The Premier League Relegation BattleBy: phil | April 6th, 2012
With seven matches remaining in the season, Queens Park Rangers find themselves in the middle of the relegation dogfight. Last week’s thrilling win over Arsenal breathed new life into the club, but we still need to consistently pick up points to beat the drop. Luckily for QPR, several of the other strugglers also face tough match-ups over the next few weeks, so this battle is still wide open.
Looking at the table, Wolverhampton is probably doomed already (carrying only 22 points from 31 matches, way behind even 19th-paced Wigan). But the four clubs directly above Wolves are down in the trenches – QPR, Wigan ‘Latics, Bolton, and Blackburn. Let’s dig into the details and see who’s likely to fight their way to survival.
Games Played: 30
Goal Differential: -24
Next Three: vs. Fulham, at Newcastle, vs. Swansea
None of these clubs should be feeling especially optimistic, but Bolton’s situation is perhaps the least dire. With a 1-point lead over the other three and a game in hand, Bolton has the inside track at survival. They’ve also won three straight in the Prem, and seem to have put their worst form behind them.
But Bolton can’t rest yet. They do have a poor goal differential that would hurt them if they finished level with Blackburn or QPR. And their crammed schedule won’t let them relax. A loss vs. Fulham this weekend would put Bolton right back in the danger zone.
Games Played: 31
Goal Differential: -21
Next Three: at West Brom, vs. Liverpool, at Swansea
Blackburn nearly earned a vital point on Monday vs. Manchester United. But a late burst from Man U doomed the Rovers and pushed them back into the relegation zone. Now, they absolutely need at least a point vs. West Brom this week. Although Liverpool has been slumping, they’re still a cut above these struggling clubs, so going into next week needing a win would probably be too much to ask.
Blackburn is actually probably the best offensive club of the four on this list – the Yak is a menace against even the best defenses, and David Holiett has also been according himself very well. It’s been leaking goals at the back (especially late goals and/or strange and unfathomable breakdowns in the defending) that have doomed Blackburn. If they can stop giving up cheap goals, Blackburn is very much alive in the fight to stay up.
Games Played: 31
Goal Differential: -26
Next Three: at Chelsea, vs. Man U, at Arsenal
No doubt about it, those next three are brutal. Wigan also has the Premier League’s weakest offense (no one has more than four Premier League goals) and a poor goal differential in the event of a tie in the table. If they can stay alive, they have winnable matches the last two weeks against Blackburn and Wolves. But that’s a tall order given their April schedule.
Games Played: 31
Goal Differential: -19
Next Three: Man U, vs. Swansea, at West Brom
The Rs looked lively in the big win over Arsenal last week. Adel Taarabt may have finally found his form (too him long enough) and Bobby Zamora will provide the firepower up front until Cisse` returns from suspension. The match-up on Sunday is a nasty one, but if we can take even a point out of that one, we have a pair of winnable matches following.
The key for the Rs are as follows: maintaining discipline and making hard and aggressive tackles in the midfield – we always run into trouble when we let opponents set up shop without hassling them. When we’re playing our best, we turn the midfield acres into a free-for-all. But when we look the worst (like the first Fulham match), our opponents win a ball and suddenly seem like they slide right into their offensive sets. If Barton and Derry can get aggressive and win a few balls in the midfield, we should be able to bang out enough points to stay up.
QPR vs. Man U is the early Sunday match, and it’s on Fox Soccer Channel in the USA. Check in after the match for a recap and video highlights, and a look ahead to see how the relegation battle is developing.