It was supposed to happen today. Norwich City were clinging to a draw against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa were losing. If those results had held, Aston Villa would have been officially relegated for the first time since May 1987. But Crystal Palace beat Norwich, and despite an eventual 1-2 defeat to Bournemouth, Villa are still mathematically alive.
So, the question now is, when will Villa be relegated. Let's take another look at the scenarios. The only three teams we care about right now are Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Norwich City.
Sunday, 10 April
Aston Villa can be relegated tomorrow if Sunderland beat Leicester. At that point the table for the relevant teams involved in this discussion would look like this:
- Norwich City - 33 played, 31 points
- Sunderland - 32 played, 30 points
- Aston Villa - 33 played, 16 points
With five matches remaining, it seems as if Sunderland would have no part to play in this, but they've still got one match against Norwich. Villa can, AT MOST, get to 31 points. So long as one or the other of Norwich or Sunderland can top that, we're done.
And when those two teams play each other, the final result will be either a Norwich win (assuring them of at least 34 points), a draw (assuring Norwich of at least 32 points), or a Sunderland win (assuring them of at least 33 points).
Of course this would require Sunderland to beat the best team in England right now, and it seems pretty unlikely to happen.
Saturday, 16 April, approximately 2:35 PM BST
If Sunderland do not beat Leicester, this would be the next chance for relegation for Villa. Norwich would need either a win or a draw to ensure that Aston Villa could not keep up. Sunderland would, at most, get to 31 points with a win, so if they don't beat Leicester, they won't be able to knock Villa out next weekend.
Saturday, 16 April, approximately 4:50 PM BST
If we get this far, it means that Sunderland have lost to Leicester and beaten Norwich. Right now, as things stand, if Villa have any chance at catching Norwich City, the claret and blues must win every one of their remaining five matches. And Norwich City must lose every one of their remaining five matches. Oh, and Villa have to make up 19 goals while doing all of that.
So if we're to this point, Villa would be relegated on their trip to Manchester United with a loss or a draw.
Sometime after all of that
If, somehow, Sunderland do not beat Leicester and keep losing, and Norwich City keep losing, Aston Villa can survive as long as they keep winning. If, at any point over the rest of the season, Norwich get a win or a draw, it's over. The same is true if Villa ever draw or lose. We're also done if Sunderland can pick up five points in their remaining six matches.
The moral of it all
Aston Villa are basically done. Over the course of the season, this team has only scored 23 goals, so even the miracle dream-land scenario of us winning out and everyone else losing out (except Sunderland against Norwich) seems pretty implausible. It would take a couple of 6-0 defeats to Norwich and a couple of lopsided wins for Villa to happen.
And you saw the way this club played today. Or last week. Or this season.
That's not happening. We're just here waiting for the axe to drop.