Plenty of teams have reason to be optimistic to start the Premier League season, but others have to be more realistic in their ambitions. Merely staying alive in England’s top flight is a fair goal for a number of clubs. Rules are rules, though, and three teams will have to face the drop when the season ends. Here are five candidates that could be fighting for their respective livelihoods this year.
Eddie Howe did an admirable job keeping Bournemouth up last season, their first season ever in the Premier League. The young manager certainly has the goods to capture magic in a bottle again, but the Cherries will need straightening out. With 45 goals scored and 67 conceded, Bournemouth’s -22 goal differential was the worst of any team to survive relegation. Their best hope, talented striker Callum Wilson was bordering on a breakout year with the Cherries before getting injured last season, but how he’ll perform over the course of a full EPL season remains to be seen. Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER
4 West Brom
It’s been a solid six seasons in the Premier League for West Brom, but their time could coming to an end. Unsettled striker Saido Berahino seems poised for a move away from the club, but the Baggies do still have Salomon Rondon to lean on. Nevertheless, West Brom scored just 34 goals on the season last year, second worst ahead of only last-place Aston Villa. Tony Pulis has never been relegated and has a knack for keeping clubs aloft on shoestring budgets, but the concern is certainly there. Photo: Harry Trump
3 Sean Dyche
As Football League Championship winners, Burnley are hoping to end their up-and-down flirtation with the top flight. Burnley finally clawed back into the Premier League in 2009/10 before going back down, and managed just another year cameo in 2014/15. The bad news for Sean Dyche’s crew is that history seems destined to repeat itself. Despite an influx of Premier League cash, Burnley haven’t managed to bring in any top-flight talent. They have gotten younger, though, so perhaps they’re stockpiling for another future return. Photo: Mark Runnacles
How many lives do the Black Cats really have? Sunderland have made it a habit of teetering around the relegation zone for a number of years, a pattern that doesn’t instill much confidence heading into the new season. They will hope their fortunes finally change with a new manager in charge, as David Moyes fills the vacancy left by Sam Allardyce. Will Moyes be able to alter the attitude enough at the Stadium of Light to make a difference? And will Sunderland procure the talent needed to stay up? Those are two big questions going forward. Photo: SCOTT HEPPELL
1 Hull City
Another newly promoted team in 2016, Hull aren’t just favorites to be relegated — they’re favored to be dead last when all is said and done. That’s what happens when you’re still looking for a full-time manager less than a week before the season starts. Steve Bruce, a manager known for loving to cash a Premier League check, turned the gig down. While Derby County’s 2007/08 record of just 11 points scored in a season seems safe, Hull could give the humiliating mark a run for its money.