THE Premier League’s race to avoid the drop was tipped to be one of the most-exciting in decades.
Sheffield United were all-but goners for months, but just above them were at least SEVEN clubs in the running to be relegated.
Fulham, West Brom, Southampton, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and Crystal Palace were have all been sweating for months as the race hotted up.
But in the end, the eagerly-anticipated relegation race fizzled out with little more than a whimper.
And with three matches to go, it’s all over – as Sheff Utd, Fulham and West Brom officially slipped into the Championship, with Sam Allardyce finally experiencing relegation after more than 500 Premier League games and a series of great escapes.
But the relegated trio are now set to face a double-whammy of bad news, with the Premier League’s survivors set to pick apart their squads, luring their best players away with the promise of top-flight football.
Here’s out best XI of players who could be thrown a Premier League lifeline this summer.
GK – Sam Johnstone
STRANGELY, all three relegated squads boast solid goalkeepers, with West Brom’s Johnstone joined by Fulham’s Alphonse Areola and Sheff Utd’s Aaron Ramsdale.
But Johnstone – tipped for a spot in England’s Euro 2020 squad – will arguably be the most in-demand.
Areola will likely return to parent club Paris Saint-Germain, but Ramsdale – another potential Three Lions squad member – will hope he’s done enough to find a new home in the Premier League.
RB – Tosin Adarabioyo
THE former Manchester City star is naturally a centre-back but more than capable on the right.
And given Fulham’s defence certainly wasn’t their problem in 2020-21, it’s no surprise THREE of the back-four hail from the West Londoners.
Adarabioyo is arguably stronger than natural right-backs in the Fulham squad – Ola Aina, Kenny Tete and Denis Odoi.
And he beats Blades ace George Baldock and West Brom’s Darnell Furlong to a spot in the team.
CB – Joachim Andersen
THE Danish star was a shoo-in for this XI after a strong season.
Andersen was the main man in the heart of the Fulham defence which has conceded just 47 goals in 35 games so far – just six more than Champions League-chasing Tottenham.
CB – Semi Ajayi
BAGGIES ace Ajayi grabs the second centre-back spot after his impressive campaign.
Ajayi edges out the likes of Ethan Ampadu, into the XI.
LB – Antonee Robinson
THE American whiz is another Fulham ace destined to stay in the Premier League.
Robinson – along with Adarabioyo and Andersen – is the only Fulham defender to see his market value rise despite the relegation.
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CM – Sander Berge
THE Norwegian was supposed to be the big-name signing that helped Sheff Utd break into Europe after the club’s strong 2019-20.
But the Blades were toothless in attack, even with Berge’s solid play in the middle of the park.
Berge is now a target for the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool – and could be sold for £35million thanks to a clause in his contract.
CM – Conor Gallagher
THE Baggies midfielder is currently only at the club on loan from Chelsea.
Gallagher has revealed he wants to fight for his spot at the Blues – but knows he has competition.
The ex-Charlton loanee is likely to be given another shot in the Premier League next season – even if that is on a temporary deal.
CM – Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
FULHAM’S record buy hasn’t quit lived up to the billing since his move to Craven Cottage.
But Zambo Anguissa has shown enough promise to warrant another crack at Premier League football, should he decide to jump ship.
RW – Matheus Pereira
THE Brazilian star has done himself no harm since moving from Sporting Lisbon last summer, despite West Brom’s relegation.
Of the relegated trio, the Baggies were the best in attack with Pereira key to seemingly everything good they did going forward.
Pereira has scored ten goals, adding five assists – a solid return in an otherwise struggling team.
ST – Mbaye Diagne
SIGNED on loan from Galatasaray, the Senegal star showed glimpses of talent, involved in five goals in 15 games.
It’s most-likely the striker heads back to Turkey, but he could be picked up by a Premier League side – with newly-promoted clubs looking for top-flight experience in their bid to avoid going straight back down.
LW – Ademola Lookman
ANOTHER loanee, the ex-Everton winger has never quite settled down to life at RB Leipzig.
But after a strong Premier League campaign – dreadful Panenka aside – despite Fulham’s relegation, Lookman will be hopeful of bagging a Premier League move this summer.
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