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Friday, May 4, 2007

Pulling for West Ham! And EPL league analysis heading into this weekend's action!

As English Premier League play draws to a close, we have to pull for the West Ham United "Hammers" as they attempt to escape the relegation zone. As of this writing West Ham is hanging in at the number 18 spot with 35 points and only two games to go (Wigan also has 35 points but leads because of other stats that define rankings).

Why pull for West Ham? West Ham has been a forerunner for the EPL for years, and at the onset of this season, West Ham seemed like they would have a promising season; they handed Arsenal a loss that no one expected on Sunday, November 5th, but immediately after that point West Ham only managed to win one more game out of their next 20 games (defeating only Sheffield United on Saturday, November 25th). So with West Ham either losing or drawing week after week until they managed a win against Middlesborough on March 31st - it seemed that the team was simply bound for the relegation express.

West Ham improved in April winning three out of five games including consecutive victories over the past two weeks. But as the world wondered, would a last minute effort by last years' former FA Cup contenders be enough to pull them out of the basement? Would it be enough to save them from Coca-Cola land? That answer is still up in the air.

West Ham has also been in the news regarding irregularities involving the signing of Carlos Terez and certain clauses within a four year deal that allowed a third party Kia Joorabchian direct influence over West Ham. The FA ended up fining West Ham a record $5.5 million. Initially it was thought that the FA would have also deducted 10 points from West Ham which would have doomed them to relegation, considering their current ranking. Wigan and other relegation teams have threatened legal suits to attempt to get the 10 point subtraction imposed. This is yet another reason why we MUST ALL PULL for West Ham. How weak is it for a rival relegation bound team to threaten legal action instead of trying to beat out West Ham by winning their way to security? It's damn pathetic!

With Carlos Tevez now playing for West Ham, its possible that the Hammers have a fighting chance to beat relegation. But let's not kid ourselves, the road to beating relegation is paved in blood, sweat and war - with final two two games of the season scheduled against top EPL teams - Bolton and Manchester United. If West Ham beat these teams, then they deserve a place in the 2007-2008 Premiership.

The battle against the fifth place Bolton Wanderers tomorrow (Saturday 10 am EST) will be no walk. Bolton is hell bent on knocking off their rival, Arsenal, for a slot in Champions League play (CL spots are reserved for only the finishing top four teams), and at a minimum, hold onto their spot in European UEFA cup action (reserved for the top six finishing teams).

Naturally, finishes depend on how the other teams in and outside of relegation fair. The schedule breakdown and analysis is as follows:

20th place Watford is headed to relegation because they have 24 points and even two victories would not pull them free of relegation.

19th place Charlton Athletic has 33 points, but must play a red hot 9th place Tottenham Spurs this weekend and 3rd place Liverpool on May 13th.

17th place Wigan must play 14th place Middlesborough tomorrow, and 15th place Sheffield United next weekend. Wigan has the easiest road, but Middlesborough is no walk having recently held Manchester United to a draw in the FA Cup - and nearly pulling out an upset. Wigan has also lost its last two games, including their last game to rival West Ham by a lost of 3 - 0. If Wigan fails to win, they could give West Ham an even chance even if West Ham draws.

16th place Fulham has 36 points and have lost and draw in their past two games; the "Cottagers" must face a red hot 3rd place Liverpool team this weekend, and then must play 14th place Middlesborough.

15th place Sheffield United is in at 38 points, and must face 11th place Aston Villa, who have drawn and lost in their last two games. The Blades then go on to face 17th place Wigan next week.

14th place Middlesborough, already mentioned above stands with 40 points and plays Wigan this week and Fulham next week.

Manchester City (13th place) and Newcastle United (12th place) seem assured of safety, but will finish out in the bottom half of the league with little to be proud of except avoiding relegation and clinging to survivial. Hanging out near the bottom makes you a target the next time around and doesn't do much for club enthusiasm particularly when both teams sit with 42 points.

So I think we have it. Let's hope West Ham finds six points, and pray Wigan loses this weekend and next. Soccer schedules can be tricky things, the answer lies in not putting yourself in a position where you are counting your points, and others at the end of the season.

Go West Ham!

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