Date:Monday April 28 2008
Seeing as it was so close to the end of the season, I thought I`d do a Rob`s Prediction special, highlighting what might happen between the teams fighting for survival in the EPL. I think we are safe at present, but that depends on what happens at the weekend but being quietly confident, it looks pretty good and then we can move on in the Summer.
Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic
Well, games don`t come much bigger than this for Wigan Athletic. They face a strong possibility of safety if they can snatch a win here or even a point.
Aston Villa`s ground though, as widely known, is somewhat a fortress and Martin O`Neill`s side will not willingly let Wigan walk all over them at Villa Park, very much the other way round is the only way Martin O`Neill`s men will see this one.
However its crucial to remember that Wigan have never lost at Villa Park and that proud record will be all the more meaningful for Steve Bruce`s side as they try to get a point.
I don`t think they will win at Villa Park as this would cause shockwaves all over the country and in the press, but its not impossible at the same time.
Latics have done well under Steve Bruce and I fully expect a committed and difficult game for Villa to face in their race for 5th place.
Aston Villa 1 Wigan Athletic 1
Could this be a repeat scenario of last year`s crucial point for Wigan Athletic at Villa Park?
One thing`s for sure, the stats seem to work in our favour marginally in terms of us having never lost at Villa Park and under Steve Bruce, we have picked up some amazing results away from home as well as our exceptional home form.
Bolton v Sunderland
This game is rather bigger than Aston Villa v Wigan from a Bolton fan`s perspective - it`s a must win game for Gary Megson, the Ginger Mourinho of the EPL.
Here he faces a Sunderland side already safe in the EPL after their thrilling home game against Middlesbrough which ended 3-2. All credit must go to Roy and the staff at Sunderland for securing EPL survival, but how will they fare next season?
It`s a case of Reading and Wigan doing well in their first season all over again but next year I think they`ll struggle to continue their momentum, unless of course Keane gets his 50m war chest he so sorely desires.
Having said that, there`s nothing worse than having to go to a side that`s fighting for their lives but Sunderland will be fighting for pride and to claim as many points as possible - don`t bet against Sunderland making life easy at the Reebok for Bolton.
That will not be the case. Gary Megson`s team have one simple agenda at the end of the day. Win!
Whether or not that will happen is totally down to Megson and Bolton Wanderers and how they perform on the day.
I expect a fully committed Bolton Wanderers side to give Sunderland a run for their money and although Sunderland could make life difficult, I think that commitment as well as knowledge of what will happen in the light of a loss will be a huge incentive to Bolton to win this game and Sunderland`s away form, unfortunately for them, is not wonderful.
Bolton Wanderers 1 Sunderland 0
Only one result for Gary Megson`s side matters but today I think it will be the right one and just might secure EPL survival. However, a true test awaits them for the final game of the season at Stamford Bridge. I still think if they win here that Bolton will still have problems.
Fulham v Birmingham
Can you hear the theme of the Great Escape whistling through your mind?
A Great Escape could be on the cards for Roy Hodgson`s side after a magnificent win at Eastlands, courtesy of wonder kid Diomansy Kamara, who totally changed Fulham during the game after they were initially trailing by 2 goals from Ireland and Benjani, but what better time to be a hero than that special day for Fulham fans?
Now comes the bad news.
Birmingham themselves are fighting to stay up after they sloppily let Liverpool back into the game and draw 2-2. However there were incidences where Birmingham can count themselves lucky they drew at all against Liverpool.
That said, Birmingham`s work is far from over and there`s no worse time to go to Craven Cottage to try and get three precious points and Fulham will be on a real high after their unexpected victory at Manchester City.
These games are the types of games where you don`t know how things are going to pan out because it`s a game where anything can happen - form just simply goes out of the window.
Worryingly for Fulham, they`ve only won 4 home games which isn`t great but recent form has suggested there could well be an unexpected survival for Roy Hodgson`s team. With that little bit of impetus from his team after their magnificent last result and coinciding with Birmingham`s poor away record, could this be the day that the Great Escape could become a reality coupled with a decent result at Fratton Park? I wouldn`t bet against that now.
Fulham 1 Birmingham City 0
Birmingham`s away form is alarmingly bad and they have it all to do against a side on a high and knowing EPL survival is a small possiiblity for them, they`ll go all out to win this game.
I think Birmingham could find themselves in real trouble come 1650hrs at the final whistle.
Reading v Tottenham
So where`s Reading`s next goal going to come from? That`s a good question. I`m not sure either. They were not wonderful in their last game at Wigan and although they carved out a few decent chances, nothing much gets past Chris Kirkland, whose a fortress in himself in the Wigan goal.
He was substantial for the Latics on Saturday and were rather unlucky not to win the game. Nothing, it seemed, would go right for the Latics on Saturday despite press reports saying we were poor.
No, its just things didn`t work out in terms of the chances we created, doubled with the bad luck after hitting the crossbar, narrowly missing the goal etc.
Back to the Reading game. Well, to say this is huge is an understatement.
What`s Coppell going to do about his strikers?
At one time, second season syndrome seemed like it was going to get thrown out the window as far as Reading were concerned but the alarm bells are well and truly ringing now and without a solid strike force and goals seemingly lacking, how are they going to handle Tottenham Hotspur, who themselves are carving out results?
Add to that the threat of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov and I think Reading could be in for a long hard game at the Madjeski Stadium today. I do believe their only saving grace is going to be at Derby County - yet its true, Derby could beat them as their away record doesn`t speak volumes, but could another late rally save the Royals?
I`m not so convinced.
Reading 1 Tottenham 1
I think Reading will put on a decent show for Steve Coppell and to try and secure EPL status for another year but the odds are rather stacked against them. Tottenham`s threat is not to be underestimated and this is not an ideal game for Reading to play at the moment. I suspect there could be an upset here today.
So there we have it.
Wigan I hope will draw at Aston Villa, Bolton I do think should beat Sunderland to keep their EPL hopes alive and Fulham could spring another surprise at Craven Cottage.
Out of all of the teams, I think Birmingham could suffer severely and Reading will not be too much better off.
After today, Wigan could be safe and all relegation fears can be swiftly put to one side.
Points the teams could be on at the weekend:
1. Wigan (38 pts)
2. Bolton (36 pts)
3. Reading (34 pts)
4. Birmingham (32 pts)
5. Fulham (33 pts)
Judging from this, I think Bolton might just narrowly escape. They will still have problems but they themselves may just be the Great Escape artists this year….
Date:Monday April 28 2008
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