Predicting the EPL relegation battle
While Manchester United tries to pull away from the pack atop the EPL, the race to avoid relegation is jam-packed and looks to provide plenty of excitement for the rest of the season. Seven points separate 10th place from the bottom of the table, and nearly every week will feature a match pivotal for one or both teams' survival hopes. Using ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI), we can look at the most important matches and determine how the outcomes will affect each team's chance of being relegated at the end of the season.
Key clash: Birmingham vs. West Brom
This week, Birmingham City faces West Bromwich Albion on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com) in a crucial match for both sides. SPI projects the Baggies to take an average of .66 points from this match, so securing an away win would dramatically increase their chances of survival. On the other hand, SPI projects that a Birmingham victory would nearly move the Blues to safety.
Key clash: Wigan vs. West Ham
Moving to the bottom of the table, the May 15 clash between Wigan and West Ham at the DW Stadium could seal both clubs' fates for next season. SPI projects Wigan to take an average of 1.56 points from this fixture, one of only two remaining matches in which the Latics are projected to take more than one point. SPI projects that failing to beat the Hammers would almost certainly send Wigan down, as it would help the Hammers significantly as well.
Key clash: West Ham vs. Blackburn
Sticking with West Ham, the East London club will need to produce in its match against Blackburn on May 7 for its trip to Wigan to be meaningful. Although just four points separate the two clubs in the table, SPI predicts this match will have a much bigger impact on the Hammers' fate than the Rovers. Projected to take 1.51 points on average from this match, even securing a draw could doom West Ham.
Key clash: Wolves vs. Fulham
Rounding out the top relegation candidates, Wolverhampton's match against Fulham on April 23 will be critical for its survival chances. Four points separate the two clubs, but SPI sees a much bigger gap between them. Wolves are projected to take 1.36 points on average, and without a result, their survival chances take a big hit. SPI projects that Fulham should be safe regardless of the outcome.
Key clash: Blackpool vs. Chelsea
Finally, don't miss Blackpool hosting Chelsea on Monday (3 p.m. ET on ESPN 2 and ESPN3.com). SPI does not give the Seasiders much of a chance against the Blues, who are fresh off a win over league leader Manchester United, but an upset victory would prove significant for both Blackpool's survival and Chelsea's hopes at a Champions League place next season.
Blackpool has a 10.9 percent chance of being relegated, but a win would reduce that number to 2.7 percent. On the other hand, Chelsea is projected to finish in the top four 84.8 percent of the time, but a loss would drop it down to 73.2 percent, giving hope to both Tottenham and Manchester City.