London, United Kingdom (AFP) – The Premier League title may be Manchester City’s to lose but down at the bottom the relegation battle looks set to go to the wire.
The dogfight to avoid the drop has serious financial consequences.
Clubs dropping out of the elite take an immediate £60 million ($84 million). Although they receive a £40 million parachute payment when they drop into the Championship, it falls well short of the £100 million Premier League clubs receive each year.
The relegated club’s losses in revenue can reach as much as £70-80 million once sponsorship deals and fans coming through the turnstiles in normal non-coronavirus times are taken into account.
Third-from-bottom Fulham look the only side of those in the relegation places capable of escaping the drop.
Newcastle’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea on Monday makes them favourites to replace Fulham if the latter can extricate themselves from the relegation spots.
A fine 2-0 away to high-flying Everton on Sunday showed Fulham have both the fight in them and the quality to do so.
The bottom two, though, are floundering.
Sam Allardyce’s record of being the fireman clubs turn to save them from relegation looks set to be spoiled with his West Brom side 12 points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Newcastle, two months after he replaced Slaven Bilic.
Sheffield United, who had mounted a mini-revival albeit from a very low starting point, are 14 points off safety with 14 games remaining after they slumped to a 3-0 defeat to West Ham on Monday.
“It is a massive step back,” conceded United manager Chris Wilder.
Fulham, though, could be breathing down the neck of Newcastle when the Magpies travel to Manchester United on Sunday.
The London club can move to within a point of Newcastle if they beat Burnley on Wednesday and Sheffield United on Saturday.
The likelihood of Newcastle coming away with anything from Old Trafford is improbable given they have lost six of their last seven away matches.
Fulham’s win over Everton — their first in 12 games — may have come as a surprise to many, but not to their young manager Scott Parker.
“This is a confident team,” said the 40-year-old former England midfielder.
“You don’t play football like we play football, these players don’t move the ball like they move the ball, if they didn’t have confidence.”
Fulham’s biggest problem has been failing to convert draws into victories — they have finished all square in nine of their 23 matches this term.