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We've done the maths: Who will be safe in fierce relegation battle?

With two weekends left, the Premier League relegation picture is still surprisingly muddled. We offer clarity.

Over the weekend, the relegation picture didn't do much to become more clear. Sure, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers both sealed their fate and booked tickets to the Championship next year, but we pretty much knew that was going to happen already. For the teams that we were unsure of–Sunderland, Hull City, Leicester City, Newcastle, and Aston Villa–we still don't have any certainty. Sure, Aston Villa would take a lot of mishaps to go down, but safety is not yet guaranteed.

For those who may be just joining us, the bottom three teams in the Premier League all get relegated to the Championship at the end of the season. As things stand, two clubs (the aforementioned Burnley and QPR) are done. That leaves the other five teams desperately trying to avoid the third slot. A month ago, we likely would have told you that 34 points would have ensured safety, but thanks to timely wins by nearly everyone, ending the season now on 34 would mean relegation.

So what happens from here? Well, as we did last week, we've run the numbers on the remaining scenarios. In the absence of a good method of predicting match outcomes, we use betting odds as a proxy probabilities. From that information, I feel confident that the cut line still remains at 37, like I said last week. Hit that mark and you'll be safe at the end of the season. My confidence stems mostly from the following table:


Image: Bennett Berry

Definitely relegated: Burnley, QPR

Likely relegated: Hull

Likely safe: Sunderland, Newcastle, Leicester, Aston Villa

As you can see, thanks in large part to their untimely loss against Burnley this weekend, Hull have dug themselves a massive hole. With approximately a one-in-three chance of hitting 37 points, it seems as if they will be the third team joining Burnley and QPR in the Championship. Their one hope might be the recent poor form from Tottenham (who they visit this weekend) and Manchester United (who they host on the final Sunday). It seems unlikely that the rough patch those two teams have hit will be quite as rough as the one Hull find themselves in.

For those hoping for a bit of chaos, both Sunderland and Newcastle have left themselves enough work to do to start worrying. Sure, Sunderland have a match in hand, but their run-in of hosting Leicester followed by visits to Arsenal and Chelsea leaves us wondering if they can even get another point to add to their 36. Newcastle have it a bit more easy, facing QPR and West Ham, but if John Carver has taught us anything this season it's not to trust in John Carver.

Leicester, meanwhile, seem to have completed the great escape. They can mathematically secure safety with a win and a Hull draw or loss OR a draw and a Hull loss. Aston Villa have it a bit easier: win and they're safe. Hull lose and Villa are safe. Draw and a Hull loss or draw? Villa are safe. But let's not wait for the Tigers to do anything. With the first kick-off of the weekend, Villa could secure safety before anyone else has a chance to play.

And finally, I did a bit of number crunching to see what the most likely outcomes were for the five teams still in contention for relegation:

Team Most likely outcome
Hull 34 points, 31% chance
Sunderland 39 points, 23% chance
Newcastle 39 points, 25% chance
Leicester 40 points, 24% chance
Aston Villa 41 points, 36% chance

Nice to see that Villa have a pretty decent shot at ending the season above 40 points. In fact, while their chance at 41 points is 36%, their chance at 40 or more is 73%. That's thanks, in large part, to being overwhelming favorites on the season's last day against Burnley.

If you'd like to read the methodology used in this post, you can find it here. And let me know what you think in the comments! Do the numbers have it right, or is the drop line somewhere other than 37?