Relegation Watch: Most Important Battles of the Premier League Weekend

A WriterContributor IIIMay 2, 2013

Relegation Watch: Most Important Battles of the Premier League Weekend

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    So Queens Park Rangers and Reading fizzled out into Championship teams with a 0-0 draw at the weekend, which leaves just one place remaining for the four teams above the bottom two to avoid.

    Aston Villa's thumping of Sunderland left Newcastle in 17th on goal difference, with both aforementioned teams on the same points huddled just above them.

    Wigan Athletic sit in the final relegation spot at the moment on 32 points; five behind the other three, but with a game in hand could close that gap to just two should they win.

    It's tighter than a London Underground train during rush hour.

    But what are the biggest fixtures in the relegation battle this weekend? Read on, my friends.

     

    All fixtures, results and league positions taken from BBC.

West Ham vs. Newcastle

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    Poor old Newcastle have had a tough time of it recently. Losing to arch-rivals Sunderland 3-0 and then getting thumped 6-0 by Liverpool has done a lot of damage to their survival hopes.

    Shifted down to just above the relegation zone, the Magpies travel to a mid-table West Ham United in search of a result to turn their fortunes around.

    With nothing really to play for, the fans and players will be hoping the Hammers will already be on their summer holidays, but Newcastle haven't had much luck in London recently.

    They have won just two games in their three seasons back in the Premier League in the capital. And their away form in 2012/13 does not bode well either; having won just one all season.

    But Newcastle will need to pick themselves back up from their last few results, find some strength and motivation and get something at West Ham on Saturday.

    And what more motivation do they need than avoiding a drop to the Championship so shortly after climbing back out of it?

Sunderland vs. Stoke City

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    And speaking of conceding six, Sunderland didn't do terribly well against Aston Villa on Monday.

    That result stunted Paolo Di Canio's climb up the table; exposing the weaknesses in the Sunderland side extraordinarily. And losing playmaker Stephane Sessegnon for the rest of the campaign will not have helped either (via BBC).

    A visit from Stoke City whom themselves hit the magic 40-point mark at the weekend could be seen as a blessing. The Potters have been below-average away from home; picking up just 12 points on the road, and Sunderland will see this match as a chance to pull themselves away from the chasing crowd.

    With Southampton traveling to the Stadium of Light the weekend after, Di Canio will have earmarked six points from the next two games.

    And 43 points must mean that the Black Cats will be safe. Mustn't it?

Norwich vs. Aston Villa

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    Aston Villa's young guns have turned their season around in the past two months: winning four of their last seven and only dropping points to Manchester United and Liverpool, against neither of whom you would expect them to do anything more.

    Most definitely with a high chance of relegation, however, Villa travel to Norwich whom themselves are not remotely safe right now. Sat on 38 points, this game really could decide the Canaries' season.

    Should they win, they find themselves on 41 points and, barring a dramatic series of events, will remain a Premier League team for next season. Should they lose they will be dragged right back into the relegation fight for the final two games of the season.

    The Canaries will be hoping to add to their single victory in the last two months this weekend. But judging by Villa's current form, I wouldn't want to be Norwich right now.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Wigan Athletic

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    Wigan's Steve McQueen impersonation hasn't entirely followed their usual script having not won in four matches. But the 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham (which would have been a win if it wasn't for Emmerson Boyce's pesky shin) showed glimmers of that Great Escape.

    A trip to the Hawthorns is never easy, but West Brom are not exactly playing like the first half of the season; the win against Southampton their first in five matches.

    Not taking all three points at West Brom will be detrimental, certainly. But Wigan do have that game in hand in which they face Swansea on Tuesday.

    These are probably the two biggest games of Roberto Martinez's career (well, since last season), and taking away zero from either of these will all but confirm Wigan's fate should Newcastle, Sunderland and Villa all win.

    The best scenario? Wigan take all six, the teams above them take zero, and the North West team find themselves in 15th. The worst scenario? The teams above them all win, and Wigan take zero points from the next two games leaving a gigantic eight-point gap between themselves and safety.

    And that gap will be too steep for even the Latics to climb. Mainly because they can't take eight points from their final two games. It isn't within the rules to award extra points for having good pies, apparently.