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.
Valued at £25m, Aston Villa and West Ham could have got Benjamin Pavard in 2016
The Stuttgart defender is wanted by top Premier League sides.
This week has seen Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard linked with a move to the Premier League. The 21-year-old is reportedly a target for both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Bild reported this week that the Bundesliga side will not be considering any offers below €30 million (£26.5million).
It is a fantastic rise up the ranks from the Frenchman. After coming through the youth set-up in France with Lille he headed to Germany in 2016. The youngster helped Stuttgart win promotion back to the Bundesliga where he has now been showcasing his best form. Such form saw Pavard even earn his first French international call-up.
For West Ham and Aston Villa, this progression signals a missed opportunity. Back in December 2015 it was reported by Goal that both West Ham and Aston Villa had made an approach to sign Pavard. The then 19-year-old right-back had caught the eye with Lille. Villa were battling relegation at the time and looked to strengthen their leaky defence. West Ham were looking to add fresh faces to their backline.
Neither side managed to get Pavard. In the end he joined Stuttgart for a fee reported to be in the region of €5 million (£4.5 million) by Le Monde.
Now that fee looks like an absolute bargain for a player who looks destined to be heading to the World Cup with France. Pavard would have been a shrewd addition by either Aston Villa or West Ham – but both sides missed out.
Now it looks as though a fee nearer to £30 million will have to be shelled out if one of the Premier League elite want to get their hands on the 21-year-old.
If only Aston Villa or West Ham had managed to get their man back in 2016.
James Bree must take his opportunity at Aston Villa
The full-back may get a first-team chance now that Neil Taylor joined Aston Villa’s injury list.
Aston Villa take on Bolton Wanderers this weekend and will be wanting to get back to winning ways following their shock defeat at the hands of QPR in midweek. Villa will have to do so however with something of a defensive crisis, in particular at full-back.
Neil Taylor suffered a groin injury in the QPR defeat. He joins fellow full-backs Alan Hutton and Axel Tuanzebe on the treatment table, the pair suffering with hamstring strains.
Aston Villa could of course revert to a three at the back formation. Or this could be the perfect opportunity for James Bree to show what he is capable of.
Villa signed the young defender from Barnsley last January for a fee reported by the Birmingham Mail to be in the region of £3 million. It looked a sharp piece of business for a young defender with bags of potential.
However, his career at Villa Park has so far been mostly bit-part. Bree played just seven times last season after his move and this term has started just once in the Championship.
He was on the bench for the recent QPR game but with so many Villa players missing, surely now is the perfect time to draft him in.
Bree is admittedly more comfortable as a right-back, but he is easily the closest fit and most obvious solution to the left-back shortage.
The 20-year-old is clearly a big talent. However, he has spent too long watching from the bench since the Villa move.
Bree should certainly be given the chance to play at full-back this weekend by Steve Bruce. If Bree gets that chance the youngster needs to make sure he grabs the bull by both horns and reminds Villa just why they shelled out on his precocious talent.
The injuries are undoubtedly a blow, but Bree getting some game time and proving himself to Steve Bruce? That could be the silver lining in this cloudy news.
Aston Villa fans react to Mile Jedinak performance v QPR
The Australian struggled to cope with playing two games in quick succession.
Aston Villa’s automatic promotion hopes took a big hit yesterday, when they found themselves picked apart by QPR at Villa Park.
The London side won 3-1, with goals from Ryan Manning, Jake Bidwell and Luke Freeman doing the damage. Aston Villa struggled throughout the game and one player who came in for a lot of the stick was midfielder Mile Jedinak.
Well, it was not so much him, but the way he was used by manager Steve Bruce. Many fans at Villa Park were surprised to see the Australian in the starting line-up. He had just played 90 minutes in the 4-1 with against Wolves and put in an excellent performance.
Aston Villa fans however felt he should have been given a subsequent rest.
At 33-years-old Jedinak’s fitness is not what it once was and Villa fans would have preferred to see Icelandic international Birkir Bjarnason line up instead.
Jedinak was clearly in the side to try and alleviate the aerial threat posed by QPR but he struggled to do so in the game. Throughout the game Jedinak lost plenty of aerial battles and his performance was not well received by Aston Villa fans.
He even slipped into the Aston Villa defence during the game, which did not see him improve his display.
Jedinak is a top player but, at 33, asking him to play twice in the space of a few days seemed to be a mistake from Bruce.
With Cardiff and Wolves also playing and winning last night, it will hopefully not prove a costly mistake from the Aston Villa boss.
Here is what the Aston Villa fans had to think about the decision to play Jedinak…
Said it before and will say it again, Jedinak just doesn’t work in this kind of game…useless at home unless it’s in a derby where you have to be gritty…should have made a couple of changes from Saturday #avfc
— Richard Franks (@richardpfranks) March 13, 2018
Bjarnason over Jedinak on Saturday thank youuuuu
— Jake (@NooneAVFC) March 13, 2018
He should have made changes. Jedinak and Hourihane looked knackered. #AVFC
— Steve (@steve81_steve) March 13, 2018
BB over Jedinak but I don’t rate Lansbury at all
— James Lloyd (@LloydyAVFC) March 13, 2018
Only reason Bruce had stuck with Jedinak was because he could win the long balls which he hardly did.
Should had gone with Bjarnasson or even Lansbury. Villa just never turned up what so ever! #AVFC
— Brad Worledge (@bradworledge_) March 13, 2018
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but yeah, we should have made changes. Jedinak in particular was a weird one. For automatic now we have to win every game. Nothing else will be enough. Feel so beaten tonight, it’s the hope that kills you – but this team could do it still. #avfc
— Alex Berwick (@Alex_Berwick) March 13, 2018
Think it’s telling that after Saturday’s draining encounter, Wolves made four changes tonight. Bruce couldn’t expect a performance from the same 11 and should have made changes. At the very least, Birkir should have been in for Jedinak. #AVFC
— Jupiter Janus (@BraddersOak) March 13, 2018
A massive problem we had tonight was Jedinak was so concerned with Smith in the air he left massive space in the midfield. #avfc
— Adam Bevan (@Adam_Bevan_Avfc) March 13, 2018
Yeah the Taylor one was forced tbf but still bizarre what happened! Will be same excuse if we lose after this fucking pointless international break too! Not sure how jedinak played 90mins i love the bloke but his role is irrelevant once we go 1 goal down never mind 2
— Jordan Spencer (@JordAvfc) March 13, 2018
Bruce got that completely wrong tonight. We could all see that he should’ve changed it up tonight, Jedinak was knackered on Saturday so don’t know why he started. Changes should have been made after half an hour, not waiting until the bloody 80th minute to bring Bjarnason on.
— Aston Villa Daily (@AVFC_Daily) March 13, 2018
One of those nights unfortunately. Just didn’t click in the final third and got caught out twice on the counter. Think we needed a bit of rotation, the likes of Jedinak looked very leggy after 15 minutes. Bruce admitted he was wrong to keep the same team and I have to agree. ??
— G_AVFC (@AVFC_G) March 14, 2018
I wouldn’t of played jedinak night, for all the slack o gave him for starting Saturday he done a job then, but asking an 89 year old to play CDM twice in 72 hours is madness #avfc
— Matthew Sabin (@MattBrumSabin9) March 14, 2018
Are Manchester United finding form at the perfect time?
Derby defeat to Cheltenham highlights wider issues for Swindon Town
Sevilla triumph will have Everton fans regretting Steven N’Zonzi failure
Brendan Rodgers should finally get Kyriakos Papadopoulos this summer
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Tottenham Hotspur2 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool2 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford3 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
Chelsea4 weeks ago
Chelsea 4-0 Hull City – Willian plays himself into Champions League contention
Liverpool2 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
English Premier League2 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp