Premier League's relegation battle an intense affair
In England we have a phrase that unfortunately hasn’t made it’s way into the lexicon of American football yet. It’s called ‘relegation battle’ and with Manchester United basically sewing up the Premier League title this weekend, it is now the most compelling story in the Premiership.
This season’s race to avoid the drop is easily the most intense I’ve ever seen as only eight points separate 11 teams.
Looking at the current standings, the general consensus is that Newcastle, Fulham, Sunderland and Stoke are safe. However, I’m not convinced about either Northeast club. If they maintain current form, which in both their cases is two paltry wins in their last ten, they would find themselves in trouble.
With so many permutations, all eyes at this stage of the campaign naturally turn towards the bookmakers, who by hook or crook, have their fingers attached to the pulse of all the clubs involved in the white-knuckle $50 million dollar ride. An excessive number, yes, but the likely sum that teams will lose if the trapdoor opens.
Currently the odds makers are looking at Wigan, Blackpool and Wolves as the likely trio to go down. However, the situation is so fluid that West Ham, Birmingham, Blackburn and West Brom are also considered candidates.
It does appear that they think West Brom, Aston Villa, Fulham, Stoke and the two Northeast giants are safe. That old chestnut ‘too much quality to go down’ being the cliché du jour.
From my experience of following the Premiership over the last nineteen years though, quality is an over-rated virtue when you’re fighting for your lives in the top flight. The tools required are commitment, heart and belief because as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, not many clubs have the resources to bounce straight back up.
So just who is going to make the drop with only eight matches left?
Obviously, the key is to beat the teams around you and with that in mind, lets rate the survival chances, with ten being absolutely safe and one dead certain for relegation.
9th Newcastle (39pts): The Magpies have some tricky fixtures coming up - drop zone 7
10th Fulham (38pts): With Michael Jackson now standing guard outside of Craven Cottage they’ll ‘beat it’ and the drop - drop zone 9
11th Stoke (38pts): The Potters' away form has been terrible and only three games remain at the Britannia. It could get squeaky for Tony Pulis - drop zone 6
12th Sunderland (38pts): Taking a five-nil hammering isn’t the best way to prepare for the run-in. The Black Cats only play clubs around them. It’s in their hands - drop zone 6
13th West Bromwich Albion (36pts): With Roy Hodgson at the controls, he won’t panic - drop zone 8
14th Blackburn (34pts): Steve Kean is the bookies' favorite to get fired and three of his four home matches are local derbies. I think they’re in trouble - drop zone 4
15th Birmingham (34pts): Alex McLeish has made the Blues hard to beat but with visits to three of the top six, he’ll need all that Carling Cup Final momentum in his favor - drop zone 5
16th Aston Villa (34pts): With what feels like half the England team in their starting XI, how Villa are in this position is a mystery, until you look at Gerard Houllier - drop zone 7
17th Blackpool (33pts): Only one win in their last ten has the Cinderella team staring at the abyss. I don’t believe that Ian Holloway can change his tactics and that could spell the end of a Tangerine dream - drop zone 3
18th West Ham (32pts): Having been given the tag ‘too good to go down’ a few years ago and then going down, the Hammers know that they have to keep their nerve - drop zone 5
19th Wolves (32pts): Mick McCarthy has conjured wins against Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd but can he get points from Birmingham, WBA and Blackburn? - drop zone 3
20th Wigan (31pts): Only two home matches remain for the Latics which means their incredible Premier League journey is over. They’ll not be back for quite some time - drop zone 1
If you can, cast your memories back to the 2004/05 season. On the last day, West Brom pulled off the ‘great escape’ as first Southampton, Norwich, Crystal Palace were all safe at different stages of the afternoon before West Brom pulled off the miracle.
Who will it be on May 22nd? For my money Wigan, Wolves and Blackpool fall but until that final whistle goes, this race will be ‘must see’ viewing.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the Barclay's Premier League and the English national team.