With the English Premier League only days away from returning to our screens after a two-month absence, we take a look at six players who could save their clubs from the dreaded drop.
Whilst Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side look to be safe in 14th position with 34 points, the same can not be said for the six other clubs below the Saints.
Brighton are currently one place behind Southampton with 29 points, and both West Ham and Watford sit precariously above the bottom three with 27 points, needing goal difference to separate themselves from Bournemouth who lie in 18th position.
Aston Villa are a further two points behind in 19th with a game in hand on their rivals, meanwhile basement boys Norwich City will need a minor miracle to survive, having accumulated only five wins and 21 points before the Premier League suspension.
With all six sides in risk of falling into the second tier of English football, we take a look at each team’s key player, who could play a vital part in saving their respective clubs from relegation.
15th: Brighton & Hove Albion 29 (-8 GD)
Key player: Lewis Dunk
Despite facing the drop, only Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace side have conceded fewer goals out of the bottom half clubs in the Premier League this season.
Much of that is down to the performances of commanding centre-half Lewis Dunk. The 28-year-old has missed only two league games all season and has made more clearances than anyone else in the Brighton squad.
With only nine games remaining to cement their Premier League status for another year, Brighton fans will be looking to their defence, hoping for some more inspired displays.
16th: West Ham United 27 (-15 GD)
Key player: Robert Snodgrass
The Scottish international has enjoyed his best season in West London so far, stepping up whilst fellow wide-men Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko have struggled with form and injuries.
The Glaswegian has both scored and assisted five goals in the league this season and possesses a wand of a left-foot, which makes him a huge danger to the opposition in dead ball situations.
Snodgrass has been relegated with both Norwich City and Hull City in the past and will need to be at his best in order to avoid the painful heartache once again.
17th: Watford 27 (-17 GD)
Key player: Ismaila Sarr
Watford’s summer signing has shown glimpses of brilliance throughout his maiden campaign in England, and Hornet fans will be hoping to see Sarr perform even better in the relegation run-in.
Starman Gerard Deulofeu is currently continuing his recovery from a hamstring injury but has tipped his fellow teammate to shine in his absence.
Sarr has currently notched five goals in 19 appearances in the league, including two in the 3-0 win over runaway leaders Liverpool.
With home fixtures against Southampton, Norwich and Newcastle coming up in the next few weeks, the Senegalese international will be looking to fire Watford up the table.
18th: Bournemouth 27 (-18 GD)
Key player: Callum Wilson
Even though it hasn’t been the Englishman’s most prolific campaign, there is no denying that Wilson is far too good a centre forward for the Championship, and will be doing everything possible to keep his side in the top tier.
Eddie Howe’s men have struggled for consistency this season, beating Chelsea away from home, but losing out to the likes of Crystal Palace, Brighton, Norwich and West Ham on their travels.
Wilson has so far notched himself eight goals in the league, and will be looking to add some more to his tally in order to keep the Cherries up.
19th: Aston Villa 25 (-22 GD)
Key player: Jack Grealish
With the likes of Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz at his disposal, Villa boss Dean Smith will be hoping his side have enough about them to spearhead themselves away from the bottle three.
However, there is one man in particular who will play a massive role in the fortunes of Aston Villa, and that, of course, is the captain Jack Grealish.
The 24-year-old has been linked with a move to Manchester United throughout the campaign, but Premier League survival could heighten Villa fans hopes of keeping hold of their star player.
So far, Grealish has scored seven goals and assisted a further six. However, he may need to produce even more in order to pull his side away from the drop zone.
20th: Norwich City 21 (-27 GD)
Key player: Emiliano Buendia
The tricky Argentine has lit up Carrow Road at times this season, despite the Canaries bleak position in the table.
With only nine games left to play, Norwich have it all to do in their bid to avoid a record FIFTH relegation from the English top-flight and will be turning to Buendia for some inspired performances.
Although the 23-year-old has so far failed to find the back of the net in the league, he has managed to contribute seven assists, four more than any of his teammates.
Norwich may also be needing Teemu Pukki to return to his early goal-scoring from, but with some decent displays and a bit of luck, Daniel Farke’s men could pull off a shock and make it out of the bottom three.