What Colour`s Your Parachute?
As we move into the final month of the season there is still much to be decided.
It`s been a very tight, competitive season to this point and looks to remain so until the final weekend. With the exception of the "Big Four" once again (sadly) holding the top four spots, and Villa being in solid possession of a Europa League spot, everything else is up for grabs. For Fulham fans, the focus is on the battle for the final Europa League spots (assuming there will be one additional spot for 7th, along with the official spot for 6th) with Everton, West Ham, Man City and Spurs. For many other fans, however, the focus is not on European aspirations, but on survival, itself.
Portsmouth and Bolton both sit on 38 points; Blackburn on 37. With four matches remaining, I believe all three are safe. It`s certainly not guaranteed, but I just can`t see them losing all their remaining fixtures. That leaves five clubs battling for the two remaining "safety" positions: Sunderland, Hull City, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom.
Sunderland - Home matches against Everton and Chelsea will be difficult, and though away matches are against Bolton and Pompey, I`ve seen nothing of late that indicates Sunderland can win on the road. One win may be enough to preserve their status.
Hull City - If relegated, Phil Brown will go down in infamy. What a collapse! Away to Aston Villa this round and home to Man United to close the season surely represent bookend losses, so their fate will likely be determined at home to Stoke City and away to Bolton. Like Sunderland, one win might just be enough. However, I have no reason to think that they can beat anyone right now (besides Fulham, of course).
Newcastle - A team in complete disarray. Instability at manager, injuries in attack, an overwhelmed defense and the worst collective midfield in the league has derailed the Magpies season. Throw in the most delusional fans in the league and it`s quite a delightful little soap opera on Tyneside. At present they have a favorable goal differential in comparison to the teams around them in the table, but it will likely disappear at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. The obvious target game is against fellow relegation strugglers Middlesbrough. Failure to take full points will surely end any hope of safety, as they face Fulham at St. James` Park (0-0 anyone?) and Aston Villa at Villa Park to end the season. A win against 'Boro and the continued slide of Hull City could see them to safety, but we`ll have to see.
Middlesbrough - Were it not for a shock win versus Liverpool and the requisite capitulation by Hull City, their fate would already have been determined. 'Boro face Man United and Aston Villa at the Riverside and, Newcastle and West Ham away. There`s a chance that they will not earn another point this season.
West Brom - Stuck to the bottom of the table all season. They seemed destined for relegation. The 3-0 thumping of Sunderland this past weekend gave the Baggies a lifeline, but as they likely require three wins from the final four matches, there`s really very little hope.
Aston Villa will have the biggest say in the relegation battle as they play Hull City, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. While Villa is winless in the league since February, something tells me that they`re about to snap out of it, just in time to ruin some poor team`s summer!
Your thoughts on who will be relegated???