The fate of Reading and QPR was sealed last week, and judging by the uninspiring fashion in which the two sides were relegated to the Championship, the second division is arguably where they belong.
For months there was an air of resignation surrounding the teams from the Madejski Stadium and Loftus Road. Camped almost four games from survival for the majority of 2013, it was a relief when referee Kevin Friend ended the misery of a goalless draw played out between Reading and QPR on Sunday afternoon.
Nothing but a win would have kept either side safe for the time being, yet neither showed any urgency to take all three points. An apathetic 90 minutes of football was ended in silence, with neither set of fans able to comprehend the way in which their team had accepted relegation.
QPR had splashed out over £50 million on 18 players this season alone, leaving themselves with one of the biggest and most expensive squads in the Premier League. However, many of those signings just didn’t click, or perhaps more tellingly, didn’t care.
Jose Bosingwa, signed on a £60,000 per week contract from Chelsea in the summer of 2012, was seen laughing as he made his way from the field on Sunday – hardly an acceptable reaction from someone whose side had just been relegated.
Meanwhile, players like Park Ji-Sung (signed for £5 million), Junior Hoilett (£6 million), Esteban Granero (£9 million) and Christopher Samba (£12.5 million) could barely even cement their place in the team throughout the year, let alone drive QPR to meet owner Tony Fernandes’s lofty expectations of European football.
Sorry to all QPR fans. But the plan goes on. Now more than ever. We owe it to you. Took 3 years to get Caterham right. No quitting
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) April 28, 2013
Planning starts tomorrow. Meeting harry at 11 to discuss squad. Going to be tough but we will come back stronger
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) April 28, 2013
Reading’s story is quite the opposite.
After surprising many by clinching the Championship title last season, the Royals failed to strengthen their squad throughout the year.
After a semi-rebuild two years ago, many didn’t believe they had the squad to be promoted the season before. Premier League football probably came about 12 months too early for Brian McDermott’s side, and it ultimately cost him his job.
But while QPR and Reading failed to excite Premier League viewers, two fresh sides are ready to take their place. Cardiff has already secured Championship glory and subsequent promotion, while Hull and Watford will look to gain automatic entry into the Premier League when the Championship’s final games are played on Saturday.
Hull (currently second with 78 points) hosts the champions, Cardiff, needing a win to guarantee promotion, while Watford (third with 77 points) hosts mid-table Leeds needing a win and a Cardiff result.
Turning attentions back to the Premier League and the race for European football continues to intensify coming into matchday 36.
Chelsea currently sits in the box seat for European football with 65 points and a game in hand, but will face the champions Manchester United at Old Trafford this weekend. A defeat could see them go behind Arsenal and level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham.
Arsenal travels to the already relegated QPR in the knowledge that a win will inch themselves closer to a top-four finish. Meanwhile Tottenham hosts Southampton, where a win could move them level with Chelsea.
Tottenham then travels to Chelsea in the pair’s catch-up game on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge. The winner of that clash could have their Champions League qualification signed, sealed and delivered.
Everton is the underdog to grab a European place. The Toffees are five points from a Champions League berth but face a tough trip to archrivals Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, back to the bottom of the table where both North East sides conceded six goals to spice up the relegation battle. Newcastle lost 6-0 to Liverpool, before Sunderland was thrashed 6-1 by relegation rivals Aston Villa to move all three sides to 37 points.
Meanwhile Wigan conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 with Tottenham, keeping them five points from safety with just three games to go. Time is running out for Roberto Martinez’s men to start their dramatic end-of-season run.
Sunday May 5 at 12.00am
Fulham 2-1 Reading
Norwich 1-2 Aston Villa
Swansea 0-2 Manchester City
Tottenham 3-1 Southampton
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Wigan
West Ham 1-1 Newcastle
Sunday May 5 at 2.30am
QPR 1-3 Arsenal
Sunday May 5 at 10.30pm
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
Monday May 6 at 1.00am
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
Tuesday May 7 at 5.00am
Sunderland 0-0 Stoke
Wednesday May 8 at 4.45am (catch-up games)
Manchester City 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Wigan 1-1 Swansea
Thursday May 9 at 4.45am (catch-up game)
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham