Aston Villa came into today's match with Chelsea knowing that if they won, they'd guarantee safety for next season, making next weekend's match at Wigan entirely irrelevant. Despite a lead that held up for a good chunk of the match, Villa finally succumbed to a Chelsea equaliser, which meant that safety wasn't in the books. I saw plenty of irritated people after Lampard netted his second, but really, it was academic at that point. The only way Wigan could have ever sent Villa down was to win both of their matches and see Villa not get three points this weekend.
But here we are, feeling mostly safe, but still mathematically eligible to join the Championship. So, to help everyone as you watch the remaining matches this week, I'm updating Gareth's post from earlier. Here's the way Villa fans should like to see things break tomorrow and Tuesday. Please let me know in the comments if I've gotten anything wrong!
Everton vs. West Ham (May 12)
This match has absolutely no bearing on us, so you might as well root for Everton to spite West Ham fans.
Here's a match that looked like it might have relegation implications, but doesn't any more. Had Villa gotten any points today, Fulham would still be in the fray. Now, however, the worst both teams can do is tied with one another, and Fulham has an 11-goal lead in differential. That said, with the way they played against Reading (Reading!) last week, maybe Fulham could lose 1-12 and make things interesting. Doubt it, though. That said, root for Liverpool because them winning will sow confusion for at least a few minutes on twitter, and that'd be fun.
Manchester United vs. Swansea (May 12)
Does not impact the relegation battle. Root for Swansea to help spoil Sir Alex's final matches.
Norwich vs. West Brom (May 12)
Now here is a peach of a game for Villa fans. If Norwich lose this, they'll be sitting at 38 points - two below Villa - with a match at Manchester City on the final day of the season. At that point City wouldn't have anything to play for (except perhaps the money that comes with 2nd vs. 3rd), but it's still hard to envision the Canaries winning at Ethiad. This is one of the prime candidates for a team who could save Villa even if the worst-case scenario (Wigan wins out) happens. Root like crazy for West Brom to get some sort of a result, and thus keep Norwich below Villa.
QPR vs. Newcastle (May 12)
If Newcastle lose or draw this match, they're below Villa with a home match against Arsenal to end the season. At that point, Arsenal will still likely be trying to clinch a Champions League spot, so they'd be a tough opponent. That said, it's hard to envision QPR getting any sort of result from anyone at this point. Nevertheless, root for QPR. Newcastle vs. Arsenal would be a nice buffer for Villa.
Stoke vs. Tottenham (May 12)
A seemingly meaningless match, but root for Tottenham to win so that...
Sunderland vs. Southampton (May 12)
This is a tricky one. Both teams sit below Villa right now, but if Southampton get any sort of result, they've got 40 or 42 points and if it's the former, a better goal differential than Villa by far. Sunderland can secure safety with a win. But! If Southampton win (and they've got a not-terribly-hard home match against Stoke to close things out), Sunderland go into the final day having to beat a hopefully-still-in-the-Champions-League-hunt Tottenham in Tottenham to climb above Villa. So yeah, while either team could theoretically stay below Villa and drop, I think we ought to root for Southampton to get a result here, since that'd give Sunderland a massive bit of work to do. (Also, to reiterate, root for Tottenham.)
Reading vs. Manchester City (May 14)
Eh, tough to care about this one. I suppose root for the unlikely in Reading, that way Manchester City will potentially have the incentive of second place to play for against Norwich on the last day.
Arsenal vs. Wigan (May 14)
This is it, ladies and gentlemen. While all of the other results above would help Villa in the worst-case scenario, this match could assure safety on Tuesday and make Sunday's affair purely academic. If Arsenal can get any result - a draw or a win - Aston Villa are safe. Wigan will be coming off of an FA Cup final, and Arsenal are still trying to sew up a Champions League spot. It's hard to envision Wigan getting a win, but Wigan always surprise us at this time of year. So on Tuesday, root like hell for Arsenal fans. For 90 minutes, we are all Gunners.
(As an aside, it'll be interesting to see what Wigan do in the FA Cup final. The trophy would be neat, but it would exhaust their players before an Arsenal match that is do-or-die to stay in the league for them. Should they win the FA Cup and lose to Arsenal, they've got to put resources into Europe and deal with the Championship money drop. I feel like the smart thing to do would be to punt the Cup match, but their fans would never forgive them. What a conundrum.)
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The good thing to realize is that Villa still look mostly safe. Even if Wigan win on Tuesday and beat Villa, there are still plenty of other chances for other teams to go down. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that.