How to beat the Premier League drop

Steve Kean, Mick McCarthy, Alex McLeish, Ian Holloway and Roberto Martinez

It was Sir Alex Ferguson who coined the phrase "squeaky bum time" and you can almost hear the nerve ends jangling from the north west to the West Midlands.

With West Ham already down, five clubs go into the last day of the season separated by a single point as they battle to avoid filling the final two relegation slots.

With enough permutations to leave Archimedes needing a lie down, any pair from Blackburn, Wolves, Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan could be heading for the dreaded trapdoor come Sunday evening.

With that in mind, we've prepared this handy cut-out and keep survival guide for the infamous five, determining what they must do to keep their heads above water, barring freak results.

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BLACKBURN ROVERS

Blackburn Rovers

Points: 40

Goal difference: -14

Current form (most recent result last): LLWDD

Last day: Away to Wolves

Away record: W3 D3 L12

When Sam Allardyce was sacked by the club's new owners, the Venky's poultry group, in December, Rovers were in 13th place, five points off the drop zone.

Venky's chairman Anuradha Desai said: "We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the league or even better." It hasn't quite worked out that way, but to use a well-worn cliché, Rovers' destiny lies in their own hands.

WILL DEFINITELY STAY UP IF...

  • They beat Wolves
  • They draw with Wolves and one of Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan fail to win
  • They lose and two of Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan fail to win

Bookies' relegation odds: 12/1 (Paddy Power)

Manager Steve Kean: "We are confident we will get a result on Sunday. It is very tight down there but we have chipped away with six results in our last eight games. That is one positive. We have got the best goal difference. That is another."

Headline they won't want to see: "Rovers And Out"

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WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Points: 40

Goal difference: -19

Current form: DLDWW

Last day: Home to Blackburn

Home record: W8 D4 L6

Wolves have been flirting with relegation all season, inspiring the "www.relegation" headlines as they juggled the bottom three slots with West Ham, West Brom and Wigan. But they have come into form at just the right time, with successive wins against West Brom and Sunderland finally lifting them out of the drop zone.

They have already taken the scalps of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City at Molineux this season and if Blackburn are added to that list, Wolves will be safe.

WILL DEFINITELY STAY UP IF...

  • They beat Blackburn
  • They draw with Blackburn and two of Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan fail to win
  • They lose by one goal and two of Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan fail to win

Bookies' relegation odds: 8/1 (William Hill)

Manager Mick McCarthy: "Ours is a winner-takes-all game. One of us could get a serious slapping and the others could draw to put us in trouble. We just don't know. I've put on the players' board: 'BEAT BLACKBURN'. Let's take care of our own game. That's what I keep saying because if we do that, then no one can do anything about it."

Headline they won't want to see: "Mick As A Parrot"

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BIRMINGHAM CITY

Birmingham City

Points: 39

Goal difference: -20

Current form: LLDLL

Last day: Away to Tottenham

Away record: W2 D7 L9

If there's one thing you can guarantee in the Premier League, it's that one team will drop like a stone - and this season it's Birmingham. Since winning the Carling Cup and qualifying for Europe with a famous victory over Arsenal, the Blues have gone into reverse, taking one point from the four games after their Wembley triumph and only one from their last five fixtures.

They face a tricky trip to White Hart Lane, knowing anything other than a win could mean them playing Championship football next season.

WILL STAY UP IF...

  • They win by the same or a greater margin than Blackpool and Wigan
  • They win and Blackburn and Wolves draw
  • They draw, Wolves lose by two goals or more, and one of Blackpool and Wigan fail to win
  • They lose by the same or fewer margin of goals than Blackpool and Wigan

Bookies' relegation odds: 8/11 (Sporting Bet)

Manager Alex McLeish: "It's a tough game [against Spurs] but the players have got to go and not fear it. We've got to go and do the job ourselves and see if we can pick up a point or, against expectations, three points, which would absolutely cement our Premier League status."

Headline they won't want to see: "Brum And Choke"

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BLACKPOOL

Blackpool

Points: 39

Goal difference: -21

Current form: LDDDW

Last day: Away to Manchester United

Away record: W5 D4 L9

Blackpool face arguably the toughest task of the lot because, realistically, they need to get something from Old Trafford. What is in their favour is that with the Premier League wrapped up and the small matter of the Champions League final against Barcelona a week on Saturday, United are likely to put out the stiffs.

A few weeks back, Sir Alex Ferguson joked to Ian Holloway that if the title was in the bag by then he'd play himself. Ollie will be holding him to that.

WILL STAY UP IF...

  • They win and Blackburn draw with Wolves
  • They win and Birmingham fail to win, given that Wolves are playing Blackburn (so cannot both exceed 41 points)
  • They win and Wigan fail to better their result by two or more goals
  • They draw, Wigan fail to win and Birmingham lose
  • They lose, Wigan lose by a similar or greater margin, and Birmingham lose by a bigger margin than Blackpool

Bookies' relegation odds: 1/4 (Stan James)

Manager Ian Holloway: "This is the most important game of my life. I believe we're good enough to pull this off and it would be in keeping with our journey so far. We are still in the fairytale and, if we go to Old Trafford and win, it will top Cinderella. In fact, it'll top any story ever written! But I believe it can happen. I've been to United before and won 4-1." (As a QPR player in 1992.)

Headline they won't want to see: "Blackpool Shower"

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WIGAN ATHLETIC

Wigan Athletic

Points: 39

Goal difference: -22

Current form: WLDDW

Last day: Away to Stoke

Away record: W3 D7 L8

The Latics have given themselves a fighting chance of survival after a thrilling win over West Ham last weekend, which condemned the Hammers to the Championship.

At 2-0 down, Wigan's six-year stay in the Premier League looked over, but they have now taken eight points from their last 15 and face a Stoke side still smarting from their FA Cup final disappointment and subsequent league defeat by Manchester City.

WILL STAY UP IF...

  • They win and Blackburn draw with Wolves
  • They win and better Blackpool and Birmingham's results by a margin of two or more goals
  • They draw and Blackpool and Birmingham both lose
  • They draw, either Blackpool or Birmingham lose, and Wolves lose by four or more goals
  • They lose, while Blackpool and Birmingham both lose by goal margins two greater than Wigan

Bookies' relegation odds: 8/11 (Bet 365)

Manager Roberto Martinez: "We've come through one cup final [against West Ham] and now we have one more to prepare for this weekend. Stoke have an outstanding record at home. They are very difficult to beat and it's clear we are going to have to play very well in order to get a result."

Headline they won't want to see: "Wi-gone"

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