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20. Wolves: 24 Points
Winless in 18 of their last 20 games—including a humiliating three-game stretch against Fulham, Blackburn, and Manchester United in which they lost by a combined score of 12-0—bottom of the table Wolverhampton Wanderers are almost guaranteed the drop at season’s end.
The firing of manager Mick McCarthy after a 5-1 shellacking at the hands of West Brom has not improved the club’s fortunes; in fact, Terry Connor’s side is an abysmal 0-1-5 after McCarthy’s mid-February sacking.
Wolves face even more bad news, with the recent surgeries of Jamie O’Hara and Jody Craddock earning them even more time on the sidelines.
Their remaining schedule does them no favors, with games against Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton and Stoke still to play. With the Gunners, City and Everton all vying for prime finishing position, don’t expect them to send in undermanned sides when points must be taken from Wolves.
19. Wigan: 30 Points
It’s a shame that Roberto Martinez, who is by all accounts a decent up-and-coming manager, will see his team relegated this year, but I just can’t see Wigan winning enough in their next seven to stay up.
Their next five league fixtures practically nail a Premier League eviction note to their door. In consecutive games, Wigan will face Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Fulham, and Newcastle, teams that all will aim to bury the Lactics for much-needed points.
Winners of only six games this season, Wigan have put in gritty performances against good teams, but most of the time they’ve shared the points instead of taking all three.
Don’t let recent wins over Liverpool and Stoke fool you, the Lactics will have to put in an outstanding effort over the home stretch to avoid the drop zone. Against determined opposition going forward, Martinez will learn to bear the Championship next year.
18. QPR: 31 Points
For the third and final relegation spot, I’m penciling in Queens Park Rangers to return from whence they came. Despite big moves this season (Joey Barton, Booby Zamora, etc), QPR will get the drop over Blackburn, Bolton and Aston Villa, three teams teetering on the edge of despair.
Super Hoops’ win over Arsenal was impressive, but don’t expect other skilled sides to take them lightly. They’ll face four top-five teams in their final seven games, and of their other three fixtures, QPR have only picked up three points against one club (a 3-2 win over Stoke City in November) in previous meetings.
Unlike Swansea and Norwich, QPR haven’t won enough to earn mid-table security. At times this season they’ve been the best team on the park, but have settled for draws more often than not.
If they can harness the momentum from beating Arsenal going forward, they might escape the bottom three. But with two trips to Manchester on the docket, they simply won’t have enough points.