By Kieran Lovelock
As Manchester United drop points for the second game in a row, in turn only adding fuel to the fire in terms of excitement for this year’s Premier League title race, an equally interesting battle is taking place at the bottom in order to determine who will stay up and who will playing in the Championship next season. Premiership survival is estimated to be worth around $100 million so the fight at the bottom is arguably always more important than the fight at the top. But who will take the tumble back into the second tier or English football and who will survive for another season? Let us examine the ins and outs of the EPL basement boys and try to work out who will finish in the bottom three.
14th– 32 Points- Blackburn Rovers
The Lancashire side fell victim earlier in the season to a savage act of lunacy as the new Indian owners chose to fire the very successful Sam Allardyce and replace him with assistant Steve Kean- and now they are paying for it. Rovers are on an appalling run of form having conceded 15 goals in the past six games and don’t appear to have much of a goal threat. Blackburn simply have to start turning things around and could be disadvantaged by the fact that they lack the experience for a relegation battle, both on the pitch, on the bench and in the boardroom.
15th– 32 Points- Blackpool
Blackpool have been an absolute breath of fresh air to this year’s EPL by playing attacking football and winning games on a shoestring budget. In recent times they have come unstuck by conceding too many goals, but what they have going for them is that they always look like scoring and have a proven match winne in Charlie Adam meaning that it is easy to see where wins will come from. The club from a seaside party town have surprised everybody so far in winning as many games as they have and don’t be surprised if they pull off one more trick in staying up.
16th– 32 Points- West Brom
The Baggies have been a yo-yo team for the past 6 years and risk being labeled the same again this year. Former Liverpool and Fulham boss Roy Hodgson took over as manager and has since recorded two draws and a win against local rivals Birmingham. There is no doubt that West Brom are a far more complete outfit this season than previous seasons and with the experienced Hodgson in charge they will no doubt be hard to beat in the run in whilst also playing attractive soccer, meaning that they will probably be OK.
17th– 31 Points- West Ham
Having finally managed to get their strongest side West Ham have seen an upturn in fortunes with Demba Ba banging in the goals and German international Thomas Hitzelberger adding some steel to the midfield. However it has been proven how poor, unbalanced and generally weak West Ham are without their best 11 out and this may come back to haunt them. Does Avram Grant have the ability to motivate a group of over rated, over paid player for a relegation scrap? Doubtful.
18th– 30 points- Birmingham City
Having just won their first major trophy in 48 years one could be forgiven for thinking that Birmingham is a club full of confidence. However nothing could be further from the truth as Birmingham are well and truly in a relegation dogfight. It can be argued that Birmingham’s terrific season last campaign was based on the brilliance of on loan goal keeper Joe Hart and the over achievement of centre backs Scott Dann and Roger Johnson, and on top of this they are still struggling to dominate teams and score goals. Whether they stay up or not will come down to manager Alex McLeish finding a way to get a bit more out his attacking forces.
19th-29 Points- Wolves
Nobody this season has conceded more goals in stoppage time than Wolves and this, more often than not, can be the difference between a team staying up or going down. There is no doubt that they have the players, the quality and the character to stay up with the likes of Ashley Jarvis, Kevin Doyle, Karl Henry and Steven Fletcher but their ability to consistently concede late goals displays a lack of confidence and belief which can be incredibly exposed at this stage of the season.
20th– 27 Points- Wigan Athletic
Many say that Wigan have outstayed their welcome in the EPL as they are unable to fill their stadium even for the visit of Manchester United. This is harsh, but there is no doubt that their stay in the Premiership is more than likely to come to an end within the coming months. Wigan play a terrific style of soccer but seem unable to batten down the hatches and take a 1-0 win leaving themselves open far too often with their desire to pass it out of their back no matter what. Their manager Roberto Martinez has a history of building good sides in the Championship and League 1, his skill set and experience may well come in very handy next season.