This weekend see two games which will have a serious impact on the Premier League table come May.
Hull v Birmingham and Bolton v Stoke are the games that will really matter – not the London or Manchester derbies. As a percentage of total points gained over the course of a season, the three points on offer to Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United is much smaller in comparison to the other four teams mentioned above.
Hull, Birmingham, Bolton and Stoke will not be clear of relegation threats in March and, in all likelihood at least one will go down. It is a cliché to say that games are ‘6 pointers’ but the principle remains that if you win the game then your opposition has one less game to accumulate the necessary number of points needed to stave off relegation.
If Manchester United lose (for example) then they will have another 32 games in which to make up for the three points dropped and most of those will be games where three points are secured. Hull losing (for example) will reduce the number of games in which they have a realistic chance of getting three points to roughly eleven or twelve.
Could we say that avoiding relegation amounts to winning and winning the league is amounts to not losing? Did Liverpool not win the league last year because they beat Manchester United (eventual champions) twice, or did Liverpool not win the league because of home draws to Fulham, West Ham and Stoke?