We are at the business end of the Premier League season with only 10 games left to play until we find out who’s stayed up and who’s gone down. This season has been one of the closely competitive Premier League seasons since started in 1992, with no run away League leaders or doomed clubs at the bottom like we’ve seen over the last two decades. Currently, there are only TEN points that separate bottom-of-the-table, Wigan Athletic (27) with 7th placed Bolton Wanderers. Is the fight for Premier League survival wide open? Or are there really only a few contenders for the drop despite how close the gap is?
The Battle of the W’s
The current bottom four clubs who all begin with the letter ‘W’ are the main contenders for the relegation scrap with only 2 points separating 20th placed Wigan and 17th placed West Bromwich Albion (27 and 29 points respectively), whilst West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers lay in between on 28 points. However, only West Brom are in the bottom 5 of the Premier League form table with West Ham 8th and Wolves 12th, whilst Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers have the worst form over the last several League games. Will there be a new bottom three come the end of the season?
Theoretically teams in the top half of the table should be safe, like Bolton 7th (37 Pts), Sunderland 8th (37 Pts), Newcastle United 9th (36 Pts), these three teams would have to go on a dismal run of form over the next 10 games if they are to be dragged into the mire. However, from 10th place Stoke City (34 Pts) teams will be looking over their shoulders over the next few weeks if the bottom four teams continue to pick up points. If the likes of West Ham and Wolves achieve back-to-back wins in their next two fixtures, it will see them on 34 points which will squeeze the margin between clubs in mid-table and those in the relegation zone.
The Unlikely Lads
Although they are seen as ‘too good to go down’, Aston Villa and Everton will be hoping for a good end to the season which will see them finish in the top half of the table. Both teams are in the top 10 on the form table and their remaining fixtures should see them avoid any potential relegation battles, especially with both teams crashing out of the F.A. Cup in mid-week – there will be more concentration on improving league positions.
So in theory, that leaves 13th place Fulham (32 pts) and below the real relegation contenders for the remaining season with 14th placed Blackburn and 15th placed Blackpool on the same points, leaving Birmingham on 16th and on 30 points in front of the bottom four. With the majority of these teams facing each other over the remaining games, the table could look a lot different after the next five games.
Unfortunately my crystal ball has been sent away for maintenance but I can’t help make a few suggestions on who will be playing Championship football next season and what teams will be celebrating their Premier League survival.
Unfortunately for Wigan Athletic, I think they are doomed to finish bottom of the pile come the 38th game this season. They have one of the toughest runs out of the other teams involved, in their next 5 fixtures they play three teams involved in the ‘top 4’ whilst the other two fixtures coming against Birmingham and Blackpool, two teams wanting to avoid being dragged into the relegation battle. It’s hard to see where the Latics will get the points to push them out of the relegation zone.
Joining Wigan in relegation will be harder to determine, but Wolves will have to fancy their chances of getting out of the bottom three with their remaining fixtures. Mick McCarthy’s men only play one team in the top 5 with the arrival of Tottenham this weekend, however it will depend whether they are able to turn around their dismal away record this season and pick up points on the road.
Despite the Hammers recording a 3-1 victory over Liverpool last Sunday, the East London club face a tough run-in of fixtures where they meet four teams out of the current top five. However, with three of their remaining league games against teams around them, the Hammers should manage to scrape out of the relegation zone although it’ll be tough. Their fate could depend on the results of teams around them.
Birmingham City have two games in hand over the bottom half of the table and with the confidence and momentum gained from winning the League Cup, I can see the Blues rising to mid-table for Premier League consolidation. Worryingly for Blackpool, their pre-season relegation doomed plight may come true with the Seasiders having to play four teams out of the top 5. But with the character and fight that Ian Holloway’s men has shown, you can’t rule them out for picking up 3 points like earlier in the season. Their games against Blackburn, Fulham and Wigan over the next month will be vital if they are to stay up.
Roy Hodgson was able to keep Fulham up in similar circumstances that West Brom are facing this season. The Baggies are without a win in their last SIX games but they have recorded 3 draws on the bounce, they face some tough fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – not to mention the visit of Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool. His old club Fulham should be safe from dropping down the table with the club only losing one game in their last six.
That leaves Blackburn Rovers dropping into the bottom three, with the club 2nd from bottom in the form table and an inexperienced manager in Steve Kean in charge; I dread Rovers will be slowly dragged into the relegation zone whilst the teams around them pick up points.
Relegation Predictions : Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion
If you disagree with my predictions then let me know on Twitter – @verbal_football
[bet_365 type=’odds’ size=’300′ af_code=’365_050711′]