Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rammed at "Pride Park". Again. And again.

Well it's almost over for the worst side in English Premier League history. On May 11, Derby County will play their last EPL match of the season against Reading at the ironically named “Pride Park”. And after their most recent home effort, a 6-0 drubbing at the feet of Aston Villa many are hoping it is their last match ever in the top flight. The monstrosity which is the 2007/2008 Derby outfit has eked out a mere 11 points from 34 matches and leaves all concerned pondering whether they are even worthy of a spot in the Championship. The Rams have been the rammees rather than the rammers in this drab affair, bent over by multiple 6 goal maulings and a -58 goal difference which continues to grow. Oh the humanity! The saddest of indictments on this collaboration of riff-raff is that a draw at home to another team in the relegation zone is a terrific result. It's hard to see them performing well back in the Championship either. They are a team bereft of confidence and dignity with their solitary Premier League win on the 17th of September last year (against Newcastle) and they have taken only one point from teams in the top half. Only Newcastle will be thrilled that Derby are gone, having somehow managed to drop four points to a team that most sides toyed with. Fancy that JB! Derby have been already relegated for some time now but the question remains; who will be joining them?

We’ll start with Fulham. They are four points adrift of 17th placed Birmingham and five points off 16th placed Reading, with home ties against Liverpool and Birmingham and away matches against Manchester City and Portsmouth. Three sides in the top half there so if the Cottagers were not to capitalise with three points against Birmingham then it would be academic. Even if they manage a win against the Blues they are more than likely going to need to at least win another of their fixtures. That will probably still not be enough. I think it’s safe to say that managers of those teams in higher places are eyeing off a few bargain buys and benchwarmers for next season as Fulham take the drop.

Bolton (two points behind Birmingham, three behind Reading) also look doomed with three away games from their last four. You wouldn’t fancy these guys to get much out of Middlesborough, Tottenham and Chelsea away from home. They have only won once on the road (at Reading) and picked up just 6 away points to date while being outscored by 24 goals. They must defeat Sunderland at home to have any chance but, like Fulham, they need more points from somewhere and unfortunately they’ve run out of games against Derby.

So there you have it. Derby, Fulham, Bolton relegated. Birmingham look the strongest of the five sides mentioned at present and really one win would just about do it. With the addition of Ralph Macchio’s Argentinian second cousin Mauro “The Zarate Kid” Zarate they have been in black belt form. Wax on. Wax off. Reading look like they have accrued enough points to stumble back into the Premier League for another year. And maybe they’ll do it in style by cracking another 6 past Derby at “Pride Park” on the final day.

Who will rise from the Championship? Not sure. For the two instant promotional spots, West Brom and Stoke have their destiny in their own hands. The Baggies have a game in hand while Stoke are all but over the line if they can beat Bristol City this weekend. Watford have a reasonable draw remaining, Hull’s run home is a bit iffy but they have a game in hand and Bristol City have a tough final three games.

My heart says Bristol City and Watford because I win money, and with Sheffield Utd. storming home to win their remaining three matches and winning through in the playoffs.

My head says West Brom and Stoke with Watford going through the playoffs.

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