Who's Staying Up And Who's Going Down?

With Reading and QPR all but relegated, Matt Stanger looks at the seven candidates for the final spot in the bottom three. It looks like it's going to go to the wire...

Last Updated: 04/04/13 at 10:52 Post Comment

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Southampton - 12th, 34 points, Goal Difference -9
There are easier ways to survive in the Premier League than Southampton's current approach, but Mauricio Pochettino's short reign has seen plenty of excitement with 'big' victories against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City. The Argentine's record of three wins, three draws and three defeats so far yields a slightly lower points-per-game average than Nigel Adkins' final 12 games in charge, which saw Saints lose only twice. It was a strange decision to sack Adkins, and even stranger timing, but Pochettino has already won many fans, including Sir Alex Ferguson, who said Southampton were the best team to visit Old Trafford this season after Man United's 2-1 victory in January. Saturday's win against Chelsea saw Southampton jump up to 12th, and with a favourable fixture list, they should avoid being dragged back into the relegation dogfight.
Odds to go down: 20/1
Verdict: Survive, comfortably.


Stoke - 13th, 34 points, GD -9
Not only have Stoke won just one of their last 12 matches, but they have also scored the fewest number of goals in the Premier League this season with a measly total of 27. It may have been possible to ignore this embarrassment had the Potters not also finished as the Premier League's lowest scorers last year, but poor performances have gradually started to turn a number of supporters against Tony Pulis. The manager should be able to steer his team to safety, which will probably be enough to satisfy Peter Coates despite the chairman's significant outlay in the transfer market. But Stoke are going nowhere fast, and the loss of Rory Delap's long throw has seen Pulis struggle to adapt his armoury. Victory at home to Aston Villa on Saturday is a must.
Odds to go down: 16/1
Verdict: Survive, with pressure on Pulis to bring significant improvement.


Norwich - 14th, 34 points, GD -19
Norwich's season has been a rollercoaster ride so far. A ten-match unbeaten run between mid-October and mid-December - which included six wins - has been sandwiched by a poor start of no wins in the first seven games (and 17 goals conceded) and the team's current run of just a single victory in 14 matches. As one of only three teams to beat Man United this season, the Canaries should be able to haul themselves to safety in home fixtures against an out-of-sorts Swansea side, Reading, Aston Villa and West Brom. But if Chris Hughton's team don't secure survival before the final day, a trip to Man City doesn't bode well for their chances. With six goalless draws this season and all seven of their victories decided by a single goal, it's certainly going to be tight.
Odds to go down: 10/1
Verdict: Survive, just.


Newcastle - 15th, 33 points, GD -15
Despite being the biggest underachievers in the Premier League this season, Newcastle have coped with injuries and poor form to progress to a quarter-final meeting with Benfica in the Europa League. This achievement has perhaps proved a distraction to the Magpies, however, with Alan Pardew warning that his team need to recover their league form after a 4-0 thrashing at Man City. "We have done well in the Europa League, but it can't detract from the Premier League," said Pardew. "We need two victories at least, and maybe a third or a fourth to get ourselves into a strong position." The two victories may come in the next two home matches against Fulham and rivals Sunderland, with defeat in the latter potentially pushing this fragile Newcastle team further into trouble.
Odds to go down: 12/1
Verdict: Survive, but not without several more disappointing results and performances.


Sunderland - 16th, 31 points, GD -10
Ignoring the issues that surround Paolo Di Canio's appointment for a moment, the Italian's arrival at Sunderland should at least provide plenty of entertainment. After spending a fortune on mediocrity in his four-and-a-half years on Wearside, it seems Ellis Short has decided enough is enough, opting for the 'burn out rather than fade away' approach to Premier League survival. Di Canio may just be the perfect manager to put fire in the bellies of Sunderland's troupe of squad players, but unless the distraction of his political views disappears for good, it could prove hugely detrimental to the Black Cats' cause. The loss of Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole to injuries is a huge blow, and the Monday night trip to Villa Park on April 29 will be crucial.
Odds to go down: 7/4
Verdict: Survive with fireworks.


Wigan - 17th, 30 points, GD -20
With three victories in their last four matches, it seems Wigan are set to stay up in typical fashion. The final nine games of last season saw the Latics pick up an astonishing 21 points on a run which included victories over Man United and Arsenal as well as a 4-0 thrashing of high-flying Newcastle. This season's survival bid may hinge on Wigan's matches against the teams around them, though, with Sunday's trip to QPR a good opportunity to pick up three points before the FA Cup semi-final against Millwall. Tough trips to Man City and Arsenal could force Roberto Martinez's team into a winner-takes-all final-day clash at home to Aston Villa, but we have seen before that Wigan are capable of beating anyone and they will surely spring at least one surprise in the run-in.
Odds to go down: 9/4
Verdict: Survive, owing to their experience.


Aston Villa - 18th, 30 points, GD -26
Hope for Villa comes in the form of Paul Lambert's magical powers, with the picture at the top of the page showing the manager putting a hex on his team's opponents. Despite throwing away a 1-0 lead against Liverpool last weekend, Lambert is still confident of survival, perhaps hoping that his positivity rubs off on the players. "We're certainly playing well enough and we don't look like a team who are down the bottom at the minute," said Lambert. "If we keep going we'll win more games than not. Confidence is a big part of the game." If Villa's young team - Nathan Baker in particular - can cut out the lapses in concentration, they have every chance of leapfrogging one of the weaklings above them. But if they leave it to the final day, Wigan's experienced relegation battlers will surely make them pay.
Odds to go down : 6/4
Verdict: Relegated.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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