As the lucky few at the top of the Premier League table ponder title glory and European qualification, so the majority of the league has relegation as a more realistic, if unwanted, possibility. In this feature we look at the likely candidates and tell you now the teams that will be relegated from the Premier League come May 2011.
At the start of the season there was one man in the world, just one out of six billion or so, who thought that Blackpool would survive the rigour of a Premier League examination and last to a second (or maybe a third) season. That the man in question was crazy Ian Holloway made his belief seem all the more misplaced. Ian «rent-a-quote» Holloway, good for a laugh, did a decent job and got lucky last season… but Premier League survival? No way.
However, in the most unpredictable and downright insane Premier League season for years we have Blackpool flying high in 10th place with games in hand that could move them 6th. Even more amazing is the fact that they have played just eight of their 21 games at home due to the cold winter and their antiquated ground facilities. Is this the most astonishing thing about the season? Probably. But what about Newcastle sitting in 9th, Chelsea in 4th, Bolton passing their way towards a Europa League place, Everton and Liverpool both in the bottom half and last but not least, Aston Villa lying 17th, clear of the relegation zone only by virtue of goal difference?
Oh yes, this has been a funny old year for the funny old game. The relegation battle has been the same, tight, unpredictable and impossible to call. As it stands the relegation places are occupied by Wigan in 18th, then Wolves and West Ham propping up the league. However, with just 10 points separating the Hammers in last, and Bolton, who are 7th, anything could yet happen.
Okay, let’s look at the teams in trouble…
Everpool – I’ll group these two average Mersey sides together and file them under «safe». Everton have the edge in terms of personnel and a more stable set-up off the pitch but even Liverpool have too much to be in trouble. Don’t waste your money betting on either of these to be relegated from the Premier League in 2011.
Blackpool – May occupy a place in the top half, may have games in hand, may have HOME games in hand, but not safe just yet. As injuries and fixtures stack up the Tangerines could get sucked into relegation danger. They still have to play Manchester United and Spurs twice – no points from those four would put a different complexion on matters.
Blackburn – Another struggling North West club that has points on the board but may struggle. The manager doesn’t convince but they will probably spend a few quid in the window to secure safety.
West Brom – The Baggies started the season in scintillating form. Six games in September and October saw them go unbeaten, drawing with Spurs and Manchester United and beating Arsenal. They were scoring goals for fun and passing the ball like a footballing lovechild of Arsenal and Brazil. Since November, however, they have lost nine out of 13 league matches. Their next three home games are against Wigan, West Ham and Wolves and if they get the same result they had against Blackpool – a win – in their last home game, they will be fine. Their home form is strong so we say the Baggies WON’T be relegated this season.
Fulham – Hughes is too good a manager and too determined for Fulham to go down. With Andy Johnson back to fitness and scoring they will have enough quality, with Dempsey, Hangeland and the returning Bobby Zamora, to turn their spate of draws into enough relegation-avoiding wins.
Birmingham City – One of the surprise teams of last season when they ground out 1-0 victories like the Arsenal of old, Birmingham have struggled this season. They have drawn too many games like Fulham but, also like Fulham, their goal difference gives them an extra point over their relegation rivals and this, as well as their solid defence, will see them safe.
Aston Villa – Signing Darren Bent for £18m shows their intentions. Will probably pick up another player or two in the window and with the experienced Houllier at the realm they’ll be fine.
Wigan – Sorry pie-eaters, Wigan ARE going to be relegated from the Premier League. They have the least effective attack in the league, for all Martinez’ passing ideals, and are leaky at the back. The squad has lost key players in recent seasons and not replaced them and they do not have the spine, grit or heart for the fight. Moreover, they have all the big teams left to play as well as tough away fixtures at Sunderland, West Brom and Stoke. The fixtures say bye bye Wigan.
Wolves – The only one of the three Ws at the foot of the table with any hope of avoiding relegation from the Premier League. They have a great team ethic and spirit and have been very unlucky in many games thus far. With a bit of luck and key players, such as striker Doyle, coming back to fitness they have got a decent chance.
West Ham – Doomed, doomed, doomed. We’ve said it for a while and whilst it’s hardly the call of the century we’ve stuck to our guns despite their mini-revival. They’re led by a man with the charisma of an ironing board and have just one player who seems up for the battle, in Scott Parker. Piquionne recently missing a game to recover in France from tooth ache just about sums up the fight in the squad. Like Wigan they have lost important players over the last two seasons, for example Dean Ashton, James Collins and Lee Bowyer and not replaced them and also like Wigan, the fixtures do not look kind. West Ham, meet The Championship, TC, meet West Ham.
So who will be relegated from the Premier League?
Ok, yes, that’s just two teams, West Ham and Wigan, that we’ve said will definitely be relegated. The last place will boil right down to the wire and I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or even four teams all in the mix come the last weekend of the season. Wolves, Blackpool, Blackburn and West Brom look the most vulnerable but in this mad year perhaps Liverpool or one of the other «big» clubs may give us a shock. We’re going to be cheeky and leave the third team till later in the season so for now, the teams that will be relegated from the Premier League are West Ham and Wigan.
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