With the winter transfer window closed for another year, Premier League clubs have to go with what they’ve got for the remainder of the season between now and the second week of May.
Some invested heavily during January, with Chelsea and Manchester United making the type of big-money signings they’ve become accustomed to over the years.
Others, however, acted with a sense of caution, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur capturing just one new player between them.
In the bottom half of the table, with just five points separating the relegation zone from 10th place, it was no surprise to see a number of teams bolstered.
Bottom side Fulham made no fewer than seven signings, while the likes of Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Cardiff City also opted for quantity in an attempt to beat the drop.
So with each of England’s top-flight clubs presenting their updated squad lists to the Premier League, we predict how the final table could look on May 11.
Rene Meulensteen faces a battle to keep Fulham in the Premier League
Despite bringing in a host of new players in January, including £12 million Greek striker Konstantinos Mitroglou, Fulham have the look of a side who are heading for the drop.
Four league defeats in a row, including a crushing 4-1 home defeat to fellow strugglers Sunderland, have left Rene Meulensteen’s men with a mountain to climb.
There are seven new faces at Craven Cottage as a result of last month; each will need time to settle in to his new surroundings. But time is the very thing that is against them.
On the face of it, their final pair of fixtures against Hull City and Stoke look winnable, but their fate could be sealed long before those ties come around.
Tom Ince has joined Crystal Palace on loan
Currently hovering just outside the relegation zone, Crystal Palace appear to be turning something of a corner having won two of their last three in the Premier League.
Marry that to the five new signings acquired during January, including Joe Ledley from Celtic and highly rated youngster Tom Ince from Blackpool, and you can forgive Eagles fans their optimism.
But boss Tony Pulis knows better than anyone he has a fight on his hands, and in what is one of tightest relegation battles for years, his team might just fall short come early May.
They face Everton and Manchester United in the next three games, while their run-in includes home ties with Liverpool and Manchester City. All of that could spell serious trouble for Palace.
Another club that rolled the dice in the January transfer window, Cardiff City welcomed half-a-dozen new signings to their squad, including Manchester United pair Fabio da Silva and Wilfried Zaha.
And while that can be construed as a positive move by new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a run of one win in their last eight Premier League games tells its own story.
Currently sitting second from bottom, the Bluebirds’ campaign could be defined by events at Swansea City on Saturday in a South Wales derby with more than just pride at stake.
Lose this weekend and the pressure will be cranked up on City, who have a final-day showdown with Chelsea that could have huge ramifications for both the top and the bottom of the table.
Chris Hughton is under increasing pressure at Norwich City
Having lost exactly half of their 24 league games so far, Chris Hughton’s Norwich City are unsurprisingly embroiled in a relegation scrap and could well be until the final day of the campaign.
Their big-money summer signings, such as strikers Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper, have simply failed to fire, and as such the pressure on Hughton is at an all-time high.
Having added the experienced Jonas Gutierrez to his squad during January, the former Newcastle United boss will be hoping for better things in their remaining 14 fixtures.
And if his forwards can finally hit the goal trail, they might just have enough to survive by the skin of their teeth.
But they’ll need to do so quickly, as their final four fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal will offer little in the way of points.
Sunderland's players celebrate during their recent win over Newcastle
Buoyed by three wins in their last four league games, including a massive 3-0 win over bitter rivals Newcastle United, Sunderland appear to be on the up in the top flight.
But despite their upturn in form and a Wembley final to look forward to in the Capital One Cup, Gus Poyet’s men have some tricky fixtures to navigate between now and May.
April sees the Black Cats face Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Chelsea, while their penultimate game is a trip to Manchester United.
Couple that run-in with their next two away fixtures at Manchester City and Arsenal, and it’s clear that the Wearsiders are not out of the woods yet despite their recent run.
Sunderland strengthened well during January, bringing in five new faces, and with their fate in their own hands, they’ll be hoping to beat the drop with more than a game to spare.
Can Andy Carroll help lead West Ham out of the relegation places?
For a while, things looked pretty grim for West Ham United, but recent wins over Cardiff and Swansea, plus a well-earned draw at Chelsea, have instigated a change of mood.
Manager Sam Allardyce brought in five new players during January, but it is the return of striker Andy Carroll that is offering the Upton Park faithful renewed hope, despite his recent red card.
The Geordie forward made his long-awaited comeback from injury last month, and coupled with Kevin Nolan’s reappearance following suspension, the East Londoners appear to be in recovery.
Much will depend on Carroll’s fitness as well as his goals, but whatever their fate, the Hammers will want to avoid any last-day jitters against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Thievy Bifouma arrived at West Brom last month
Not for the first time in their Premier League existence, West Bromwich Albion fans are nervously scouring the fixture list and the table as things get uncomfortable near the bottom.
Currently in 16th place, the Baggies are separated from the bottom three by just one point, and this weekend’s clash at Crystal Palace is of vital importance for both clubs.
Having lost Shane Long in the January transfer window, new boss Pepe Mel knows the importance of scoring goals at this stage and moved quickly to bring pacey French forward Thievy Bifouma to the Hawthorns.
But as a relative unknown, the youngster’s arrival received a lukewarm response from supporters, who pointed to other areas of the squad that needed strengthening for the battle ahead.
Charlie Adam celebrates after scoring against Manchester United
Despite currently sitting in 11th place, Stoke City are just three points away from the drop zone and will be mindful of such a menacing gap over the next few weeks.
Fresh from beating Manchester United in their last game, Mark Hughes’ men should have enough to retain their top-flight status but would love to add another dozen or so points to their current tally of 25 as quickly as possible.
A relatively quiet window saw the Potters add promising forward John Guidetti to their ranks, and Hughes will be keen to get him up to speed.
But nothing is simple in the bottom half this term, and their recent run of only one win in seven will need to be addressed before daunting ties against Manchester City and Arsenal in late February and early March.
Hull City are another side whose mid-table position masks their worrying proximity to the bottom three, with just two points separating the Tigers from the dreaded drop zone.
Despite enjoying a relatively smooth return to the Premier League under manager Steve Bruce, a solitary victory in their last 11 fixtures has set alarm bells ringing on Humberside.
The astute signings of forwards Nikica Jelavic from Everton and Shane Long from West Bromwich Albion have given City’s strike force exactly the boost they needed.
But the spotlight is now on the pair to grab the goals that will steer City away from what would be a second relegation from the top flight in just four years.
Michael Laudrup was sacked by Swansea earlier this week
A change of manager doesn’t always guarantee you survival—especially with only 14 games remaining—but that was the gamble taken by Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins this week.
Michael Laudrup’s sacking comes off the back of one win in 10 league games for the Swans, who are just two points from safety despite their comparatively lofty position of 12th place.
With club captain Garry Monk in charge for the foreseeable future, much will depend on the City players’ response to Laudrup’s exit, though there is little doubt they possess the quality to stay up.
Still embroiled in a Europa League campaign as well as the FA Cup, Swansea will need all the luck they can get on the injury front, but a relatively kind run-in should see them comfortably survive.
Given last season’s brush with relegation, Aston Villa fans will be pleased to see their club relatively clear of danger this time around, but there is little room for complacency.
Currently in the top half of the table, but only five points clear of the drop zone, manager Paul Lambert will be eyeing a strong finish to the season before he continues his rebuilding job this summer.
Loan signings Grant Holt and Ryan Bertrand arrived last month to add further depth to his squad, and a straightforward looking April and May should give Lambert room to experiment.
Most supporters are already looking ahead to next term at Villa Park, and if their team play their part over the next few weeks, they should have plenty of time to prepare for the 2014-15 campaign.
Saints striker Rickie Lambert has World Cup ambitions
Southampton have reached something of an impasse in terms of their current Premier League campaign, though they are still alive and kicking in this season’s FA Cup.
With a mid-table finish looking all but assured, their impressive start has left them with little to play for, and despite their current position and attractive playing style, a European place looks beyond them.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino has rightly received the plaudits—so much so that Real Madrid are keeping tabs on the Argentine as reported by Sam Adams from Mirror Football.
And a quiet January window as far as incomings are concerned means that the Saints will solidify their place in the top half as Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert all eye up a World Cup place with England.
Newcastle fans were furious when the club failed to replace Yohan Cabaye, who joined Paris Saint-Germain last month
Despite their current appearance of a club in crisis following a controversial transfer window, yet another derby defeat and the departure of director of football Joe Kinnear, Newcastle United can expect a comfortable top-half finish.
Seemingly ensconced in a two-team mini league with Southampton, and completely untroubled by the battle to stay up or European qualification, the Magpies’ campaign looks as good as over.
But an unsettling January has taken its toll at St. James’ Park, and the club’s failure to bring in any permanent signings or replace the outgoing Yohan Cabaye has opened some old wounds at St. James’ Park.
There is tangible anger on the terraces at the way the club is being run, and while eighth place looks a certainty, the soap opera behind the scenes could provide an interesting sideshow.
The arrival of Juan Mata has handed Manchester United a timely boost
Unfortunately for manager David Moyes and his players, however, ahead of them in the table are a group of teams unlikely to relinquish their current top-six standings.
The former Everton boss has endured a difficult start to life in the Old Trafford dugout, and most Red Devils fans accept it will take time for the Scot to make his mark on the squad.
But for now, they will collectively have to make do with their current position and hope the powers-that-be give Moyes the financial backing to turn things around next term.
Romelu Lukaku has been in fine form for Everton this term
Following a transfer window that saw Everton boss Roberto Martinez beat a host of clubs to Aiden McGeady’s signature, the Toffees’ impressive campaign looks set to continue.
The Merseysiders have the third-best defence in the Premier League behind Arsenal and Chelsea, and the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman have been in outstanding form this term.
A slightly tougher run-in than nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur could see them relinquish their current position in fifth, while continued improvement would see them challenging for a Champions League place.
But if Manchester City are victorious at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final next month, sixth spot could be enough to bring European football to Goodison Park next season.
Tim Sherwood has breathed new life into Tottenham
Without a single incoming player during January’s transfer window, you could forgive Tottenham Hotspur fans for feeling a little bit deflated ahead of their remaining league fixtures.
But such has been the impact of new boss Tim Sherwood, the White Hart Lane faithful have received a refreshing injection of hope, and a strong finish looks nailed on.
Since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas in December, the former midfielder has breathed new life into Spurs, winning five of his first eight Premier League games in charge.
And his back-to-basics approach has been warmly welcomed by his players, who will not face any of their current top-six rivals throughout the whole of April or their final two games in May.
Luis Suarez (left) and Daniel Sturridge have scored goals galore this season
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers opted not to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window, and a quick glance at the Premier League table indicates why.
Currently sitting in fourth, with a goals-for column bettered only by Manchester City, the Reds are on course to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2010.
The goals of Daniel Sturridge and the prolific Luis Suarez have put the Scousers in pole position, and though Tottenham Hotspur and Everton won’t give up the fight, fourth is there for the taking.
There are some big fixtures on the horizon for Rodgers and Co, including home games against Manchester City and Chelsea. But by the time Newcastle United visit Anfield on the final day, they could be back at Europe’s top table.
Can Mourinho's "little horses" cross the line in first place?
To use his own horse-racing analogy, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been quietly coming up on the rails this season and announced their presence in this season’s title race in style on Monday.
According to the Portuguese boss, his team are "little horses" in this term’s contest, as reported by James Dickinson in the Daily Express, but their win at title rivals Manchester City changed the league’s complexion.
Just two points separate the Blues in third and Arsenal at the top, and having added real quality to their squad in January, they will not be far away from the summit in May.
Nemanja Matic in particular looks to have galvanized Chelsea at just the right time, and it could be a matter of a single point or even goal difference that stops them winning the title.
The importance of lifting a trophy is not lost on Arsene Wenger this season, but should this nail-biting title race come down to goal difference, Arsenal may have to concede defeat.
The Gunners have been majestic this term and at times looked as though they were about to break away from the chasing pack. But Manchester City and Chelsea refused to give up, and the scene is set for a dramatic conclusion.
Bad luck on the injury front has hampered Wenger, but only three defeats from their 24 games so far explains why the North Londoners are currently top of the pile.
January was a quiet month at the Emirates Stadium, with Kim Kallstrom the only arrival, and their fans are hoping that lack of investment doesn’t come back to bite them between now and May.
Will Vincent Kompany lift the Premier League trophy once more?
For a while at least, it looked like Manchester City were set to steamroller their way to the title, with eight league wins in a row over December and January. Enter Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
The Portuguese manager’s tactical masterclass that culminated in City’s first home defeat of the season on Monday rocked the Etihad Stadium, but it may prove to be no more than a blip.
Under Manuel Pellegrini, City have been irresistible going forward, scoring more than 20 goals more than both of their title rivals—a stat that could be hugely significant come the end of the season.
Their run-in includes trips to Liverpool and Everton, but it is their clash with Arsenal at the end of March in North London that could define their Premier League campaign. Win that and they will be hard to stop.