For me the Premier League relegation run-in is just as exciting as the race for the title or 4th place. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through it once before supporting my own club and I have sympathy with fans involved or in a general term, it just makes very exciting football to watch as teams throw their bodies on the line to survive in the top flight or simply crumble and face the drop to the Football League.
This season sees us with one of the most competitive relegation run-in in recent years with half the table still in danger of relegation it’s going to be a challenge to try and predict who will survive and who will be in those last 3 places come the end of the 38th game this season.
Usually by now, there is a team rooted to the bottom of the league that are down, if not by their lack of points, then by their performances throughout the whole season and the reality of them not being able to change their fortunes in the business end of the season.
Wigan Athletic are currently bottom of the Premier League table as we go into April, with 7 games left to play they are on 31 points. They have 21 points remaining to play for, that’s 1 point more of Tottenham Hotspurs current position in 5th. No, I’m not saying Wigan are going to win their next 7 games, or Spurs are going down but to put it in context, the margain between the bottom club and those in the top 5 by this stage of this season is usually much greater.
Unfortunately my crystal ball took a tumble and perished. I tried to consult the stars, but it was rather cloudy so I’m going to make my predictions based on the remaining fixtures and form guide involved by each club who are in contention.
Considering Bolton in 8th are on 40 points, and realistically they’re not going to lose all of their remaining fixtures, I am starting the run-in from 9th position in the table.
9th Newcastle United – Whilst Alan Pardew will be relieved with their 4-1 victory over Wolves at the weekend that sends them into 9th position, the Magpies have a tough run of fixtures for the rest of the season. Whilst their high scoring record at home this season will be an advantage for the visits of Manchester United, Birmingham and West Brom, they travel to Villa and Blackpool, both desperate for points then trips to Liverpool and Chelsea in May. Verdict: Survival – Currently on 39 points, you can see Newcastle adding at least 4 more by the time the season is out and Premier League survival will be achieved.
10th Fulham – Their 3-0 victory over Blackpool made them look different class. Mark Hughes has done a great job in turning their poor run at the start of the season around, boosted by the return of striker Bobby Zamora. With 4 remaining away games and only 1 win away all season, they will want to get at least one victory on the road with their remaining home fixtures against Bolton, Liverpool and Arsenal. Verdict: Survival – Bobby Zamora’s return will be a huge advantage to Fulham getting more points on the board by the end of the season and Mark Hughes can look to rebuild for next year.
11TH Stoke City – It’s possible that Tony Pulis’ men may get distracted by the FA Cup Sem-Final with Bolton approaching, especially if they get to the finals. But Pulis is the type of manager who would demand 110 percent from his team for every game. Verdict: Survival – Whether they get to the FA Cup final or not, Stoke are a team hard to beat at home which should see them escape the relegation zone come the end of the season.
12TH Sunderland – What’s happened to Steve Bruce and his Black Cats? The shock 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season and the sale of Darren Bent seem to have contributed to a terrible run of form. Their 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on Sunday made it their 6th defeat in 7 games (the other being a draw). Whilst they looked to be in contention of a European place a few months ago, now people are asking if they could actually face the drop. Verdict: Survival – Despite being rock bottom of the form table, we can’t forget that Sunderland are still a strong Premier League side and performances earlier on in the season are proof that they are capable of getting results. Out of their remaining 7 games, 5 of them are against teams below them which will be crucial if Sunderland are not to get suckered in. They should have enough to change their fortunes around, unless Bruce has completely lost the dressing room.
13th West Brom – I’m starting to believe Roy Hodgson should be called ‘Premier League Survival’ consultant rather than a manager. Since taking over at the Baggies, he’s undefeated in six games and sees the side 4th in the form guide. Whilst his minus touch at keeping Fulham went down to the last few games of the season, Hodgson may struggle to keep the unbeaten run going with back-to-back games against Chelsea and Spurs. Verdict: Survival – Hodgson’s arrival has seen the Baggies tighten the defence which was a problem under Roberto Di Matteo. There ability to score goals was never in question, remember the 3-2 victory at Arsenal. They have to play a few of the teams around them which will see them survive and condemn other teams to face the drop.
15TH Birmingham City – Winning the League Cup has seen their League form suffer but Alex McLeish’s Blues were helped by Kevin Phillips to a home victory over Bolton, which relieves some pressure. Inconsistent results have been their main cause for their league position this season and they face some tough fixtures ahead, the Midlands derby with Wolves on May 1st will be interesting. Verdict: Survival – McLeish should treat their remaining games like their road to Wembley and it will be enough to survive in the Premier League. Plus, the Blues have a game in hand over everyone else in the bottom half of the table that gives them an advantage.
16TH Aston Villa – If video technology was used for goal line decisions then Villa would’ve lost 3-2 at Everton at the weekend, but the 2-2 result stands and it’s a great point for Gerard Houllier’s team if they are to save the shock and embarrassment of relegation. They say there’s no such thing as being “too good to go down” but Villa are an exception, with the likes of Darren Bent up front and Ashley Young and Stuart Downing supplying him they should have the ability to score goals. Their game against West Ham in 2 weeks will be interesting. Verdict: Survival – The comeback against Everton shows that there is some spirit left in the Villa camp and with the players like I mentioned above, all starting to come into form, Villa are going to have a good run towards the end of the season that will see them climb up the table.
17th Blackpool – My Premier League team of choice this year, they’ve been remarkable considering they’re run of form last season to get them into the play-offs, then to win it. No one gave them a chance of survival this season but Ian Holloway and his team have proved many critics wrong. Because of Bloomfield Road not being ready at the start of the season, the Seasiders have four consecutive home games coming up that will be vital if they are to turn their current poor form around. Verdict: Relegation – It hurts for me to say this but I can’t see the Seasiders performing any more miracles this season and getting out of their current plight towards the football league. Fulham out paced the Blackpool side on Sunday and their game plan seems to have been found out by most managers in the league. Their away form has also been better than their home form this season, which doesn’t give them the advantage of their next 4 games, like it would most teams. I would love to see them prove me wrong and start to get back their bright and fresh early season form but I think Holloway and his squad are all burnt out from over-performing all season.
18th West Ham United – Their additions to the squad in January are proving important for the Hammers as they’ve started to improve on some awful performances earlier on this season. Driven by midfielder, Scott Parker and with the return of Thomas Hitzlsperger along side him, they now look like a decent Premier League outfit. Verdict: Survival – Two tough away games back to back against Chelsea and Manchester City will be tough for the Hammers, so they will have to find points elsewhere and no better than games against teams around them like Villa, Blackburn and Wigan, that should see them get at least 3 wins until the end of the season and a few draws will see them safe.
19TH Wolverhampton Wanderers – I’ve been hugely impressed by Mick McCarthy’s men this season with victories over Manchester United and Chelsea at home this season but other results have let them down and see them in the relegation zone at present. With their remaining fixtures mostly against teams also in contention for the drop, each game is bound to be like a cup final. Verdict: Survival – They have strength in their team to win games, they will just need to tighten up the back four and another Premier League season will be achieved. Like I mentioned for Blackburn, their game against each other at the end of the season will be crucial and I believe Wolves will come out the victors with their home advantage.
20th Wigan Athletic – Roberto Martinez has done well despite their position. The Latics play decent football from the back and have put in some impressive performances this season with skilfully created goals, but it often feels like watch a European team play in the Premier League and not being able to handle it. Verdict: Relegation – Wigan have the ability to surprise but I think their stay in the Premier League will finally come to an end this season. With the potential of picking up a few points against other teams near them, it won’t be enough to climb out of the relegation zone with 7 games left to go.
If you disagree with my predictions then let me know on Twitter!
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