A relegation match between Sunderland and Stoke City failed to titillate my senses last night, I will admit, but the result which it produced, a 1-1 scoreline, makes for a sensational last few matches to the season. On the proviso that Wigan Athletic win their game in hand tonight against Swansea City at the DW Stadium, there will be a five-point gap from what would be Newcastle United in 18th, to Swansea City in 9th. It’s remarkable that more than half of the Premier League is in contention for relegation.
The saving grace for Newcastle, is that they have to play already-relegated QPR at Loftus Road in their next match. That’s not to say playing QPR is an easy task; they gave a very good account of themselves against Arsenal at the weekend, but if Newcastle can’t scrape a victory there, then it’s difficult to argue that they don’t deserve to go down. Newcastle’s last match of the season is against Arsenal and although a trip to St James’ Park is never easy for the Gunners, they’ve picked up the second-most points in the Premier League so far this season, just behind Manchester United. Arsenal are not a team you want to face on the last day of the season when you need three points yourself.
All of this is rhetoric however, as Wigan have to beat Swansea City this evening to make everybody in the Premier League sweat their socks off. Roberto Martinez’s side is the most experienced team in the history of the Premier League when it comes to surviving relegation battles. That experience will prove vital in their next three fixtures in the league, against Swansea tonight, Arsenal next Tuesday and Aston Villa on the final day of the season. For me, Wigan absolutely must win tonight, as, I don’t fancy them getting much, if anything at all, from their last two fixtures.
That FA Cup Final, as great an achievement as it is for Wigan, may prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. A leg-sapping match at Wembley against a top team such as Manchester City, followed by a trip to the Emirates three days later to play another team which likes to make the opposing team run about will be brutal on Wigan. Win or lose on Saturday, Wigan will lose the match that really matters to them three days later at the Emirates Stadium. Then, it’s how they recover for the match against Aston Villa just four days after that. It’s a very tough schedule for Wigan to deal with and how they fare this evening against Swansea will decide their season, in my opinion. Lose, and I think it could be all over.
Let’s see what tonight brings…