First of all this week, I’d like to congratulate Brighton and Newcastle for winning promotion to the Premier League. Their last games will determine which club wins the title – Newcastle visit Cardiff this evening (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm kick off) whilst Brighton entertain Bristol City tomorrow (Sky Sports 1, 5:30pm kick off) knowing that a win would make their lead unassailable.
Otherwise, there are all kinds of permutations at both ends of the table on the penultimate weekend of the season, which will no doubt get even more complicated after tomorrow’s games. The one outstanding match tomorrow is:
Birmingham v Huddersfield
Here are a couple of things to think about.
- On the evening of Saturday 26th November 2016, both of these clubs were in the playoff positions.
- Huddersfield haven’t lost a league game at St Andrew’s since November 2000 – the Terrier have won three of the last four encounters in the league in Birmingham.
The Harry Redknapp ‘era’ (interlude may be more appropriate in the long term) started badly with a derby defeat at Aston Villa last Sunday but with the Blues having both lost five of their last games at St. Andrew’s and facing a playoff team, the short term prospects for survival are looking dicey.
Huddersfield are in the playoffs after a win at Wolves earlier this week, but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Home advantage in the first leg – regardless of their opponents – should be their priority.
QPR v Nottingham Forest
Both clubs could still be overtaken if Blackburn win their last two games so this is a game that neither can afford to lose.
QPR are in danger of dropping back into the third tier for the first time since 2003/04 because they’ve lost six straight. At the start of last month they looked as if they were comfortable in mid-table and they’ve not got a bad record at Loftus Road against teams below them – but any more defeats could be disastrous. I’ll probably revisit this idea in the summer, but regardless of which division they’re in come August, Ian Holloway is living on borrowed time.
Despite having won precisely one more point than Rangers this season, Forest haven’t won an away game since the end of November and have lost nine of their last twelve road trips, failing to score in seven of those matches. They’re probably in luck that their last game of the season is against Ipswich: Forest have only won two of their last ten league games against Rangers in the last two decades.
Reading v Wigan
The Royals could still miss out on a playoff berth due to their extremely dodgy defensive record in away games: Wigan are all but down but will no doubt try their best to postpone the almost inevitable for another week.
Before anyone gets carried away though, Reading haven’t beaten Wigan in Berkshire since a 3-2 victory in the Premier League in September 2007 and their current nine game unbeaten streak at the Mad House will have to end at some point. Are Wigan the team to do that or will we need to wait for the playoffs?
You may have to wait until Sunday for the update – for some reason I’ve become very popular this Bank Holiday weekend and I’m out both this evening and tomorrow.
Update: Sunderland have been relegated from the Premier League; Wigan have been relegated from the Championship to League One. The playoffs will be between Fulham, Huddersfield, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday.