EPL: Do or Die Time

Andrew BarrySenior Analyst IMay 5, 2008

Four teams remain in the fight for Premier League survival. Two of Fulham, Birmingham, Reading, and Bolton will join Derby in returning to the Championship. All this will be decided on the final match day.

Three weeks ago, Fulham and Bolton looked sunk, but resilient fighting and surprise results have put both sides in the box seat going into match day 38.

If only Reading and Birmingham could say the same; both face an uphill struggle to retain their Premier League status.

Bolton's 2-0 win over Sunderland looks to have secured their place in the elite division for at least another year. That's some achievement considering they sacked one manager and the other is universally hated among fans—not to mention they sold their top and only goal scorer Anelka to Chelsea.

Gary Megson's side will be travelling to the glamorous stadiums once again—as long as there is no flurry of goals at St. Andrews or Pride Park.

Goal difference will keep the Trotters up.

Fulham's escape act kicked on from their sensational 3-2 comeback against Man City to defeat fellow strugglers Birmingham 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

Fulham, like Bolton, seemed dead and buried but their three-goal reply in Manchester displayed the confidence Roy Hodgson has instilled in the side.

The Londoners travel to FA Cup finalists Portsmouth, who despite Redknapp's claims will surely field a weakened team. A win on the South Coast is the minimum requirement, anything less and Reading will condemn them to the Championship.

Reading, as well, is suffering from the old "second season syndrome."

Their inability to score goals has damaged them this term and may ultimately cost them. Without a win or a goal in six matches, it would usually be goodnight Vienna but...

Derby are the opponents—officially the worst ever Premiership team and the worst defense in the league. Paul Jewell's side will attempt to go down with a bang, but Reading simply must win.

Birmingham City, how David Gold must hate Carson Yeung.

He refused to sanction a new contract for manager Steve Bruce and fellow strugglers, Wigan, snapped him up. The upshot is Wigan are safe and Birmingham face trips to Blackpool. 

Their final chance is at home to Blackburn and the only thing that has kept Birmingham in touch is their record at St Andrews. A win and no success for Reading or Fulham and they'll stay up.  

Forget the action at the summit of the league, the real 70 million pound questions will be asked to four clubs at the bottom this weekend; there will be plenty of mentions of "great escapes" and "heartbreaking."

It's the definition of do or die.