Almost half of the Premier League season has now been completed, and there have been a few surprises at both ends of the table. Leicester City have found it difficult to live up to pre-season expectations, while Chelsea have bounced back from a woeful 2015/16 campaign, but who is expected to be battling against relegation in May?
Sunderland were predicted to improve under new boss David Moyes, but they failed to register a win during their first ten games and were rooted to the bottom of the table before a recent revival.
The Black Cats have a quality hitman in Jermain Defoe, and he will need to be at his best to help his side move away from the drop zone in the coming months. However, Sunderland remain second-favourites to go down, and it is likely to be another tough winter at the Stadium of Light.
In contrast to Sunderland, Hull City started the season brightly with two successive wins, but Mike Phelan’s side then went eight matches without registering a victory and are now odds-on favourites to be relegated.
Swansea City are another obvious candidate to drop out of the top flight, having lost six of their first eight games. Bob Bradley left French side Le Havre to take up the manager’s role at the Liberty Stadium, but while he has given the Swans belief, as evidenced by their 5-4 win over Crystal Palace in November, they too look set to struggle.
The early season has also thrown up a couple of surprise candidates for relegation. Leicester City lifted the Premier League trophy last term, but they have failed to live up to their billing as reigning champions. The Foxes are languishing in the bottom half of the table, but their 4-2 victory over Manchester City in December suggests that they should have enough quality to avoid relegation.
It has been a similar story for West Ham United, who have not been enjoying life away from Upton Park at the new London Stadium. Slaven Bili? worked wonders last term in guiding the Hammers to seventh place, but new additions have failed to shine, and wins have been hard to come by.
At the other end of the table, Chelsea look a formidable proposition under Antonio Conte after switching to a 3-4-3 formation, which kick-started an incredible winning streak; key players Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté are all in a rich vein of form this term, and it will take a quality side to stop them, according to 888sport.
While last season was the year of the underdog, the natural order has been restored thus far with Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool all competing with Chelsea at the top of the table.
Man City were the early season pace-setters after winning six successive games, but indifferent form in October and December has enabled other sides to catch up. Arsenal have not won the title for more than a decade, but they have the firepower in Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez to maintain a strong finish. Liverpool have also improved under Jürgen Klopp and are tipped to challenge late into the season.