Your guide to the relegation battle – and why West Ham, Blackpool and Blackburn will go down
Following Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea at the weekend, the title is all but wrapped up. And despite Manchester City losing, Tottenham’s draw with Blackpool means that fourth place is all but confirmed as well.
So with the top end of the Premier League decided, neutrals and fans partial to the taste of fingernails will be thankful the other end of the table remains far from certain.
There remain six teams in the mix – West Ham, Wigan, Blackpool, Wolves, Birmingham and Blackburn. But with only three places to fill in the relegation zone – who will be on their way down come 17.45pm on Sunday 22 May? Here, we take a look at each side’s upcoming opponents and current form and attempt to predict the likely outcome.
Blackburn (current points, 39): Man United (h), Wolves (a)
Blackburn won their last home game (against Bolton), but Ewood Park is far from a fortress having failed to win there in their five previous games. And with Manchester United determined to wrap up the title at the earliest opportunity, Blackburn’s chances of victory here look slim. They lost 7-1 at Old Trafford.
Steve Kean’s final game is against Wolves. This match is crucial – and if the game can produce a winner, I back them to stay up. In December, Blackburn beat Wolves 3-0.
Prediction: L L (points total, 39)
Birmingham (current points, 39): Fulham (h), Tottenham (a)
That the Carling Cup winners find themselves fighting relegation seems strange, but here they are – and they are in serious trouble. Compared to their rivals, Birmingham’s final two games look more straight forward. They begin with Fulham at home. The Cottagers have nothing to play for, and a recent 3-0 win over Sunderland aside, their away form is woeful. They drew 1-1 in November, and three points for the Blues looks very achievable.
Alex McLeish’s team then finish up at White Hart Lane. Spurs could well have nothing to play for come the final day of the season and with their last three games at the Lane ending in draws, Birmingham are well capable of claiming a point. They drew 1-1 in December.
Prediction: W D (points total, 43)
Wolves (current points, 37): Sunderland (a), Blackburn (h)
A win for Wolves over their Black Country rivals West Brom at the weekend has dragged them out of the bottom three. But can they stay out? Their first game is against Sunderland – a team with little to play for but highly unpredictable. At the Stadium of Light, they’ve lost five of the last six, providing much hope for Mick McCarthy’s men. Although Wolves’ away record of just two victories isn’t exactly promising. Wolves won 3-2 in November.
They then finish up with that game against Blackburn. They may have lost to Rovers earlier in the season but Wolves have some consistency at Molineux, where they’ve only lost one in their last six, winning three of them.
Prediction: D W (points total, 41)
Blackpool (current points, 36): Bolton (h), Man United (a)
Most neutrals would love to see the Seasiders stay in the Premier League. At the start of the season they were given no hope, but they’ve defied the detractors with some scintillating football and results to match. If they are to stay up, they will need to produce something special. They begin at home to Bolton but playing at Bloomfield Road will provide little comfort, having been unable to win there in their last five matches. Although Bolton aren’t great on the road and have lost the last three on their travels. Another team with little to play for at this stage of the season. Blackpool were unlucky not to win at Bolton back in November, with the game ending 2-2.
But to finish off, Blackpool travel to Old Trafford. By this stage, United should be champions, so Ian Holloway’s men may face a weakened line-up. Although it’ll be a line-up looking to impress their manager in hope of securing a role in the Champions League final which follows six days later. United have not lost at home all season but if Blackpool were looking for some hope, they can point to their meeting earlier this season, when United had to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2. And of course there is the 2006/07 season, when West Ham won at Old Trafford to retain their Premier League status.
Prediction: D L (points total, 37)
Wigan (current points, 36): West Ham (h), Stoke (a)
The bottom two in the table meet at the DW Stadium next weekend. Wigan will be hopeful of a positive result, with a draw potentially an acceptable outcome. They haven’t lost in their last three matches at home, while West Ham’s away form is woeful, having failed to win in their last five, including three defeats on the bounce. When they played in November, West Ham won 3-1.
Wigan will then finish the season at Stoke. Considering the Potters will have played in the FA Cup final a week before, this match may seem a bit of an anti-climax. They will have also played a game in midweek due to their participation at Wembley, potentially leaving them tired for this encounter. They drew 2-2 earlier this season.
Prediction: W D (points total, 40)
West Ham (current points, 33): Wigan (a), Sunderland (h)
Four points from safety, West Ham will likely have to win their last two games and even then will not be guaranteed of escaping relegation. They begin with that game at Wigan. Their last win on the road came against Blackpool back at the start of February, and it’s difficult to see the team sitting bottom of the table, and bottom of the form charts, getting the victory they need here.
But if Avram Grant’s side should pull it off, they would then have to beat Sunderland at home. This looks more achievable, considering Sunderland’s patchy away form. The Black Cats won just one of their last six away games. West Ham lost 1-0 in this fixture in December.
Prediction: L D (points total, 34)
So according to these predictions, that would leave the bottom of the table looking like this come the end of the season:
West Ham 34
Of course, these are only predictions and at this stage of the season strange results have a tendency to become common place. Each team discussed here maintains an element of control in their Premier League fate and with Wolves playing Blackburn and Wigan against West Ham, the final outcome is far from certain. It’ll come down to that old cliche – the winners will be those who take their chances.Tagged in: Birmingham, Blackburn, blackpool, football, Premier League, relegation, West Ham, Wigan, Wolves
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