Premier League

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Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30890507 Not so much joy Not+so+much+joy Premier League

With a few weeks remaining in the Barclays Premier League race this season, all the action is at the bottom of the heap. With Manchester City completing a historic collapse, seemingly blowing their chance to secure the title, the focus now shifts to the teams fighting just to stay in the league next season.

 

Americans may find the system — known as promotion and relegation — a bit peculiar. It’s unheard of in any American sport, but the simplest way to describe it is that losing teams pay big penalties; if you finish at the bottom of the final standings, you’re demoted a division, losing a packet of TV money and licensing sales. Winners of the second division get an opportunity at the big league.

 

Imagine for a minute if Kentucky were allowed to join the NBA after winning the NCAA Final Four, while the hapless Charlotte Bobcats fell into the abyss. American pro sports keep their league races alive with playoff positioning. In the Barclays Premier League, staying in the circuit is the same as making the top eight in the NBA or NHL.

 

The traditional magic number for safety in the Premier League is 40 — no club has ever been sent down after accumulating forty points. Currently, seven teams sit below that threshold, but only six of them realistically are fighting for survival.

 

Let’s run through each and give you their chances for survival:

Laurence Griffiths - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2011/07/23/Steve-Kean_ED_20110723095842623_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2011/07/23/Steve-Kean_ED_20110723095842623_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886956 Wigan Athletic Wigan+Athletic Premier League

Wigan are next from last, and are in the mix to stay up. With 28 points, what’s killing them are their goal differential (-27), and brutal run-in. The Latics play United, Arsenal and Newcastle and will then close out the final two weeks against fellow stragglers, Blackburn and Wolverhampton. Those two games will probably decide if they survive.

 

Wigan have some admirers, and there’s no question that they are at least trying to play attacking soccer. But they lack the talent to pull off manager Roberto Martinez’ passing game and several key guys, notably Hugo Rodallega, have been quiet. They showed heart against Chelsea, but they need skill. Only time will tell Wigan’s future.

Tom Hevezi - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G2_20120410231713618_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G2_20120410231713618_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886955 Aston Villa Aston+Villa Premier League

This team’s run-in is overshadowed by Stiliyan Petrov’s health crisis after the captain was diagnosed with leukemia. Villa should be safe – they probably only need five points in their remaining six games — but this season has been maddening for longtime fans.

 

Alex McLeish has put out an extraordinarily dismal brand of soccer, and Villa doesn’t seem to have many answers for quality teams. Finances have played a role but the reality is that this team is filled with many retreads and ‘has-beens.’

 

It’s no wonder that Villa needs an overhaul. The real question is if it will be able to afford one. Staying up may not actually solve their problems.

Jon Super - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G6_20120410231713620_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G6_20120410231713620_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886951 Blackburn Rovers Blackburn+Rovers+ Premier League

Wow, where to begin? This is the feel-bad story of the year. Rovers are saddled with incompetent ownership, and a manager who is so loathed that he requires around the clock protection.

 

You can sympathize with Steve Kean’s plight. Nonetheless, fans of the club are adamant that their team is simply being ripped apart under his tenure and Venky’s ownership. They’re right — Blackburn are dreadful.

 

Case in point, Rovers lost Tuesday to struggling Liverpool, 3-2, after the Reds had their keeper sent off and Yakubu botched the ensuing penalty kick. It’s that kind of team. They’re going to be playing in the Championship next season.

Nick Potts - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G3_20120410231713619_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G3_20120410231713619_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886954 Queens Park Rangers Queens+Park+Rangers+ Premier League

It’s been a weird year for the East London side. They have bags of cash, lots of ambition and not much time to get the job done. Mark Hughes came in to replace the sacked Neil Warnock and bought as much talent as he could. So far, it hasn’t fully gelled.

 

QPR have won massive games — over Arsenal and Liverpool — but then followed up those wins up by getting sunk by Sunderland and Manchester United. They clearly have some talent, but they have a very stiff run-in with City, Spurs and Chelsea. If Adel Taarabt and Bobby Zamora can click, this team can win games.

 

QPR have to finish their games with all their men on the field; they’ve been shown seven reds this season, and have shown a knack for getting guys sent off at the wrong time. Truly, on the bubble.

Sang Tan - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G4_20120410231714623_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G4_20120410231714623_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886952 Bolton Wanderers Bolton+Wanderers+ Premier League

Bolton’s in deep, deep trouble. The loss of Stuart Holden this season has hit them harder than many would have thought. Back to back whippings from Fulham and Newcastle, reveal a team that is losing shape and heart at the worst possible time.

 

Their run-in includes only one Big Six team — Spurs — but no gimmes in the likes of Villa, Stoke, WBA and Swansea. They have some talent, but don’t look like the kind of cohesive unit that can hold off a challenge. They need help, and fast!

David Jones - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G1_20120410231713621_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G1_20120410231713621_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 8 Premier League 2011-2012: Relegation battle 30886953 Bolton Bolton Premier League

Bolton’s in deep, deep trouble. The loss of Stuart Holden this season has hit them harder than many would have thought. Back to back whippings from Fulham and Newcastle, reveal a team that is losing shape and heart at the worst possible time.

 

Their run-in includes only one Big Six team — Spurs — but no gimmes in the likes of Villa, Stoke, WBA and Swansea. They have some talent, but don’t look like the kind of cohesive unit that can hold off a challenge. They need help, and fast!

Scott Heppell - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G5_20120410231714622_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2012/04/10/041012-SOCCER-epl-relegation-teams-EN-G5_20120410231714622_107_80.JPG
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