Five men who can decide the relegation dogfight

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The Independent Football

With two games left, six clubs are still engaged in an exceptionally tight Premier League relegation battle. Or so the figures tells us, at least. From Portsmouth down to West Bromwich Albion, each point collected by these clubs, and each goal chalked up, will change the maths that will ultimately decide who escapes, and who plays in the Championship next year.

Click the image on the right for the five men who could decide the relegation fight.

But as we saw on Monday night, when Newcastle beat Middlesbrough, in reality, standout performances from key personnel are influential and gripping in a way that stark numbers can never be. On that night, Alan Shearer and Obafemi Martins left their mark – the former sending on the latter in the second half to score decisively. As Habib Beye showed, an own goal can suddenly skew things. In the remaining games, what telling cameos await? Much has already been written about Newcastle's manager Shearer, so who else can leave their mark on this season? Can West Bromwich pull off another "great escape"? Will Hull City, sixth at Christmas, slide down? Will Sunderland, who began the season with Roy Keane in charge and so full of hope, disappear? And what next for the other two North-east clubs?

Among the bottom five (for, with 38 points, Portsmouth may safely be excluded from this exercise, at least until the next twist of the story) there are enough candidates to prove at least one point: this race is not finished – not by a long way.

Click the image on the right for the five men who could decide the relegation fight.


How the teams stand


Portsmouth 36/9/11/16/35/55/38

Sunderland 36/9/9/18/31/48/36

Newcastle 36/7/13/16/40/57/34

Hull City 36/8/10/18/38/62/34

Middlesbrough 36/7/10/19/26/54/31

West Brom 36/8/7/21/36/65/31

Relegation odds:

West Bromwich Albion 1-25, Middlesbrough 1-20, Hull 1-3, Newcastle 12-5, Sunderland 11-2, Portsmouth 28-1 (Coral)

Remaining games:

PORTSMOUTH: Mon, Sunderland (h), Sun 24 May Wigan (a)

SUNDERLAND: Mon, Portsmouth (a), 24 May Chelsea (h)

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Sat, Fulham (h), 24 May Aston Villa (a)

HULL CITY: Sat, Bolton (a), 24 May Manchester United (h)

MIDDLESBROUGH: Sat, Aston Villa (h), 24 May West Ham United (a)

WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Sun, Liverpool (h), 24 May Blackburn Rovers (a)