Bolton Wanderers 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park this week has handed Owen Coyle’s side a Premier League lifeline whilst also ensuring that the Villa boss, Alex McLeish,will have a few sleepless nights over the next couple of weeks as his team become inexorably dragged into the relegation fight.
Wolves became the first of three teams relegated last weekend which leaves two more places in the table for the other teams to fight to avoid and currently, it is Blackburn in 19th with 31 points from 35 games and Bolton in 18th on 33 points from 34 games who occupy them. Just above them and currently “safe” on 34 points from 35 games is Wigan in 17th place and QPR in 16th on the same number of points. Villa are two points better off on 36 points also from 35 games.
As it stands, Bolton possibly have the slightest advantage over the others by having a game in hand, which is at home to out of sorts Tottenham Hotspur next Wednesday.
The other teams all have three games to play, Blackburn look to have the toughest schedule with trips to Spurs and Chelsea together with a crunch game at home to Wigan and it is this run which would explain why Steve Kean’s side is the 1/6 favourite of the five to be playing in the Championship next season.
Wigan’s destiny is in their own hands still and two wins from their final three matches should see them safe but they will have their work cut out to beat in form Newcastle at the DW Stadium this weekend but the game at Blackburn and final game at home to Wolves will surely dictate the fate of Roberto Martinez’s men and they are 3/1 to go down, which suggests the experts think they’ll survive.
Favourites to join Blackburn are QPR who play Chelsea this weekend in the West London Derby before facing Stoke in their final home game of the season. You’d have to think Mark Hughes’ side would need to get the points on the board before the final game of the season which is away to Manchester City! The R’s are 11/8 to make a quick return to the Championship after only winning promotion 12 months ago.
Bolton are 6/4 to go down and it has to be thought that with the game in hand together with a home game against West Brom, they will accrue the required points to stay up and even trips to Sunderland and Stoke provide opportunities to gain a result, which leaves just Villa as the team who could end up in the bottom three and they play West Brom away, Tottenham at home and Norwich away in their final three matches. All tough but ones which should see them pick up at least two points which would be enough but it may not be enough to see Alex McLeish resume Pre Season training come July and the search for the new Aston villa boss could be the first bit of Summer business for the club’s American Owners, just 12 months after poaching the Scot from local rivals Birmingham.
Relegation prediction: Wolves, Blackburn and Queens Park Rangers