Soccer Magazine

Thursday's Relegation Rundown

By Thetoaststaff
Thursday's Relegation Rundown
The Relegation race is starting to tighten up.  Teams at the bottom are not going down quietly and half of the league is dangerously close to the bottom three.  Let’s take a look at the bottom of the table. 
20. Wigan Athletic, 27 pts - Wigan has been very unfortunate in that many of their rivals at the bottom of the table have been able to secure points lately while Wigan has had to play both Manchester teams in the last two weeks.  Wigan fought hard but came up short in a 1-0 loss to Man City at Eastlands.  Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi let a slow David Silva shot go through his arms and trickle past the goal line in the 38th minute for the only goal of the game.  Wigan had performed admirably up to that point so the goal was definitely harsh.  Wigan had their chances to equalize in the second half, most notably a Conor Sammon shot across goal that just skirted wide of the far post.  Wigan can rest this weekend and prepare for a pivotal home match against Birmingham on the 19th.  If Wigan want to give themselves any chance of staying up, this is a game they need win.     19. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 29 pts - Wolves battled to a hard fought and entertaining 3-3 draw with Spurs over the weekend.  We predicted Spurs would field a second choice team in order to rest players ahead of their midweek Champions League fixture, but to our surprise they picked a mostly first choice squad, and Wolves played well to secure the draw.  Kevin Doyle scored two and Steven Fletcher scored in the 87th to steal the point for Wolves.  Wolves travel to Villa Park on the 19th to play Aston Villa, a winnable game as Villa’s form has been suspect pretty much all season.  Wolves need to start picking up 3 points as West Ham is starting to pull away from the bottom two teams.
18. West Ham United, 31 pts - The Hammers have been on fire during the last two weeks, including a 3-0 beat down on Stoke at Upton Park.  Demba Ba scored again and is arguably the best signing of the January transfer window.  West Ham also got goals from Manuel De Costa and Thomas Hitzelsperger.  They dominated the entire match and deserved the 3-0 score line.  Ironically enough, the Hammers play Stoke again this weekend in the FA Cup 6th round tie at the Britannia.  For West Ham’s next Premier League match, they travel to White Hart Lane to face Spurs.  That will definitely be a very tough fixture for West Ham to get any points out of.  If West Ham does play well, they should be able to get something out of the match as we feel Spurs will continue to drop points as long as they are in the Champions League.
17. Birmingham City, 31 pts - Birmingham has played 2 games since last week’s rundown.  Over the weekend they lost 3-1 at home to West Brom.  It isn't much of a surprise that they struggled coming down off their Carling Cup triumph over Arsenal.  Wednesday they played to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park against Everton.  The draw brought them out of the drop zone and into 17th place on goal differential.  After their FA Cup game this weekend, Birmingham travels to the DW Stadium to play Wigan on the 19th.  This is a must win for Birmingham just as it is for Wigan.  Based on who the other relegation teams are facing that weekend, a win for Birmingham could move them up the table considerably.
16. West Bromwich Albion, 32 pts - West Brom picked up a much needed 3 points against Birmingham.  After barely salvaging draws two weeks in a row, it was imperative for them to pick up a victory this week.   The goals came from Youssuf Mulumbu, James Morrison, and Paul Scharner in the 3-1 victory.  Next week, West Brom welcome Arsenal to The Hawthorns.  That is a game where Arsenal will expect to pick up the 3 points against West Brom.  However, West Brom did beat Arsenal 3-2 earlier in the season at the Emirates, so it wouldn't be a total shock if there was an upset in this one as well.
15. Blackpool, 32 pts - Blackpool were warned that they would be included in the rundown if they did not pick up form.  The Tangerines were without Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell, so expectations were not high for them to get anything out of the game against Chelsea on Monday night.  Chelsea were in control the entire way and won comfortably, 3-1. Blackpool's lone goal was scored late by Jason Puncheon.  Blackpool travels to Ewood Park to face Blackburn Rovers on the 19th of the month.  This match will be very winnable and important for both teams.
14. Blackburn Rovers, 32 pts - Blackburn is making its first appearance on the rundown after their 3-2 loss at Craven Cottage against Fulham.  The game looked headed for a draw until Grant Hanley was whistled for holding back Aaron Hughes in the box during a corner kick.  Referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot and Bobby Zamora stepped up to score the penalty for Fulham.  Blackburn have to refocus for their home match against Blackpool.  With everyone bunched so close together, a home win would be just what the doctor ordered for Rovers. 
Teams that are safe…for now - Aston Villa, 33 pts; Stoke City 34 pts.  Aston Villa welcomes Wolves on the 19th while Stoke City plays a home match against Newcastle United the same day.  Both Aston Villa and Stoke are on a bad run of form and a couple more losses would put them right in the thick of the relegation battle.  You really could say that for about half of the table as Newcastle is currently sitting in 10th place but are only 5 points above the drop zone.  A bad month from any one of these mid table teams could pose major problems.

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