While the 2007-08 season has been one of the closest fought in recent years in the Premier League with regard to the top three, the relegation battle has been terribly interesting as well.
This isn’t new. A couple of seasons ago, we witnessed Bryan Robson’s West Brom miraculously survive the relegation dog-fight by jumping from 20th to 17th on the last day. Last season, West Ham needed Carlos Tevez’s heroics at Old Trafford to produce an unlikely victory against champions Manchester United, while Wigan had to beat Sheffield United the same day to ensure their survival and the latter’s drop.
This season, Derby confirmed their relegation a few months into the season. The other two relegation spots have been occupied by many different clubs during the course of the season – Sunderland, Boro, Wigan, Bolton, Fulham, Reading and Birmingham City. The latter two are now in 18th and 19th spots respectively. Of the lot, Roy Keane’s Sunderland were the first to ensure another season in the top flight.
Earlier today, Wigan and Boro secured their survival, leaving Bolton, Fulham, Reading and Brum fighting for the remaining two survival spots. Bolton gave their survival chances a major boost by beating Sunderland at the Reebok, while Fulham mauled Birmingham in a potential six-pointer.
The last round of matches will be intriguing. Bolton play Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge. Given that Chelsea will be gunning for victory at home, Bolton might have to be content with their haul of 36 points. If they don’t lose by more than a couple of goals at the Bridge, Bolton should remain in the Premier League.
Fulham, currently on 33 points, are away to Portsmouth next Sunday. Portsmouth are a tough side to crack at home. But considering they are in the FA Cup final a week later, Pompey might field a weakened side, or one which has almost nothing to play for. And given Fulham are the form side, winning 3 of their past 4 games, the Londoners might yet secure the victory that keeps them in the Premiership.
Of the teams in the relegation battle, Reading have the easiest fixture on the last day. They play away at Derby. Reading’s goal difference of -29 does not compare favorably with Bolton’s -19 or Fulham’s -23. To sustain their sojourn in the Premier League, Steve Coppell’s side might need to win by a margin of 7 or 8 goals, assuming a Fulham win.
For Birmingham City, even victory at Blackburn, a daunting prospect in itself, might not be enough. Their survival depends on the final day fortunes of the other teams. They are looking likely to join Derby for another season in the Championship.
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