Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas has predicted contrasting relegation fates for West Ham United and Aston Villa as the season restart looms.
West Ham are 16th ahead as they renew their battle for survival in less than two weeks.
David Moyes’s side are only outside the bottom three on goal difference.
Meanwhile Aston Villa are second bottom. But they have what could be a crucial game in hand.
The Hammers have nine games – packed into six weeks – to secure safety. And West Ham will likely need at least three wins, if not four.
Relegation run-in assessed
Villa kick the restart off with their game in hand against Sheffield United. Win that and it could change the entire complexion of the relegation fight for them and West Ham.
It is widely accepted that West Ham are one of six teams are fighting to avoid the three relegation spots this season.
Norwich are effectively seven points adrift of safety given their league-worst goal difference and are considered down already.
As a result many believe the reality West Ham and Aston Villa face is to avoid being the teams that fill the remaining two relegation spots.
Speaking ahead of the restart, Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas believes West Ham and Aston Villa will have contrasting relegation fates.
Nicholas predicts contrasting relegation fate for West Ham and Villa
Nicholas predicts West Ham will stay up because he believes Norwich, Brighton and Villa will be relegated (Sky Sports).
Although the Scot did concede things could change rapidly given the unique circumstances surrounding the run-in.
“I don’t really see that Norwich will get out of this,” Nicholas told Sky Sports when analysing the run-in.
“I also see that Brighton, who seem to be squabbling a little bit – didn’t want neutral venues – they could be a bit vulnerable because they are a nice passing team now but I don’t know if they’ve got the energy and commitment when this kind of tension is in the air, I could see them going down.
West Ham and Villa’s contrasting fixture lists for run-in
“I’m tempted to think that Aston Villa should get out of it… I would say they probably need to get a win against Sheffield United to convince themselves they can get out of this and if they don’t do that I expect Aston Villa might be the third team to go down.
“(I would pick) those three until we get two or three games into the new schedule.”
West Ham face a tough return to action with Wolves at home followed by Tottenham away and Chelsea at home.
Fail to deliver some surprise results from that trio and West Ham could well come into Nicholas’s thinking more.
Villa’s fixture list is one of the toughest of the lot, though, while the Hammers officially have the easiest run-in of any side in the bottom six (Sky Sports).