Bolton Wanderers, Burton Albion, Barnsley, Birmingham City and Reading could all face the dreaded drop to League One from Championship but who will it be?
Bolton are in the worst place to face the drop especially having lost to Burton Albion last weekend in a real six-pointer. They know that even if they beat Nottingham Forest, they have to rely on both Barnsley and Burton to either lose or draw in their games. But a draw will not be good enough for Bolton as their goal difference is not as good as the teams above them.
It has been a tough season for The Trotters who had a terrible start to the season as they did not pick up their first win until their 12th game in the league against Sheffield Wednesday. However, nothing ever really got going after that as they failed to register back to back wins all season. With the loss to Burton last week as well they will need all the luck in the world to be playing Championship football next year.
This could be the story of the season. Nigel Clough’s men have finally found their form, and it just might be enough to keep their Championship status. They have won their previous three games and have taken eleven points in their past five games. They find themselves in a good position form wise, but their league position is letting them down. They have to either beat Preston North End or hope Barnsley draw or lose. But they could grab a draw and pray that Barnsley do not get anything and Bolton can’t register any points either.
In a season where they broke their record transfer fee, it has not gone according to plan. However, with the lowest budget in the league, Clough has got them playing decent football. It would be an almighty comeback and one they have played their way to. But playing Preston, who are chasing the final playoff place, will be no easy match.
Gone are the days of Premier League football and amazing F.A Cup runs, they are now entirely in a relegation fight. They are in a slightly better place than Burton because their goal difference is significantly bigger than their counterparts. Once again they need a win to secure safety themselves, but a draw would be enough if both Burton and Bolton draw or lose. However, if they do lose, then they have to hope the other teams below lose as well (or a Bolton draw).
Having lost Paul Heckingbottom halfway through the season, they have made themselves tough to beat but have not grabbed enough wins to get themselves out of trouble. Playing Derby County in their final game, who like Preston are still playing for the final playoff place, will be a tough ask.
Once again they find themselves in a relegation scrap. Having gone through two managers already this season, The Blues will be hoping that Garry Monk can be the man to keep them in the division. They do sit in 20th place but are by no means safe yet, but their future is in their own hands. A win guarantees safety but a draw against automatic promotion chasing Fulham could leave it open for Burton and Barnsley to leapfrog them if they both win! Lose against Fulham, and there is a four-goal swing between their game and Bolton’s then Wanderers can even take over them.
What must the owners be thinking now? I can assure you one question will be why did we sack Gary Rowett last season? Since they made this ludicrous decision, they have been in freefall. Inconsistent form all season has meant Monk has had his work cut out as he has tried to steady the ship. For his sake and Birmingham’s, he will be hoping to keep their Championship status and regroup in the summer.
Reading are the final Championship side who could face the drop, and they are the fourth team to have featured in the Premier League. Like Birmingham, they are in a precarious but better place than the teams in 23rd,22nd and 21st place. Their goal difference is a lot better than Burton and Bolton’s, but Barnsley are just one goal different to them. A win for them secures their status, but a draw leaves them open to the relegation spots. They do face tough opposition as they face Cardiff City who currently sit in 2nd place.
It has changed significantly for Reading as they were so close to playing in the top flight once again in the playoff final last season but lost on penalties to Huddersfield Town. They are in indifferent form, and that could go against them in this final shootout, but their future is in their own hands.
So who will go down?
It is far too close to call on who will face the drop this season as all five times are in limbo about their future. Bolton, Burton and Barnsley are in the most dangerous position, but Birmingham and Reading face difficult opponents who could send them down.
However, if I was forced to choose the two to go down it would be the two currently in 23rd and 22nd; Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion. Barnsley are in a place where they can afford to lose considering other teams are playing tough opposition.
But I would not be surprised to see either Birmingham or Reading slip into the relegation zone. All I can say is I cannot wait to see the Soccer Saturday pundits lose their mind with all the switching of positions.