While Leicester were battered 3-0 against Liverpool, it is not all bad news for the Foxes. Southampton lost their slim chance at safety when they fell to Fulham this past weekend. That left the relegation battle in a four team race between Nottingham Forest, Everton, Leeds United, and Leicester City. Let’s analyze each teams chance at safety with two games remaining.
West Ham United
While they are not one of the aforementioned teams, West Ham United will have an enormous impact on the relegation battle. First, the Hammers will play Leeds this weekend before finishing the season at the King Power Stadium against Leicester City. It will be interesting to see how Manager David Moyes oversees his squad until the end of the season.
The Hammers are the not mathematically safe yet, but that will likely change this weekend. Outside of relying on other teams to drop points, Moyes can gurantee safety with a point this weekend. Moyes’ message will be simple to his squad against Leeds - Chase a win, but a fight for a draw. To achieve this, the gaffer will likely use the best lineup at his disposal which includes Jarrod Bowen, Declan Rice, and Michail Antonio.
Leicester City fans will be rooting for West Ham in their UEFA Conference League Semi-Final and their showdown against Leeds. If they are successful in Europe and are declared safe by the end of Matchweek 37, Moyes will likely rest his best players before heading to Prague for the UECL Final proving Leicester with a prime opportunity to pick up a win in their final match of the season.
While Nottingham Forest seemed like the team Leicester were most likely to jump, the Reds secured an improbable 2-2 draw against Chelsea to move to 34 points. However, the good news didn’t end there for Forest. Arsenal fell flat to Brighton this weekend and practically handed the league trophy to Manchester City. The Gunners looked dejected as they walked off the pitch at the Emirates.
While all of the other teams in the relegation race will be hoping Arsenal hold out faith and field a top squad, it is hard to imagine that Mikel Arteta will keep his foot on the gas. While Arsenal battered Forest 5-0 in their first contest of the season, Arsenal have significant injuries and will likely rotate depth players into their lineup before ending the season. All of this is to say that Forest won’t face the same team they lost badly to and they are riding their best form of the season. A draw or even a win to guarantee safety is not out of the question.
Nottingham will then close the season on the road at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. Palace have been wildly inconsistent all season and almost have the same amount of wins, loses, and draws. The Eagles will likely be playing for pride though as they finish the season at home while Forest will again be fielding their best squad.
The Toffies were manhandled by Manchester City as Haaland scored his Premier League record 36th goal of the season. Despite this, Everton fans are still in high spirits because they have the easiest remaining schedule in the Premier League. Sean Dyche’s men travel away to the Molineux to face 13th place Wolverhamton Wanders before returning to Goodison Park against 14th place Bournemouth.
Ignoring the loss to presumed title winners Manchester City, Everton are in possibly their best form of the season after beating Brighton 5-1 and clawing back to earn a draw against Leicester City. Despite trailing Nottingham Forest by two points, many believe the Toffies still have better odds to survive because of their easier competition and significantly improved goal differential.
Outside of their aforementioned match against West Ham United, Leeds finish the season against Tottenham. Spurs narrowly won their earlier matchup in the season but notably had injuries to starting centerback Cristian Romero and superstar Heung-min Son. Leeds’ luck will not be the same in their final matchup as Spurs hold onto hope that they can qualify for Europe.
All season, Leeds have struggled to defend with their league leading 71 goals allowed. Furthermore, Spurs still have a lot to play for. While they are eliminated from qualifying for major European competitions, Spurs can still qualify for the Conference League by finishing sixth. Since they will be playing at full strength, it is hard to imagine Leeds picking up points when when Spurs will have Harry Kane, Ivan Perišić, Dejan Kulusevski, and Son in their starting lineup.
Again, Leicester need help from West Ham. They need them to play a full squad against Leeds and rest their squad on the final day. In their penultimate game, the Foxes face Newcastle. In past seasons, this may have been a reprieve. However, the Magpies have been one of the best teams in the top flight this season.
Anchored by one of the leagues best defenses, Newcastle have also thrived offensively against teams in the bottom half of the table this season. Striker Callum Wilson had a brace against West Ham, Southampton, Leeds, and Everton all in the past month. However, it is not all doom and gloom for the Foxes.
Newcastle’s schedule was interrupted by the Coronation so they have a midweek match against Brighton. Furthermore, the Magpies are in their worst form of the season since the World Cup restart. If Leicester were ever going to get a result from this fixture, it is going to be because Newcastle are in poor form and will not be rested after having a bloated schedule towards the end of the season.
Despite this, it is important to be realistic about the fixture. This is the third place team facing a team in the drop zone. Of course, Dean Smith will urge his team to go get a victory. However, if things go south at St. James’ Park, the gaffer will surely have his eye on limiting the damage to Leicester’s goal differential. Even after their embarrassing performance against Liverpool, Leicester will still have a solid goal differential advantage headed into their final match against the Hammers so long as they do not lose 4-0 or 5-0.
Can Leicester City Survive?
Things look grim for the Foxes. While I am confident that Dean Smith can manage a result against the Hammers on the final day, Leicester are relying on Everton to bottle their remaining fixtures or to pick up points against Newcastle. The most likely survival scenario is that Everton top out at 33 points and Leicester City catch them with a win against West Ham to tie them on points but claim safety based on goal differential.