Time is fast running out for West Brom, Stoke and Southampton to save themselves from the trap door of Premier League relegation and the drastic loss of revenue it entails.
With Manchester City having already been crowned Premier League champions with five games to spare, and Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur looking well set to join them in the Champions League next season, attention has turned to the other end of the table for the final weeks of the season.
A report by financial consultants Deloitte revealed on Friday that Premier League clubs made a record pre-tax profit of £500 million ($712 million) last season in the first campaign of a bumper three-year TV deal to reveal the perils of dropping out the top flight.
Despite their heroics in beating United 1-0 at Old Trafford last weekend to gift City the title, West Brom could become the first side mathematically relegated this weekend should results not go their way.
The Baggies host Liverpool on Saturday where defeat, allied to Swansea avoiding a similar fate away to City on Sunday, would confirm their fate.
“You finish where you deserve to finish over the course of the season. For long periods of the season, we haven’t been good enough,” admitted West Brom’s Chris Brunt.
However, four points from their last two games under interim manager Darren Moore has at least kept West Brom alive and matched the points tally they got in their final 11 games of Alan Pardew’s ill-fated four-month spell in charge.
“He’s made everybody believe that they’re good players and that they can do the things that he’s asking them to do,” added Brunt. I think the last two games have showed that.”
Stoke are also approaching the last chance saloon as they sit five points adrift of safety with just four games left to save themselves.
With a trip to Anfield to come next weekend, Sunday’s home clash with Burnley is virtually a must-win for Paul Lambert’s men.
“I must have walked under a ladder or broken a mirror, because I’ve had no luck whatsoever,” added Lambert.
“But there won’t be many stadiums rocking like ours will be next Sunday. We have to get a win and that will certainly drag teams into it.”
Southampton inched to within four points of Swansea with a 0-0 stalemate at Leicester on Thursday, but are in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend against Chelsea.
City may already be champions, but with Premier League points and goals records still well within their reach, they could do the bottom three a big favour against Swansea at the Etihad.
Crystal Palace and West Ham enjoy a cushion over the bottom three, but also still need points to guarantee their place in the top flight next season.
Palace travel to a Watford side that has taken just one point from their last five matches.
Meanwhile, West Ham’s chances of a shock win at Arsenal will be boosted by Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger admitting his side’s focus will be on a Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid four days later.
West Brom v Liverpool (1130), Watford v Crystal Palace (1400)
Stoke v Burnley, Arsenal v West Ham (both 1230), Man City v Swansea (1530)