EPL: Who's for the Drop?
As we head into the penultimate round of the 2008/9 Premiership season there are some very interesting fixtures ahead for the bottom clubs of the Premiership.
Wins at this stage of the season are worth their weight in gold as Newcastle United discovered as they clawed their way out of the bottom three for the first time since losing to Arsenal in March.
West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion: Liverpool (H), Blackburn (A)
A trip to Anfield is never an easy task especially when Liverpool are in such a rich vein of form so Tony Mowbray will not be looking forward to this most win tie. Blackburn will not be easy either as they are still in the mix at the bottom.
Must win both games or get four points to have any chance of survival.
Middlesbrough: Aston Villa (A), West Ham (H)
Middlesbrough like WBA have to win both fixtures or gain four points to have a realistic chance of Premier League survival.
An away trip to Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa will not be seen as anything but a most not lose game. The game against West Ham will not be easy either.
The Hammers are still in with a chance of winning a place in next season's UEFA Europa League. Boro will be hoping that West Ham will have lost to Everton and their chance of European football is extinguished.
Hull City: Bolton (A), Manchester United (H)
Phil Brown will be looking to get at least four points from these games. Bolton's form has recently been almost as poor as the Tigers, but with safety mathematically assured for the Trotters they have little to play for but pride.
The prospect of facing the Red Devils on the last day of the season would not have been seen as the greatest thing by Tiger's fans and management alike.
However, with the possibility of the Premier League title won for another season by Sir Alex Ferguson's men and the Champions League final on the horizon will the Reds field a weakened side for the game?
Hull City will be hoping for four points form the two games to almost certainly maintain Premiership survival for a second season.
Newcastle United: Fulham (H), Aston Villa (A)
Alan Shearer will be hoping for four points at least from the two very tricky remaining games.
Roy Hodgson's Cottagers will be no easy team to beat. They are still in with a very good shout of European football for next season so will be fighting very hard to maintain their position in the league.
Aston Villa may be mathematically assured of Europa League football next season but Martin O'Neill will be hoping to end the season on a high after a mid season blip that saw them slip from chasing thid place to sitting clearly in fifth with Everton breathing down their necks.
Newcastle realistically need four points from their remaining games.
Sunderland: Portsmouth (A), Chelsea (H)
Ricky Sbragia will be looking at the remaining games thinking how did we get to this stage of the season and still not be safe?
The Black Cats travel down to Fratton Park on Monday knowing what they will need to do as it is the last game of the weekend, but so will Portsmouth. This is one of the most important games of the run in at this stage.
A victory for either side could be survival for another year in the Premiership.
A loss to Portsmouth could see the North East outfit needing a very tough victory against a Chelsea side that is still in with a chance of second in the Premiership and a better draw in next season's Champions League.
However, Chelsea may rest players for the FA Cup final the following week.
Three points should be enough for Sunderland.
Portsmouth: Sunderland (H), Wigan (A)
Paul Hart's Portsmouth have a tough game against Sunderland to contend with and victory for either side would probably mean survival.
The victory for Pompey isn't as imperative as it is for Sbragia's Sunderland. Pompey face a last game of the season against Wigan who have nothing to play for.
One point for Pompey will probably be enough.
The Table with Two Games Remaining
Of the teams left in the relegation dog fight, Pompey are all but safe. Even if they don't manage to get anymore points, the chances are that there will be someone worse than them.
Of the remaining team WBA and Boro have a huge mountain to climb if they want to reamin in the Premiership. I think that Boro's games are too tough and the Baggies have left it too late for their return to winning ways.
That leaves a three way race between the Tigers the Magpies and the Black Cats. Of the remaining fixtures, you would have to say that Newcastle have the hardest run in, but with Newcastle getting their first win under Alan Shearer under their belt it could be the galvenising agent they needed to regroup next season.
The Tigers have been their own worst enemy for the second half of the season and have failed to put survival to bed on a number of occasions especially against close rivals.
However a tie against Bolton who have nothing to really play for and a game against a team that will have an eye on a very different prize may come at the right time for Phil Brown's Tigers.
So it comes to Sunderland. If they can't get anything out of the game against Portsmouth, then a tough last game against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light could await.
What ever happens this season has been one of the most interesting at the bottom of the Premiership. As always it will go to the wire and more will depend on how your close rivals fair then how you actually do your self.
It's squeaky bum time.