Sizing up relegation and title races
With eight games remaining for teams in the Premier League season, eight of this weekend's 10 matches will impact the title chase, Champions League berths and the relegation zone. Let's take a look at where those races stand, through the lens of the Soccer Power Index.
• Manchester United is a 77.1 percent favorite to win its second straight championship, and Manchester City wins in the other 22.9 percent of simulations. City held a two-to-one advantage over United, until a road loss to Swansea City and last week's draw at Stoke City.
• United's three-point lead is, of course, the major factor in the race, but the schedule helps as well. City has games remaining at both Arsenal and Newcastle, tough assignments for a team that has scored five goals in its past nine road matches. With the big exception of the April 30 game at Etihad Stadium, Manchester United does not face a top-seven team for the rest of the season.
• Saturday's scoreless game between Chelsea and Tottenham tightened Spurs' grip on the last Champions League berth. Both Manchester teams are locks, and Arsenal is close at 97.2 percent. Tottenham is at 84.2 percent, with Chelsea given 16.7 percent odds. Again the schedule is a major factor. Chelsea still travels to Fulham, Arsenal and Liverpool, while Tottenham doesn't play any of the teams currently in the top seven.
• The bottom of the table still looks like a five-team race to escape the three-team relegation zone, but the numbers look significantly different than seven weeks ago. Blackburn has halved its odds by winning two of its last three games. Bolton's win over Blackburn last Saturday kept Wanderers in 17th place, with a 34.5 percent chance of being sent down. Wigan also has a vestige of hope, reducing its relegation odds to 78.6 percent with three draws and a win over Liverpool in its last five matches.
• Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton have suffered most from the others' gains. QPR's relegation odds are now 61.3 percent, but they actually look worse than that, considering that QPR has all of the top-five teams remaining on the schedule. After winning one point from its last six matches, last-place Wolverhampton trails every other team by at least three points and is a virtual lock to go down, at 96.4 percent. Wolves may be reduced to the role of spoiler, visiting Wigan in the season's final game.