The Premier League title race may have been done and dusted some time ago but that is certainly not the case at the other end of the table. Reading and QPR look as good as down after a woeful run of form and that could be confirmed this weekend, leaving just one more spot available with a number of teams hovering in and around the trap door. Wigan and Aston Villa are looking particularly vulnerable at the moment after struggling all season and it would be a surprise if one of those two didn’t join QPR and Reading in the Championship next season.
Aston Villa have endured a tough season under Manager Paul Lambert but a recent upturn in fortunes has given them a chance of hanging onto their Premier League status. Lambert has persevered with his youth policy at Villa Park despite plenty of criticism and he will be hoping they can avoid the drop over the coming weeks. Villa do have a decent front three in their favour in the form of Benteke, Weimann and Agbonlahor but their leaky defence is surely more than cause for concern for the Villa faithful.
Roberto Martinez has somehow managed to keep Wigan in the Premier League for the past few seasons now but perhaps this season could be the Spaniard’s toughest assignment to date in his four year spell at the DW Stadium. Wigan find themselves three points from safety at the moment but they do have a crucial game in hand which might count in their favour. Ironically, The Latics find themselves in the FA Cup Final against ManCity but what affect has their Cup run had on their chances of Premier League survival? There is every chance we could see Wigan playing both Championship and European football next of the season which would be a cruel twist of fate for the club and its supporters.
Wigan do have that important game in hand to play against Swansea but that match falls in FA Cup Final week with the Latcics set to play four crucial games in the space of just 10 days. That period will surely be ‘make-or-break’ time for Wigan’s survival hopes with Aston Villa planning to take advantage of Wigan’s busy schedule.
On the face of it, Wigan appear to be on the brink of relegation with a tough run-in ahead of them with Tottenham, West Brom and Arsenal forthcoming. However, Martinez seems to have developed a knack of pulling off ‘the great escape’. The Spanish manager has done a terrific job of keeping the club in the top flight on a shoe string budget but survival this season would represent perhaps his best Houdini act to date. They simply do not have the budget to compete at the top level and the fact that Wigan have remained in the Premier League since 2004 is testament to the way the club is run but their nine year stay in the top flight is set to come to an end according to the odds .
Stoke, Sunderland and Newcastle are also at the wrong end of the table and are not yet safe but it reality it looks like a two horse race for that final relegation spot. Wigan and Aston Villa will be hoping not to leave it until the last day but if they do, then ironically, the two sides meet each other at the DW Stadium. It would be a fitting and thrilling finale to the Premier League season if Villa and Wigan face off in a “winner takes all clash”.