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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
D-Day for Premiership trio
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

relegation scrap
The Premiership fight for survival reaches a climax on Sunday, with Wigan, West Ham and Sheffield United desperate to avoid the drop.

Wigan will go down if they fail to win at Sheffield United, while the Blades must avoid defeat to ensure they stay in the top flight next term.

West Ham, after looking doomed for so long, know victory at Old Trafford will keep them in the Premiership.

Spurs, Reading, Bolton and Portsmouth are fighting for two Uefa Cup places.

606: DEBATE

And to add extra drama to an already tense finale, the saga will be played out against the backdrop of the prospect of the battle not even ending on Sunday, irrespective of results.

THE RELEGATION EQUATION
Wigan will go down if they fail to beat Sheffield United
Sheffield United will go down if they lose to Wigan and West Ham draw or win against Manchester United OR if they lose to Wigan by three more goals than West Ham lose to Manchester United (eg Man Utd 1-0 West Ham, Sheff Utd 0-4 Wigan)
West Ham will go down if Wigan beat Sheffield United and they lose to Manchester United UNLESS Sheffield United lose by three more goals than the Hammers

Charlton, Fulham, Sheffield United and Wigan are taking legal advice over the Premier League's decision not to dock West Ham points, despite being found guilty of breaking rules in signing Argentine pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

And for those looking for more twists, West Ham's visit to Manchester United may just jog a few Old Trafford memories of the day 12 years ago when a draw at Upton Park robbed them of the Premiership.

It will be intense, with thousands of fans following the results elsewhere to provide a final chapter to a story that will bring joy to some and tears to others.

So how have the three teams sweating on their fate been forced into Sunday's sudden death situation?

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Neil Warnock's side have acquitted themselves well back in the Premiership, especially at home, where Bramall Lane has proved an awkward assignment for every club.

They looked home and hosed earlier in the season when they moved 10 points clear of the danger zone, but a run of poor results on their travels have pushed them back into trouble.

And they will feel the pressure on the final day because the visitors are Wigan, a side who will adopt a go-for-broke approach because they know anything other than a victory will see them go through the Premiership exit.

But a point will see the Blades safe and they will be looking to their stalwarts this season, men like Phil Jagielka, to push them across the line.

WEST HAM UNITED

The row over the transfers of Tevez and Mascherano has over-shadowed a remarkable revival overseen by manager Alan Curbishley in recent weeks.

They have won six of their last eight games to put themselves within sight of safety - but the visit to newly-crowned champions Manchester United awaits.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already stated his intention to play his strongest side, and he may just have a score to settle by sending the Hammers down.

Back in 1995, it was a pumped-up performance by West Ham at Upton Park that robbed United of the championship and sparked celebrations in Blackburn.

West Ham manager Alan Curbishley
West Ham manager Alan Curbishley has sparked an Upton Park revival

And Ferguson may not have forgotten that... even after 12 years.

But West Ham will travel with confidence and finally in control of their own destiny.

West Ham boss Curbishley has high hopes, saying: "We've given ourselves a chance and, given the position we were in, that's all we could ask for. It's in our hands. It's not been in our hands for so long.

"Perhaps this week the expectation levels have turned. We are playing well, we have got a settled side and there is no reason why we can't go to Old Trafford and finish it off.

"Middlesbrough got a deserved point there a couple of weeks ago and we go there needing a point. Why not?"

And with Tevez in magnificent form, why not?

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Wigan are relative newcomers to the relegation scrap - but are now favourites to go down after picking up three points from their last eight games.

They can still save themselves, but it will take a serious reversal of form to win at Bramall Lane after damaging home defeats against West Ham and Middlesbrough.

Can Emile Heskey have a day when he looks unplayable? Or will he be the frustratingly ineffective figure that has frustrated so many managers during his career.

Wigan manager Paul Jewell
Wigan boss Jewell has won a last-day survival battle before at Bradford

Wigan's Premiership future may depend on it.

Manager Paul Jewell has experienced the last-day survival battle before, as manager of Bradford.

They beat Liverpool 1-0 at Valley Parade in their final game on the 1999-2000 season to stay in the Premirship.

And he admits: "After our desperate run we should be dead and buried but we aren't. It is in our hands and all we have to do is win one football match.

"Why should we be scared of that? I have never lost at Bramall Lane in my career, so I hope that's a good omen.

"We know that Sheffield United will come at us hard and be in our faces. We are big boys, we can stand and fight - we must and we will.

"I don't want to stay up off the back of a court case and West Ham docked points.

"I want to stay up because we won our last match."



Barclays Premier League Table
01 February 2010 22:00
    P GD PTS
1 Chelsea 23 38 54
2 Man Utd 24 36 53
3 Arsenal 24 32 49
4 Tottenham 24 20 42

5 Liverpool 24 16 41

6 Man City 22 14 41
7 Aston Villa 23 13 40
8 Birmingham 23 -1 34
9 Everton 23 -1 32
10 Blackburn 24 -15 28
11 Fulham 23 -2 27
12 Stoke 22 -7 26
13 Sunderland 23 -10 24
14 Wigan 22 -23 22
15 West Ham 23 -9 21
16 Bolton 22 -15 21
17 Wolverhampton 23 -21 21

18 Burnley 23 -23 20
19 Hull 23 -26 20
20 Portsmouth 22 -16 15




SEE ALSO
Play Predictor
13 May 07 |  Football
Man Utd v West Ham
11 May 07 |  Premiership
Sheff Utd v Wigan
11 May 07 |  Premiership


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