The battle to beat the drop in the Premier League is heating up with just five games to go; five teams all fighting for survival and just one spot left to fight for. With Reading and QPR now as good as relegated according to the football bookies, the battle to beat the drop couldn’t be more intense with; Norwich City, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic all in the relegation battle. But who will be relegated in May?
Chris Hughton’s team has not looked in danger until recent weeks when their strikers have struggled to score. Norwich have shown some fight in recent weeks with a battling draw against Swansea last week and were within minutes of pulling a shock win at the Emirates to be cruelly denied by three goals in seven minutes, they have shown the fight and passion they need to avoid relegation. Norwich’s home games against Reading and Villa are crucial if they want to avoid relegation. Norwich can’t afford to leave themselves needing a win against Man City away on the last game of the season to avoid relegation, the betting odds will be heavily against them in that one. If Norwich show the passion they have in recent games then Chris Hughton’s side will almost certainly avoid being relegated.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20 Reading (h) Apr 27 Stoke (a) May 4 Villa (h) May 12 West Brom (h) May 19 Man City (a)
Predicted finish: 14th
Stoke were eleven points clear of relegation during Christmas but in 2013 the team have struggled having just picked up one win in fourteen games and collected just a point from a possible 21 which has seen the Potteries club dragged into a relegation battle. Stoke form is relegation form, the worst in the football league in 2013, and they need to pick their form up quickly. With three consecutive defeats in a row for Stoke it will dent the confidence further. If Stoke are going to secure their Premier League status, Tony Pulis needs to pick up his team and install some belief and confidence to pick the crucial points up in their next five games. Pulis has urged his team to erase that sequence from their minds ahead of the run-in. Stoke travel to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and host Norwich the following weekend which they must win. They then have a potentially pivotal away fixture at Sunderland, a home game against Tottenham Hotspur and a trip to Southampton on the final day and needing to find at least four points out their next five games to avoid relegation which is tough considering they only managed to pick up three points out the possible thirty nine.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20 QPR (a) Apr 27 Norwich (h) May 4 Sunderland (a) May 12 Tottenham (h) May 19 Southampton (a)
Predicted finish: 15th
Aston Villa have found their form at the right time with a crucial win at the Britannia Stadium which saw them move out the bottom three but with tough away games at Old Trafford and home to Chelsea, Paul Lambert’s side will have to fight to the wire for their Premier League safety. But Chrisian Bentenke goal scoring form will always give Villa a chance to avoid relegation, if they keep him fit and firing then Villa might just avoid relegation with crucial wins needed against Sunderland and Norwich.
Remaining fixtures: 22 April Manchester United (a) Apr 29 Sunderland (h) May 4 Norwich (a) May 12 Chelsea (h) May 19 Wigan (a)
Predicted finish: 16th
Can Paolo Di Canio inspire a group of players short of confidence and belief to Premier League safety? After Sunderland’s epic win in the Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park the confidence will be through the roof in the Sunderland camp and may just be enough for Di Canio to inspire Sunderland to Premier League safety. The passion shown by Di Canio could just be enough for the Black Cats to avoid relegation. Looking at their fixtures, Di Canio will have a tough job on his hands but the confidence of his first win as Sunderland manager in the Tyne-Wear derby to build on Di Canio has fired the players for a relegation battle, with big games away at Villa and home to Stoke which be crucial games for their Premier League safety, if they can get something out of those then he may just keep Sunderland up.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 20 Everton (h) Apr 29 Villa (a) May 4 Stoke (h) May 12 Southampton (h) May 19 Tottenham (a)
Predicted finish: 17th
If there is one team who have the experience of Premier League survival its Wigan who time after time seem to avoid relegation. But unlike previous seasons Wigan have the clubs first FA Cup final in May which could be an unwelcome distraction for Martinez. The Wigan players be on a high after reaching the FA Cup final which could rub off well on their Premier League games. The fixture list doesn’t favour Wigan but they could pull another ‘great escape’ of again this season with wins against Swansea and Aston Villa on the last day of the season. You wouldn’t bet against Martinez performing another ‘miracle’ by keeping Wigan from relegation for another season.
Remaining fixtures: Apr 17 Man City (a) Apr 20 West Ham (a) Apr 27 Tottenham (h) May 4 West Brom (a) May 7 Swansea (h) May 12 Arsenal (a) May 19 Aston Villa (h)
Predicted finish: 18th