The 2012/13 Premier League season is coming to an end and, for three clubs, this will unfortunately signal the end to their top-flight status.
This season’s relegation quagmire is particularly intriguing since as many as ten clubs are yet to satisfactorily confirm their Premier League status for next season. Of these bottom ten clubs, many would feel that the likes of Southampton in 12th and West Ham United in 11th are considered to be virtually over the proverbial line, and others like Stoke City, Norwich City and Newcastle United should also be able to haul themselves over the line with a couple of wins or so.
This leaves us with five clubs, for whom the light at the end of the tunnel might be dimming pretty fast: Sunderland, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers and Reading.
With only seven games to go and with Manchester United having all but wrapped up yet another Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson, the Premier League faithful have now shifted their focus to the opposite end of the table as the battle to avoid the drop rages on.
Who will stay up? That’s the million-dollar question right now. Well, some would say that the current table will go a long way in determining the way forward.
Wigan, despite having played a game less, have won the most games and scored the most goals out of the bottom five clubs while bottom-side Reading have lost the most games and conceded the most goals as well.
QPR and perhaps Sunderland have drawn more games than they would have liked, but the latter also boasts the meanest defence of all.
The league table is, however, a little too broad to determine who’s been better and who is likely to escape the drop this season. Let’s take a look at their home versus away form.
QPR may have only lost six home games but have also won just twice at Loftus Road and find themselves bottom of this league. It may also be worth noting that the bottom five teams are also bottom of the home league form.
Wigan have played at least two games less than the other four clubs but still top this mini-league, and may look at their home form as their downfall this season. Roberto Martinez's side, however, may have turned the corner with two wins from their last two home games - a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United followed by a 1-0 win against Norwich City.
Reading, needless to say, have the worst away form, with just one win in 15 away games. Having performed relatively well in comparison to the other relegation candidates on home form, their away form has definitely had a direct bearing on their overall league standing.
Another important factor to consider here would be their head-to-head record against each other. I mean, you have to beat the teams that are around you, right?
Aston Villa are clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest, with only one loss in games against their immediate rivals (3-0 reverse against Wigan), and this form may well be required as they face both Sunderland (H) and Wigan (A) in the league run-in. Six points from these two “six-pointers” will surely see the Villains secure Premier League survival.
Reading have lost five of their seven games against their direct rivals, and with a home fixture against QPR in the horizon they best arrest the slide. QPR have only lost one but drawn four of six games against relegation rivals, and they will definitely be gunning for all three points as they play host to Wigan this weekend.
Sunderland have won just one of the last nine league games, and only Reading are below them on the form table. It will not bode well for new manager Paolo Di Canio then, that they face three of the top six clubs and also have the small matter of a tricky trip to St. James Park to take on rivals Newcastle, who themselves will be looking at this fixture as the potential three points they will need to distance themselves from the bottom five.
With top-scorer Steven Fletcher out for the rest of the season, it’s also hard to see where the goals will come from for the Black Cats. Will Danny Graham finally step up to the plate?
Wigan have won the last two games and already look like pulling off yet another great escape like they always do, but also have arguably the most difficult run-in as they play Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal as well as QPR and Aston Villa on the final day of the season.
Main man Arouna Kone's two goals in the last two games have won them six points, however, and they will need their Ivorian in that kind of form if they are to stay in the Premier League.
Christian Benteke continues to shine for Villa, and with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann as his supporting cast, the trio will look to lift their side to Premier League safety.
Who will go down, and who will survive the drop?
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