The stakes at the foot of the Premier League have never been so high and now we’re into the last few games of the season, it’s clear we are set for a very tense finish.
Currently, Reading (23 points), QPR (23) and Aston Villa (30) occupy the bottom three places. Wigan are fourth from bottom (30), based on goal difference, while Sunderland have 31 points.
Meanwhile, Newcastle (33), Norwich (34), Stoke (34) and Southampton (34) are still far from safe.
But which three teams will be playing their football in the Championship next season?
With just eight games remaining, I’m struggling to see how QPR and Reading will beat the drop. Both teams are now too far off the pack to survive, given their own inconsistency throughout the campaign, and the improved form of their closest rivals.
Realistically both teams would need to win at least six of their final fixtures in order to stay up and based on each clubs win record this season (QPR four, Reading five) this doesn’t appear a very likely scenario.
For me, a distinct lack of desire at QPR has been the major contributor to poor form this season, a problem even Harry Redknapp has been unable to solve. Whilst Reading have never really looked like a Premier League side.
While both these clubs look set for the drop, the third relegation spot is still very much up for grabs. With this in mind, none of the teams sitting in the bottom half of the table are completely safe. This simply displays how exciting the Premier League has been all season. With just six points between 11th place West Ham and 18th place Villa, we are set for an enthralling finale.
I feel Villa will just have enough to stay up. Lambert’s side have been very inconsistent this season. Some days they have proved unplayable, yet on others they have failed to turn up. Christian Benteke is the key for the Midlands side. With 14 goals this season, it seems the clubs survival lies pretty much in his hands (or feet to be more precise.) Even though the squad’s inexperience will leave them facing a nervous final month, they should just about have what it takes.
In addition, Roberto Martinez’s Wigan have a fondness for late-season survival. The Latics have vast experience in this situation and in my opinion they will avoid the drop for yet another year.
Southampton look to have too much behind them now. Recent wins over Liverpool and Chelsea will have filled the Saints with confidence. I expect the side to continue this good run of form until the end of the current season.
Furthermore, Newcastle, West Ham and Stoke all have far too much quality to be relegated in my opinion. For these clubs, relegation would be a real insult this season, especially considering the calibre of players at their manager’s disposal. These sides all have a 3 point or greater buffer from the relegation zone, it would take a significant change in form for demotion to occur.
For me, Sunderland are the team in most trouble. Therefore, the Black Cats are my favourites to finish in the final relegation position. In my opinion the recent appointment of Paulo Di Canio has come far too late, although I would like to be proven wrong. The Absence of Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher will hit Sunderland very hard, without the duo they may well struggle throughout their remaining fixtures.
Who do you think will go down this season? Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions.