Its fair to say the 2010/2011 Barclays Premier League season has been proven to be a great advert for English football. With the smaller teams upsetting the big boys of the Premier League, this season has no doubt been unpredictable.
Manchester United look well on their way to claim a record 19th league title but at the other end of the table it is still all to play for. Normally at this stage of the season we would be able to name at least one/two teams who will for sure be relegated.
But its still so tight in the relegation scrap and we still don’t know who will fall through the Premier League trap door.
As much as the title chase may be intriguing, so is the battle to avoid relegation. Below is my prediction as to how the bottom half of the table will look at the end of the season and my thoughts on those who are involved in the relegation scrap.
|Position||Games played||Points||Goal Difference|
West Ham United
Considering the players they have got in their squad, West Ham should not be where they are. With the likes of Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Carlton Cole, Mark Noble and Frederic Piquionne, The Hammers should at least be in mid-table.
Once Thomas Hitzslsperger came back into the first-team fold after his long lay-off, West Ham’s form all of a sudden picked up and they looked as if they were recovering from their poor start to the season.
But since losing 4-2 at home to Manchester United, West Ham have been in dreadful form and I do not fancy their chances of getting anything from Manchester City. However the remaining three games after the City game are do or die.
Blackburn at home,Wigan away and Sunderland at home are games where West Ham should be looking to pick up points. Seven points from the last three fixtures should be the target and it could be just about enough.
The game against Blackburn is a must-win for Avram Grant’s side and The Hammers will see this game as an opportunity to grab three crucial points. Blackburn themselves are in free-fall and I cannot see where Rovers’ next win will come from.
Can West Ham stay up? On current from no but if they do pick up at least seven points from the last three games then they can just about survive.
What is it about Wolves this season? They have beaten Manchester United and Chelsea at home and yet they have been unable to beat teams in and around them.
Had Mick McCarthy’s men beaten sides around them, Wolves would not find themselves in the relegation zone.
It was a case of two more dropped points for Wolves as Fulham equalised late on to earn a 1-1 draw. There have been instances where the Molineux side have dropped points and they cannot afford to drop more points from now till the end of the season.
Losing Kevin Doyle was a massive blow and the remaining four games could not be any bigger for Wolves.
Two Midlands derbies coming up against Birmingham and West Brom and Wolves need to be picking up points from those games.
Also the game against Blackburn on the final day of the season could prove to be a decider to see which of the two sides will be relegated.
Wolves have got winnable games coming up but if they are to stand a chance of surviving then they need to win at least two out of the remaining four games after Tuesday’s game against Stoke City.
Similar to Wolves,Wiganare a Jekyll and Hyde team. Sometimes they can brilliant and sometimes they can be shocking.
Wigan’s latest defeat came on Saturday as they lost 4-2 away at Sunderland. Sunderland are in my view safe after that win.
Despite taking the lead through Mohammed Diame’s sizzler, the Latics failed to hang on and that result saw Wigan move back into the relegation zone.
If Wiganwere to get relegated, there will be clubs who will want to prize Charles N’Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega away from the DW. Survival is key forWiganif they want to keep hold of their big players.
Looking at Wigan’s last four games, the stand-out fixture is on May 15 as they are home to fellow relegation strugglers West Ham. Providing results go their way and Wigan beat West Ham, the Latics could send The Hammers down.
But Wigan themselves need to pick up points and they have got some tough games left. Home against Everton is no home gimme and Everton themselves are in fine form.
Aston Villa’s recent form has been encouraging and you are always in for a tough game at Stoke.
Ian Holloway’s Blackpool have no doubt been a breath of fresh air to this years Premier League and many neutrals would love to see the Seasiders stay up.
Similarly to Hull and Burnley, Blackpool had a fantastic first half to the season. But the second half has seen Blackpool in freefall and they are only above the bottom three on goal difference.
The home games against Stoke and Bolton are must-win in my opinion as I cannot see them getting anything at Spurs and runaway leaders Manchester United. Blackpoolwill not want to be going to Old Trafford on the final day of the season knowing they need to get a result.
But if Blackpool do beat Stoke and Bolton, then they definitely stand a chance of surviving. The Tangerines have relied heavily on Charlie Adam this year and without him Blackpool would be relegated by now. You can say the same about West Ham and Scott Parker.
No one gave the Bloomfield Road outfit a prayer at the beginning of the season but Blackpool are still in contention to do the unthinkable.
Blackburn have been struggling for form in 2011 and I wonder whether that coincides with sacking of Sam Allardyce. His style of football might not be great to watch but had Sam been left in charge, I reckon Rovers would not be where they are right now.
If Blackburn do get relegated, then I feel the Indian owners do need to look at themselves and they may regret getting rid of Allardyce.
With the quality of players at the club, Blackburn should not be in relegation trouble. Their form however in the second half of the season has been shocking and the players only have themselves to blame for that.
Blackburn’s remaining away fixtures could not be any bigger as they face West Ham and Wolves. Fail to get anything from those games and Blackburn could be saying bye bye to the Premiership.
The game at Upton Park on May 7 will be make or break for Blackburn and West Ham. Whoever wins that game may be the team who avoids the drop. But at the minute I do fear for Blackburn as I cannot see where their next win will come from.
2011 Carling Cup winners Birmingham City only need one more win in my view to guarantee themselves Premier League football next season.
The Blues got a crucial home win against Sunderland before they suffered losses against Chelsea and Liverpool. It was always going to be a tall order for Alex McLeish’s side to get results at Stamford Bridge and Anfield but crucially Birmingham still find themselves four points above the relegation zone.
Birmingham have the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three on Sunday as they take on Wolves in a Midlands derby. If they beat Wolves, Birmingham will go past the forty point mark and surely that will seal there survival.
Blues do have two winnable home games against Wolves and Fulham and I can see Birmingham getting points out of both of them.
The likes of West Ham, Wolves and Wigan would like to be in Birmingham’s position knowing they only need a couple of points to confirm their Premier League status.
If Birmingham can get their survival confirmed by the time they travel to Spurs on the final day of the season, then it will have been another successful season for the St. Andrews outfit. And to put the icing on the cake they will be playing Europa League football next season.
If there is one team promoted sides can learn from in trying to establish yourself as a Premier League club then it is Stoke City.
Tony Pulis has done a terrific job at the Britannia and like Birmingham, Stoke only need one more win to guarantee their survival.
There are fans who still feel Stoke are a long ball team. With the height and threat of Kenwyne Jones you will see Stoke pumping long balls to the frontman.
But with Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennant and Jon Walters on board, Stoke do have flair players in their squad. They are playing some good football and they simply tore Bolton apart in the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
I firmly believe Stoke will not be dragged into the relegation battle even though they are 14th in the league. They have winnable fixtures coming up and they should end up safe in mid-table.
Had Bobby Zamora not suffered a long lay off as well as Moussa Dembele, Fulham would probably be in the top half of the table.
Mark Hughes has done a decent job at Fulham and I can see them staying up without any problems. Win against Bolton on Wednesday and Fulham will get past the forty point mark.
And if Hughes is backed in the summer, Fulham could be in for a decent 2011/2012 season and they may well be chasing a Europa League spot.
West Bromwich Albion have vastly improved under Roy Hodgson and have only suffered one defeat in their last eight games.
I was one of those who thought Roberto di Matteo should not have been relieved of his duties. But to be fair to Jeremy Peace he could not have chosen a better successor to di Matteo and since Hodgson has been in charge,West Brom have become more difficult to beat.
The Baggies are six points clear of the relegation zone and two/three more points will see Albion safe.
One team who are now safe are Aston Villa. About a month ago, Villa were down in the dumps and in relegation trouble but results have picked up in recent times.
Ashley Young seems to be re-discovering his best form, Stewart Downing appears to be a rejuvenated player and Darren Bent is scoring the goals.
Villa have had barren spells this season but despite this they can still finish in the top half of the table.
I wish Gerard Houllier a speedy recovery and hopefully he will be back in management asap. If the Frenchman is given the money in the summer and he spends it well, then Aston Villa could be in contention for a Europa League spot next season.
Sunderland are also safe after a much needed win against Wigan. The Black Cats were in total freefall prior to the game against the Latics and selling Darren Bent was a turning point in Sunderland’s season.
But beating Wigan was just what Steve Bruce and his side needed. Injuries have played a part in Sunderland’s recent rotten form and injuries to strikers have not helped either.
It promises to be an intriguing end to the Premier League relegation battle and it could go down to the final game of the season to decide who will be relegated.