As another good weekend of football approaches, the top of the table in England’s top flight division has been settled. But the real excitement now lies at the bottom of the table, and at the top of the Championship League.
Four teams are fighting for promotion to the Premier League – Watford, Bournemouth, Norwich City, and Middlesbrough. Watford was in a similar situation last season finishing 3rd and lost out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season. But as they enter this weekend they are top of the table with two games left and are in fine form. Seven years ago Bournemouth was minutes away from being liquidated. Now the Cherries are just two wins away from playing top flight football for the first time in their 116 year existence. Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job with this team. They have played the best football this season and deserve it. Norwich City and Derby County are also hanging on but Norwich City looks like the better of the two. Middlesbrough has been at the top or near the top all season long. Led by Patrick Bamford on loan from Chelsea, the 21 year old has been named the Championship Player of the Year and will have to wait a little longer to show his stuff at Chelsea, but that’s ok, because the more he scores, the bigger headache he causes for Chelsea. I think Bournemouth and Watford have the momentum right now and will be playing top flight football next season.
As for the Premier League, just 9 points separate the bottom seven clubs. Newcastle, Sunderland, Leicester City, QPR, Aston Villa, Hull, and Burnley are all fighting for their life. Obviously each one of these clubs has several reasons for their positions. Burnley for example is limited in their financial commitments. But outside of the financial situations for these clubs, it comes down to play. For Newcastle, only QPR and Sunderland have won fewer points but they remain positive they can get four points and the next five games. Speaking of Sunderland, last year they were magical as they were in the bottom with six games remaining and managed to finish 14th. This year they have the lowest top goal scorers in the League with 4. Leicester City was at the bottom of the table for 140 days before a win over Swansea. No team has ever been at the bottom that long and made it to safety. Sure QPR has Charlie Austin’s 17 goals but that about all. QPR has allowed more shots on target than any other team in the league, which explains the -21 goal difference. Aston Villa has been riding high as of late as they will stroll into Wembley for the FA Cup final. Before Tim Sherwood arrived, Villa scored just 12 goals in 25 games. After Sherwood’s arrival they have scored 12 goals in 8 games, including Christian Benteke’s eight in seven games. Little old Hull City has been just downright awful. As for Burnley, they have scored just one goal in their last 10 hours and 39 minutes of play. If it wasn’t for Danny Inge, it might be worse.
Looking at the remaining fixtures for these clubs, I would have to say that Hull, Sunderland, and Leicester look like they are headed to relegation. And that could be costly for the teams and managers also. Hull City players will see a 40-50% reduction in salaries should they be relegated. At QPR, not only will they have about a dozen players out of contract but they face penalties for breaking the Financial Fair Play rules last season. No team has ever received an automatic promotion after relegation since 2010, and this season alone there were 17 sacks.
Promotion might have all the joys and financial gains, but relegation definitely has its share of disappointments.