This weekend was a big one at the bottom of the Premier League table.
With a number of the top teams not playing this weekend the battle to beat the drop came into sharp focus and there were some big talking points in the battle for survival.
A few weeks ago bottom of the table QPR looked doomed.
However consecutive victories against the teams around them have meant that the Hoops are now only four points away from safety.
It seems that Harry Redknapp’s side have hit form at just the right time. QPR escaped relegation last season with a late good run of form and that sort of run couldn’t be ruled out this season.
Redknapp’s January signings all played a key role in Rangers 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday. In Loic Remy the Hoops have a striker that can cause any defence in the Premier League problems.
As long as the former-Marseille star stays fit he could play a crucial part in QPR’s fight for survival. The French international had some fitness problems when he first arrived at Loftus Road. He now seems to have overcome those early teething troubles though.
QPR face another six-pointer next weekend when they visit fellow strugglers Aston Villa next weekend, more on the Villans later on.
QPR’s victory dragged Sunderland into the relegation battle. The Black Cats are just six points outside the Premier League zone. Martin O’Neill’s side should have enough to move away from the drop zone, but it seems that other teams at the bottom are starting to hit form.
A few more victories should be enough to move the side from the north east away from the danger zone. That won’t prevent Sunderland fans feeling slightly nervous at the moment.
The likes of Newcastle, Stoke, Norwich and West Ham all still need points to make certain of Premier League football next season, but like Sunderland they should have enough to escape the dreaded drop into the Championship.
Aston Villa moved out of the relegation zone on Saturday with a 2-1 victory at second from bottom Reading. Villa boss Paul Lambert has recived a lot of criticism this season for his policy of using youngsters, rather than using his more experienced pros.
I was one of those disconcerting voices. I have always liked Lambert and his football philosophy. However, at times this season it has seemed that the Scot and his team were up against it.
As mentioned early Villa host fellow strugglers QPR at Villa Park. The result could determine how the rest of the season goes. QPR can’t afford to lose any more ground on the teams around them and Villa are one of those teams.
Villa are also in desperate need of maximum points. The Villans are just three points outside the relegation zone, but a victory over the Hoops could move them further clear of the danger zone.
Belgium international striker Christian Benteke has proved to be one the summers’ best signings. The youngster has found the net 16 times this season and scored the equaliser at Reading at the weekend.
Benteke, like Remy at QPR could be the key to his sides’ survival in the top flight. Villa could move seven points clear of QPR with a victory against the Hoops.
Wigan claimed an incredible 3-0 victory against Everton in the FA quarter-finals on Saturday, but it wasn’t all good news though, as Roberto Martinez’s team dropped into the bottom three.
Wigan must be one of the most infuriating teams in the top flight to watch. One game they are dreadful, like their recent 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool and the next the Latics are superb in the 3-0 victory at Everton.
If only Martinez’s side could produce such a good performance every week. If they did then they wouldn’t be battling for their Premier League lives every season. This is the time of the season that Martinez’s side traditionally set off on a good run of form.
The victory at Everton should inspire confidence within the team and fans. The Latics will need that confidence as they embark on the last ten games of the season. Next Wigan host Newcastle on Sunday hoping to escape the relegation zone.
Second from bottom Reading look doomed at the moment. The Royals have lost their last three top flight games and are out of form. The home defeat to Aston Villa was a huge blow to their chances of survival.
Reading face a tough trip to league leaders Manchester United on Saturday and could be bottom of the table if QPR win at Villa.
The other team in the battle for survival are Southampton. The Saints are four points clear of the drop zone, after this weekend’s 0-0 draw at Norwich. However, next weekend Mauricio Pochettino’s team host in-form Liverpool at St Marys.
This could be a really tough challenge for the team from the south coast. If the Saints lose then they could be just a point clear of the drop zone.
Football is wonderfully unpredictable and I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at who will be relegated come May. The relegation battle usually throws up some surprises and this season is sure to have more shocks in-store.
Who are your favourites to be relegated from the Premier League?