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West Ham were threatening the shock of the season as they led Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield on Monday but the Reds finished the stronger and the Hammers were unable to prevent the champions-elect running out 3-2 winners. That left the Londoners in the bottom three and Liverpool unbeaten in the top flight still.
Despite a spirited effort, West Ham are now without a win in their last seven Premier League matches and will find it hard to play attractive open football with relegation hanging over them. Southampton are in the capital next and look primed to inflict further misery on their hosts this Saturday.
The Saints were cosy 2-0 winners over Aston Villa last weekend and with forward Danny Ings doing his best to force his way into England’s Euro 2020 squad and strike partner Shane Long suddenly finding his goalscoring boots, they should be confident of securing a seventh PL away win of the season which is one of the strongest records on the road in the section.
West Brom have established themselves as the best team in the Championship recently and with only four losses, they are now favourites for the title and hold a four-point lead over nearest rivals Leeds United.
A nine-point cushion over third-placed Fulham means Baggies fans can be forgiven for already having the promotion champagne on ice, and it will take a big collapse to prevent them returning to the PL.
WBA ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over playoff hopefuls Preston at the Hawthorn’s on Tuesday, making it five wins from their last six outings.
Despite a crucial 3-0 win away at Reading on Wednesday, Wigan still remain in the bottom three and know it will take a mammoth effort to tame the leaders. The Latics are actually showing some improved form with an unbeaten four-match run moving them closer to safety and hopes are high they can escape the drop.
However, there will be easier matches than Albion away and they may have to accept defeat here, ahead of their run-in which features many matches with those rivals around them at the foot.
Rotherham secured three points at Accrington with an injury-time strike last Saturday and although not at their fluent best at second-placed Coventry on Tuesday, did enough to retain the leadership of League One following a 1-1 draw.
There is no let-up from the chasing pack and with only seven points covering the top seven, every game is becoming a cup final. United return to the New York Stadium to entertain lowly MK Dons and will be confident of remaining at the summit.
The visitors have a dreadful away record with just the solitary victory but thankfully for them with only three clubs being demoted, they look assured of survival. They are unlikely to offer much resistance, therefore, and The Millers can turn on the style and celebrate three more points in South Yorkshire to keep them firmly on track for promotion.
Swindon are in the driving seat in League Two, albeit they have just a slender two-point advantage at the top and can’t afford any slips-ups with the race tight for promotion. Recruiting Jerry Yates and Eoin Doyle in the transfer window looks to be a masterstroke and the Robins have plenty of attacking threats and always look full of goals.
A trip to Nottinghamshire to play Mansfield will not be easy but the hosts, who started as one of many people’s idea of title winners back in August, have endured a very disappointing campaign and incredibly sit fourth-bottom despite a big budget and Graham Coughlan joining as manager recently.
Despite the Stags lowly league position, this will be tricky but the visitors are in such good form and so full of confidence that they won’t want to let slip a wonderful opportunity to keep the title in their sights.
Exeter are also well placed for at least promotion although they were beaten 2-0 at Northampton last time out. That followed a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Portsmouth in the football league trophy where they conceded twice in injury time when Wembley beckoned. Of course, a return to League One football is their priority and the Grecians did rotate their squad for the cup match.
They now have four of their next five league games at St James Park and can put pressure on their rivals around them, starting with a match against mid-table Crawley.
Town are a frustrating team and with fourteen draws, could have been challenging for the playoffs themselves if they had converted more of those stalemates into wins. They have only tasted success once on their travels and with Exeter only suffering one loss on home soil, this will be seen as a banker home win for many punters.
Forward Ryan Bowman is a handful for most defences at this level and has contributed twelve league goals this campaign. He can prove difficult again and I am happy to go with the stats and envisage City celebrating at 5pm Saturday.