After the games today there will be 13 rounds of matches left in the Premier League.
Obviously, there will be an unlucky end of season for three and huge sighs of relief for anyone from fourth bottom upwards, because, as we all know, it is vital for owners that their club stays in the top flight to get their share of the television money, writes Lawrie McMenemy.
In recent years it has been big enough, but next year, with the new three-year deal starting worth about £5bn, managers are under no doubts whatsoever that come August they have to be in the top flight. So, who will be the unlucky three to occupy those dreaded relegation places?
I’ve always said the three promoted teams will be battling it out to retain their top flight position because the gap between Championship and Premier League has got wider and wider.
That’s why clubs, particularly like Reading and Saints, will do exceptionally well to stay there as most of their players have never previously experienced this higher level of pace, skill and atmosphere.
I used to say of the three promoted clubs: one would do fairly well to get into the top third, one would settle more in mid-table and one would struggle. This season West Ham got off to a good start, but they hadn’t been out of the top flight that long and most of their players were used to that level, but they have now been sucked into the bottom third. Reading, who a lot of people had written off, have come up with some amazing fight backs in recent games to claw their way into the group which probably goes up about seven or eight places. Southampton, as we all know, have had managerial change, which is a huge gamble in anybody’s books at this critical stage. Full marks were given, particularly by the master himself, Sir Alex Ferguson, for their second half performance at Old Trafford.
But it was the same in the first game of the season back in August, in the same city, when praise was heap-ed on the players and manager for their performance at the Etihad. Unfortunately, both games left Saints pointless.
The phrase six-pointer is often used and people wonder why, but literally the Wigan game today will see a win for Southampton giving them a six-point gap from the Latics, whereas a loss would bring Wigan closer to those above them.
Read the rest of Lawrie Mac's views in today's Daily Echo