The Premier League at Easter: What does it mean for the bottom and the top of the table?

ANALYSIS

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The Independent Football

It’s not all doom and gloom for the teams that occupy the bottom three of the Premier League as Easter weekend comes around again. In fact, there is light at the end of the tunnel and a big chance of turning things around, even at this late stage in the season.

Easter falls at a different time almost every year and this year it falls on gameweek 31 of the Premier League and the last time that teams had played 31 games by the end of play on Easter Sunday, not all three teams that occupied the bottom three positions ended up being relegated.

In the 2012/2013 season, Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers and Reading were 18, 19 and 20 respectively, but, Aston Villa managed to escape the drop. Similarly to the 2007/2008 season when Bolton, Fulham and Derby were bottom at Easter, it was only Derby that ended up being relegated.

In actual fact, in the last 19 seasons, where there have been 20 teams in the league, the bottom three at Easter have only all been relegated eight times. Maybe it’s not all over for Leicester, QPR and Burnley just yet, after all they still have eight games (Leicester have nine) to get out of it.

The only drawback of this is that all three teams have never escaped relegation together; the most has only been two teams. Leicester are currently in the worst position only having 19 points from 29 games which is why a win for them at the weekend against West Ham is vital.

 

The lowest points tally that a team had after 31 games and managed to stay up was 23, when Fulham achieved safety in the 2007/2008 season. By Easter in the 1999/2000 season, Bradford City were 19, having played 34 games with a total 27 points, and against the odds, they managed to stay up. Sunderland pulled off a similar feat when they stayed up after having 29 points from 34 games last season.

It is going to be hard for Leicester as the teams above them have already hit the 20 point mark but they do still have nine games to play. Three of those games are against Burnley, Sunderland and QPR. With their last two games of the season being against the latter two so it is likely to go right down to the wire.

The lowest points tally that a team had at Easter and didn’t manage to avoid relegation with was when Easter fell on March 23 during the 2007/2008 season and Derby had only managed to get 10 points from 31 games. That was not a good season for the Rams and they ended up setting a very unwanted record as they were relegated with 11 points, the fewest amount of points ever in the Premier League.

The last time Easter Sunday was April 4, which is only a day before it falls this year, was during the 2009/2010 season, and the teams that were 18, 19 and 20 all ended up being relegated. However, the teams had played two or three more games than those at the bottom this season but it will still be a worrying trend for Burnley, QPR and Leicester.

At the other end of the table, Easter is a welcome time of year especially in the last 19 seasons dating back to the 1995/1996 campaign. On 16 occasions in the last 19 seasons, the team that has occupied the top spot at Easter, no matter what month it falls, has gone on to win the league.

Chelsea will particularly like that trend as in each of their three Premier League title winning seasons, they have been top at Easter, just as they are now. During the season of their first triumph in 2004/2005, after 30 games when Easter Sunday was on March 27, they had an 11 point lead at the top of the table with 77 points. They would go on and extend that lead by the end of the season to 12 points and finish on a record 95 points.

Chelsea have a somewhat comfortable, six-point lead at the moment with a game in-hand, if they win all of their remaining nine games, their points total will fall one short of their record 95.

The top four is rarely affected in terms of teams who are place one to four at Easter dropping out by the end of the season as usually they all remain. The only difference is that second, third and fourth often swap positions. The biggest overhaul from the Easter standings happened last season when Manchester City, who were third after 33 games with 71 points, beat Liverpool to the top spot which they occupied at Easter after 35 games with 80 points.

City went on to claim their second Premier League title at the expense of Liverpool with just a two point gap between the teams.

So, as Easter falls a little early this season, with most teams having eight games left to play, there is still the chance for a late surge for the title, or a fight to grab the last Champions League place, and what’s more is that there is definitely time for a last gasp effort to stay in the Premier League at the bottom end of the table.

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