Squeaky-bum time: Assessing the relegation candidates' survival chances
With the bottom six the tightest it has been for nine years, we see who is the most likely to end up in the drop zone...
Not since this stage of the 2008/09 season has the fight for Premier League survival been as tight as it is now.
With just two points separating the bottom six, there appears to be little to pick between any of them.
That is especially worrying for Leicester, who are in serious danger of becoming the first side to go from Premier League champions to the Championship in just one season.
But which teams are really the most likely to end up in the bottom three? We have crunched the numbers to find out…
Too good to go down?
Given that Leicester won the title last season, their squad is, unsurprisingly, the most densely-packed with household names.
Having kept Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez – who scored 25 and 17 respectively last season – they would have expected to pull clear with ease.
Middlesbrough, too, strengthened in the summer with Hollywood names like Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes.
An over-reliance on those players, though, can be terminal – just ask the star-studded Boro side of 1996/97.
Led by player-manager Bryan Robson, they finished second-bottom with a squad including Brazilian pair Emerson and Juninho as well as Champions League-winner Fabrizio Ravanelli, who scored 16 league goals that season.
Ravanelli was unable to save Derby in 2001/02, either, as the Rams finished 10 points short of safety in 19th.
Newcastle, too, blundered their way into the Championship in 2008/09 despite efforts from Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Jonas Guttierez among others.
Ominously for Leicester and Middlesbrough, at least one side between 15th and 17th at this point has succumbed to relegation in each of the past 12 seasons.
The last time the bottom of the Premier League’s was this compact was eight years ago, when Newcastle – who were 15th at this stage – were eventually relegated.
The Magpies had failed to win in six and – following Alan Shearer’s calamitous managerial spell – would go on to record just two more victories all season and finish a point shy of safety.
Wimbledon, meanwhile, fell from 14th to 18th in 1999/00, after picking up just five points in their final 14 matches.
Seeing as both the Foxes and Boro are bottom of the Premier League form table – having earned just one and three points respectively from their past five matches – they should be worried.
Sunderland, too, should perhaps be preparing for life in the Championship, considering that the bottom side at this point have only saved themselves three times in Premier League history.
Swansea, on the other hand, are upwardly mobile, having won three of their last five matches, and look a good bet for survival.
More grim reading for Middlesbrough fans, here.
Aston Villa in 2014/15 and Everton in 1998/99 are the only two sides to have scored fewer goals at this point than Boro’s 19 and still manage to stay up.
With the misfiring Negredo netting just six so far – and Jordan Rhodes shipped off to Sheffield Wednesday – goals are at a premium at the Riverside.
Hull’s sale of top scorer Robert Snodgrass could also prove costly, as Abel Hernandez and Michael Dawson now lead their scoring charts with just three.
Elsewhere, 14-goal Jermain Defoe offers Sunderland a little hope, but dependence on one goalscorer can be dangerous.
Crystal Palace found that as they were relegated in 2004/05 despite Andy Johnson netting 21 and finishing second in the Golden Boot rankings.
Charlie Austin also notched 18 for QPR in 2014/15 and, as already mentioned, Ravanelli scored 16 for Middlesbrough in 1996/97.
Keeping them out
Unsurprisingly, a formidable defence is key to beating the drop.
No side in Premier League history has conceded fewer than the 27 Aitor Karanka’s side have and wound up in the bottom three.
But a reprieve will only come should they begin to find the net at the right end.
Should Swansea stay up, they would become the first side to do so with such a poor defence up to this point.
Despite their 54 goals against, though, their improvement under Paul Clement looks to be enough to save them.
Crystal Palace’s struggle will also continue should new signings Patrick van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho fail to solve their defensive issues.
The Eagles have mustered just two clean sheets all season and, even with firefighter Sam Allardyce in charge, the Football League is beckoning.
Middlesbrough and Leicester are in the most trouble.
While the former simply do not score enough goals, Leicester are sliding fast in a slump that their misfiring stars look unable to arrest.
Sunderland, meanwhile, are unlikely to save themselves – despite the best efforts of Defoe – while Swansea should be safe.