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Sports News

Survival the first target for promoted three

LONDON (Reuters) - Managers and boards have had precious little time to draw up targets for the new Premier League campaign, so brief has been the pause in action since the conclusion of the last one.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Leeds United v Charlton Athletic - Elland Road, Leeds, Britain - July 22, 2020 Leeds United players and manager Marcelo Bielsa celebrate winning the Championship and promotion to the Premier League, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/File Photo

For some, however, it will be a fairly simple one -- finishing 17th or higher.

Just being part of England’s top flight has become such a big deal that languishing down the near the bottom is no big deal these days, so long as you do not get relegated.

Another season cashing in as a member of the world’s richest soccer league is, for most clubs, worth more than silverware.

Traditionally the three teams promoted from the Championship are among the favourites to go straight back down -- such is the step up in quality.

So it will be no surprise if those in charge at Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, talk about consolidation as a first priority.

Fulham, who crept up via the playoffs, know only too well how hard that can prove, having gone straight back down in 2018-19 after regaining their place among the elite.

Teams who gain promotion via the playoffs actually have a 61% chance of going straight back down, but in Scott Parker, Fulham have a bright young manager who should give them hope.

West Bromwich Albion, back up after a two-year absence having finished runners-up to Leeds, are already being tipped to face a struggle to stay up but seasoned manager Slaven Bilic knows his way around the top flight.

“If you ask me in the short term -- your ambition is to stay up. The dedication, fight, commitment, passion -- they are the words for our club,” the Croatian said.

Leeds United, back in the Premier League for the first time since dropping out and into financial meltdown in 2004, would also gladly take survival, although such is the euphoria in west Yorkshire about their promotion that sights may be set higher.

Marcelo Bielsa bolstered his attacking options last week by signing Spain forward Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia for a club record fee, around 27 million pounds ($36.04 million).

Popular pundit Robbie Savage believes Leeds should stay well clear of the relegation battle.

“Rodrigo will give Leeds a focal point,” he said. “I hope they do well, and they could finish anywhere between top six and the bottom three. I suspect it will be somewhere in the middle.”

Only three times since the formation of the Premier League have all three promoted sides stayed up and that trend is likely to continue this season, although several other clubs look vulnerable ahead of the new campaign.

Aston Villa flirted with danger throughout last season and only survived on the last day and keeping midfielder Jack Grealish will be key to their hopes of improving.

West Ham United, like Villa, left it late to ensure their survival and will be desperate to avoid another season of angst while Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace all feature prominently in the relegation betting odds.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis

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