Thursday, March 7, 2013
The 20 top clubs in English football have just 10 fixtures remaining this season – and for some, that means just 10 fixtures left to save it.
With barely a quarter of the campaign to run and Manchester United already seemingly destined to wrap up the Premier League title with a handful of games to spare, attention is turning to the battle to stay in the top flight for the 2013-14 season.
And apart from the usual status and privilege that comes with a place at this country’s top football table, next season will carry a guaranteed minimum increase of 33 per cent in television revenue.
Needless to say, no club can afford to finish in the bottom three 6pm on Sunday, May 19.
Since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams ahead of the 1995-96 campaign, only four times has an average of one point per game not been enough to earn survival.
And with Wigan currently in the final safety position with 24 points from 28 games, it looks like teams will need well under 38 points to avoid relegation from their 38 games this term.
With 32 points already in the bag, Norwich City should have the time and the games to get the points they will need to see them over the finishing line and retain their Premier League place beyond the summer.
Indeed, looking at City’s remaining 10 fixtures this season – substituting relegated Bolton and Wolves with Southampton and Reading – the 2011-12 corresponding fixtures saw City earn 15 points, including home wins over Swansea and Aston Villa.
To look at it another way, the Canaries picked up 11 points from their final 10 games last season, before finishing with in 12th position with 47 points.
In truth, there are teams sitting much more nervously than Chris Hughton’s men.
Of the three teams currently occupying the relegation zone, Reading’s remaining fixtures look the trickiest – with Saturday’s clash at home to Aston Villa a game both sides need three points from.
Paul Lambert’s Villa have home fixtures that could offer them the points to secure safety, while many in Norfolk will already be looking forward to the Birmingham outfit’s visit to Carrow Road on May 4.
Wigan are only above Villa on goal-difference and continuing involvement in the FA Cup means their trip to Manchester City is yet to be rearranged.
Where that game at The Etihad sits in the run-in could yet play a key role in the now-traditional great escape plotted by Roberto Martinez.
Wigan host Villa on the final day of the season.
Southampton – Saturday’s visitors to Carrow Road – still have only one victory under new boss Mauricio Pochettino and with games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Swansea on their way, it could yet be a nervy few weeks for the Premier League new boys.
But Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers will have high hopes of rising off the bottom of the league and on to safety.
Having beaten Southampton at St Mary’s last weekend, Rangers’ next seven games give them every chance of turning around a previously dyer situation.
• Who do you think is doomed for the Championship? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below…