Premier League: Who will survive the drop?
With just one space to fill, which team will join QPR & Reading in the Championship next season?
With Reading and QPR's relegation confirmed after they played out a goal-less draw on Sunday afternoon, it left just one place to fill in the relegation zone.
With nobody in the bottom half of the table mathematically safe, the question of who would be joining them was asked.
Fulham, Stoke, Southampton and Norwich are effectively safe from the drop, this article looks at the teams hovering just above the drop zone and in potential danger of filling that 18th place that would take them down to the Championship.
Wigan currently occupy the only remaining slot in the drop zone, however survival is not out of the question, they have been in this situation before and are by far the most experienced side in the Premier League when it comes to this part of the season, especially when the race for survival is well and truly under way.
With away games at West Brom and Arsenal still to play, Wigan will be reliant on their home form with games against Swansea and most notably fellow strugglers Aston Villa considered to be must wins. I can see this coming down to the last game of the season with Wigan and Aston Villa playing a straight shootout for survival.
Villa have had what will be remembered only as a poor campaign, no fan would have expected them to be regular members of the bottom three, however form has risen recently and they have climbed out of the drop zone. With a very young squad, Villa will be seen as the least experienced side during the run in.
Top scorer Christian Benteke will look to fire Villa to safety, with key games against Sunderland and Norwich to come, followed by Chelsea at home and the showdown with Wigan on the last day.
However I expect to see Villa in the Premier League next season, with no bigger part to be played then Benteke himself.
No team will be more disappointed to be so low down than Newcastle, after a fifth placed finish last season, not even the most hopeful Sunderland fan would have expected The Magpies to be in so much trouble this campaign, and having played a game more than the teams around them, that trouble looks to be staying with them.
A win for Aston Villa would draw them on level points with Newcastle, and the same for Wigan would leave the Magpies just two points above the drop zone. I believe that four points will guarantee safety for Newcastle, and with QPR left for nothing to fight for, a win should be the outcome when Newcastle visit Loftus Road, a trip to Upton Park may prove more tricky, and then with Arsenal chasing a top four finish, that will be no easy game.
Although, with so much quality, it is hard to see Alan Pardew's team playing anywhere but the Premier League next season.
Paolo Di Canio looks to have revitalised this Sunderland team, they have been playing with a much higher intensity since his appointment, and no wonder when you see the managers passion on the sideline.
Three points should be enough for Sunderland, just as many say, that would see them reach the magic '40 points' total. With games at home against Stoke and Southampton, and trips to Aston Villa and Tottenham, i can see The Black Cats reaching this target and therefore reaching safety.
So in my opinion, I think that the game between Wigan and Aston Villa on the last day of the season could decide who plays where next season, with it being a straight shootout between the two for Premier League survival.
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