Aston Villa and the relegation battle: what you need to know

Paul, use your thumb to point where we want to stay. - Scott Heavey

We've done a lot of math lately while talking about the relegation battle. Let's look at it in plain English.

Over the past few days, I've been relentlessly running the numbers to figure out just how likely Aston Villa are to be relegated. It occurred to me, however, that those numbers are obfuscating the actual scenarios themselves. So without further ado, here is what Villa fans can expect for various outcomes in the final few matches.

If Villa lose out and stay at 35 points

This is the nightmare scenario, the one that is becoming more and more probable with each passing minute of lackluster play by this club. Nevertheless, as I've been saying, even in this situation, Villa are still likely safe. In order to catch, and surpass Villa, here's what the other teams would need:

Cardiff City: Two wins. A win and a draw only gets them to 34 points now, so they must win out to catch a 35-point Villa. Unfortunately, those wins would have to come in a trip to Newcastle and a visit from Chelsea. Six points from there is highly unlikely.

Fulham: Two wins. Yes, Fulham could catch Villa at 35 points with a win and a draw, but given their -42 differential, they'd finish below the claret and blue in that situation. They've got to get those two wins in a trip to Stoke and a final-day match against the rejuvenated Crystal Palace. Given the way Fulham have played this year, that's a tall order.

Norwich City: A win and another result. The Canaries, like Fulham, suffer from a terrible goal differential, so getting a win and a loss and ending on 35 points won't help them vault past Villa. And realistically, given that they still must travel to Stamford Bridge and host Arsenal, it's tough to see them even getting a win.

Sunderland: A win (or three draws) would tie them with a 35-point Villa, and depending on how the results played out, they could actually finish ahead on goal differential. A win and any other result would guarantee they finish above 35. And remember they've got 3 matches left.

Worst possible finish: 20th

Verdict: Villa will be relegated at 35 points only if two of these four teams finish above them. The most likely scenario for that is Sunderland getting a win and something else and probably Fulham getting two wins at that point. Either way, Villa would have to see AT LEAST two wins from this group in their remaining nine matches.

At 35 points, Villa have to sweat a bit, but they are STILL likely to be safe.

If Villa get one more point to end at 36

Assuming Villa end at 36, it will likely come as the result of a draw against Hull and two losses against Manchester City and Tottenham. 36 points also almost assure safety.

Cardiff City: Could not catch Aston Villa unless they got two wins AND made up 21 goals worth of differential. In other words, it won't happen.

Fulham: Would need two wins. A win and a draw would put them at 35. Two wins would give them 37 and leave them at a place where -- at least with relation to Aston Villa -- their differential doesn't matter.

Norwich City: Would need two wins. A win and a draw would put them equal at 36, but then they'd be dealing with goal differential problem that Cardiff had. Again: remember that they still have to play Chelsea and Arsenal. I cannot emphasize enough how screwed the Canaries are.

Sunderland: A win and a draw would -- depending on differential problems -- probably put them ahead of Villa. Anything more and they finish ahead, anything less and behind.

Worst possible finish: 19th (assuming weird things didn't happen in differential land)

Verdict: Getting just one more point drastically increases the feeling of safety of Villa fans. It's extremely unlike that Fulham and Norwich win out, and heck, even Sunderland could stumble.

If Villa get two more points to end at 37

Two draws! Woo!

Cardiff: Could not catch Villa, even with divine interference.

Fulham: Could only tie Aston Villa on points and would then lose on differential.

Norwich City: Again. Would need two wins to end at 38. Have I mentioned that they're screwed?

Sunderland: Would need two wins from their last three matches. Look, Sunderland look like to avoid the drop, but two wins against Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, and Swansea would be quite a bit for a club who have, until recently, been terrible.

Worst possible finish: 18th

Verdict: 37 points is really not significantly different, scenario-wise, than 36. The big thing here is that it eliminates Cardiff and Fulham.

If Villa get three or more points to end at 38+

Ah, safety guaranteed.

Cardiff: Could not catch Villa.

Fulham: Could not catch Villa.

Norwich: Could catch Villa on points, but would lose on differential.

Sunderland: Could catch or surpass Villa, but it wouldn't really matter except in terms of how much money each team would get for finishing position.

Worst possible finish: 17th, and safe.

Verdict: Beat Hull City this weekend, and Villa won't have to worry about anything else with the trips to Manchester City and Tottenham. So let's beat Hull, okay?

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