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Boro the best of the newbies, can Moyes save Sunderland? – The Premier League relegation scrap

The stakes have never been higher in the Premier League for the teams at the top, but this is especially so for those scrapping at the bottom. 

Transformative riches come along with a place in England’s elite thanks to sky-high television deals, with a level playing field in the Championship often making quick returns a perilous business.

Here we run through eight candidates for the drop and their preparations for the most money-spinning of Premier League seasons yet.

 

THE NEW BOYS

Burnley

Last season: Championship winners, going the last 23 games of the season unbeaten to outlast their rivals.

Manager: Sean Dyche is entering his fourth full season in charge and has proven he has the nous to set his team up defensively. Can Andre Gray and Sam Vokes provide the goals that were missing on their last top-flight visit?

Ins: Johann Gudmundsson and Nick Pope have arrived from Charlton, as well as the loan signing of Jon Flanagan.

Outs: One of their promotion stars, Joey Barton left for Rangers and is yet to be replaced. Central midfield looks their most sparse position. Centre-back Michael Keane has been pursued by Leicester City.

Middlesbrough

Last season: Runners-up to the Clarets. Again, promotion was built on solid foundations – Daniel Ayala was rated by many to be the best defender outside of the Premier League.

Manager: Aitor Karanka looked set to leave the club after a March defeat at Rotherham preceded a furious row between senior players and head coach. Things were patched up to the end of the season, but many eyes will be on that relationship when Boro return to the top flight for the first time in seven seasons.

Ins: No fewer than eight senior arrivals including high-profile captures of Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo that have delighted fans on Teesside.

Outs: Well-backed by owner Steve Gibson, Karanka has kept his promotion winners together so far.

Hull City

Last season: Play-off final winners to seal an immediate Premier League return. It’s all been downhill since then…

Manager: Mike Phelan will take charge when City open the new season at home to champions Leicester after Steve Bruce walked out on the club. His long-term prospects are less clear.

Ins: Not a single signing has been made as the club’s owners have aborted a takeover and dealt with the fall-out of Bruce’s resignation.

Outs: Wembley hero Mo Diame has stepped back to the Championship with Newcastle United. Phelan is also shorn of captain Michael Dawson, Moses Odubajo and Allan McGregor through injury for the opening months of 2016-17.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Sunderland

Last season: Another season, another last-gasp escape. That’s now four in a row for the Black Cats.

Manager: David Moyes has arrived to try and rebuild his reputation on Wearside after Sam Allardyce left for the England job.

Ins: Papy Djilobodji is the only capture so far as Moyes rushes to get business done.

Outs: Much of the deadwood has been cut adrift. The likes of Steven Fletcher, Wes Brown and Danny Graham have moved on.

West Brom

Last season: A mediocre 14th-place finish. The campaign was most notable for the club’s refusal to sell striker Saido Berahino.

Manager: Tony Pulis remains the man for gritty survival, but opposition spending power could put the Welshman under pressure – especially with new owners at The Hawthorns.

Ins: A summer of takeover talks has stunted transfer activity. Matt Phillips is their only signing to date after a move for Diafra Sakho fell through over a failed medical.

Outs: Berahino remains wanted by Premier League rivals, although Tottenham have cooled their interest, with Crystal Palace and Stoke now vying for his signature.

Crystal Palace

Last season: Were level on points with Manchester United and Tottenham on Christmas Day, but won just two of their following 21 league games. Lost the FA Cup final to Louis van Gaal’s men. 

Manager: Alan Pardew gave his detractors plenty of ammunition by celebrating Jason Puncheon’s Wembley opener somewhat over-zealously. He must prove that late-season collapses – the kind of which he also oversaw at Newcastle – is something he can avoid.

Ins: Andros Townsend, James Tomkins and Steve Mandanda represent good additions, but Palace have failed in their attempts to sign a striker so far. Michy Batshuayi opted for Chelsea and a deal for Christian Benteke looks beyond them.

Outs: The striking decks have been cleared with the departures of Emmanuel Adebayor, Marouane Chamakh and Dwight Gayle. Now they need to be replenished.

Swansea City

Last season: Surged late in the season to finish 12th after hovering above the drop zone for much of the season.

Manager: Francesco Guidolin has the chance to build on that, ultimately comfortable, survival. However, it appears that late-window surgery will be needed with a squad that is being cherry-picked.

Ins: World Cup-winner Fernando Llorente has arrived, perhaps looking to prove himself after seasons of struggle in front of goal for Juventus and Sevilla.

Outs: Captain Ashley Williams’ departure to Everton has ripped a huge hole in the Swans’ defence. Alberto Paloschi, Eder and Bafetimbi Gomis are all gone, meaning Guidolin looks reliant on Llorente for now. Andre Ayew brought in £20m from West Ham, which needs to be put back into the transfer kitty.

THE WILDCARD

Stoke

Last season: Finished ninth for the third season in a row. Something surely has to give, but will it be upwards or downwards?

Manager: Mark Hughes has done a solid job of transforming Stoke’s image after replacing Pulis three years ago. Now his challenge is to take the club on again, but the development of others puts them under pressure.

Ins: Joe Allen has arrived after starring at Euro 2016. Young Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi is their only other signing of note although extending Marko Arnautovic’s contract was a huge boost for Hughes.

Outs: The Potters look likely to keep their top stars. Whether that leads to greater unity or inertia as the likes of West Ham, Bournemouth and Watford spend big remains to be seen.

Thu 11 Aug, 2016
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