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The relegation six-pointers: Premier League battle to beat the drop

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The relegation six-pointers: Premier League's bottom five have picked up just THREE points from 13 matches since the restart... now it all comes down to these key clashes to beat the dreaded dropEight points separated the bottom six before the top flight resumed on June 17 Brighton, in 15th, have put a bit of daylight between them and the chasing packJust seven points separate Premier League's bottom five heading to final monthSportsmail looks at the pivotal six-pointers between relegation-threatened sides

Liverpool may have run away with the Premier League title but the contrast at the bottom of the table couldn't be more stark.

Eight points separated the bottom six before the top flight resumed on June 17 and almost two weeks in only 15th-placed Brighton have managed to put a bit of daylight between them and the chasing pack.

Following an unbeaten return to action Graham Potter's side have opened up a 12-point gap between themselves and basement boys Norwich, moving five points clear of 16th-placed Watford in the process.

The state of play at the bottom of the Premier League with seven points separating bottom five

Bournemouth (Cherries' Dominic Solanke pictured), Aston Villa and West Ham all on 27 points

The bottom five of Watford, West Ham, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich have picked up just three points from 13 matches between them since the restart. 

Just seven points separate those sides and Brighton are far from being clear of danger with just under a month to maintain their Premier League status. 

Has the enforced break affected the relegation-threatened sides more? Or perhaps the loss of home crowds in stadiums has had a greater impact on those clubs.

The introduction of the use of five substitutes may have also favoured the so-called bigger teams, who have greater strength in depth, but ultimately the sides in the precarious position need to start to picking up points, and fast.

Relegation from the Premier League was one of the most fiercely-debated topics surrounding Project Restart and the battle to avoid slipping out of the top tier is set to go down to the wire.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the pivotal six-pointers between the relegation-threatened sides as they look to beat the dreaded drop to the Championship.

Daniel Farke's side are six points adrift from safety but have three games against the teams around them in July. They face Brighton, Watford and West Ham in their next three games following a trip to Arsenal on Wednesday night. 

The Canaries can take confidence from their spirited extra-time defeat by Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals last weekend but league goals have been in short supply. They have not found the target in their last three Premier League encounters.

Only Brighton in 15th have managed to put bit of daylight between them and chasing pack

Brighton secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Norwich in the reverse fixture earlier in the season and have rediscovered their form following the enforced break. The Seagulls sealed four points from their first two matches in June after holding third-placed Leicester to a 0-0 draw and beating Arsenal at home. 

Norwich desperately need to kick off their season-defining run with three points. Teemu Pukki needs to get back firing - he had a blistering start to the season but has failed to score in his last seven league matches. 

Watford had looked doomed during the early stages of the season but Nigel Pearson guided a mid-winter recovery following his appointment as boss in December. However after a disappointing return to action in June they sit just one point above the relegation zone.

The Hornets began by picking up a promising point against Leicester but have since suffered defeats at Burnley and then at home to Southampton. Watford need to tap into the energy and spirit that led to their sensational win over champions Liverpool at Vicarage Road before the coronavirus pandemic.

Watford's first victory in 16 league matches in November came in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road but the Canaries could head into the contest buoyed by a positive result against Brighton. Captain Troy Deeney is a key figure in the Watford dressing room and he will need to lead from the front in this crucial clash.

Watford captain Troy Deeney is a key figure and he will need to lead from front in six-pointers

Like Norwich, West Ham play three relegation-threatened teams in their run-in and they will view the game at Carrow Road as where they can pick up a vital win. 

David Moyes' side have suffered two defeats in their first two games back, intensifying the pressure on the side. They sit just outside the relegation zone on goal difference but they have demonstrated that they can put points on the board when required with victories over Southampton and Brighton before the enforced break.

The Hammers have a squad that is capable of steering clear of danger with the likes of Declan Rice and Mark Noble at the heart of the midfield. Norwich were beaten 2-0 by West Ham in the reverse fixture back in August and will need to shore up their defence if they want to stop the Hammers.

Norwich six points adrift but can take boost from FA Cup loss when Todd Cantwell scored

Four days after an important clash against fellow strugglers Norwich and West Ham welcome 16th-placed Watford. The Hammers secured a 3-1 win over their rivals in the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season with Sebastien Haller netting a brace.

Since then the striker has only notched five more goals and West Ham could do with him bagging some goals once he returns from injury. Michail Antonio has been deployed as a makeshift striker but Haller's reintroduction would allow him to test the Watford defence from out wide.

Pearson's side travel to the London Stadium before tough tests against Manchester City and Arsenal and so will be desperate to take something away from the capital. 

West Ham's Pablo Fornals reacts after missing a chance in their 2-0 defeat by Spurs last week

Aston Villa were put in deep trouble in the relegation battle following a 1-0 defeat by Wolves last weekend. Even though they are level on points with Bournemouth and West Ham they have played a game more.

However 19th-placed Villa have picked up the most points other than Brighton since the Premier League restart. But Dean Smith's side have conceded the most goals in the top flight and that will need to be improved for them to beat the drop and take anything against the Hammers. 

West Ham boss Moyes admitted their final day showdown with Villa could be the match which decides their fate but they will want to be outside of the bottom three at kick-off. 

Both West Ham and Villa face tough fixtures between now and the final day with clashes against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United for the former and Liverpool and United for the latter. The heat will truly be on come the end of July. The sides played out a goalless stalemate in September at Villa Park.

P.S. Bournemouth in 18th have played all the teams around them already and face a tough run-in with clashes against Manchester United, Tottenham, Leicester and Manchester City. 

Aston Villa, their defender Tyrone Mings pictured, were put in deep trouble last weekend




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