The relegation from and promotion to the Premier League is starting to shape up. Still room for decisions and intrigue but nowhere near as unclear as it was a few weeks ago.
First, Premier League relegation. In my opinion the bottom six teams are still in the fight. Those above that could, technically, face trouble based on their points total but it’s tough to imagine all six teams below them doing enough to overtake them. So that leaves us with this setup:
- Birmingham P34 38 Pts
- Blackburn P33 35 Pts
- Blackpool P34 34 Pts
- Wigan P34 34 Pts
- Wolves P34 33 Pts
- West Ham P34 32 Pts
While it’s hard to picture any of the bottom three saving themselves, it’s also true that the form of the three B’s above them is terrible. Let’s break it down in reverse order beginning with West Ham United’s hopes.
West Ham were looking a whole lot better but the injury to Scott Parker seems to have done them irreparable harm. They play Man City in their next game but then have games against relegation contenders Wigan and Blackburn before finishing up with Sunderland. If they can beat both Wigan and Blackburn they have a chance, but I just can’t see it happening.
Wolves are a bit of a mystery. Wins against Man Utd, and Liverpool earlier in the season but recent defeats to Newcastle and Everton really hurt them. All of their run-in games are against lower ranking teams but they’ve generally done better against the stronger squads. They have a game in hand which gives them a slightly better chance but teams down here don’t win many of their games. Wolves play Stoke, Birmingham and Sunderland away, with West Brom and Blackburn at home. That last day fixture against Blackburn will be huge (unless it’s too late already for both of them of course)
Wigan can’t seem to decide whether they are good or not. Strong recent wins against Blackpool and Birmingham ruined by this weeks defeat to Sunderland. Wigan finish up with Everton and West Ham at home with Stoke and Aston Villa away. I’m trying not to make any predictions because it’s so hard with all these teams playing each other but I guess I would vote Wigan for the drop.
Blackpool have had a terrible run, falling apart as Charlie Adam began to struggle. They’ve won only one of the their last fourteen games with only a couple of draws in there. This weekends draw with Newcastle gave them some hope but they have a really tough run in with games against Bolton, Stoke, Spurs and Man Utd to contend with.
Blackburn haven’t won for nine games and have been sinking fast but recent draws with Arsenal, Birmingham and Blackpool have given them a small lifeline (a point makes a lot of difference down here). Their biggest hope right now is that they have team below them who must win to send them into the relegation zone. They have a tough run in though. Monday’s game with Man City is followed by games with Bolton, West Ham, Man Utd and Wolves. Two big teams, one local derby and two life or death battles. My guess is that if Blackburn can win one of the relegation battles and get a point somewhere else they will be safe.
Birmingham are another team who’s form has deserted them. After winning the League Cup they did not win a game of the following six but a solid win against Sunderland really helped. Since them however they’ve been hammered by Chelsea and Liverpool. They finish up with games against Wolves, Fulham, Newcastle and Spurs. Next weeks game with Wolves will be vital for both teams. If Birmingham can win that one I think they will be safe.
The teams just above this group, Stoke and Fulham, seem safe but this season who can tell. Predictions? Well who can really tell. At this point I’m going to go with the current bottom three to go down because I think all the teams can pick up a few points and they will cancel each other out. If Wolves can win Tuesday against Stoke City, then all bets are off.
Promotion from the Championship
Once again, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that QPR are safe. They will win the league and any points deduction will keep them in first place. With three games to go there are two races in place here, the race for the automatic second spot and the push for the playoffs. There’s a full slate of games on Monday and all this could be out of date by the time you read it.
While Reading have an outside shot I’m going to assume that the second place tournament is between Cardiff and Norwich. Norwich are currently in second with 77 points, Cardiff third with 76. Both have middle difficulty run ins. Norwich have a home game with Derby, then an away game with Portsmouth, finishing up with a home game against Coventry. Cardiff have Preston away, Middlesbrough at home and Burnley, who could be playing for a playoff spot, away on the last day. Given the extra point and the slightly easier run in, I’m going with Norwich here.
While not mathematically safe, Reading and Swansea look set for the next two playoff positions (joining Cardiff), leaving an almighty battle for the last spot. Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Burnley, Millwall and Hull all have realistic shots at this last spot, with Watford, Leicester and Ipswich all mathematically still alive. Hull have a tough Monday game away to QPR that could see their challenge over while only Burnley have a home game Monday of the remaining teams. Next weekend Leeds play Burnley while Millwall meet Swansea. On the last day of the season all of them have challenging fixtures. We’ll know a lot more after Monday but not the answer I suspect.