Premier League predictions: Ten teams in the relegation fight

Steve Bardens

The relegation fight in this season's Premier League just might be the most fierce ever, with everybody from 10th to below involved in some way and nobody looking certain to go down. As in the title race, the January transfer window will be key.

The relegation battle looks like being an intense one, claiming the whole bottom half of the table, but also not containing any completely doomed teams in the manner of Reading last season, despite Crystal Palace's early troubles. There's a lot to play for, and the January transfer window could play a large role. Here's our odds for each of the candidates to suffer the drop.

Hull City

Hull were largely expected to go straight back down after coming up, and certainly weren't expected to pull clear of a relegation battle at all. Steve Bruce has done a fantastic job for the club, and while they're hardly miles clear of the relegation zone, it would be pretty much unprecedented for a side that has two such powerful weapons for staying up: excellent home form and solid defence.

Odds: 10/1

Aston Villa

Paul Lambert's project at Aston Villa continues to make very slow progress. The mysterious, sudden and complete loss of Christian Benteke's goals has been a huge factor, and few of the club's summer signings have really stepped up to show they can take the club to the next level either.

In the long-term, things look better. Villa have a very young side, and they'll surely start to see the potential of those players as they mature and the team develops. But right now, they'll need something else to be sure of not getting sucked in to a fight. Whether Randy Lerner is prepared to release funds to make that happen is highly questionable, however, so Villa are far from safe at the moment.

Odds: 5/1

Stoke City

Tony Pulis was perhaps the only man since Gary Megson that could be replaced by Mark Hughes in a bid to develop a more attractive brand of football. But after some fine performances this year, Stoke looked a lot better equipped to once again avoid the relegation battle. Yet in the last few games, they've been wildly ill-disciplined and look like they might get sucked in.

Stoke are clearly a very solid outfit but they are desperately lacking in quality, with most of their creativity coming from the notoriously flaky Stephen Ireland. Marko Arnautovic has also looked more dangerous than he is while none of their strikers have been in exceptional form. Their robustness makes them unlikely to go down, but a lack of investment in January and a continued ignoring of their squad's problems could very well see them end up in the fight.

Odds: 6/1

Swansea City

After Michael Laudrup had been touted for several top jobs, his team have endured a pretty miserable season. Few of their new signings have shown an ability to take the club to the next level, even Wilfried Bony, although the Ivorian has shown signs of being able to be a bigger influence in recent games. Michu looks a shadow of his former self, and the team is struggling to score goals with the likes of Lamah and Wayne Routledge not exactly putting chances on a plate for their strikers.

That said, a well-run club with the kind of quality Swansea have is very unlikely to bite the dust. The chances are that the class in their side will tell as the season goes on, with Bony, Pablo Hernandez, Michu and others all likely to improve from their disappointing starts to the campaign. But they will need to improve, as their position is looking more precarious by the week.

Odds: 7/1

West Brom

Still without a manager, and still looking in a little bit of bother. Steve Clarke oversaw a long run of poor form at the club, and they can't seem to string any decent performances together to drag themselves clear. The precise problem the club has is difficult to pinpoint, although losing Romelu Lukaku as an option was undoubtedly a significant blow, with Victor Anichebe having hardly set the world alight since joining. The January sales may provide some respite, and there are plenty of players at the club who are too good to go down, but right now the team is looking mediocre.

Odds: 4/1

Norwich City

Leroy Fer, Nathan Redmond and Ricky van Wolfswinkel looked like an outstanding trio of signings for Chris Hughton's team in the summer, but it hasn't quite gone as planned. Fer got off to a slow start, Van Wolfswinkel has been plagued by a loss of form and injuries, and Nathan Redmond has not been able to have as much of an influence as required.

Recently though, things have started to look better. Fer is beginning to grow into his role and showing much better form, Van Wolfswinkel is set to return from injury with Gary Hooper doing a reasonable job in his stead, and Nathan Redmond has impressed, but rather suffered from the team's overall problem: that he isn't good enough to cover up for the distinctly Championship-looking players that still populate the squad and starting eleven.

A move or two in January to improve some of the weaker members in this side could work wonders. Norwich have half of a good team, but they might not be able to wait until the summer to start work on the remainder if they want to stay up and keep them together.

Odds: 3/1

Fulham

Fulham have produced by far the worst performances in the league this season, notably their humiliation at the hands of Hull City, and it's hard to see exactly what the managerial change has provoked. The worst midfield in the league and an increasingly leaky backline guarding out-of-form goalkeepers have led them to be right in the mire, despite the attacking talent in their team.

Reports vary significantly on how much money will be available to improve the squad in January, but if the teams around them buy, it's hard to see Fulham staying up with their current squad. Full-backs and central midfielders are desperately needed in order to provide some control and actually get the ball to their attackers to use. It's looking very, very dodgy at the cottage.

Odds: 3/2

Cardiff City

While most people were aghast at the sight of the likeable Solskjaer taking a job to work under Vincent Tan, one thing was slightly overlooked: Cardiff have managed to secure the signing of a potentially very good manager. Solskjaer ticks all of the boxes that chairmen tend to look for, and although whether he gets a chance to show his long-term strategy under Tan is doubtful, his past exploits as a player should see him immediately command the respect of the dressing-room despite it being his first managerial job outside of his native Norway, which will be vital to unite the club after a tumultuous period.

Cardiff's team, as it was in the Championship, is built around solidity and their midfield. Gary Medel and the outstanding Jordon Mutch can provide a fine base for the team, while the defence is not the worst. The problem is in scoring goals, and if Tan is prepared to release funds to his new man then that will probably be the priority in January. It will be a hard fight, but Cardiff certainly have it in them to stay up.

Odds: 3/1

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace looked as doomed as pretty much any team had at one point this year, but the appointment of Tony Pulis has helped to begin to turn things around and it seems like the club will be having a real fight of it. Also promising for the South Londoners is that the club appears prepared to acquire a number of new players in January.

That could be key, but it will be interesting to see how Pulis fares. His recent transfer record at Stoke was not good, buying too many players that were then shunned, and it's not sure what he'll do. He could well try and buy quality, or he could go for old players, or go for footballers to suit his preferred long-ball tactics. After spending so much time at one club, Pulis is almost an unknown quantity now he's moved to new pastures, but his coaching ability is at least not under question. Palace will fight, and fight hard, regardless of what happens in January.

Odds: 2/1

West Ham

Sam Allardyce is fortunate to still be in charge of West Ham, but his reputation for escaping relegation dogfights before has probably aided him, even if the club was never supposed to be this deeply involved in one. A loss of form to creative players and a terminal lack of strikers has seen the club plummet into the relegation zone, and their problems are wider than that. Games against rival relegation candidates have routinely been lost, and save for the 3-0 win at Tottenham, victories against the odds have not materialised either.

The club will buy at least one striker in January, which will solve their biggest problem, but they will need to spend wisely. Allardyce has wasted a lot of money at the club by acquiring old friends on high wages for high fees, and with the transfer money not used efficiently, the club are now paying the price. Even if they spent well in January, it will be a long road away, with not even the one club beneath them in the table looking doomed just yet.

Odds: 2/1

Sunderland

Gus Poyet's reign at Sunderland has been plagued by bad luck and inconsistency, as his team have been far better than under Paolo di Canio but suffered from ill discipline and poor officiating.  Yet even had those not occurred, it's hard to say that the club have played well enough to be clear just yet.

What the club will do in January is anyone's guess, but Poyet does appear to be slightly closer to making things work. Their defence, while not exactly robust, has hardly been hemorrhaging goals, and they seem instead to be suffering from their eternal lack of creativity. Emmanuele Giaccherini was an impressive signing in name, and looked excellent in his initial performances, but has faded badly, Jozy Altidore has been appalling, and the many other faceless players ushered in by Di Canio have not impressed too much.

A couple of good signings will be necessary to get them clear, but with everybody else looking to do business, the Wearside club are clear favourites to suffer the drop.

Odds: Even

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