Final day blues beckon
Posted 17th February 2010
The plans for a play-off to decide the fourth Champions League qualifier need not be replicated at the foot of the table. This season's relegation battle is shaping up to be one of the Premier League's tightest - there is no danger of three teams being cut adrift at the bottom.
Although Portsmouth appear to be doomed, just four points separate the seven teams above them. Even Fulham, Stoke and Blackburn in mid-table are not safe. However, the struggles of the teams below them should mean they do not face a nervous final afternoon.
Bolton, Burnley, Hull, Wigan, Wolverhampton, West Ham and Sunderland all face the real prospect of a final day battle for survival, with Wolves and the Black Cats facing a potentially crucial showdown at Molineux.
Burnely's Premier League odds suggest they are likely to take up the second relegation spot, but Brian Laws could still overhaul other sides and escape the drop zone.
Sunderland, winners over Chelsea and Arsenal this term, are the team who might have been expected to pull away from trouble, but recent form has been so poor - 12 league games without a win - that a decisive run of results must feel a long way away for their fans.
Sunderland have won only once away from home all season, a travel sickness that has affected all of the struggling teams apart from Wigan, who have won three times on the road. This suggests the relegation battle will be settled at home, with Burnley, Hull and Sunderland doing best in front of their own fans.
West Ham face the biggest immediate challenge. The Hammers, struggling with debt and injuries, face Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the coming month, making their other assignments in their next six fixtures - Hull, Bolton and Wolves - even more important.
In other news, the weights for the Grand National 2010 have been published and many people think last year's winner Mon Mome could put in a repeat performance.