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A crucial 2-1 home success over Norwich allowed Watford to move three points clear of the relegation zone and, with a better goal difference than rivals below them, almost worth an extra point, they will know that following up with victory over Newcastle can almost guarantee their safety. They had to come from a goal behind, but were delighted when Danny Welbeck scored a brilliant winner against the Canaries and must be confident of backing that up against mid-table Newcastle.
United were torn apart 5-0 at Manchester City on Wednesday but had done well previously to ensure they would not be dragged towards the trapdoor. However, after an FA Cup loss at home to the Citizens, they look a side content to see the season finish and start preparing for next now and I suspect they may offer little resistance. The Hornets won’t want to go into their last two games with Manchester City and Arsenal under pressure to secure points and Newcastle provide them with an ideal opportunity to finally banish any relegation fears.
The Hammers visit rock-bottom Norwich also aware that one more victory is likely to prove enough to ensure Premier League football next term. Like Watford, they hold a three point cushion and victory at Carrow Road would see them climb high enough to make it unlikely they can be caught. They missed a golden chance in midweek when losing 1-0 at home against Burnley to settle those relegation nerves but, after a tough recent run of opponents, will be pleased to finally meet a team below them. A splendid 3-2 success over Chelsea has been their key result recently and another performance like that will surely see them notch three points on the road this Saturday. Norwich have folded tamely since the resumption with five successive PL losses coupled with an FA Cup defeat and the Championship is where they will find themselves next season. They are the sections lowest scorers and West Ham must be looking forward to facing a defence that has shipped sixty-three top-flight goals.
The race to finish in the top four has been a terrific battle with both Chelsea and Manchester United in excellent form. The pair are reeling in Leicester, who had looked certain for one of the slots themselves. The Pensioners are third with a slender two point lead over the Red Devils but now face an awkward trip up the M1 to face Sheffield United, who themselves are eyeing a place in the top six. The Londoners have recorded four wins with just the single setback coming in a late loss at West Ham. They were 3-2 winners at Crystal Palace in midweek which saw them score three goals for the third consecutive match. Chelsea are certainly an entertaining team to watch at present and manager Frank Lampard would love to oversee a top-four finish and a platform to challenge even higher next season. Sheffield United have enjoyed a remarkable campaign after promotion last year and defied the critics who expected them to make a quick return to the Championship. It’s incredible to believe they are just a point and place behind sixth-placed Wolves who they beat 1-0 at Bramall Lane on Wednesday with a last gasp John Egan header. They perhaps stole that victory on reflection but have given themselves an opportunity to catch Wolves. However, Chelsea represent a sharp rise in class and I think The Blades will find it difficult preventing the free-scoring Blues from taking maximum points on this occasion.
The race for promotion in the Championship has been fascinating and, despite both Brentford and Fulham giving Leeds and West Brom plenty to think about, it would appear the top two now have the Premier League firmly in their sights. The Baggies hold a five point lead with four games to play and must be confident of retaining an automatic promotion berth. A recent blip and two points in 12 was a worry, but they have bounced back to record a hat-trick of victories and were impressive in midweek, defeating playoff challengers Derby 2-0 at the Hawthorns. They now head North to Ewood Park where Blackburn are playing in the last chance saloon as they look to make the top six. Five points may well prove too big a gap to close despite an excellent 3-2 win at rivals Cardiff in midweek. That came after a three match losing run which looked to have ended any playoff interest this season. Title favourites Leeds were 3-1 winners in Lancashire and The Baggies will look to match that and keep the pressure on at the summit.
Brentford are The Championship’s form team with six straight victories, so it must be frustrating for Bees fans that they still remain five points adrift of automatic promotion. Algerian international Said Benrahma has been in electric form and the exciting winger has bagged two hat-tricks this campaign, along with many eye-catching performances. His penalty on Tuesday helped his side recover from a goal down to beat Charlton but the team must continue this amazing run to have any hopes of catching the two clubs above them. Even finishing with four more victories may well see them just come up short but they will be favourites in the playoffs and will hope to maintain high standards. Derby are playoff-chasing themselves but have a three point deficit to find. A four match winning run had pushed them towards the top six but six of their final seven games have been against opponents challenging at the top end. This tough schedule may prove hard to negotiate. They were well beaten at West Brom and failure to beat Brentford may consign them to another year in the Championship. They don’t appear strong enough to stop free-scoring Brentford and I expect their season to realistically end here.