The Premier League’s not-so-magnificent seven… who will survive? 

Just four points separate the bottom seven clubs in the Premier League at the third-way mark of the season.

The projected total for safety this year is less than 30 points, with the fact that more victories are going to the top-six teams, lowering the bar for survival and dragging more clubs into trouble at the other end.

That being the case, we are likely to see a repeat of last season where no-one in the bottom half was safe until the final few weeks of the campaign. Here, we assess the not-so-magnificent seven who have already found themselves cut adrift…

Rafa Benitez's Newcastle are 14th but only four points separates them from  Fulham

Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle are 14th but only four points separates them from Fulham

Newcastle United (14th, 9pts)

Why have they struggled?

They played five of last season’s top six in the opening weeks and lost to each of them.

To the backdrop of that were complaints from manager Rafa Benitez about a summer of under-investment and supporter protest against owner Mike Ashley. 

It all made for a pretty toxic start to the campaign where a run of 10 without victory ranked as the worst opening in the club’s history.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

Benitez can look at the last two home games – wins over Watford and Bournemouth – and take enthusiasm and momentum from them. 

In particular, the emergence of Salomon Rondon – the two-goal hero versus Bournemouth – is something for supporters and team-mates to cling to.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

Monday’s trip to Burnley is obviously huge, but it is the double header against Huddersfield and Fulham before Christmas which could prove key in putting distance between themselves and the bottom three.

Kenedy and Newcastle have huge games against Burnley, Huddersfield and Fulham coming up

Kenedy and Newcastle have huge games against Burnley, Huddersfield and Fulham coming up

Burnley (15th, 9pts)

Why have they struggled?

In short, the Europa League. They’d played six games in the competition by the end of August before being eliminated. It disrupted their early-season form and it was not until the end of September that Sean Dyche’s side recorded a victory.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

Dyche can take heart from last season’s remarkable campaign. The players are the same and they are now emerging from a difficult run of fixtures which included heavy defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

The next two are against rivals Newcastle and Crystal Palace, where a couple of quick victories can change the complexion of the table drastically.

Sean Dyche's Burnley struggled to balance Europa League demands with the Premier League

Sean Dyche’s Burnley struggled to balance Europa League demands with the Premier League

Crystal Palace (16th, 8pts)

Why have they struggled?

Their home form. From six outings at Selhurst Park they have just two points, and that is the worst return in the Premier League.

They have scored just twice in that time and it’s a run which includes losses to Southampton and Wolves.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

They are still in a better position than they were last season after their woeful start under Frank de Boer, and you would back Roy Hodgson to address the home form – it can’t last forever, surely? They also have very good players in the form of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

Trips to both Manchester clubs before Christmas don’t make it any easier, but a home date with Burnley a week on Saturday is massive in getting them back on track at Selhurst Park.

Wilfried Zaha provides Crystal Palace with a reason for optimism in their relegation battle

Wilfried Zaha provides Crystal Palace with a reason for optimism in their relegation battle

Southampton (17th, 8pts)

Why have they struggled?

Like Palace they are winless at home and have triumphed just once in 12 months at St Mary’s, a horrendous run which makes them fortunate to still be in the top division.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

If you believe striker Charlie Austin, all they need are some decent referees. There is, in truth, not a great deal to hang their hopes on players wise, perhaps a first goal of the season for Manolo Gabbiadini last time out can spark a return to his scoring ways.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

A trip to Fulham on Saturday with away dates at Cardiff and Huddersfield before Christmas could make or break the future of Mark Hughes heading into 2019.

Mark Hughes is under mouting pressure to rejuvenate a stale Southampton side 

Mark Hughes is under mouting pressure to rejuvenate a stale Southampton side 

Cardiff City (18th, 8pts)

Why have they struggled?

They landed in the Premier League with manager Neil Warnock talking of them as underdogs, and that is exactly how they performed, simply rolling over in some matches during an eight-game winless start. Their squad, on paper, looks ill-equipped for the top-flight.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

Despite being written off in those early weeks, they summoned the spirit to beat Fulham and Brighton at home and Warnock appears to have his verve and spikiness back.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

They have taken only one point away from home and a Boxing Day trip to Crystal Palace could be their first winnable opportunity. Before that, the visit of Southampton is another must-win.

Cardiff have a squad that looks, on paper, ill-prepared for the Premier League 

Cardiff have a squad that looks, on paper, ill-prepared for the Premier League 

Huddersfield Town (19th, 7pts)

Why have they struggled?

There was almost an air of inevitability about their struggle, second-season syndrome they call it.

The enthusiasm of last year seems to have drained and that little bit extra such excitement extracted from the players is now missing.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

You would be foolish to write off David Wagner, especially as the green shoots of recovery have been evident in taking four points from their last two against Fulham and West Ham.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

A home double header against Newcastle and Southampton before Christmas is an opportunity for points, especially as they remain winless on the road.

Huddersfield have a home double header with Newcastle and Southampton before Christmas

Huddersfield have a home double header with Newcastle and Southampton before Christmas

Fulham (20th, 5pts)

Why have they struggled?

Believe it or not, over-investment is as big a factor as any. They have simply spent too much – in excess of £100million – on too many players, disrupting a happy dressing-room in the wake of promotion

 On the pitch, they have conceded 31 goals, a rate which has them on for just shy of 100 over the course of the season.

What can they do to get out of trouble?

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has gone and Claudio Ranieri has arrived, at least giving them hope of the bounce factor under the charismatic Italian – and he does have good players to work with, the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Aleksandar Mitrovic all key during the promotion campaign.

What are the key fixtures coming up?

A victory for Ranieri in his first match at home to Southampton on Saturday would lift the whole club. After that, it’s the small matter of a return to Chelsea for the boss in a West London derby. 

Fulham have a huge game against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday

Fulham have a huge game against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday

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