Race for Premier League survival: Who will stay and who will go?

A scramble for survival at the bottom of the Premier League table is keeping five clubs on their toes and pushing them to the peak of their ability: Who will stay and who will go?

Wolves – 20th – 22 Points

Probably the only certainty for relegation at this stage; Terry Connor’s side have lost eight of their last ten Premier League games, and with a six-point gap separating them and Blackburn, survival seems a million miles away. Along with their position at the bottom of the table, Wolverhampton Wanderers have a particularly difficult run-in, with Sunderland, Manchester City, and an in-form Everton still to face. Given that the Molineux outfit are in terrible form, it looks like Wolves have no chance.

Blackburn – 19th – 28 points

A hard year for Steve Kean has been reflected in Blackburn’s shaky season, but hope can be found in the Rovers’ star men, Yakubu and Junior Hoilett. Although sitting in precarious 19th place, Blackburn will be facing much easier opposition in the next few weeks compared to other relegation candidates. The Lancashire club will come up against a vulnerable Swansea and Tottenham, and will also hope to grab some points against Norwich and Wigan at home. Despite this, Blackburn need to pick up some momentum and get the best out of their danger-man upfront if they are to stave the drop.

Bolton – 18th – 29 points

Although being awarded March’s Premier League Manager of the month award, Owen Coyle has not brought his side out of the drop zone yet; however with a game in-hand Bolton are on the path to survival. Bolton’s starting XI is not the strongest of the bottom five and with a weak attacking force and no prolific goal machine, they need to grit their teeth and play to the best of their ability. With upcoming matches against teams such as Swansea and Aston Villa, the Reebok Stadium side must be optimistic and maybe, just maybe, they could survive another season of top-flight football.

Wigan – 17th – 31 points

A recent run of fantastic form saw Wigan to a 1-0 victory over Premier League champions Manchester United in their last outing, giving the Latics hope. Despite only losing two of their last ten Premier League games, Wigan have one of the hardest run-ins of the bottom five and still have to face opposition such as in-form Arsenal, Fulham, and Newcastle. DW Stadium boss Roberto Martinez will hope his side can keep this run of good form up and will take hope from their “historic” victory over Manchester United. If Wigan can now end their goal drought and keep pushing and striving, they might just avoid demotion.

QPR – 16th – 31 points

A 3-0 win over Swansea City has moved the newly-promoted west London club to 16th. An upturn home form has given Mark Hughes’ side hope after beating Arsenal and Liverpool in consecutive fixtures at Loftus Road. Although having a hard run-in away from home, facing teams such as West Brom, Chelsea and Man City, QPR will hope to claim a scalp or two, and pick up as many points as possible from their home games against Tottenham and Stoke. If they carry on their good-form and keep playing the way they have, QPR could be well on their way to becoming a stable Premier League club.

By Jacob Tucker

Bolton must win against Blackburn for Fabrice Muamba, and their Premier League status

It has been a traumatic week for all concerned with Bolton Wanderers football club. After the horrifying scenes at White Hart Lane last Saturday, the footballing community has held its breath in hope that Fabrice Muamba would overcome what could have been a fatal heart attack, and pull through. The Trotters return to action against Blackburn on Saturday, in a crucial fixture.

Some things are more important than football, and the fact that Muamba is seemingly on the path to recovery after his near-death experience is the most pivotal news for the Reebok Stadium side. After the Trotters’ game against Aston Villa was rightly postponed in midweek, Owen Coyle’s men return to action against Blackburn this weekend.

It is only natural that Muamba will be in the thoughts of the Bolton players when they enter the field of play against Rovers, as it was not easy watching a friend and team-mate struggle for his life at White Hart Lane. The home side should go out and play to win for Muamba when they face Blackburn on Saturday.

However, they also need to play for themselves, as their Premier League status is looking increasingly shaky. With QPR’s unexpected comeback victory over Liverpool on Wednesday night, Bolton find themselves in 18th position ahead of this weekend’s fixture list.

Blackburn, without any malice, will look to catch Bolton cold this weekend as the home side’s players’ thoughts may be elsewhere. Steve Kean’s men have recorded back-to-back victories over Wolves and Sunderland, and are actually on the verge of potential safety, five points ahead of Bolton and the dropzone. An away win would see the Lancashire club move on to 31 points, and may well mean that the relegation battle is between four teams not five.

Owen Coyle has a difficult task in focusing his team for the game at the Reebok Stadium, and will hope that his players will use the ex-England under-21 international’s plight as motivation rather than a source of sorrow and pity. Muamba has shown incredible fighting spirit this week; his football team must do the same this weekend.

What does 2011/12 hold for Daniel Sturridge?

So, if Jones is worth £16.5 million and Henderson £20 million, how much is Daniel Sturridge worth?

With the transfer window well and truly open, ’tis the season for ludicrous over payment. Phil Jones’ 37 senior side appearances for Blackburn and Jordan Henderson’s four Sunderland career goals gave the England under 21 internationals a combined value of £36.5million, which was happily paid by Manchester United and Liverpool. No doubt both players are talented and full of potential, but an overpayment none the less.

It is painfully clear that young English talent is much vaunted and that top flight clubs will pay top dollar to ascertain it. The transfers of Jones and Henderson will have been music to the ears of Everton boss David Moyes, who can now pick a number out of the air and slap it on Jack Rodwell’s forehead, for United and all other potential suitors to match if they want the 20-year-old’s services.

But what of their international compatriot Daniel Sturridge? The Chelsea frontman’s club future hangs in the balance, as after a successful loan spell with Bolton he has returned to Stamford Bridge in search of the big time. Realistically, as talented as the former Manchester City forward is (and he is), his chances of first team football are going to be extremely limited, just like before he went to the Reebok Stadium.

With Didier Drogba struggling to get a game due to Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, what chance does Sturridge have? Add to this the inevitable signings that Mr Abramovich and the eventual new coach will bring to the club, which will more than likely include more attacking talent from the four corners of the globe, and the English born youngster will once more be on the outskirts.

So what are his options? He could stay and fight for a first team spot, but this is a long, arduous and frustrating journey; young, talented players need regular first team football to evolve, and he risks his career going down the same path as Shaun Wright Phillips out of pure stubbornness. Another loan move looks likely, and Owen Coyle and every other manager outside of the top six will be holding their hands up shouting ‘pick me!’ in a schoolboy’s voice if Chelsea decide to go down this route. However, if Sturridge decides he wants to leave the London club and seek a new employer, the fee that Chelsea would likely charge is of real interest.

The Birmingham born forward exudes quality. He has represented England at youth level from under-16′s all the way up to his current participation in the under-21 Championships in Denmark. He scored eight goals in twelve games for a faltering Bolton side at the end of last season, and seemingly gets better with the more time he spends on the pitch.

Strikers generally command higher transfer fees than any other position, thus the criteria above would suggest that in today’s market he is worth more than Henderson, and more than £20 million. Andy Carroll is worth £35 million apparently, so £20 million+ seems about right. Chelsea would be increasingly reluctant to sell him to a top six side, in which case he is gazumped as none of the other teams have £20 million to throw about like the executives at Anfield and Old Trafford.

Daniel Sturridge will not and cannot leave Chelsea permanently this summer due to the ludicrous nature of the English transfer market currently, and instead of maturing into a player capable of being included in Fabio Capello’s 2012 European Championships squad, may face the prospect of heading the line for the Stamford Bridge reserve side in 2011/12.

Published – http://football-talk.co.uk/27923/what-does-201112-hold-for-daniel-sturridge/

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