EPL Predictions Vol. 1: Handicapping the Relegation Fight

Felix TangCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2008

Halfway through the Premier League season, we have a pretty good idea which teams will end up where.

Here's my take on the fate of the five bottom-feeders...


20. Derby County

Derby, still on single-digit points, look bound for the Championship after just one season.

The big question is whether Paul Jewell and his backroom staff can turn it around. As it stands, Derby are eight points adrift of 19th-place Fulham—and a long, long way from the 40-point safety landmark.

To their credit, Derby have brought in some experienced players, namely ex-England international Danny Mills, former Newcastle winger Laurent Robert, and Blackburn midfielder Robbie Savage.  They also continue to be linked with players such as Spurs' Hossam Ghaly and Rangers' goalkeeper Roy Carroll.

Robert has public stated he expects to be playing in the Championship next season.  Can these acquisitions pull a miracle?


19. Fulham

This is Fulham's eighth year in the Premiership. Is this the season the run finally comes to a halt?

Fulham have been underperforming this year. They normally sit comfortably at mid-table—but they haven't improved since last season, when manager Lawrie Sanchez avoided relegation.

I personally really like this team, especially the American presence of Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, and Brian McBride.  Fulham have a better chance than Derby—let's hope's the new gaffer can get the job done.


18. Sunderland

Sunderland had a pretty good start to the season.

But the Black Cats, led by Roy Keane, have since dropped back down the relegation zone with 17 points, tied with 16th-place Wigan, although with an inferior goal-difference.

Boasting many former Red Devil players including Dwight Yorke, Kieran Richardson, Paul McShane, and most recently Johnny Evans, the club look like a good bet to escape relegation.  


17. Wigan

Most football fans will remember that Wigan's debut season in the Premiership saw them climb as high as second, and produced a respectable top-10 finish.

Well, one-and-a-half seasons later, things have been changed.

With the departure of Paul Jewell, Wigan seem to have lost "it."

Wigan do in fact have the talent—skipper Mario Melchiot, and vice-captains Emile Heskey and Kevin Kilbane.  In addition, they have the pacey winger Antonio Valencia to provide depth.

The club's form has shown improvement in recent games.  Whether they have the ability to stay up is another matter.


16. Birmingham

The Blues sit two points ahead of Wigan, and at this stage are still not very safe from  relegation.

This club has drawn my special attention, as a businessman from my native Hong Kong, Carson Yeung, has the controlling stake in Birmingham.       

All told, Birmingham are decent team.  They showed their solid defence when United barely scraped a 1-0 win against them.  It was quite a nervy final 10 minutes for United fans, as we saw U-21 Dutch winger Daniel De Ridder run down the flanks and pose a constant threat.

With Djourou rejoining Arsenal, Birmingham have a diminished defense that needs some shoring up.  In my opinion, they won't ride the "relegation elevator" this season.

This is the first part of a four part series of articles that will provide insight on every team in the Premiership.  Although the standings will change over the weekend,  I'll pick up with the next five teams on the table.