It’s squeaky bum time in the Premier League, with two matches left to play. There is the ever exciting battle between underwhelming uberclubs for the title. Yawn. The second tier battle to see which club can send itself careening down next year’s table for the right to lose to a Spanish club in the UEFA Cup semifinals. Bigger Yawn.
Like a Kim Kardashian sex tape, the most exciting action will be at the bottom, with six clubs grappling desperately to be one of the four that avoid relegation to the demented morass that is the Championship. There is nothing that motivates footballers more than having to trade their prawn cocktails, exclusive parties and high-class prostitutes for a bacon sandwich, a bar wench and a rainy night in Sheffield.
Here is how the teams look with two games to play.
The Latics currently sit 14th on 37 points. They are on a strong run, earning seven points from their last four matches, and they need just one point from the remaining two matches to secure the status quo. That will be a tough task, however, as they must travel to Aston Villa, who are fighting for a UEFA Cup place and then host Manchester United on the final day, with the title on the line. But, even if they don’t get the magical point, it is hard to see fate relegating Wigan. It would require Bolton, Birmingham, and Reading to win their remaining two matches, and for Middlesbrough to take at least one point from their remaining two and to pass Wigan on goal difference. Not a likely scenario.
Southgate’s men will probably be safe though not from their own exertion, having won just one of their last ten, including crushing defeats to Bolton and Sunderland, when results would have all but secured their place. They would need a win to clinch, or a point to pretty much assure. Away at Portsmouth, with Pompey still in contention for Europe, might be a reach, but Man City look ripe for plucking a result with their recent form. Even if they lose both, 36 pts would likely still keep them up.
Bolton looked dead and down when they took just one point from seven matches through February and March, but seven points from their last three matches leaves them one point above the drop zone. They look like a safe bet to get three, with safe Sunderland at home next week. Though, they will surely drop points the last day of the season at Stamford Bridge. If they get a win against Sunderland, they will likely be safe. If not, they could be in grave danger.
Reading are holding their noses above water as well, one point from the drop. Winning just three of their past eighteen matches has not helped their cause. They have the lowest goal difference of any of the relegation candidates, so they will likely need to go through on points. However, they have the easiest run in of any of the clubs. They face a Tottenham team who are already planning for vacations at home, and then face bottom feeder Derby, winner of just one match all season, at Pride Park. Coppell’s men would like six points, though four would probably keep them up.
Bongo FC blew a bountiful chance by letting Liverpool skulk away with a 2-2 draw. They will likely need to win both their relegation six pointer with Fulham and their match against an aimless Blackburn at home to ensure their Premier League status. They do have an advantage over the clubs on goal difference, however.
Fulham have the hardest road, needing to win both their matches to bump them to 36 points and get some help. They face Birmingham in the aforementioned six pointer, and also face Portsmouth at home. Everton and Aston Villa next week could be key, as their performances may dictate whether the last match of the season will be a meaningful one for Portsmouth. It will certainly take one of those mythical Brian McBride miracles for Premier League football to be played at Craven Cottage next year.
Birmingham and Fulham will be relegated. I can see Fulham winning the relegation six pointer with Birmingham, but I am not confident they can take the three points at Portsmouth, leaving them at 33/34. I don’t think Birmingham gets more than one point from the next two matches, leaving them on 33. I think Reading gets four points to 37 and escapes. I think Bolton will draw Sunderland and lose to Chelsea leaving them on 34. I see Bolton beating out Fulham and Birmingham either by one point or by goal difference.