LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Ian Holloway manager of Blackpool looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Blackpool at Craven Cottage on April 3, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
On the final day of the Premier League season, there are really only two stories left to play out in full at the top of the table. United has already clinched the title, and barring a 13 point swing in goal differential Chelsea have sealed up second. Manchester City and Arsenal are both vying for third and the automatic spot in the group stages of the Champions League, with City finally moving ahead of the free falling Arsenal last week. A City win does it, any points they drop would mean an Arsenal win would vault them back into third. Spurs and Liverpool are fighting it out for the final spot in the Europa League, with Spurs sitting in the 5th spot for the moment.
The bottom of the table is a much muddier picture. West Ham have cleared the picture up somewhat when they coughed up a 2-0 lead last week to ensure they won't be rejoining the Premier League next season. That still leaves 5 teams who could mathematically be relegated tomorrow, with the drop zone currently sitting at 39 points. Here's how the bottom of the table currently looks with both the first and second tiebreakers displayed:
Blackburn: 40 pts, -14 GD, 43 GS
Wolves: 40 pts, -19 GD, 44 GS
Birmingham: 39 pts, -20 GD, 36 GS
Blackpool: 39 pts, -21 GD, 53 GS
Wigan: 39 pts, -22 GD, 39 GS
As you can see, it's going to be a tense day for all 5 teams, with every goal in all of those games likely changing the way the drop looks. Here's the fixtures for all 5 of those teams (home team listed first, all games tomorrow played simultaneously):
Wolves vs Blackburn
Stoke vs Wigan
Man United vs Blackpool
Tottenham vs Birmingham
Looking at it quickly, Birmingham and Blackpool would appear to be in trouble. Both are playing away against teams that advanced through the CL group stages, and both opponents seemingly have something to play for (United are unbeaten at home, Spurs for Europa). If 'Arry is to be believed, however, Spurs would prefer to miss out on that spot. His lineup selection tomorrow will be very telling about how he really feels about Europa. A winner in the Wolves/Blackburn tie would safe, but a loser would still have some hope as two of the three teams below them would likely have to win to move ahead of them (they both have better GD than the bottom three).
Personally I want to see Blackpool stay up. They've been a great story all season, and the way they've played has been fun to watch. I'm worried for them though, as I really think United will put out a strong lineup. It wouldn't shock me to see Blackpool uncharacteristically pack the box and play for the point tomorrow, and it would be a shame if they get relegated playing that way after being aggressive all season.
I also really like the way Wigan plays the game, but I'm going to be selfish and pull for them to go down tomorrow. Of the 5 teams still in danger of dropping, James McCarthy is the only player on any of them that I think could potentially be a fit at Chelsea. I don't know if we'll even make a run at him, but dropping out of the top flight will certainly at least open up that option and give us more bargaining power for other targets. If Wigan manage to stay up, he's going to be a lot harder to pry away from them.
After that I'm going to pull for Wolves to be relegated as well. Any team that employs Steven Hunt deserves to go down IMO, and it would be great if he didn't manage to latch on with a Premier League team next season. Wolves have been hesitant to cough up a decent offer for Michael Mancienne as well, so it wouldn't break my heart if he decided he didn't really want to stay with a club bound for the Championship. He's still likely done with Chelsea, but I'd rather the club have the ability to use him as a make-weight (McCarthy?) in another deal. So in my ideal world, Blackpool and Birmingham will both win tomorrow, Wigan and Wolves will lose, and Chelsea will play a lot of youth. What are you guys looking for at the bottom?