Fans of the bottom six clubs in the Premier League will grasp any token of hope they can find as they look for encouragement in the fight for survival.
And for Burnley, despite just three wins this season, the fixture list still makes for a relatively heartening read.
On paper, the Clarets have the easier run in of any of the teams battling it out for survival; but for the supporters of Leeds and Everton, there is cause for concern.
Everton sit fourth bottom with games in hand but supporters know they are in the mix
HOW THINGS STAND AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TABLE
Prem League Bottom Six
For both those clubs, the average league position of their opponents is in the top half with the mean position of the opposition for each club being 9.6.
Everton’s morale-boosting 99th-minute winner against Newcastle at Goodison Park last time out may have eased their jitters.
However, the Toffees still sit one place above the relegation zone, and despite having two games in hand over third-from-bottom Watford, Everton are mired in the mix.
An abject display at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup sixth round only three days after their victory over the Magpies had manager Frank Lampard questioning whether his lads have ‘the b****cks’ for the fight.
And despite a spendthrift transfer policy in the previous five years, which will stretch the top-flight’s profit and sustainability rules to the limit, Everton have been in steady decline this season, at least since the end of September.
Frank Lampard has questioned the Everton players’ courage in the relegation fight
AVERAGE POSITION OF OPPONENTS FOR BOTTOM SIX
Premier League Relegation Run-in – Bottom Six Clubs
Average League Position of Remaining Opponents
Of the bottom six, Everton still have Burnley and Watford to play away, and Brentford visit Goodison in the penultimate game of the season.
‘I think if Everton lose to Burnley, you’ll go down,’ Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports, in conversation with former Toffee, Gareth Barry.
‘There’s obviously panic around Everton because they’re such a huge football club. Burnley and Watford are used to being down there and more often than not eventually they’ll go down, but I just think if Everton have a bad defeat at home, imagine what effect that will have.
‘I could imagine at Burnley they would say “It’s OK, we can write that off. We’re Burnley, we’re supposed to get beat by these teams”.’
Everton have some tough fixtures, travelling to Liverpool and Arsenal, while Manchester United and Chelsea come to Merseyside. If they can steal some points at West Ham on Saturday, it will be a huge boost.
Lampard will be particularly keen to see some ‘cohones’ when Palace visit the Toffees, in a game yet to be rearranged, and in home and away fixtures with Leicester City. Everton must look to pick up points in those matches, too.
And encouragingly for Toffees fans, the website, FiveThirtyEight, which models the final positions in the Premier League, calculates Everton will narrowly survive, finishing on 36 points, one place above the relegation zone.
Leeds United fans will take heart from two remarkable last-gasp wins in the Premier League
Leeds United fans, meanwhile, will surely look beyond the fixture list. Their hope comes from new manager, Jesse Marsch, who appears to have reinvigorated the Whites to deliver two extraordinary, last-gasp wins against Norwich City and Wolves.
On 29 points, Leeds will be breathing a little easier, but supporters know it can change fast. With no disrespect, fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal look beyond them, but after that there are winnable games if Leeds can, well, deliver a Leeds performance.
‘Even though they are mad as they are on some days, they have energy. I think they’ll stay up,’ Roy Keane told Sky Sports.
Brighton at home should hold no fear if the players can deliver, but the critical games come around London with visits to Watford, Palace and Brentford.
The biggest factor will surely be the return of midfield lynchpin, Kalvin Phillips, who is expected to be involved at Southampton on Saturday. Phillips has been at the heart of Leeds at their best, plugging gaps defensively, but also launching those lethal counter attacks with dead-eye accuracy.
The FiveThirtyEight model agrees Leeds will have enough to survive, predicting they will end up in 16th place on 37 points.
Burnley have suffered a difficult season with just three wins but they have a good run in
Burnley’s run-in is marginally better than their rivals.
Undoubtedly, the East Lancashire side are in dire trouble sitting second bottom, with just 21 points and off the back of wretched run of three straight defeats leaving them four points from safety.
Add to that the fact they have Manchester City first up after the international break and Premier League survival may look a distant prospect.
Their remaining opponents have an average league placing in the bottom half of the table; the mean position being 10.8.
The visit of City to Turf Moor on Saturday, which will be expected to delay any revival, but after that the average position of the Claret’s opponents improves to 11.8.
They still have home games against Everton and Newcastle and go away to Watford and Norwich.
The Clarets host the Magpies on the last day of the season and they will be more than happy if their fate is still in their own hands on Sunday May 22.
Sean Dyche’s side have to find a way to beat the teams around them in the last 11 games
If Sean Dyche’s team can win the games against the teams around them they will go to 33 points, which is likely to be in touching distance of safety.
Unfortunately for Burnley, the game is played on grass, not paper, and the Clarets have laboured even against their closest rivals this season, home and away. With only three wins to their name, some turnaround is required.
In a burst of games before the break, Burnley were thumped 4-0 at home to Chelsea, but lost to Leicester and Brentford, using up some precious games in hand in the process.
‘It’s not looking good,’ conceded ex-Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott in the Lancashire Telegraph after those defeats. Not surprising then that FiveThirtyEight, has Burnley in the third relegation spot with a total of 34 points.
Ex-Man United and England defender Gary Neville felt Leeds’ win at Wolves was gamechanger
FINAL PREDICTED POINTS TOTAL
Final Points Total – Predicted
The remaining three clubs of the bottom six, Norwich City, Brentford and Watford, all face opposition with an average league position just inside the bottom half.
Bottom club Norwich, who have lost their last seven Premier League games have the toughest run of matches of this group with an average opposition placing of 10.1.
The Canaries still have to play Burnley and Newcastle at home in the coming weeks, but their last four fixtures are Villa (a), West Ham (h), Wolves (a) and Tottenham Hotspur at home. With only 17 points and four wins this season, relegation surely looms.
The statisticians predict Norwich have a greater than 99 per cent chance of going down and will finish bottom.
Brentford, who sit 15th on 30 points, will believe they are just a couple of wins away from safety, after beating Burnley 2-0 at home in a classic six-pointer on March 12.
The average position of their opponents in their last eight games is 10.4, but they have a firm grip of their own destiny now, with Watford (a), Everton (a) and Leeds to come at home on the final day.
FiveThirtyEight expect the Bees to stay in 15th picking a further 10 points, which would be a remarkable first season.
Finally, the mercurial Hornets face a mixed bag in their last nine games. It is difficult to know what to expect from Watford, but the number crunchers are not optimistic.
Norwich are off back of seven straight defeats and have some challenging games in the run in
Brentford will feel they are only a couple of wins away from safety after beating Burnley
In the last two months they have won at Villa and Southampton and drawn at Manchester United. However, in the same period they shipped four at home to Palace and simply didn’t turn up at Wolves, where they conceded three times in the first 21 minutes and lost 4-0.
The average position of their remaining opponents is 10.6, which includes trips to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Crucial to Watford’s survival will be home games with Leeds, Brentford and Burnley, with Everton’s visit to Vicarage Road still to be arranged. Whatever happens, Watford will want to save themselves before the last day of the season, when they visit Chelsea.
However, FiveThirtyEight predicts the Hornets will settle second bottom and only pick up a further eight points.
Watford have been unpredictable in recent weeks and have crucial games against bottom six