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The Vital Run-In: Part Two

The Vital Run-In: Part Two

Nine games to go and one point above the relegation zone; the reality is that we'd have bitten anyone's arms off for this situation at the start of the season.

And yet, there's an air of real nervousness around Bloomfield Road. After being 8th in the Premier League heading into 2011, the Seasiders have slipped ever closer towards the drop zone and, as we stated in part one, face a real battle for survival.

Still, survival remains in our own hands and Ian Holloway's side travel to Blackburn this weekend - certainly a very winnable game. Then again, to put it another way, it's a game we simply cannot afford to lose.

But before we go into this weekend's games in more detail, let's remind ourselves how things are looking at the bottom of the table:

9 - Everton, 37
10 - Newcastle, 36
11 - Fulham, 35
12 - Stoke, 34
13 - Villa, 33
14 - Blackburn, 32
15 - Blackpool, 32
16 - West Brom, 32
17 - Birmingham, 31
18 - West Ham, 31
19 - Wolves, 29
20 - Wigan, 27

With the exception of Birmingham, everyone has nine games left to go (the Blues have ten), and as you can see, it's still remarkably close down at the bottom. Hell, even Sunderland in 8th (38 points) are probably looking over their shoulders a little!

As we know, the Seasiders travel to Blackburn this weekend.

A win for either side would be massive; not only in the sense that it'd be a giant leap towards safety, but also in that it'd leave the losers possibly in the bottom three - a big blow mentally.

'Pool have yet to be in the bottom three this season and I don't think we will be by the end of this weekend either; although we have only faced Blackburn once in the past thirty odd years, we do have a good record against them (20 wins in 37 encounters), and although T'Rovers are a tough nut to crack at home, they have been sliding down the table of late and question marks have been raised about the future of manager Steve Kean.

Yes, we've been in a bit of a freefall as well, but we have a decent record on the road and the likes of Charlie Adam available again, so I fancy us to pick up a valuable point on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday's early kick off sees West Ham travel to Spurs.

Derby matches are notoriously hard to call, but Spurs do have the better record in this one, plus the Hammers have failed to score in their four visits to White Hart Lane. Indeed, you have to go back to 98/99 for their last win at the Lane.

Nevertheless, the Hammers have enjoyed somewhat of a revival of late courtesy of Demba Ba's goals whilst Spurs have been a tad inconsistent despite their European heroics, and a tad generous at the back. A draw here methinks.

Villa host Wolves in a West Midlands derby at Villa Park.

Wolves have a knack of turning on the style in games like this and you wouldn't put it past them doing them same again against an up and down Villa side.

Despite spending big in January, Gerard Houllier still isn't getting the best out of his charges, and a fired up Wolves side will present them with a stiff challenge.

The last two league meetings between the sides at Villa Park have both been high scoring affairs, but apart from that there isn't much recent history to draw on here.

Overall though, Villa have 52 wins in this fixture compared to Wolves' 36 (with 30 draws).

Stoke v Newcastle

Stoke may be in the FA Cup semi finals, but find themselves just three points above the drop zone.

Meanwhile, despite sitting in 10th, Newcastle aren't completely out of the relegation picture, although a win on Saturday would see them on the verge of safety you would imagine.

The Toon have coped well with the loss of Andy Carroll's goals thus far, whilst the Potters will be looking for loan signing John Carew to come good.

Don't expect a lot of goals in this one folks; their last two meetings at the Britannia have both been draws - 0-0 and 1-1.

West Brom host an Arsenal side smarting from losing the Carling Cup final and being knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup in the past few weeks.

With just the Premier League left to concentrate on, it'll be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger's side react. Will they sink further or start swimming again?

It's all change for West Brom since they won at the Emirates earlier in the season; Roy Hodgson has replaced Roberto Di Matteo as the Baggies look to secure another season of Premier League football.

Wigan v Birmingham

A real six-pointer, this. It's hard to know what the best outcome for the Seasiders would be - probably a draw?

A defeat really would cut Wigan adrift at the bottom and unless they pull off a Great Escape miracle, to all intents and purposes they look like a side heading down to the Championship. It really just hasn't worked for Roberto Martinez at the DW.

Meanwhile, Birmingham face the prospect of playing European football whilst in the Championship next season unless they can continue to keep their heads just above water.

The Blues have tasted victory at the DW just once though, although that was last time out - a 3-2 victory in December 2009.

Saturday's late game sees Everton host Fulham.

Both these sides should have too much quality to go down, but still find themselves requiring points to secure safety.

Everton's home record isn't the best this season, whilst Fulham are the league's draw specialists, so expect a tight and close fought match.

Vital Predictions:
Blackburn 1-1 Blackpool
Spurs 1-1 West Ham
Villa 2-2 Wolves
Stoke 1-1 Newcastle
West Brom 1-3 Arsenal
Wigan 1-2 Birmingham
Everton 0-0 Fulham

That would see the bottom of the table looking like this going into April (we have Sunderland down to lose to Liverpool):

8 - Everton, 38
9 - Sunderland, 38
10 - Newcastle, 37
11 - Fulham, 36
12 - Stoke, 35
13 - Birmingham, 34
14 - Villa, 34
15 - Blackburn, 33
16 - Blackpool, 33
17 - West Ham, 32
18 - West Brom, 32
19 - Wolves, 30
20 - Wigan, 27

What are you thoughts on this weekend's games? As always, you can have your say on our forums.

Join The Vital Debate

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Eamonn Moore
Date:Thursday March 17 2011
Time: 10:17PM

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