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[Archived] News Article -> 2011/12: The Final Countdown


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As we head into the final straight of the season, it is time to look at the runners and riders in the race to avoid relegation.

Given the circumstances surrounding Rovers as we face the final ten games of the season, some would say that these games are the most important that the club has ever been involved in, considering the potential consequences for Rovers in financial terms should the club be relegated and the owners continue not to finance the club in a satisfactory manner.

Before looking at each team, let's look at how many points might be needed for safety. Pundits and managers always talk about the magical 40-point mark, but in reality since 1995/1996 40 points have only been needed on four occasions. This year, with ten games to go and QPR, who are in 18th position, currently sitting on 22 points, it would take Champions League form for any of the bottom three teams to get to 40 points. It is more than likely that 35 to 37 points will be enough to secure Premier League safety this year. That would mean Rovers having to pick up somewhere between 10 and 12 points from the final ten fixtures.

Rovers are effectively in a five-team league with Wigan, Wolves, QPR and Bolton, where the aim is to finish in the top two of that league. So let's look at each of the five teams in greater depth.


Remaining Fixtures: Sunderland (Home), Bolton (Away), Manchester United (Home), West Brom (Away), Liverpool (Home), Swansea (Away), Norwich (Home), Spurs (Away), Wigan (Home), Chelsea (Away)

On paper, Rovers along with QPR and Wigan have the toughest run-in, so it is going to be vital that Rovers pick up points from the home games against Sunderland, Norwich and Wigan, whilst avoiding defeat against Bolton. Anything that can be picked up from the Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Tottenham games have to be viewed as a bonus. If Rovers can produce good performances at Swansea and West Brom, it would be possible to pick up points from these games. The form and fitness of Junior and Yakubu are going to be crucial for Rovers and we must avoid injury and suspensions with our defenders.

Wigan Athletic

Remaining Fixtures: West Brom (Home), Liverpool (Away), Stoke (Home), Chelsea (Away), Manchester United (Home), Arsenal (Away), Fulham (Away), Newcastle (Home), Rovers (Away), Wolves (Home)

Like Rovers, Wigan have a tough run-in to the end of the season. Their next game against West Brom is almost "do or die" for them, and they will also be targeting the home games against Newcastle, Stoke and Wolves. The big problem for Wigan is that they face Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal in consecutive games, which may lead to relegation rivals pulling away if Wigan don't get positive results in these matches. Wigan have also struggled to score goals on a regular basis, which is a problem that they need to address.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester United (Home), Norwich (Away), Bolton (Home), Stoke (Away), Arsenal (Home), Sunderland (Away), Manchester City (Home), Swansea (Away), Everton (Home) and Wigan (Away)

Wolves are the current "crisis" club in the Premier League, They sacked Mick McCarthy and, despite being linked with various replacements, have ended up appointing McCarthy's assistant manager, Terry Connor, until the end of the season, and there is also fan unrest. To have any hope of staying up, Wolves are going to have to start picking up points away from home as their last five home games include Man United, Arsenal and Man City. They will be targeting the Bolton and Everton home games for maximum points. They could face a winner-takes-all game on the last day of the season away at Wigan. On paper, Wolves seem to have a decent squad, and the positive for them is that in Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher they have players who can score at this level. It also remains to be seen if Wolves stick with Connor or bring in a replacement manager.


Remaining Fixtures: Liverpool (Home), Sunderland (Away), Arsenal (Home), Manchester United (Away), Swansea (Home), West Brom (Away), Spurs (Home), Chelsea (Away), Stoke (Home) and Manchester City (Away)

It was widely thought that the appointment of Mark Hughes as manager would lead to an upturn in QPR's fortunes, but thus far this has not happened and recently they have lost games against fellow relegation candidates Rovers and Bolton. Like Rovers and Wigan, QPR have a tough run-in, with games against all of the current top 6, and they will have to pick up points from some of these games and then target the home games against Swansea and Stoke. The positive for QPR fans is that in Zamora and Cisse they have players who are capable of scoring goals at this level, while Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Taarabat can all be match-winners. In Mark Hughes they have a proven manager who has experience of a relegation battle with Rovers.

Bolton Wanderers

Remaining Fixtures: Aston Villa (Away), Rovers (Home), Wolves (Away), Fulham (Home), Newcastle (Away), Spurs (Away), Swansea (Home), Sunderland (Away), West Brom (Home) and Stoke (Away)

Bolton on paper have the easiest run-in of all the bottom five. They will be targeting the home games against Rovers, Fulham, Swansea and Stoke and the away games at Villa and Wolves. With the games that they have left, they should be able to get up to 37 points. Goal-scoring has been a problem for Bolton this season and they will need the likes of Mark Davies, Ngog and Kalasnic to continue to chip in with vital match-winning goals. Their loan signing of Ryo Miyaichi from Arsenal could prove to be a season-saving piece of business by Owen Coyle.

So there you have it — all of the runners and riders in the big scrap for survival. What is guaranteed are plenty of thrills, spills and heart-stopping moments from now until the end of the season. When Rovers lost to Bolton on 21st December, it looked like relegation was a foregone conclusion, but now a few months later Rovers are in with a chance of staying up. Most of us would have grabbed our current position had we been offered it after the Bolton game, but although it is going to be tough to stay up, we're still in there fighting!

Join in the discussion on the forum here.

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