The battle to beat the drop in the Premier League is heating up with just five games to go; five teams all fighting for survival and just one spot left to fight for. With Reading and QPR now as good as relegated, the battle to avoid relegation couldn’t be more intense. Norwich City, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic are all in contention. But who will be relegated in May?
Chris Hughton’s team has not looked in danger until recent weeks when their strikers have struggled to score. Norwich have shown some fight recently with a battling draw against Swansea last week and were within minutes of pulling a shock win at the Emirates to be cruelly denied by three goals in seven minutes. They have shown the fight and passion they need to avoid relegation. Norwich’s home games against Reading and Villa are crucial if they want to avoid relegation. Norwich can’t afford to leave themselves needing a win against Manchester City away on the last game of the season to avoid relegation.
If Norwich show the passion they have in recent games then Chris Hughton’s side will almost certainly avoid being relegated.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20, Reading (h); Apr 27, Stoke (a); May 4, Aston Villa (h); May 12, West Bromwich Albion (h); and May 19 Manchester City (a).
Predicted finish: 14th
Stoke were eleven points clear of relegation during Christmas but in 2013 the team have struggled having just picked up one win in fourteen games and collected just a point from a possible 21. Not surprisingly, this has seen the Potters dragged into a relegation battle where their recent form is the worst in the Football League so far this year. With three consecutive defeats, it will dent the confidence further. If Stoke are going to secure their Premier League status, Tony Pulis needs to instill some belief and confidence in his team in order to pick up the crucial points needed in their next five games.
Stoke travel to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and host Norwich the following weekend which they must win. They then have a potentially pivotal away fixture at Sunderland, a home game against Tottenham Hotspur and a trip to Southampton on the final day and needing to find at least four points out their next five games to avoid relegation which is tough considering they only managed to pick up three points out the possible thirty nine.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20, QPR (a); Apr 27, Norwich (h); May 4, Sunderland (a); May 12, Tottenham (h); and May 19 Southampton (a).
Predicted finish: 15th
Aston Villa found their form at the right time with a crucial win at the Britannia Stadium that saw them move out of the bottom three. But with tough away games on the horizon at Old Trafford and home to Chelsea, Paul Lambert’s side will have to fight to the wire for their Premier League safety.
Christian Bentenke’s goal scoring form will always give Aston Villa a chance to avoid relegation. If they keep him fit and firing on all cylinders then Villa might just avoid relegation with crucial wins needed against Sunderland and Norwich.
Remaining fixtures: April 22, Manchester United (a); Apr 29 Sunderland (h); May 4 Norwich (a); May 12 Chelsea (h); and May 19 Wigan (a).
Predicted finish: 16th
Can Paolo Di Canio inspire a group of players short on confidence and belief to Premier League safety? After Sunderland’s epic win in the Tyne-Wear derby at St James’s Park, the confidence will be through the roof in the Sunderland camp and may just be enough for Di Canio to inspire the club to safety. The passion shown by Di Canio could just be enough for the Black Cats to avoid relegation.
Looking at their fixtures, Di Canio will have a tough job on his hands but the confidence of his first win has fired up the players for a relegation battle. Massive games away at Aston Villa and home to Stoke are coming up, which will be crucial games for their Premier League safety. If they can get something out of those then Di Canio may just be able to keep Sunderland up.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20, Everton (h); Apr 29, Aston Villa (a); May 4, Stoke (h); May 12, Southampton (h); May 19, Tottenham (a).
Predicted finish: 17th
If there is one team who have the experience of Premier League survival, it’s Wigan who time after time seem to avoid relegation. But unlike previous seasons, Wigan have the club’s first FA Cup final in May, which could be an unwelcome distraction for manager Roberto Martinez. The Wigan players will be on a high after reaching the FA Cup final, and I feel it could rub off negatively in their Premier League games. The fixture list doesn’t favour Wigan, but they could pull another ’great escape’again this season if they can secure wins against Swansea and Aston Villa. You wouldn’t bet against Martinez performing another miracle.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 17, Manchester City (a); Apr 20, West Ham (a); Apr 27, Tottenham (h); May 4, West Brom (a); May 7, Swansea (h); May 12, Arsenal (a), and May 19, Aston Villa (h).
Predicted finish: 18th