We’re winding down now, and nearing clarity. United should win the title after a tremendous display of soccer against their arch-rivals Sunday. And you can see them claim it with just a point at Blackburn early Saturday morning on the featured ESPN match. The Champions League spots were sewn up mid-week with City’s revenge win against Spurs, so (if you care) watch Liverpool ensure a return to European football on Thursdays next season if they can do the same. Meanwhile, City try to lift a trophy and just have to beat Stoke City at Wembley to do so. That match is on FSC live at 10 am Eastern Saturday morning.
That just leaves the matter of the 3rd team coming up and the three teams going down. QPR winning the Championship ensures at least 5 London sides again next year, and Norwich joins them. The process of picking the final team will be decided over 5 matches, all of which will be shown in the US on FS+ & foxsoccer.tv, starting Thursday afternoon with Forest v Swansea. At the bottom of the table, West Ham’s inability to beat Blackburn has probably cost them £40 million. Their relegation battle at the DW is still must-watch TV Sunday morning. We’ll also be watching Wolves visit to the Stadium of Light and Blackpool’s final match at Bloomfield Road.
[Please note that Fox has switched around some of the Sunday matches since I first posted this article. If you are planning to be out of the house Sunday morning, I would advise recording as many of the matches as you can, in case something gets messed up or they change again.]
****: Must-see. Cancel all other activities. Do not even DVR as even in America you might hear the score!
***: Strong match; worth watching live; DVR a must if you can’t see live
**: Flip through quickly to see the goals, red cards, injuries, and perhaps watch the last 5 minutes + injury time if close
*: Only if you’re a die-hard
Matches shown in chronological order:
Thursday, May 12 (all times EDT)
** Nottiingham Forest v Swansea, Playoff semifinal Leg 1, 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Dean]
The Reds (Forest) squeaked into the play-offs over Leeds via a last day nil-3 thumping at Crystal Palace. Romantics would like to see them back in the premier league. The Swans could make it an all-Welsh final if they and Cardiff were to advance. Swansea were hoping that QPR might be docked points and thus the Jacks would advance automatically but they now need to play their way in.
Friday, May 13
** Reading v Cardiff, Playoff semifinal Leg 1, 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Halsey]
The Royals (Reading) were relegated in 2007 so they are hoping for a reasonably quick return; the Madejski is a reasonably nice 24,000 seat bowl stadium. Their stadium is only 38 miles west of Craven Cottage. Meanwhile, Cardiff were so close to returning to the EPL last year, losing in the play-off to Blackpool after twice having the lead at Wembley! If you’re a neutral this might be a good team to root for, and will almost certainly have the most recognizable names, notably Craig Bellamy, who at times last year was as good as any player in the EPL. I’ve only given two stars to the first legs as usually the action really heats up in the second ‘half’.
Saturday, May 14
**** Blackburn v Man Utd, 7:45 am, ESPN2/ESPND & espn3.com [Dowd]
I’ll keep this at 4 stars as we really should watch the match where the Champions are crowned. It may be anticlimactic (though Blackburn would benefit hugely from just one more point).
*** Blackpool v Bolton, 7:45 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Marriner]
Blackpool could win twice and still go down, but this is absolute must-win.
*** Sunderland v Wolverhampton, 7:45 am, FSC [Jones]
Wolves can’t imagine they’ve done enough yet.
* West Brom v Everton, 7:45 am, foxsoccer.tv & 12:30 pm (delayed) FSC/FD [Taylor]
**** FA Cup Final, Stoke v Man City, 10 am, FSC/FD [Atkinson]
Great to see two new teams in this cup with supporters desperately happy to see their side lift a trophy. City are favorites and have the better players, but Stoke have come through in these big matches. Let’s hope Etherington & Huth can play.
Sunday, May 15
* Chelsea v Newcastle, 8:30 am, FSC/FD [Mason]
No great reason to watch.
** Arsenal v Aston Villa, 11 am, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Oliver]
Fox missed it again on this one. A meaningless match at the Emirates in favor of the humongous match at the DW.
*** Liverpool v Tottenham, 11 am, FSC/FD [Webb]
For 5th. Think it will be red.
**** Wigan v West Ham, 11 am, foxsoccer.tv & 1 pm (delayed, and changed from 5 pm) FS+ [Dean]
Still frustrating (if you don’t have foxsoccer.tv) that Fox won’t show this match live on television, but at least they have now moved it up to 1 pm from the original 5 pm showing, and some of us will be glued to the internet to see it live. The Hammers destroyed the Latics back in Upton Park way back in November; they will certainly need Parker back to have any hope of staying up. But this is what relegation battles are all about. A draw or West Ham win could still see both teams relegated. With Mike Dean refereeing, high chance of at least one penalty, and a sending-off wouldn’t surprise me.
*** Birmingham v Fulham, 11 am, foxsoccer.tv & 5 pm (delayed, and pushed back from 1 pm) FS+ [Walton]
The Blues ensure safety with a home win and a point might just do.
Monday, May 16
*** Swansea v Notingham Forest, Playoff semifinal Leg 2, 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Marriner]
Tuesday, May 17
** Man City v Stoke, 2:45 pm, FSC [Probert]
Fears of Stoke throwing this match now out the window. A pretty meaningless match though City might have a chance of catching Arsenal for 3rd.
*** Cardiff v Reading, Playoff semifinal Leg 2, 2:45 pm, FS+ & foxsoccer.tv [Webb]