The Final Flourish – But Who For?

by Sam Wheatley

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

With the Premier League title decided, the last round of games for this season is most meaningful for the bottom clubs – or those from 15th to 19th, who can all still be relegated.  With West Ham deservedly relegated for not sacking Avram Grant on any of the innumerate opportunities granted to them (and perhaps even for appointing him in the first place), there are just two spots left in the relegation and five clubs that could potential fill them.  Here is my guide to the last games of the season and finally, the clubs that I think will go down.

Manchester United vs. Blackpool

With the Champions League final just a week away, I can’t imagine the league winners will field much of a team.  Of course, United’s reserves are more than capable of turning in a performance – but Ian Holloway will have instilled such belief in his Tangerine Army that I can’t see anything other than a Blackpool win.  Holloway has gone on record saying that “those who deserve to get relegated, get relegated”, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that with the lack of funds and inability to attract top names, Blackpool have done remarkably to still be in with a shout of staying up on the final day.  As Holloway rightly says, victory over a United reserve team will not tarnish their achievement this season.

Prediction:  Blackpool win, Blackpool stay up

Stoke vs. Wigan

Stoke’s Irish striker Jon Walters says they won’t be taking it easy against Wigan, which is probably fair to say – I don’t imagine Stoke can be put on an ‘easy’ setting.  Their achievements this season will be confounded by winning and trying to seal 8th.  Wigan are capable of winning, but it seems doubtful that they will.  Ultimately, this season could prove to be Wigan’s last in the top flight for at least another season, barring a Titanic performance from Roberto Martinez’s men.

Prediction:  Stoke win, Wigan relegated

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Birmingham City

This game is anything but arbitrary for Spurs.  They have to win to keep Liverpool at bay for 5th and European football.  The stakes are arguably higher for Birmingham, who presumably would really rather like to remain in the Premier League.  However, given Spurs ambition not to mention the squad at their disposal, I think that this could potentially be an upsetting day for the Blues from England’s Second City.

Prediction:  Tottenham win, Birmingham relegated.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Blackburn Rovers

In the words of James Richardson, “Woof”!  A genuine six-pointer – both teams on forty points going into this one.  If these two draw and two of the three teams below them win, they’re both down.  However, looking at the form over the last three games, Wolves seem to have more fight, coming through two local derbies with four points and notching three more against an injury-hit (but not relegation threatened) Sunderland side.  They’re not as goal-shy as their Lancashire relegation rivals and have the home advantage, so McCarthy’s men may well stretch their stay in the top flight to three consecutive seasons and severely dent the aspirations of Blackburn’s chicken farming owners if Birmingham or Wigan win – but I don’t think either side will.

Prediction:  Wolves win and stay up, Blackburn stay up because Birmingham and Wigan lose.

If Wolves draw with Blackburn and two of the teams below them win, they both go down.  If Wolves lose then they take the position of Blackburn in these predictions.  There are so many possible scenarios that it scrambles the mind to think of them all – but needless to say, this final day is going to provoke scenes of utter jubilation and inconsolable misery amongst any of these five teams.  These predictions are based on form rather than any preference, though as we well know form often counts for nothing on occasions as huge as this.  For those fortunate enough to support sides that don’t have to endure this nail-biting uncertainty going into the final day of the season enjoy the controversy that will no doubt unfold this weekend.

Follow me on Twitter @samuelefrumento

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  • Mystical Mike

    Let’s hope blackpool do win, top draw entertainment all round

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