The Battle of Claret & Blue & Amber
Last night Wolves got a crucial 3-1 away win against fellow relegation strugglers, West Ham. The result means the Hammers remain one place above 3rd from bottom Burnley with three points more than the Clarets but now having lost their one game advantage. They also have the advantage of a vastly superior goal difference which could be worth an extra point to them at the end of the season if things are still tight.
We have to make the assumption that bottom club, Portsmouth having suffered a nine point penalty for going into administration will be relegated despite it still being mathematically possible for them to finish out of the bottom three. They now have just 13 points, already a massive 14 points behind West Ham.
That leaves Hull, who recently sent their manager, Phil Brown away to tend to his garden. Iain Dowie has now been given the task of trying to save the second from bottom club with just eight games remaining. They have 24 points like the Clarets but crucially have played one game less although at the moment we do have a slightly better goal difference. The survival chances of both teams could hinge on a crucial game between the two sides at the KC Stadium on Saturday 10th April.
Other clubs of course could still be relegated, but if you look at the current table there is now already a significant four point gap between the 4th from bottom club, West Ham and fifth from bottom club, Wigan. Wigan of course cruelly defeated Burnley last Saturday at the DW Stadium after scoring in the last minute of added time when a 0-0 draw would have been a fairer result. That defeat means the Clarets are now 7 points behind Wigan and they look uncatchable now.
The Clarets are certainly the whipping boys at the moment and we just can`t seem to get the points we need when we play the struggling sides. Having already suffered a home defeat against Portsmouth, we then failed to beat Wolves at home. Wolves are clearly on a roll just at the wrong time for the Clarets and have since picked up a point away to Aston Villa prior to their win at Upton Park last night. The Claret & Blue have certainly taken a battering from the Old Gold! Wolves now look safe in 15th spot on 31 points seven clear of the Clarets.
Bolton too could also go on a horrendous run and certainly most Clarets fans would relish that after what Judas Coyle did to this club but realistically they look safe in 14th spot with 32 points.
Premier League Table-Bottom
So in summary let`s look at the situation at the bottom end of the Premier League using the table below:
So what does this mean for our survival chances?
I think the first obvious thing to say at the moment with seven games left to play and with 21 points up for grabs there is still all to play for if only we could go on a little run and string a few back-to-back wins together to boost confidence before the tricky last three games.
It is also clear that mathematically anything could still happen but if it is to happen for the Clarets we have to take each game as it comes and we certainly can`t rely on our rivals stumbling. Our fate most definitely is in our own hands and somehow we have to dig deep and start to play with confidence and yes pray for that little bit of luck that seems to have alluded us big time since the Coyle fiasco in the January window.
It seems evident at this stage that just three clubs are now trying to fight for that all important 17th place and survival. Other clubs could be brought back into the battle but at the moment West Ham, Burnley and Hull are the three clubs in most danger of relegation assuming Portsmouth are already down.
What are our chances of survival?
We can get a clue by looking at the remaining fixtures for the Clarets, West Ham and Hull.
Burnley-7 to play
Manchester City (H)
Hull City (A)
Tottenham Hotspur (H)
All games in the Premier League are hard but it is clear two things need to happen if we are to survive the drop. Firstly we somehow have to return to 'Fortress Turf Moor` and find the spirit and form we had earlier in the season. The grudge match against Rovers on Sunday is arguably our easiest game at home now remaining but what pressure we will be under and of course in derby games you can ignore the form book, anything can happen. There is only thing that has to happen for the Clarets, a victory or it really will be an uphill struggle to survive. Our last three home games are shockers, all involving clubs fighting for the 4th place spot.
We simply have to get something from these games but nine points is asking a lot. Our only chance would be if we played like we did at home against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea this season. If we did, points could be on the cards
We could also maybe hope that Liverpool go on one of their infamous wobbles again like they did away to Wigan recently. It would certainly be a bum squeaker of a match if in our last game of the season Burnley needed three points to survive and Spurs needed to win to finish 4th! I think we have to hope by then that Spurs have either already fluffed their chances of finishing 4th or have already secured it. If they have nothing to play for, we might just sneak it.
I said two things need to happen. The second is simply this, somehow we have to pick up some points on the road which is a tall ask considering we have yet to win one game away this season and have only managed one point all season. The more you look at the Hull game, the more you sense this could be the one to clinch the fate of either side. On paper it is certainly the easiest one for the Clarets although having said that will Sunderland and Birmingham really have anything to play for other than pride when we visit? They are both effectively safe now and are heading for a mid-table finish.
I think somehow we have to find 12 points from our remaining last seven games to stand a chance of survival. It is hard to see where they are going to come from but at least it is not impossible.
West Ham-7 to play
Stoke City (H)
Manchester City (H)
West Ham appear to have an easier ride than the Clarets at home although their last match against Manchester City could be interesting especially if City still need three points to secure the 4th place finish. However the games the Hammers play away are pretty grim and they could struggle to pick up points on the road.
Hull City-8 to play
Stoke City (A)
Aston Villa (H)
It is quite remarkable that Burnley, West Ham and Hull all face final games of the season at home and all against sides currently vying for the 4th place spot. Two of Hull`s last three home games look tricky with both Aston Villa and Liverpool looking to finish 4th. Their away games I suppose you would class as winnable but not many clubs come away from the Britannia with points and they won`t have an easy time at St Andrews either. On boy do we need to beat them at the KC!
There is no getting away from it and although in danger of stating the blindingly obvious we really do have a struggle on our hands to stay up but at least it is not impossible. We do though need luck to be on our side and it would be nice if we could now have a little run. Virtually every other club in the bottom seven apart from Burnley have had such a run and they have also enjoyed it seems far more luck against the top sides. Wigan v Liverpool and Villa v Wolves are two recent ones that come to mind. I firmly believe we are not really that much worse than the bottom six clubs and yet somehow we struggle when we play them and the top clubs never seem to have their off days against us .We seem to be the number one whipping boys at the moment and that will have to change if we are to stay in the top flight after 33 years of trying to get here.
What are the chances that effectively the same side that enjoyed success in the earlier part of the season can now start to play with the same quality and confidence? Brian Laws has a tough job on his hands but if he can motivate them to succeed it will be one huge feather in his cap, one that will silence his critics to the point of hero-worship.
Boy do we need something to cheer about in this terrible year of 2010. Come on you Clarets, we can still do this!