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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2007, 12:00am
 

T he spotlight turns to the bottom end of the Premiership on the final weekend of the season and the pivotal match is Sheffield United v Wigan Athletic. Only a win for Wigan can change the relegation picture, but if they manage that they will escape and leave either the Blades or West Ham to fill the final relegation spot.


A Wigan victory is unlikely on recent evidence, as they are bottom of the form table over the last eight games and have won only one of their past 11 away against Premiership opposition. They have won three out of six away to the current bottom-seven teams, however, so a dramatic escape cannot be ruled out.


The Blades are very tough and have won five out of eight against bottom-half sides (with just two defeats). It seems unlikely they will give up their Premiership status, having fought so hard to get into this position. The possibility that West Ham may need to get a result at Manchester United has led to longer odds than usual being on offer about the champions, and the Red Devils are worth considering even though their focus now is on next weekend's FA Cup final.


In the matches where only one team have incentive, Portsmouth are fancied to beat Arsenal, not least because their form at Fratton Park is excellent (five wins out of eight against top-half teams). Bolton, at home to Aston Villa, are also worth considering.


The battle to claim the final promotion ticket to the Premiership gets under way this weekend with the semi-final first legs in the Championship play-offs. There are several indicators that point to the Southampton v Derby semi-final providing the eventual winners, though there is little to choose between them.


It might be best to wait until the final and back the team who come through.


The play-offs will be tight as usual, but probably the best bet in the first legs is Blackpool on the handicap at Oldham in League One. Blackpool ended the regular season as the best team in the division and ranked top of the whole division on away form (seven wins out of 11 on the road in 2007, including a 1-0 win at Oldham).


The top-rated bet of the weekend is in Spain, where Valencia have the opportunity to seal a Champions League place with a home victory over Real Zaragoza. Valencia's home record has been superb this season and on current form they look stronger than Zaragoza, whose challenge for fourth place has faded in recent weeks.


Milan also rate a strong form chance away to Catania in Italy but are plenty short enough given the doubts that hang over Serie A at this stage of the season.


Two German teams are worth considering for home wins. Mainz need three points at home to relegated Monchengladbach, whose terrible away record (13 defeats in 16) is the main reason for their demise. Nurnberg should beat Hamburg, who are safe now and have nothing to play for.


Homes: Valencia


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