With just four (five if you’re Wigan) games to go it is looking like the relegation race could be going right down to the final day of the season and as many as seven teams could be at threat from relegation. With ten points separating them and safety I’d like to think it’s more or less assumed that QPR and Reading are as good as down but in my opinion I think Norwich in 13th are still in slight danger. In this article I’m going to examine the run in and form of each of the teams in question and make my prediction for who will end up being the unlucky team being relegated.
Wigan Athletic: Current Position: 18th
Wigan are the only side left with five games to play and that is because of their remarkable FA Cup return which continued with their 2-0 victory over Millwall last week. They are now guaranteed a place in next season’s Europa League but that experience will be tainted somewhat should they be playing in the Championship. Wigan have three matches at home and two away and the only time they face a fellow relegation candidate is when they play Aston Villa on the last day of the season. Their next match is against Spurs at home which is quite a difficult one and then they face Swansea at home as well as West Brom and Arsenal. The problem with Wigan is that they could just as easily take 12 points from those games as they could take nothing. If they can remain consistent I believe they’ll be fine. However Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at West Ham would mean that they still have to pull out a couple of surprises.
Aston Villa: Current Position: 17th
Paul Lambert has been criticised for his youthful squad selections this season but I think if they stay up they could become a proper Premier League side in a couple of seasons’ time. The Villains lost out to Manchester United last night as expected, however their next two matches against strugglers Sunderland and Norwich would be crucial before Europe chasing Chelsea visit Villa Park. Villa can take heart from the fact that they only have one defeat in their last four and their last two performances prior to United’s match have been thoroughly impressive. It seems that all their players are starting to click at the right time. Charles N’Zogbia scored a sensational goal last weekend and the former Wigan player, who has been so disappointing at Villa, could be the man to make the difference.
Stoke City: Current Position: 16th
I really, really worry about Stoke. They haven’t won since February and Tony Pulis just does not seem to have a plan B. They ended up playing Michael Owen right wing against United and whatever way you look at it that is just a waste. However, a 2-0 win over QPR away from home last weekend ties them with Newcastle and Sunderland with 37 points and stay at 16th. Their games with Sunderland and Southampton with home matches against Tottenham and Norwich sandwiched in-between could all be tricky ones for the Potters.
The problem is I can only see the Norwich match as a realistically winnable match. In addition to this Stoke have only won away once all season excluding that win against QPR and that was at the start of December. That win, against West Brom lifted Stoke to 9th but sadly since the turn of the year things have gone dramatically wrong. They have tough fixtures ahead and from the look of it, they will have to toil hard to stay above water.
Sunderland: Current Position: 14th
What a difference a new manager can make eh? The Sunderland team who were hopeless against Manchester United a few weeks ago were impressive against Chelsea a fortnight ago and simply majestic against Newcastle. Paolo Di Canio has highlighted that the team have to make up the loss of goals from Steven Fletcher’s injury and his midfielders responded in stunning fashion. Before his appointment I was worrying for Sunderland but now I think they’ll be fine and that is thoroughly deserved for Di Canio. Whatever his political views he has obviously had an effect on the team and that is highly commendable. With a win against Everton over the weekend, a team they famously struggle to beat they’ll be okay. What a difference in space of a fort night.
Norwich City: Current Position: 13th
I highlighted Stoke City’s current form earlier but Norwich really aren’t doing much better and despite being 13th I think they are another side that has to be carefull until the season finale. Norwich haven’t won in six matches and have only won one out of their last sixteen games prior to Reading’s victory. Their deal to sign Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the summer (a fantastic piece of business in my opinion) may be in jeaporday should they be relegated with reports suggesting the deal can be cancelled should the Canaries go down.
The hardest part for Norwich is that they know they’ll have to be safe come the last day of the season with their final match away at Manchester City. Before that they have two home games with their only away match coming against Stoke who haven’t won in their last four home matches. Despite their recent down turn in form I think that Norwich will be safe, but only just.
Newcastle United: Current Position: 16th
A highly unlikely candidate for relegation Newcastle haven’t had the best of weeks. After losing the derby at home for the first time in 13 years there was trouble in the city centre following the match. Then came the news that Ryan Taylor could miss all of the 2013/14 season following cruciate knee ligament damage. A glance at the fixture list tells Newcastle fans that despite being six points clear of Wigan on 37 their job is far from done. Their crucial trip to Hawthorns ended as a 1-1 stalemate last weekend which pushed them from 13th to 16th in a single gameweek. This is followed up by a visit from Liverpool this coming week. The Magpies also have to visit Upton Park and they end the season at home to Arsenal. Four tricky games and their match at Loftus Road may not prove easy either so there can be no let off from Newcastle. They are out of the Europa League so can now focus their attentions fully on the league and have to get back to winning ways this weekend. Newcastle aren’t too big to go down, they proved that a few years ago but perhaps that experience will keep those involved with the club on their toes. Either way I’d still be surprised to see them relegated.
Ultimately only team can join QPR and Reading in the Championship and ultimately I believe it will be down to Stoke and Newcastle for the final spot. I think it will be close and I think there is every chance Norwich could go down.