Premiership Relegation Dogfight: Week 35
The Premier League is coming into a crucial phase with Portsmouth almost guaranteed Championship football for next season, in 20th place after a poor season.
Beset by financial problems, the involuntary selling of players, and—to add insult to injury—the deduction of nine points for going into administration. They are 10 points adrift of Burnley on 14 points.
The Clarets are sitting one place above Pompey in 19th, on 24 points. Their manager, Brian Laws, has only managed one victory since he arrived at Turf Moor three months ago, a victory over relegation rivals West Ham, and they are still looking for their first away points under Laws.
The Tigers are currently in 18th position on 27 points, a single point behind West Ham but with a goal difference that is almost twice as bad as the Londoners.
However, with a game in hand new Hull City manager Iain Dowie will be hoping that his team will be able to rein in his old club and climb out of the relegation zone.
West Ham's Gianfranco Zola has had a torrid time of it recently as his Hammers have slipped farther and farther down the table to their current 17th place. It has gotten so bad for the little Italian that new West Ham Owner David Gold came out and said his job was safe after fans called for him to be fired.
For Wigan Athletic it has been a tempestuous spell with only one victory over Burnley since they beat Wolves on January 16th. Roberto Martinez sees his side sitting in 16th place, three points above West Ham on 31 points, but with the Premiership's third worst goal difference of -34.
Just above Wigan sit Owen Coyle's Bolton Wanderers and Mick McCarthy's Wolverhampton Wanderers, on 32 points. Both managers will be hoping that one more win will see them safe from relegation for another season, but with both sides having very tough fixtures to come they are still well and truly in the mix.
Saturday 10th April - Hull City Vs. Burnley
Iain Dowie will be hoping that the Tigers' current good home form can continue as they meet the Clarets in a true six-pointer. Burnley are coming off the back of a massive defeat at the hands of Manchester City, who annihilated them at Turf Moor 6-1.
Claret's boss, Brian Laws, has been the center of attention after Kevin McDonald left the stadium at halftime after he was substituted with Burnley trailing 5-0. The young midfielder has since been fined by the club, but this is just an example of the underlying tension that Laws has brought with him to the club.
Needless to say he will need all of his team to be singing off the same song sheet if they are to keep in the Premiership and must win if they are to have any chance of avoiding Championship football next season.
The same is true for the Tigers, but unlike Laws, Dowie has lifted the spirits of his Tigers, who have gained three points from the three games since his arrival. A victory would possibly take the Tigers out of the bottom three if results go the right way for the East Yorkshire club.
Saturday 10th April - West Ham Vs. Sunderland
The Hammers managed a credible draw at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland earlier this year despite fighting for a portion of the game with only 10 man.
Things are not much different now for Zola's West Ham side as they are still fighting it out at the wrong end of the table. He will be happy with the performance and character they displayed at Goodison Park last week, however, as they came back from behind twice to draw against one of the Premiership's in-form teams.
However, Sunderland are also coming off the back of a very good result, as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 despite Darren Bent scoring a brace of goals and missing two penalties.
Zola's fragile defense will have to cope with one of the country's most in-form strikers in Bent. Bent currently has 22 goals to his name and is the Premiership's third-highest scorer.
Sunday 11th April - Wolverhampton Wanderers Vs. Stoke City
Last October when the two local rivals met it ended 2-2 in a bruising encounter, and there will be no quarter give again as the Midland rivals tee up for another crunch match.
For Stoke City and Tony Pulis it was a great milestone last week as they beat Hull City 2-0 to secure the elusive 40+ points total that every manager at the wrong end of the table looks to reach.
Wolves' fans will be hoping that the Potters will be more relaxed as they have guaranteed their survival and will take their foot off the gas. With Pulis' side's physical and tenacious style of play, however, this is highly unlikely.
McCarthy's team will have to come back from last-minute heart break after a gallant fight against third-placed Arsenal saw them fall to a late winner from the Gunners' Nicklas Bendtner.
Wolves have had a very good recent run of performances, despite the loss to Arsenal, with draws against Aston Villa, Everton, and victories against relegation rivals West Ham and Burnley.
Tuesday 13th April - Chelsea Vs. Bolton Wanderers
This season Bolton have conceded eight goals to Chelsea in the Premiership and the League Cup, with 4-0 losses in both matches. The Trotters have the prospect of another top-six side in 20 days, as they have lost to Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Everton in their past three outings.
However, despite Owen Coyle's team's inability to beat the Premiership's elite clubs, he has produced a side that can beat the rest on their day as they have recently beaten Wigan, West Ham and Wolves.
It seems that if they play a team that starts with "W" they stand a good chance of three points.
Wednesday 14th April - Wigan Athletic Vs. Portsmouth
Avram Grant's Pompey side travel to the North with a forlorn hope. They still have the slightest chance of staving off relegation but will need to win all of their remaining five fixtures, with their closest rivals not winning anymore games.
For Roberto Martinez's Wigan team all is still to play for, but having only won two games since early January, they will need to beat Portsmouth to keep themselves clear of the chasing pack.
Who Will Meet Relegation?
Every team in the drop zone still has everything to play for at the wrong end of the Premiership. All of them will be hoping to gain a much needed advantage over their relegation rivals that may be the difference between the Championship and the Premiership.
For some, it will possibly mean relegation is guaranteed, for others it may mean they live to fight again in the Premiership, but for most the war isn't over, but one of the remaining all-important battles will be over.
Who will survive and who will fall?
Who will be the most likely winners this week?
Let me know who you think will be this weeks winners?