While the race for the Premier League title often dominates the headlines, the fight to avoid relegation into the Championship can realise its fair share of drama. With three matches remaining last season there were as many as eight teams still needing points to avoid a bottom three placing, and there could be several contenders facing a similarly difficult 2013-14 campaign.
Crystal Palace has looked to bolster their firepower by adding Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal, Peterborough forward Dwight Gayle and the veteran striker Kevin Phillips. However, there is little sign of any significant defensive reinforcements after conceding 62 goals in the Championship and it could be a long season for manager Ian Holloway.
Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay also faces a tough season to retain the Welsh team’s top flight status but a reported £30 million has been spent on team strengthening including the recruitment of Tottenham defender Steven Caulker. Their home form may be the key to their survival hopes after winning 15 of and losing only two of their 23 matches at the City of Cardiff Stadium last season.
Fellow promoted Hull City have also embarked on a spending spree in an attempt to ensure Premier League survival. Although there has only been a £10 million outlay, there have been additions to all areas of the squad including the signing of Scottish and ex-Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor. Team boss Steve Bruce may have the experience to lead Hull away from the bottom three positions.
Of the Premier Leagues teams from last season who may became embroiled in a relegation tussle, both Stoke City and Fulham look most vulnerable. Fulham now have new owners which may arouse speculation as to Martin Jol’s immediate future as manager. The Cottagers won their final match of last season after losing six of their previous seven matches and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is their only substantial purchase so far this summer.
Mark Hughes will also face a difficult task in reversing Stoke City’s alarming slide towards the end of last season. Only two victories were secured in the final ten matches and a paltry eight goals scored. With relatively few additions to his squad, Hughes will be relying on impressive midfielder Steven N’Zonzi to maintain his good form from last season.
Although Stoke and Fulham do appear most likely to join the promoted teams in the relegation battle, Sunderland cannot be discounted from the equation. Transfer activity has been frenzied on Wearside with few of the arrivals experienced in English football. Couple this with manager Paulo Di Canio’s volatile temperament and the Black Cats will be the most unpredictable team during the following nine months.
As ever there are favourites for relegation, but unpredictability is usually one the main sources of interest at the basement of the Premier League table.