Well we are still hanging on but it is now only by our fingertips. Results last Saturday went against us, despite a good performance at Villa Park we could only manage a draw, Blackpool gained an unexpected point at Spurs and Wolves strolled past a West Brom team who clearly had their minds elsewhere.
The bottom of the table does not provide good reading going into the last two games of the season.
P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Blackburn Rovers 36 10 9 17 42 56 -14 39
16 Birmingham City 36 8 15 13 36 54 -18 39
17 Wolves 36 10 7 19 41 62 -21 37
18 Blackpool 36 9 9 18 49 71 -22 36
19 Wigan Athletic 36 7 15 14 36 59 -23 36
20 West Ham United 36 7 12 17 41 64 -23 33
Looking at the remaining games, I think goal difference could decide our fate.
Here’s my personal analysis of the remaining fixtures for the six teams involved.
Blackburn play Manchester United at home on Saturday and they probably need one more point to stay up, given their superior goal difference. United on the other hand require one point for the Premier League title. My feeling is that a draw will suit both teams nicely and if the scores are level in the second half, I can’t see either team trying to push on and get three points. A draw is my expected result.
Blackburn’s final game is against Wolves away and assuming Blackburn have secured a point against Man United, Wolves will be favourites to win this game as they desperately need to win and Rovers will be just about be safe. A Wolves win allied with a least a point in their game at Sunderland will take Wolves to 41 points and safety.
Birmingham play Fulham at home on Saturday and with Fulham having won only two away from home all season League, a Fulham win is unlikely. Birmingham will be desperate to win and secure safety before their final game away at Spurs, but given Fulham’s ability to counter attack and their record as draw specialists, I’m going for a draw. This will take the Blues to forty points.
Birmingham at Spurs is a tricky one to predict. Spurs have been outstanding in the first half of the season but since their Champions League exit their season has tailed off and they have now missed out on a top four slot. However, they still have the players to outshine Birmingham and I’m backing ‘Arry’s Boys to sign off with a win. If this is the case, Birmingham will sign off with forty points and goal difference will decide their fate.
Blackpool face Bolton on Saturday in a crucial local derby, I’m hoping that the Wanderers players show some pride and don’t just roll over against their Lancashire neighbours. I’m predicting a hard-fought draw with neither team gaining the upper hand.
Blackpool’s next game is at Old Trafford against a United team who are expected to have already won the League. The general feeling is that United will field their second string team as they have the Champions League final against Barcelona imminent. Another draw will not be a problem for United, but it will enough to relegate Blackpool.
Wigan have their biggest game of the season on Sunday (4pm KO) against West Ham. A draw or a win for Wigan will relegate West Ham. But realistically latics must win this game and probably the next against Stoke if they are to guarantee survival.
Many people are calling for striker Conor Salmon to start the game against West Ham, and Roberto to adopt a 4-4-2 formation and go all out to attack. At this stage in the season I think it is unlikely that the manager will change his approach. Wigan will adopt their patient passing game and hope that Charles N’Zogbia can unlock the Hammers defence.
My heart says a Wigan win and West Ham to be relegated. The pressure will then go onto the final game at Stoke City.
Stoke are facing Manchester City in the FA Cup Final on Saturday and I expect this game to be closer than many people expect. Stoke are physical and aggressive competitors, but they have now managed to combine this with some skill and creativity. I think they will pose difficult opponents for Man City and they could just edge it over the ninety minutes or possibly during extra time and penalties.
When Wigan face Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday 22 May they will either be up against the FA Cup winners or the disappointed runners-up. How this will affect their performance on the day is hard to predict. Some will say that as winners they will not really care about the Wigan game, but others predict that they will want to sign off the season victorious and celebrate with their fans.
If Stoke lose the cup final the mood will be more downbeat, but manager Tony Pulis will not want to finish the season on a defeat. Either way latics are in for an extremely difficult final fixture. I’m backing Wigan to get at least a point and go to forty points, it could then be that goal difference will decide whether we remain in the Premier League or start next season in the Championship.
Predicted Final Table
20 West Ham