With just seven games remaining in this seasons Barclays Premier League the fight for survival looks set to go to the wire. Wolves find themselves seven points behind 16th place Bolton, as the Midlands side look destined for Championship football. Terry Connor’s men are 6 points adrift of safety as Wigan, QPR and Blackburn Rovers are all level on 28 points separated only by goal difference.
In a season when the unexpected has tended to happen, Terry Connor will be hoping his men can pull off one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history and avoid the drop, but with time running out relegation seems the likeliest outcome. The remaining two relegation spots could be taken by any two of the remaining four teams, with 37 points looking a realistic target in order to survive the drop, in what has been a considerably low point-scoring season.
Bolton Wanderers have taken 16 points since the turn of New Year, which has helped them climb out of the relegation zone and boost their chances of survival. Since Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during their FA Cup clash with Spurs, Bolton have recorded back to back victories over fellow relegation strugglers Blackburn and Wolves which has lifted them out of the bottom three. Owen Coyle seems to have used the traumatic experience to extract the characteristics needed to remain in the Premier League, as his men have shown courage, commitment, fight and desire for their teammate who faces a long road to recovery. As we know there are no easy games in the Premier League, but arguably Bolton have the easiest running as we near the end of the season. Owen Coyle will be hoping to pick up points at the Reebok as his side are still to host Spurs, Swansea and West Brom before visiting the Britannia for a tough game against Stoke on the final day of the season.
Blackburn are hoping to follow in the footsteps of West Brom and become only the second team to avoid relegation having been bottom at Christmas. The daunting task seemed impossible just three months ago as the Lancashire side were rock bottom with the worst defence in the league and a following which were more inclined to venting their disgust at Steve Kean. The Blackburn faithful have attempted everything possible in the protesting handbook, from pre-match protests to after the game sit-ins in an attempt to remove the Scot from his managerial position. But the Scots resilience has proved key as Blackburn have hit a decent run of form which has seen them rise out of the bottom three. They finally managed to keep a clean-sheet and won back to back games for the first time this season as they beat Wolves and Sunderland to ease the pressure on the under-fire Scot. If other results had favoured Blackburn then they would be cruising to safety, but as it is Steve Kean’s men have been dragged back in to the mire and find themselves in the middle of a dog fight. Blackburn have been awful at the back this season, but at the opposite end they have excelled and the Lancashire club are the 6th highest scorers in the league, not bad for a team in the relegation zone. Rovers host United next knowing defeat will send them back In to the drop zone on goal difference, but with games against Swansea, Norwich and Wigan Steve Kean will be hoping his men can pick up enough points to accomplish the great escape.
QPR’s remaining seven fixtures could not get any tougher. The London side are still to face both Manchester teams as they battle it out for the title, a Spurs side who are hunting down Arsenal in third place and Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea who have their eyes on an unexpected fourth place having had a terrible season. But Mark Hughes’ side will be able to take confidence from their back to back home wins against Liverpool and Arsenal which has reignited their survival chances. A lack of discipline has cost the Hoops dearly this season and as we all know discipline is key to any side’s success. Therefore if QPR are to avoid the drop they must improve on their disciplinary record having already received six red cards this season, which has more than tested their average Premier League squad.
Wigan Athletic seemed down and out just three weeks ago, but a recent run of good form has seen the Latics take eight points from their last four games. Martinez’s men have been lingering around the relegation zone all season and have been firm favourites to take the plunge. But as we know, we should never write Wigan off, as Martinez has a knack of grinding out results when it really matters. Wigan arguably have the worst squad in the league, but with wins over Liverpool and Stoke confidence is high at the DW Stadium and survival could be a realistic achievement if they maintain their current momentum. Martinez knows his team are capable of creating numerous chances, but converting them is a different story as Wigan are the league’s lowest scoring team with just 29 goals. Wigan face a run of games which could shape the rest of their season as they play Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal before facing Blackburn and Wolves in their final two games of the season, but it could be too little too late.
Wolves are a side which look destined for Championship football next season. Without a point in five games, Terry Connor looks out of his depths since replacing Mick McCarthy as manager in February, a managerial change which has evidently back-fired on club owner Steve Morgan. The appointment of Terry Connor angered large sections of the Wolves faithful, and rightly so. The idiotic decision to sack such an experienced manager and replace him with someone whose managerial experience could be written on the back of a postal stamp is ludicrous and Wolves will pay the price come the end of the season. Since Connor took over in February Wolves have won just one point from a possible 21 and have conceded 24 goals along the way. Those sorts of statistics only indicate one thing, relegation. Defensively they are poor, Roger Johnson has failed to impress and seems more interested in enjoying nights out on the town than playing for his club. The Wolves captain looks set to achieve back to back relegations, as he was relegated with city rivals Birmingham last season. If Wolves are to have any chance of avoiding the drop Steven Fletcher must to re-find his goal scoring form as the Scot has failed to find the net in over 540 minutes, having scored ten goals earlier in the season. But even if Fletcher does provide the goods, realistically Wolves are down, six points adrift the Midlands side are still to face Manchester City, Sunderland and Arsenal making survival an almost impossible task.
As we near the end of the season the fight for survival looks set to be as thrilling as ever but the question is who will go down? Well there is no doubt Wolves will be playing Championship football next season, it would take something really special to survive especially taking in to account the gap in points and the number of games remaining. So there are two spots remaining, QPR definitely have the hardest run of fixtures, and because of this I believe they will join Wolves in the Championship next season. Despite their hefty investment in January, the Hoops will be made to pay for their lack of discipline throughout the season. And finally I believe it will be Wigan occupying the third and final relegation spot. Despite an upturn in form their squad is simply not good enough for the Premier League and for that reason I believe they will be relegated along with Wolves and QPR. Which leaves Blackburn and Bolton to compete in the Premier League for at least another season.