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The Final Third: Battle for Top Flight Survival

The relegation battle in the Premier League is one of the most stressful things a club can go through, and nearly the entire bottom half of the table is still under threat of falling out of England's top league.

Tensions are sure to be high for relegation-threatened clubs for the rest of the season.
Tensions are sure to be high for relegation-threatened clubs for the rest of the season.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the race for the Top 4, with most of you feeling Arsenal have the best chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League campaign. While there is a lot on the line for the teams challenging for the European places, there is even more at stake at the other end of the table.

Relegation is a terrifying word for any owner, manager or player, as dropping out of the top flight means a major drop in revenue, the potential for lost jobs and the possibility of promising careers falling off the rails into obscurity. Teams relegated from the Premier League rarely come straight back up, as their best players are poached and they're unable to afford to bring in the quality replacements to challenge for promotion the following season.

Likewise, it's not uncommon for newly promoted clubs to go straight back down into The Championship given the thinner squads and lesser investment than even the established mid-table clubs typically outlay in the summer leading up to a new campaign.

We've seen this trend in evidence this season with each of the newly-promoted club in danger of not making it to a sophomore season but, much like the battle going on at the top of the table, the relegation battle is as tight as ever. The bottom nine teams in the league are separated by only 10 points, with Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and even Everton struggling to reach the 40-point-per-season average that has traditionally ensured survival.

Let's take a look at the clubs occupying the bottom five league places at the 2/3 point of the season to determine which clubs have the best chances of remaining in the Premier League for the 2015-2016 season:

Leicester City (17 points)

After a bright start to the beginning of the season, thanks in large part to the form of then-record-signing Leonardo Ulloa, the Foxes have fallen off a cliff, having only put 4 points on the board since the beginning of 2015. The upcoming schedule isn't promising, with Chelsea and Manchester City looming, but there are opportunities for Nigel Pearson's men to gain ground on their relegation rivals with crucial 6-pointers still to come at the King Power Stadium against Hull and QPR. New signing Andrej Kramaric has started to hit his stride and Riyad Mahrez is back from international duty, so perhaps all hope isn't lost for Leicester City, after all.

Burnley (21 points)

The Eagles got off to the worst start of any Premier League club, and spent much of the first half of the season rooted to the bottom of the table. Sean Dyche has figured out the best setup for his team, though, and Burnley have started putting points on the board. Still, with only four league wins all season, they'll need to convert draws into wins more often if they have any hopes of surviving. The Lancashire club have an extremely challenging schedule for the final third of the season, with matches still to be played against Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, so they'll almost certainly have to win matches against Leicester, Hull and Villa to survive.

Aston Villa (22 points)

We've all seen the statistics by now that Aston Villa hold the lowest goal tally in all four of England's professional leagues, a statistic that's contributed to a spot in the bottom three and the end of Paul Lambert's tenure in charge of the Birmingham club. A victory over Leicester in the FA Cup will give the Villans a boost of confidence heading into the final third of the season, and newly-appointed manager Tim Sherwood will be eager to get his side back to winning ways. Thankfully for Sherwood and crew, Villa have a kinder schedule than most of their rivals.

Queens Park Rangers (22 points)

Harry Redknapp really put the club in a bad spot by waiting until the end of the January transfer window to resign, especially considering he wasn't his usual self in the transfer market. Whether that's down to the owners not splashing the cash or a lack of enticing options is unclear, but the Rangers failed to reinforce a squad that relied heavily on Charlie Austin to keep them out of the bottom three. The England striker has been excellent at home, but has faltered on his travels along with the rest of the squad. Each of the London club's remaining home matches is against top-half opposition, though, so they'll need to improve their away form if they're going to survive the drop.

Hull City (23 points)

The Tigers have experienced a roller coaster ride of a season, and haven't recorded consecutive wins in the Premier League on any occasion this season. Steve Bruce has brought in a slew of new talent and revamped the squad from last season, but hasn't been able to establish any sort of consistency. Hull have a relatively kind run over the next couple months, though the deciding month of May sees the Tigers face off against Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United and Burnley, all teams who will surely have everything to play for as the season winds to a close.