Sunday's Premier League climax should give us a
nerve-shreddingly exciting conclusion to the relegation battle.
Five teams are covered by one point, and two of them will be
joining West Ham in the Championship next season.
If you haven't worked out who to cheer for yet, here's a
quick recap of some reasons why each of the clubs may or may not deserve your
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Wigan Athletic v Stoke City (a) - Pos 19th; Pts 39; GD -22
What's to like? They have an affable manager in Roberto
Martinez, play football the right way, and have introduced us to the delights
of Honduran and Ecuadorean footballers.
What's not to like? Those empty seats at the DW Stadium.
I understand it can't be easy when you're located exactly between Old Trafford
and Anfield, but an average attendance of 16,812 in your sixth top-flight
season? It's not great, is it? And do we really need so many Lancastrian teams in
the Premier League.
Prospects: After last weekend's amazing win against West
Ham, they will be confident of getting a result against a Stoke side still
wearing their FA Cup hangover and with nothing to play for. However, a trip to
the Britannia Stadium is never easy.
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Blackpool v Manchester United (a) - Pos 18th; Pts 39; GD -21
What's to like? It would complete a truly amazing
achievement for Ian Holloway, who - for all his planet Zarf-style comedy - is a
proper football manager. Just look at their squad. It's terrible. How are they still in contention to stay up? Amazing.
What's not to like? Next season promises to be
a much less feel-good experience if they stay up. With no prospect of major
reinforcements, it could be a more extreme version of Hull City's second
season. Holloway's relationship with the board is already strained - things
could get very ugly indeed next term.
Prospects: Controversy is guaranteed if Blackpool stay up,
with Alex Ferguson determined to give his squad players a run-out a week ahead
of the Champions League final. That would be the same second string that
thrashed Schalke, but Blackpool have produced surprises at every turn this
season. Why stop now?
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Birmingham City v Tottenham Hotspur (a) - Pos 17th; Pts 39;
What's to like? They are paying the price for their
Carling Cup triumph, since when their league form has disappeared down the
toilet. If they go down, it would act as a deterrent for smaller clubs
considering a proper tilt at a cup competition. And that would be a bad thing.
What's not to like? Birmingham peddle an unadventurous
brand of football and are over-reliant on journeymen in their mid-30s. Plus,
with a clutch of contracts expiring and Carson Yeung yet to come up with that
long-awaited transfer war chest, the future hardly looks bright whether they
stay up or not.
Prospects: Last week really was a worst-case scenario for
the Blues, who lost at home to Fulham and saw Blackpool, Wigan and Wolves all
win. With one point taken from a possible 15, Birmingham's best hope could be
the fact that Spurs seem keen to miss out on fifth place and the Europa League.
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Wolves v Blackburn
Rovers (h) - Pos 16th; Pts 40; GD -19
What's to like? They have great fans, a refreshingly
honest manager and the Midlands is not exactly overburdened with top-flight
football teams. Also, they are much more entertaining to watch than they get
credit for. Of the bottom six, only Blackpool have scored more goals.
What's not to like? Would anybody REALLY miss them if
they were gone? If you're asked to name all the clubs in the Premier League,
Wolves are likely to be one of the ones you'll forget. And Karl Henry's
scything tackles definitely won't be missed.
Prospects: Wolves are the only team of the five in danger to
play at home, and their confidence is sky high after two wins on the bounce.
They have every chance of finishing the job against relegation rivals
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Blackburn Rovers v Wolves (a) - Pos 15th; Pts 40; GD -14
What's to like? It has been a tough season for
Rovers fans: a bizarre takeover, the inexplicable sacking of Sam Allardyce and
recent off-field drama in the form of Steve Kean's drink-drive charge and the
Gael Givet transfer probe. Relegation might just finish them off.
What's not to like? It might be unfair on the fans, but
if Blackburn are relegated it will be a salutary warning to any owners wanting
to meddle in club affairs. Everything was fine until Venky's sacked Allardyce
and replaced him with Kean. It would serve them right if they went down.
Prospects: Having settled for a point last weekend, and
joined Manchester United in 20 minutes of exhibition-style sideways passing,
wouldn't it be typical if that came back to bite them on the backside? But their
decent goal difference could save them.
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Who do you want to stay up? Have your say below...