With the Premier League title race done and dusted, the fight for relegation will get even more focus than usual from now until the end of the season.
With QPR and Reading virtually relegated, barring a miracle for either side, who will join them in the Championship next season?
The side who currently lie in the relegation zone are Wigan. They are known for their heroic end-of-season form, however, and do have two games in hand on those above them. Although the FA Cup final against Manchester City could act as a distraction, they have a little too much quality to go down.
Aston Villa are just outside the bottom three, and one week they leave you impressed after a great win but then they go and draw with Fulham in a game they had to be winning. They are a very young side lacking in experience, which could work against them when the really vital games arrive in the last two or three games. What they would give to have captain Stilian Petrov fit and bossing the midfield. You feel it could go right up to the final day with Paul Lambert’s side.
Stoke are level on points with Villa, and they are unquestionably the most out of form side in the Premier League. Since Christmas they have got less points than anyone, and coach Tony Pulis is under huge pressure now. Their home form used to win them so many points, but the Britannia Stadium is not the fortress it once was. If they don’t start scoring soon and playing more positively away from home, they will be relegated.
Sunderland and Norwich are the only other two sides in danger if going down. Paolo Di Canio’s arrival at Sunderland has given them a massive boost, and their 3-0 derby win over Newcastle was huge. You feel that they have momentum in their favour and that they will be safe. Norwich have the ability to grind out important wins at home, and there’s just a few too many sides below them for them to get sucked into the bottom three.
At the moment it looks like Aston Villa and Stoke will be the ones battling it out for safety, with Stoke the one’s seriously lacking confidence. If Wigan lose their games in hand, however, they will be favourites to join QPR and Reading, but they just have enough in their ranks to avoid the drop for yet another season.