How Aston Villa became favourites to avoid the drop
None of Villa, Watford and Bournemouth were among the three favourites to be relegated at the start of the Premier League season, but two of them will go down on Sunday.
In the summer of 2019, none of Aston Villa, Watford or Bournemouth were among the three favourites to be relegated.
All three have underperformed to find themselves in this position – particularly Watford and Bournemouth, who were 5/1 and 9/2 to go down last summer.
For long parts of the season, Villa have been the likeliest of the trio to finish in the bottom three. But while the Hornets and Eddie Howe’s side produced their finest runs of form earlier in the campaign, the Midlands club have saved their best for last and now look well-placed to survive.
Ahead of a nerve-jangling final day, here’s how the battle for Premier League survival has played out.
Watford and Bournemouth look set for another solid campaign, going into the season with the same managers and similar players that finished the last.
Aston Villa spend over £100m on assembling a Premier League-class squad, but are still considered fourth-favourites for relegation.
After taking one point from the first four matches of the season, Watford slide from 5/1 to 23/10 to go down.
They sack Javi Gracia and rehire Quique Sanchez Flores.
The Hornets’ nightmare start to the season continues as they lose 8-0 at Man City in Flores’ second match in charge, conceding five goals inside the first 18 minutes.
By contrast, Bournemouth get their campaign off to a solid start, taking 10 points from their first six matches.
A 2-1 defeat to Southampton sees Flores’ second spell at Vicarage Road end in far more desperate circumstances than the first.
His 10-match stint, featuring seven goals, seven points and one win, leaves Watford as a 4/9 shot to be relegated.
December is a bad month for both Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
A defeat at Brighton just after Christmas is Bournemouth’s seventh in nine matches, while Villa take four points from seven games across the month and are odds-on to go down.
New boss Nigel Pearson transforms Watford’s season, and their 3-0 win at Bournemouth is their fourth in five matches.
The Cherries go odds-on for relegation, joining Aston Villa, who are beaten 6-1 by Man City at Villa Park.
Villa’s 4-0 defeat to Leicester, the last Premier League match before football is suspended, is their fourth in a row, leaving them as heavy favourites to go down.
Bournemouth only take one point from their last four games, while Watford’s shock 3-0 win over Liverpool sees them pull clear.
All three teams make slow starts to the restart, but come to life in the middle of July.
After victories for Watford and Villa, Bournemouth seem doomed when they trail 1-0 to Leicester. The Cherries fight back to win 4-1, though, and take the race into the final week of the season.
Bournemouth lose a crucial home game to Southampton, and will be relegated if Watford avoid defeat to Manchester City.
But the Hornets, who have sacked Pearson with two games remaining, spectacularly fall short, losing 4-0 and slipping from 5/2 to 1/4 to go down.
Villa take advantage of the slip-ups by beating Arsenal and position themselves as 9/4 outsiders to be relegated heading into the final day.
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