Five Premier League managers under pressure at Christmas

Sports Mole looks at some of the Premier League managers who are under pressure heading into the festive fixtures.

As the halfway point of the 2014-15 Premier League season approaches, no club has changed manager since the start of the campaign in August, setting a new record.

However, with the transfer window just around the corner, the busy festive fixture list could be a make or break period for a number of managers, particularly those in the bottom half of the table.

Sports Mole looks at some of those who could find themselves job hunting in the New Year.

Steve Bruce - Hull City

Steve Bruce manager of Hull City reacts during the Hull City v KSC Lokeren UEFA Europa League Qualifying Play-Off match at the KC Stadium on August 28, 2014© Getty Images

Hull City returned to the Premier League with a bang under Steve Bruce last season, finishing four points clear of the drop despite a tricky finish to the season, but also securing European football with a run to the FA Cup final.

However, the Tigers have not made the strong start to their league campaign that helped them clinch safety last year, and they now sit in the relegation zone, just three points ahead of bottom side Leicester City.

While sentimental Hull fans may be reluctant to see the manager that got them back in the top flight and to Wembley fired, the harsh reality is that Hull have not won since October, and have picked up just two points in their last 10 outings.

Hull have a run of fixtures against sides that have also been struggling for form recently, including Leicester, West Brom and Sunderland, so a failure to pick up a win before the end of the year could be the final straw for Bruce.

Scoring goals has been the main issue for Bruce's side this season, as they are averaging less than a goal a game, while top scorer Mohamed Diame is currently out with a knee injury.

Alan Irvine - West Bromwich Albion

Manager Alan Irvine of West Brom looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's Stadium on August 23, 2014© Getty Images

West Bromwich Albion have shown that they are not afraid to make a change in recent years, so a switch at the helm for the Baggies would not come as a shock.

Alan Irvine's appointment in the summer came as something of a surprise after managers with top-flight experience like Chris Hughton and Tim Sherwood had been linked to the role, and the former Everton assistant has struggled to get consistent results out of his side so far.

West Brom have won just once in their last seven matches, while leading goalscorer Saido Berahino has struggled for form since earning his first senior England call up last month.

Yesterday's 3-2 defeat to Queens Park Rangers will not have done anything to reduce the pressure on Irvine, as West Brom had been two goals up inside 20 minutes before QPR fought back.

There is a tricky match against Manchester City on Boxing Day, but West Brom then have a run of matches against Stoke City, West Ham and Hull City, which could be crucial to Irvine's future.

Nigel Pearson - Leicester City

Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson looks on as the players warm up prior to the Pre-Season Friendly match between MK Dons and Leicester City on August 4, 2014© Getty Images

Only twice since the formation of the Premier League has the club that has been bottom on Christmas Day avoided relegation, and their defeat to West Ham United yesterday ensured that Leicester will be 20th at Christmas.

Last season's Championship winners made a bright start to life back in the top flight under Nigel Pearson, but their form has nosedived since their 5-3 win over Manchester City in September, as they are without a win in their last 12.

Pearson, who is the fourth-longest serving manager in the division, has already admitted that he expects his position to be questioned while the Foxes sit at the bottom, while a recent incident involving a fan will not have helped his cause.

Leicester spent big money in the summer in preparation for life in the Premier League, breaking the club's transfer record to bring in Leonardo Ulloa, while Esteban Cambiasso and Tom Lawrence also moved to the King Power Stadium, so the Foxes have a talented squad.

Pearson will need his side to cause a couple of upsets if they are to pick up points over the festive period as they face Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, as well as a six-pointer against Hull City between now and New Year's Day.

Brendan Rodgers - Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on November 23, 2014© Getty Images

Although not involved in the relegation battle, Liverpool have certainly failed to live up to expectations this season, with much of the blame seemingly falling on Brendan Rodgers.

The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Andre Villas-Boas have already been linked to the manager's role at Anfield, with Liverpool out of the Champions League and sitting 11th in the Premier League.

With summer signing Mario Balotelli having failed to live up to expectations, and Luis Suarez having left for Barcelona, it seems unlikely that Liverpool will part company with Rodgers before giving him a chance to bring players in during January, but the team's form needs to improve if he is to see out the season.

After this afternoon's clash with Arsenal, Liverpool have a potentially-fruitful run, with games against Burnley, Swansea, Leicester and Sunderland coming up in the next month.

Gus Poyet - Sunderland

Sunderlands Uruguayan manager Gus Poyet reacts during the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on October 25, 2014© Getty Images

Gus Poyet was hailed the saviour last season when he came in midway through the campaign to move Sunderland off the foot of the table at Christmas and secure a miraculous mid-table finish.

However, the Black Cats has not continued their momentum at the start of this season, picking up just two wins from their first 16 matches of the campaign, leaving them just a point clear of the drop zone.

They have become draw specialists in recent weeks, finishing level with their opponents five times in their last six outings, including against Chelsea and Liverpool.

A win against local rivals Newcastle United this afternoon would certainly ease the pressure on Poyet, but the team need to start winning on a more regular basis to pull away from the bottom three.

They have a difficult run coming up, though, starting the New Year with matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.

Charlie Austin of QPR celebrates victory after his three goals during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road on December 20, 2014
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City17161050113949
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd17122337112638
3Chelsea17112431141735
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs1794429141531
5Liverpool1787234201431
6Burnley179441612431
7Arsenal1793530201030
8Leicester CityLeicester177552622426
9Watford176472629-322
10Everton176472129-822
11Southampton174671622-618
12Huddersfield TownHuddersfield175391229-1718
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton174581422-817
14Bournemouth174491520-516
15Stoke CityStoke174491936-1716
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle1743101626-1015
17West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom172871222-1014
18Crystal Palace173591228-1614
19West Ham UnitedWest Ham173591432-1814
20Swansea CitySwansea173311920-1112
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