As the Premier League season comes to a close, much of the attention is placed upon the title race between Manchester City and Manchester United. But at the other end of the table there is an equally fascinating battle to avoid relegation between several clubs. Wolverhampton already knows their fate, but the likes of Blackburn, Bolton, QPR, Aston Villa and Wigan still face uncertainty.
For those that get sent down, it means a season in the Championship while the clubs that avoid the drop zone, it means another season of riches and the limelight of the Premier League.
Here is a quick look at what these clubs will have to deal with over the last two matches of the season.
Blackburn Rovers: (May 7 vs Wigan, May 13 vs Chelsea)
Despite having victories against Arsenal and Manchester United this season, Blackburn finds itself second from the bottom of the table. Even though they possess two of the better attacking players in Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Junior Hoilett, Blackburn has played some very dour football the season. They have been particularly porous on the road as they have allowed the most away goals this season. The match against Wigan will go a long way in determining whether Blackburn stays above the drop zone as a trip to Stamford Bridge looms on the last fixture day. Blackburn’s lone hope that day is that Chelsea rests some of their starters with the Champions League final being played six days later.
Bolton Wanderers: (May 6 vs West Brom, May 13 vs Stoke City)
Bolton has been towards the bottom of the table for much of the season. Many fans feel that manager Owen Coyle’s refusal to change his tactics is the reason that the Wanderers find themselves in the relegation battle this season. To his credit, Bolton lost two key players, Lee-Chung Yong and Stuart Holden before the first match was even played. The loss of those two players greatly hampered Bolton’s attack. Even with the possibility of relegation, Bolton has played better of late. They have earned five points in their last four matches. Wanderers squandered an opportunity to pick up a result at home against Tottenham last week, however. Bolton pulled even at the fifty-first minute only to see Spurs score three more for an easy victory. That point could have been huge as Bolton faces difficult match ups down the stretch. In particular, the trip to Stoke’s “Fortress of Solitude” (Britannia Stadium), where Stoke City doesn’t make it a habit of dropping points could be a season definer for the Wanderers.
Queens Park Rangers: (May 6 vs Stoke, May 13 vs Manchester City)
Rangers have been a difficult club to figure out this season. They brought in some big names during the transfer window, but few of them have turned out to have a positive impact. QPR’s chances have picked up over the last few weeks with victories over Liverpool and Tottenham to keep them just outside of relegation based on points differential. The last Sunday of the season could provide the best of both worlds. Manchester City is a fight for the title while QPR will being trying to avoid being sent back to the Championship. Because of this, it is almost assured that both clubs will be on the attack giving fans some entertaining football to watch.
Wigan Athletic: (May 7 vs Blackburn, May 13 vs Wolves)
Wigan has been a bit of an enigma this season. They were unorganized and inept to start, but now lethal at the end. Going back to March, Wigan have recorded victories over Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Newcastle. They also played Chelsea tough at Stamford Bridge which was a match that was overshadowed by some poor officiating. At this point, Wigan find themselves three points clear with two winnable matches remaining. Even if they can somehow play for draws, it is easy to believe Wigan will stay in the Premier League for another season. It appears as if manager Roberto Martinez has pulled a rabbit out his hat again.
Aston Villa: (May 6 vs Spurs, May 13 vs Norwich)
The fourth most successful club in English football faded quickly this season. A season ending injury to striker Darren Bent has left the club without a true goal scorer. The loss of skipper Stiliyan Petrov, who is fighting leukemia, was a devastating blow to the club’s moral. Injuries and ineffectiveness forced Villa into employing many young players who may not have been ready for the rigors of a Premier League Season. Manager Alex McLeish’s defensive tactics have left a lot to be desired as a club thought as “too big to fail” face the possibility of playing next season in the Championship. Fans have turned out in numbers to protest the manager and ownership in hopes that the season can somehow be saved. Earning one point out the final two fixtures could do just that.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: (May 6 vs Everton, May 13 vs Wigan)
Wolves was the first club to find out that they wouldn’t be back in the Premier League next season. Because of this, Wolverhampton could have packed it in for the rest of the season, but last week’s come back result against Swansea proved that this club still playing with pride. Manager Terry Conner was able to inspire a comeback at a time when most clubs would’ve folded. The match on the last Sunday at Wigan holds some intrigue as it will be interesting to see if Wolves will try and get three last points in the Premier League.
The league schedule makers have been kind to the fans as there are multiple match ups involving possible relegated clubs over the next two weeks. As mentioned earlier, Wolverhampton is the only club that knows it will be out of the top league next year. That leaves two spots for five clubs. Although Villa has a proud history, it faces the toughest schedule down the stretch. They could be the second club going down. Wigan and Blackburn square off in what is essentially an elimination match this week. If Wigan is victorious, they will most likely stay up while Blackburn will have a difficult task of avoiding relegation. Whatever the case, football fans should be treated to some intense and fascinating matches as clubs battle it out hoping to avoid relegation and remain in the Premier League.
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