Premier League's relegation battle goes down to the wire on final day
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — One way or another, the Premier League will lose two teams with rich histories when the fight for survival reaches its conclusion on Sunday.
Everton, Leicester and Leeds all face a nervous final day of the season when their places in English soccer's top division will be at stake.
Everton has spent 69 years in the top-flight and is hoping for another dramatic rescue act, having narrowly avoided relegation last season.
Leicester was the architect of arguably the most unlikely title triumph — winning the Premier League as a 5000-1 underdog in 2016 — but has to hope Everton drops points at home against Bournemouth to stand any chance of climbing out of the relegation zone.
Leeds, meanwhile, has only been back among England's elite for the past three years, but has a storied past, with its team of the late 1960s and 70s winning multiple trophies during that era. At the turn of the century it was a Champions League semifinalist.
Two of the three will join last-place Southampton in relegation to the second-tier Championship.
Everton goes into the last day in the strongest position largely due to its shock 5-1 win against high-flying Brighton this month, which was its only victory from its last 10 games in the league.
“Of course, we didn’t want to be in this position but we have to deal with what is in front of us and really relish the challenge now," winger Dwight McNeil told Everton's website.
The Merseyside club sits one place above the relegation zone with 33 points — two points ahead of both Leicester and Leeds.
Everton had turned to Sean Dyche in January in a bid to climb the table after dispensing with Frank Lampard but has only won four of his 17 games in charge.
The cost of relegation could be more significant for Everton than any of its rivals, with the club planning to move into a new waterfront stadium in 2024.
Its slump has come despite majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri spending around $780 million in a bid to transform the fortunes of a club that was one of the most successful in English soccer in the 1980s when it won the league title twice, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Leicester has enjoyed much more recent success, which is why it has come as such a surprise to see it fall on hard times.
It won the title under Claudio Ranieri in 2016 — making it a more recent league champion than Manchester United or Arsenal — despite having only narrowly avoided relegation a season earlier.
It also won the FA Cup as recently as 2021, but a lack of major spending this season has left it at the lower end of the table. Brendan Rodgers was replaced as manager by Dean Smith in April. He has only overseen one win in seven games, but three more draws have kept his team in with a chance of survival.
Leicester is at home and must beat West Ham on Sunday and hope Everton fails to win. Even if Everton draws, a win for Leicester would see it survive by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Leeds needs to win at home against Tottenham and hope both Everton and Leicester drop points to stand any chance of staying up. If Everton draws, Leeds would then have to rely on goal difference or even goals scored to move above its rival.
The Yorkshire club is on its third manager of a chaotic season after the departures of Jesse Marsch and Javi Gracia.
Former England coach Sam Allardyce was hired at the start of the month in a desperate attempt to see the club pull off a rescue mission, but two losses and a draw in his three games in charge have left Leeds on the brink of relegation.
He is searching for his first win when Tottenham travels to Elland Road on Sunday — but even then, the fans inside the ground will have to hope for a perfect day of results elsewhere to clinch survival against the odds.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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James Robson, The Associated Press