bournemouth

Sunday, May 28: Leicester City vs West Ham United

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