Key Relegation Battles This Weekend
I have spent this morning perusing the remaining fixtures for the relegation threatened teams and it appears that everything seems to point to the round of matches starting Saturday 9th May to Monday 11th May. As I have written before I am often against the over hyping of the run in especially with nine points to play for. However with eight of the threatened teams about to do battle with each other the relegation picture could become that bit clearer.
West Brom Vs Wigan
The baggies could finally receive the Coup de Grâce on Saturday. A loss at home to Athletic coupled with a point for Hull on the same day will seal their fate. Should both Hull and Sunderland win then a mathematical miracle to catch Hull will be needed, including a maximum point return from their last three games and the recovery of goal difference deficit of eight to level with the Tigers.
Blackburn Vs Portsmouth
Within two months of each other both clubs sacked their managers in a bid to avoid the dreaded drop and so far it appears to have worked. Paul Hart’s charges need one win to seal survival, Big Sam’s battling Blackburn need four points. With Rover’s travelling to Chelsea for a date with Guus Hiddink the week after and Porstmouth facing a massive battle with Sunderland both teams should be going all out for this.
Bolton Vs Sunderland
While Wanderers look likely to survive, needing just three points to be sure of safety. Ricky Sbragia’s Sunderland appear to be in relative free-fall. The Black Cats have won just three league encounters since the turn of the year and a win at the Reebok would be the ideal tonic before facing Portsmouth and Chelsea respectively. Megson’ men will not make this easy, they have their own need for a win to guarantee another season in the top-flight. Should Sunderland fail to emerge victorious here or at FrattonPark next week, it could well come down to the last game against Chelsea. One faint ray of hope shining on the Stadium Of Light that day is the possibility Chelsea could field a weakened side, bearing in mind a date at Wembley for the FA Cup Final and a possible Champions League final.
Hull Vs Stoke
The tale of two cities sees pre-season relegation favourites clash at the KC. While the Potters are the third team needing just one victory to continue an unlikely Premier League story at the Britannia after enjoying a decent run of results, Hull appear to have climbed up a cliff and promptly dived off it head first. Just a solitary league win since prevailing over Middlesbrough in December is leaving the Tigers clawing on for dear life. What may favour them is the wretched form of Newcastle and Boro but this cannot be relied on. Phil Brown will have no doubt targeted six points from this game and a trip to Bolton with SirAlex Ferguson’s league leaders being the final visitors the KC this campaign.
Newcastle Vs Middlesbrough (Monday)
Probably the biggest game of them all when the teams occupying the final two relegation places do battle at St James Park.
Newcastle’s tenure under Alan Shearer was never destined to yield many points in the first five games. Three losses to in form Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs have left the Magpies in yet more trouble but even the former England striker could have seen those three results coming.
The games that have really caused the Shearer sleepless nights have been Stoke away and Portsmouth at home. Granted Stoke have a strong record, conceding only 15 and losing just four. But given the run of games that Newcastle have that was an opportunity missed to gain 3 points. Last week’s stalemate with Pompey will have done little to lift the mood at St James Park, Newcastle have only scored once in five games and only gained two points in the process.
It’s not exactly been luxury for the visitors either, a meagre two wins in ten games has seen ‘Boro looking like relegation fodder. The confidence bred by the recent home win against relegation rivals hull was soon blown away by defeats to Man United and Arsenal. This Tyne-Tees derby has been targeted by Southgate as a must win and no wonder, their last two games are against Villa and West Ham.