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With eight matches to go in the Premier League season, the battle for survival is under way with as many as nine teams in danger of getting relegated. In the past 37 points have been enough for survival in eight of the last 10 seasons and only one side has been relegated with 39 or more points in the same period, West Ham United in 02/03 with a Premier League record 42 points.
Out of the potential relegation candidates, Bolton is closest to safety with 34 points. With games left against Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Hull I cannot see a scenario that Bolton does not get enough points to avoid relegation once again.
It was only four short months ago that Hull City were sitting in a European place having taken 23 points from their first 15 matches. Now after a horrific run if form, Hull sits just four points above the danger zone with 33 points. If Hull gets relegated their fall from grace will be record breaking as previously the highest any club has been after 15 matches and gone down is Crystal Palace who had collected 19 points and were 10th in the table. In fact only one other side has been relegated after collecting more than 16 points in their first 15 matches.
Hull’s season comes down to the next three games as they are all huge relegation battles. They play Portsmouth at home then go to Boro and Sunderland. If Hull can pick up four points from these three games then I think they will have the confidence back in the squad to survive. If they pick up less than three points then I will think Hull will go down.
While one win from three games does not seem that big a challenge, Hull has only collected averaged.62 points per game over the last 21 games. If they continue this rate they will add another five points until the end of the season leaving them on a total of 38.
Hull is not the only team to have struggled after a promising start. Portsmouth at one point were just a point behind Hull in 8th after 15 matches. Portsmouth is a team that controls its own destiny. They have games left against fellow strugglers Hull (A), West Brom (H), Bolton (H), Newcastle (A), Blackburn (A), Sunderland (H). Pompey have a good home record and I expect them to get enough points from their four home games to avoid relegation.
Stoke City will avoid the drop mainly because of their impressive home record should secure them another season in the top flight with Wigan their most difficult remaining home match. Hull should also survive with five matches against teams in the current bottom nine remaining (although three are away) offering the potential for enough points to reach safety.
At the foot of the table West Brom need a miracle. Yes teams have came back from bigger deficits, West Ham were eight points adrift of 17th in 06/07 but West Brom is not West Ham. Albion have been poor all season and they are going straight back to the Championship.
Looking at the relegation contenders remaining fixtures and Big Sam and his 17th placed Blackburn Rovers have their work cut out for themselves. Blackburn’s fate might well be decided on the last day of the season when they play West Brom at home.
Similarly 14th placed Sunderland could easily be dragged into trouble as three of their four remaining home matches against teams in the top six as is Middlesbrough who still have to face Aston Villa, Manchester United and Arsenal. Boro need to pick up maximum points against fellow strugglers Newcastle, Bolton and Hull if they are going to avoid relegation.
The big wild card is the relegation battle is Alan Shearer and Newcastle. Newcastle looked a certain candidate for relegation before the International break, but Shearer will bring some new energy and enthusiasm to a team that desperately needed it. The challenge for Shearer is that Newcastle are 4 points behind Blackburn and they have to play Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Villa in their last 8 games with three of those games away from home. To reach 37 points Newcastle will need maximum points from its three homes games against Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Fulham. It is a tough task but I expect Shearer to further cement his legacy in Newcastle and keep them up.
To make things even sweeter for Newcastle fans, I expect that Boro and Blackburn will join West Brom in the Championship next year.
Who do you think will get relegated?