The Premiership season is in full swing -a great time to bet on the Sporting Index relegation market.
There's lots of value out there in the spread markets if you have a view on this season's strugglers...
Swansea City (1st Quote 35-38, New Quote 0-0.3) -Started the season well with the desire to play an entertaining, passing brand of football -so far it has worked. They have cruised away from danger. Prediction: The neutral would love to see them survive, as they are very easy on the eye. Should make it easily now.
Norwich City (1st Quote 24-27, New Quote 0.25-1) -Halfway up the table and Canaries fans can now sleep soundly. The lower half of the table is bunched up and five teams have been cut adrift. Prediction: They are an honest and hard-working team whose home form should be enough for them to survive.
Wigan (1st Quote 35-38, New Quote 28-31) -They are making a bold bid to stay up with two recent wins, but they have a tough run-in and may only garner another four points. Will it be enough? We think not. Prediction: Will be visiting some small grounds next season if they can't begin to grind out some results.
Wolves (1st Quote 14-17, New Quote 56-58) -Terry Connor doesn't seem to be able to inspire his team in the way that Mick McCarthy used to. They are certain to go down unless they get can win another five games. Prediction: It's going to be Championship football next season for the Black Country boys...
Points Needed To Avoid Relegation
From The Premiership
Blackburn (1st Quote 6-8, New Quote 22-25) -Just when you think that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Rovers, they go and lose to both Bolton and Manchester United. Now back in the drop zone, they still have winable games against Wigan, Norwich and West Brom. Seven points from seven games should be all they need to survive. Prediction : This could all end in tears for the fans at the Jack Walker Stadium...
QPR (1st Quote 15-18, New Quote 26-29) -They are the new 'moneybags' of the Premier League, so by common consent they can buy their way to mid-table safety. So why is new boss Mark Hughes leading them further into trouble? Prediction : R's fans must be cursing the day that Warnock left.
Bolton (1st Quote 9-12, New Quote 22-25) -They haven't built on last season's impressive form under Owen Coyle and they can't seem to find the net this time around. A couple of wins would see them move clear of immediate trouble, but if they are unable to beat fellow strugglers then they are unlikely to beat in-form teams. Prediction : Unless the goals start coming then they will be fighting a last day relegation battle.
West Brom (1st Quote 14-17, New Quote 0.25-1) -Playing great football as always. It would be a triumph for the beautiful game if they stayed up! There are definitely three teams worse than them in this division. Prediction: Will their lovely football be enough to keep them up? It's looking more and more likely.
The Unlikely Lads...
Sunderland (1st Quote 3-5, New Quote 0-0.3) -Steve Bruce has paid the price for a poor start to the seaon -enter the mercurial Martin O'Neil and salvation for Black Cats fans. He has geed them up sufficiently so that they move up the table. Prediction : They need a kick up the backside in the form of a new manager, and here he is!
Stoke (1st Quote 7-9, New Quote 0.25-1) -Their home has subsided, but their away form has picked up a little, all of which points to a season spent in mid-table for this well-organised, hard-working side. Prediction : Have transformed themselves into the Potteries version of Bolton. Safe now after the Swansea match.
Fulham (1st Quote 5-7, New Quote 0.25-1) -The alarm bells are subsiding now at Craven Cottage, Martin Jol has steered them into safer waters. Prediction : Away form must improve so that they don't get dragged down into the danger zone. Newcastle (1st Quote 5-7, New Quote 0-0.1) -They keep coming up with results and are showing their die-hard fans that they are proud to wear the shirt. They are challenging for Europa League places with real intensity. Prediction: Alan Pardew take a bow -you are proving everyone (including your own supporters) to be wrong.
The Field (Others) (1st Quote 1-3, New Quote 2-3) -There is always one team who starts so badly that they get drawn into the relgation fight -last season it was Everton, until David Moyes steadied the ship. This year it could be Aston Villa, who don't seem to inspire anyone (including their own fans). Prediction: There are far too many bad teams below Villa for them to trouble the scorers.
Well now you have seen a brief rundown of all the teams involved in the relegation shake-up, there are several questions to ask about each team when trying to assess their chances of surviving the drop...
How Good Is The Squad?
Does it have depth to it and will it be able to cope with the inevitable injuries that you pick up during the course of a 40+ game season? Having two or three star players may not be enough if they are on the treatment table for ten games or more. In the past few seasons the injury curse cost both Bobby Robson and Glen Roeder their jobs at Newcastle -where the patience of the league's most tolerant fans finally ran out.
Are They Up For A Fight?
One of the accusations levelled at the Middlesboro team (who two seasons ago experienced the drop) was that they just 'weren't up for it' -meaning that the players didn't seem prepared to battle for their Premiership lives.
Some clubs, such as Stoke and Chelsea have been labelled battling teams in certain areas of the media and it has been well-documented how an uncompromising Bolton side muscled a more talented but less physical Arsenal side out of several games over the last couple of seasons. Last season, Arsene Wenger accused Stoke of being in it just for a fight!
Is There A Talismanic Player That Will Inspire Them?
For nearly a decade, Southampton were kept in the top flight by the presence of one player -the mercurial Matthew Le Tissier. This was a player whose genius on the field would so inspire those around him that they would play above the level of their own expectations and ability. Most recently, Joey Barton and Carlos Tevez kept their respective teams, Manchester City and West Ham in the top division.
Having a truly great player in your team can also keep the fans on your side, as it gives them a chance to applaud and take some comfort from all those away defeats. Little consolation perhaps -but football fans will cling to anything when facing the prospect of away days the following season at Barnsley and Doncaster...
Will They Be Able To Spend Their Way Out Of Trouble?
Having deep pockets can be one method to avoid relegation. It used to be much easier before the transfer window came into operation back in 2002-03. A manager used to be able to simply 'pinch an in-form striker from the lower division for a couple of million and ten goals later you were back in mid-table safety.
Not so now, when a club has only the month of January to bolster thread-bare squad. On the face of it, spending five million to save yourself fifty seems like a good idea at the time -but take heed from the tale of Bradford City , who, back in 2000-01 decided to spend big in order to retain their top flight status. Players such as Benito Carbone, Neville Southall, Dean Saunders and Dean Windass were brought in at tremendous expense and enormous wages, but were unable to prevent Bradford from plunging into the first division. The financial strain was all too much and City ended up with debts in excess of £30m.
How Many Points Will They Need?
There appears to be so much competition this season that forty points may just be good enough to ensure survival -the only year in recent times that it hasn't was 2002-03 when a massive 43 points was required for safety. See our table further up the page -it shows what you would have needed over the last nine seasons.