The Premier League relegation battle is on
The premier league title seems destined to remain in Manchester but what is holding people’s attention is the relegation scrap.
With seven games to go for most teams going into this weekend round of matches, only seven points separate Aston Villa in 18th place and West Ham United in 11th.
QPR have spent big since their return to the Premier League two summers ago but have battled relegation in each season. They were the first to blink, when Mark Hughes was fired and Harry Redknapp was hired on the back of clamour by his mates in the press and the fickle fans at Loftus Road.
Apparently, Redknapp has a great record of keeping teams up. I can only think of one team he kept up - Portsmouth - so I am dismayed at the skewing of history.
In any case he was hired and many weeks later QPR are still in the relegation spots. I believe strongly that they will go down. I have no sympathy at all for any team who will pay vast sums of money for players like Samba, Mbia and Remy.
Reading did not arrive in the Premier League with any lofty ideals. They were happy to be back and, under Brian McDermott, just hoped to stay up. They have been very good to watch but have shipped too many goals. The sacking of McDermott defied any logic whatsoever for it was hard to see what a new manager was going to do to keep the team up.
It would have made a lot of sense to keep McDermott there and then hope he would be able to work his magic of bringing the team back up again after relegation. Having said that, the hiring of the former Southampton manager Nigel Adkins seems to be geared towards the battle from the Championship next season. Reading and QPR, for me, are as good as down.
I like Paul Lambert. He is a brave man and I really like what he is trying to do at Aston Villa in giving youth a chance. His current Villa team play with such high intensity and verve. However, as a young side they make mistakes in key areas that have cost them many matches.
This weekend Villa go to Stoke City where the hosts are no longer impregnable, knowing that a win there will drag Sunderland into the scrap. Sunderland play at Stamford Bridge against a Chelsea team needing a win to consolidate their Champions League slot.
On the 28th of April Villa host Sunderland and the outcome of that match might actually decide both team's Premier League future.
Wigan have started their annual escape march from the clutches of relegation. The match of this weekend, though, at Loftus Road against QPR, is a must win for them if they are not to be dragged back down. Roberto Martinez spent the summer seemingly being courted by Liverpool so it must be galling for him that he is involved in another relegation fight.
Wigan are hard to pin down to be honest. It is staggering how they cannot put in any consistency into their league form when one considers some of the wins they have put together this season. They are through to the FA Cup semis after an impressive rout of Everton in the sixth round at Goodison Park. A win on Sunday, depending on how the other results go, and they can start making plans for another stay in the most lucrative league in Europe.
Like Redknapp, I believe Martin O'Neill has been overrated for too long. Even then I was shocked at his sacking at Sunderland, especially by the timing of it all. More shocking was the hiring of Paolo di Canio.
Di Canio's political leanings aside, I think it is staggering that his work at Swindon was considered good enough to merit working in the Premier League and keeping Sunderland up.
I can imagine the lift in the managers' offices at Wigan and Aston Villa when O'Neill was fired and the bigger lift when Di Canio was hired. Sunderland have been flirting with relegation too many times since Roy Keane brought them up in 2009. This just might be the season they finally go down.
Whichever teams go down, the scrap will be fascinating to watch, even to the final weekend.
I am on Twitter: @CalvinEmeka