THE SEASON 2013/14
1 LIVERPOOL (P34 W24 D5 L5 F93 A42 Pts 77)
Run-in: 20-Apr Norwich City (A), 27-Apr Chelsea (H), 03-May Crystal Palace (A), 11-May Newcastle United (H)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Arsenal (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 0-1 v Manchester United (A) in third round
Top scorer: Luis Suarez (29)
Liverpool took a giant leap towards their first league title for 24 years with a 10th straight win in a dramatic 3-2 win over Manchester City at Anfield. The Reds began in their typical attacking style, which had brought them 90 goals before yesterday, with Raheem Sterling outfoxing Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart for the opener before Martin Skrtel's excellent glanced header for 2-0 after just 26 minutes. But, while Liverpool's attacking prowess is unmatched this season, the defence has conceded more goals than Crystal Palace - and Man City were back in the game with two goals shortly after half time. Having steadied the ship, the Reds then struck a massive blow with 12 minutes left when Brazilian youngster Philippe Coutinho fired into the bottom corner. Liverpool had won a titanic battle and, as tearful captain Steven Gerrard rallied his players at the end of the game, it had clearly begun to sunk in that four more wins will definitely win the title. Dangerously, Chelsea are one of those four opponents - but the fixture falls right in the middle of the Blues' two-legged Champions League semi final. The match is also at Anfield where, thanks to the brilliant form of strike-pair Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Brendan Rodgers' men have dropped just five points all season.
2 CHELSEA (P34 W23 D6 L5 F66 A24 Pts 75)
Run-in: 20-Apr Sunderland (H), 27-Apr Liverpool (A), 03-May Norwich City (H), 11-May Cardiff City (A)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Manchester City (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 1-2 aet v Sunderland (A) in fifth round
Europe: SF v Atletico Madrid (A) on 22-Apr/(H) on 30-Apr
Top scorer: Eden Hazard (17)
Chelsea kept up the pressure on leaders Liverpool ahead of their match at Anfield on 27 April - but their 1-0 victory at ten-man Swansea City was not exactly thrill-a-minute stuff. At least it was a win for the Blues, though, as it ended a run of three successive away defeats in all competitions to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Paris Saint-Germain. Former Newcastle United striker Demba Ba scored the vital goal against Paris, and the Senegalese was at it again midway through the second half against the struggling Swans. With a European Cup semi final against Atletico Madrid already booked, Chelsea can also look forward to a run-in which, outside of the tussle at Anfield, is actually pretty kind. Although they will be fighting hard for their Premier League status, Sunderland, Norwich City and Cardiff City are all currently in the bottom four for a reason - and so the title race is not over by a long stretch. Indeed, the Blues need only land one of the big two prizes for this to have been another pretty special season for the self-proclaimed Special One, Jose Mourinho.
3 MANCHESTER CITY (P32 W22 D4 L6 F86 A32 Pts 70)
Run-in: 16-Apr Sunderland (H), 21-Apr West Bromwich Albion (H), 27-Apr Crystal Palace (A), 03-May Everton (A), 07-May Aston Villa (H), 11-May West Ham United (H)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Wigan Athletic (H) in QF
League Cup: won 3-1 v Sunderland at Wembley in Final
Europe: lost 1-4 on agg v Barcelona (0-2h, 1-2a) in Last 16
Top scorer: Sergio Aguero (26)
Manchester City slipped seven points adrift of leaders Liverpool after a sixth league defeat of the season, with this one being easily the most costly of all. City's two games in hand against Sunderland and Aston Villa are both eminently winnable but the Reds' lead at the top has nullified the advantage of having the extra games. Yes, with the League Cup already sealed up, City will definitely win more than their potless Manchester rivals this season - but, having poured hundreds of millions of pounds into the team, the season can only be considered a disappointment if that is the only thing they do win. And, while the defeat at Anfield may end up being the most costly because of the direct advantage which it gives Liverpool, Manuel Pellegrini need only look at four losses in the first 11 games to see where his team lost this title, which would still only be City's second since 1967.
4 EVERTON (P33 W19 D9 L5 F53 A31 Pts 66)
Run-in: 16-Apr Crystal Palace (H), 20-Apr Manchester United (H), 26-Apr Southampton (A), 03-May Manchester City (H), 11-May Hull City (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-4 v Arsenal (A) in QF
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Fulham (A) in third round
Top scorer: Romelu Lukaku (13)
Everton equalled their club record of seven wins in a row against Sunderland on Saturday to leapfrog Arsenal into fourth having beaten the Gunners 3-0 the weekend before. The Toffees found it surprisingly tougher going against rock-bottom Sunderland with only a Wes Brown own goal separating the sides at the final whistle. But, oddly enough, the Black Cats are one of only five sides to beat Everton in the league this season, and the only one at Goodison. Nevertheless, the many draws of earlier in the campaign have now turned into a string of wins - and the Merseysiders have now broken their record for the most points in a season in the Premier League era by surpassing the 65 points they managed in 2007-08. It may be difficult to stay in a Champions League place given that Arsenal do not have to play either Manchester club in the run-in and Everton face both. Regardless of where they end up, though, former Wigan Athletic boss Roberto Martinez will be able to reflect on a fine first season at the club.
5 ARSENAL (P33 W19 D7 L7 F56 A40 Pts 64)
Run-in: 15-Apr West Ham United (H), 19-Apr Hull City (A), 28-Apr Newcastle United (H), 03-May West Bromwich Albion (H), 11-May Norwich City (A)
FA Cup: Final v Hull City at Wembley on 17-May
League Cup: lost 0-2 v Chelsea (H) in fourth round
Europe: lost 1-3 on agg v Bayern Munich (0-2h, 1-1a) in Last 16
Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (19)
Arsene Wenger breathed a huge sigh of relief at full time on Saturday as Arsenal scraped through their FA Cup semi final against Wigan Athletic on penalties. Despite being cup holders, Wigan are also a Championship side so when they still held the lead with 10 minutes left, it looked as if this was going to be yet another one of those days for the Gunners. But Per Mertesacker spared his side's blushes to make up for giving away the penalty from which Wigan took the lead - and, in the shootout, Arsenal were far more composed. Still, the wild celebrations afterwards have been criticised in some quarters as a sign of the level of where Arsenal are, following a run of just three league wins in 11 games since the end of January. That poor form has seen the Gunners drop well out of the title race which they had led through the autumn and beyond Christmas, and now they are even outside the top four because of Everton's good form. Nevertheless, a better set of fixtures than the Merseysiders should mean Wenger's men make it to UEFA's elite competition for the 17th year in a row and they should also win a first trophy for nine years in the Cup Final against Hull City. There is no such thing as a certainty in football, though - and even less so when it comes to Arsenal.
6 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (P34 W18 D6 L10 F48 A48 Pts 60)
Run-in: 19-Apr Fulham (H), 26-Apr Stoke City (A), 03-May West Ham United (A), 11-May Aston Villa (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Arsenal (A) in third round
League Cup: lost 1-2 v West Ham United (H) in fifth round
Europe: lost 3-5 on agg v Benfica (1-3h, 2-2a) in Last 16 Europa League
Top scorer: Emmanuel Adebayor (13)
Mystery continues to shroud the future of Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood who effectively talked his way into an 18-month contract following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas after a 5-0 home drubbing against Liverpool in December. Sherwood started well - better than any Tottenham manager before, in fact, by winning five of his first six games. But, over a longer period of time, the same vulnerabilities have been exposed, with Spurs still losing heavily to the title challengers Manchester City (1-5), Liverpool (0-4) and Chelsea (0-4) under his watch. Also, a further duo of defeats to North London rivals Arsenal - 2-0 in the FA Cup Third Round and 1-0 in the league - have ended the chance of any real progress in a season in which £105m was spent on seven new players in the summer. Of course, £85m of that came from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid - but how Tottenham must wish they had that extra little spark back in their team now. The completely even goal difference for a top six side says a lot - and, if Dutch manager Louis van Gaal is to replace Sherwood after the World Cup, he will find there is much work to do.
7 MANCHESTER UNITED (P33 W17 D6 L10 F55 A38 Pts 57)
Run-in: 20-Apr Everton (A), 26-Apr Norwich City (H), 03-May Sunderland (H), 06-May Hull City (H), 11-May Southampton (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Swansea City (H) in third round
League Cup: lost 1-2 on pens after 3-3 agg v Sunderland (1-2a, 2-1h) in semi final
Europe: lost 2-4 on agg v Bayern Munich (1-1h, 1-3a) in QF
Top scorer: Wayne Rooney/Robin van Persie (17)
Manchester United must face up to the reality that there will not be any Champions League football at Old Trafford in 2014-15 after being dumped out of Europe by Bayern Munich last week. It completes a miserable first season at the club for manager David Moyes whose troubled reign reached its nadir when a flypast calling for his dismissal flew overhead during the game against Aston Villa. Of course, the Red Devils won that match 4-1 and then hit another four goals against Newcastle United a week later - but the successive 3-0 home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City in March will not be so easily forgotten. It meant for the first time ever that both clubs completed the double over Man United - and, while their two bitterest rivals fight it out for the title, Moyes' defending champions are left battling it out with Tottenham Hotspur for the final European spot. Yes, it was always going to be a tough act following Sir Alex Ferguson but it should it really have ever come to this?
8 SOUTHAMPTON (P34 W13 D9 L12 F50 A45 Pts 48)
Run-in: 19-Apr Aston Villa (A), 26-Apr Everton (H), 03-May Swansea City (A), 11-May Manchester United (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-1 v Sunderland (A) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Sunderland (A) in fourth round
Top scorer: Jay Rodriguez (17)
Buoyed by a trinity of English forwards - Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and top scorer Jay Rodriguez - Southampton recovered well from their mid-season slump to go eight league and cup games unbeaten in January and February. But there is still room for improvement at St Mary's as the two disappointing cup exits to rock-bottom Sunderland and the poor defeat to Cardiff City on Saturday demonstrate. Now deprived of the unfortunate Rodriguez, who will miss any chance of a World Cup selection following an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury, the Saints can still look forward to reaching a half-century of points in the top flight for the first time since 2003 if they can manage one more win. Indeed, the south coast club remain an impressive work in progress.
9 NEWCASTLE UNITED (P34 W14 D4 L16 F38 A52 Pts 46)
Run-in: 19-Apr Swansea City (H), 28-Apr Arsenal (A), 03-May Cardiff City (H), 11-May Liverpool (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Cardiff City (H) in third round
League Cup: lost 0-2 aet v Manchester City (H) in fourth round
Top scorer: Loïc Remy (13)
The tide has finally turned against manager Alan Pardew after Newcastle United slipped to a fourth successive defeat on Saturday with the only surprise perhaps being that it was not by a margin of more than one goal. Nevertheless, a 16th league defeat of the season allowed their hosts Stoke City to close to within three points - and the Magpies, who were sixth at Christmas, will now simply do well to remain in the top-half. After all, the goal difference is very much bottom half standard thanks to the second half of the season. A calamitous series of defeats in February - 3-0 to Sunderland, 3-0 to Everton and 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur - were followed by a slight recovery, only for there then to be another even more calamitous trio of reverses - 3-0 to Everton, 4-0 to Southampton and 4-0 to Manchester United. Indeed, Newcastle have now lost 11 of their last 16 league games, and failed to score in 12 of those matches, a run of form coinciding with suspension and injury to top scorer Loïc Remy. The Frenchman does not even belong to Newcastle, though, and he is unlikely to stay beyond the end of this campaign, leaving next year barely worth thinking about at this stage.
10 STOKE CITY (P34 W11 D10 L13 F38 A48 Pts 43)
Run-in: 19-Apr Cardiff City (A), 26-Apr Tottenham Hotspur (H), 03-May Fulham (H), 11-May West Bromwich Albion (A)
FA Cup: lost 0-1 v Chelsea (A) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 0-2 v Manchester United (H) in fifth round
Top scorer: Peter Crouch (10)
Huge credit must go to Mark Hughes whose first season at the Britannia Stadium remains well on target to become Stoke City's first top-10 finish in the top flight since 1975. Of course, things did not look too clever after a run of just one point from 15 had dropped the Potters to 16th at the end of January. But a first win against Manchester United since 1984 in front of the boisterous home support lifted spirits and, since then, Stoke have only lost away at Manchester City and Chelsea. Indeed, the only home defeat of the calendar year came against the other title challengers, Liverpool, back in January. If anything, though, it was the stylish 4-1 away win over Aston Villa a few weeks ago which best showed off Stoke's progress this season.
11 WEST HAM UNITED (P33 W10 D7 L16 F37 A44 Pts 37)
Run-in: 15-Apr Arsenal (A), 19-Apr Crystal Palace (H), 26-Apr West Bromwich Albion (A), 03-May Tottenham Hotspur (H), 11-May Manchester City (A)
FA Cup: lost 0-5 v Nottingham Forest (A) in third round
League Cup: lost 0-9 agg v Manchester City (0-6a, 0-3h) in semi final
Top scorer: Kevin Nolan (7)
West Ham United put their worrying form at the turn of the year behind them with a fabulous February which landed Sam Allardyce his first Manager of the Month award in over seven years. Out of both domestic cups to heavy defeats, and having also slipped into the bottom three in the league, the Hammers' turning point came in a 0-0 at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. Further clean sheets followed against Swansea City, Aston Villa and Norwich City - all of which were 2-0 victories - before a fourth successive win against Southampton (3-1). There was then a run of three losses to Everton, Stoke City and Manchester United - but another two wins over Hull City and Sunderland mean West Ham fans can breathe easily in the run-in.
12 CRYSTAL PALACE (P33 W11 D4 L18 F24 A39 Pts 37)
Run-in: 16-Apr Everton (A), 19-Apr West Ham United (A), 27-Apr Manchester City (H), 05-May Liverpool (H), 11-May Fulham (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Wigan Athletic (A) in fourth round
League Cup: lost 1-2 v Bristol City (A) in second round
Top scorer: Marouane Chamakh/Jason Puncheon (6)
Faced with a fifth immediate relegation from the Premier League after just one win and no draws from the first 10 games, Crystal Palace turned to the wily Tony Pulis following Ian Holloway's resignation - and what an inspired choice! Since the Welshman's arrival at the end of November, the Eagles have had the eighth-best league record and kept nine clean sheets including three in their last three games. Each of those have been victories - over Chelsea (1-0), Cardiff City (3-0) and Aston Villa (1-0) - and that little streak has surely just about got Palace to the safety line. Strong at Selhurst Park, the south Londoners have attained 12th place despite a Premier League low of 24 goals. Then again, seven of Palace's wins have been by a 1-0 scoreline.
13 HULL CITY (P33 W10 D6 L17 F34 A40 Pts 36)
Run-in: 19-Apr Arsenal (H), 26-Apr Fulham (A), 03-May Aston Villa (A), 06-May Manchester United (A), 11-May Everton (H)
FA Cup: Final v Arsenal at Wembley on 17 May
League Cup: lost 7-8 on pens (after 2-2 aet) v Tottenham Hotspur (A) in fourth round
Top scorer: Matty Fryatt (5)
What a brilliant season this has been for Hull City! Just about safe in the league after beating Swansea City at home just over a week ago, the Tigers now have a post-season ball to attend with Arsenal on 17 May - the club's first-ever FA Cup Final. Of course, if the match is even half as dramatic as their 5-3 semi final win over third-tier Sheffield United, manager Steve Bruce might spontaneously combust - and that might just happen with Hull now providing increasingly good value. Despite the inconsistencies which come naturally with a team in its first season back in the top flight, Bruce has done well to act decisively on the lack of goals up until January by recruiting Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long. As expected, neither of them have been especially prolific - but their three league goals apiece have often come at vital times - though, as both are cup-tied, the run to Wembley shows there are actually goals right across this team.
14 ASTON VILLA (P33 W9 D7 L17 F35 A49 Pts 34)
Run-in: 19-Apr Southampton (H), 26-Apr Swansea City (A), 03-May Hull City (H), 07-May Manchester City (A), 11-May Tottenham Hotspur (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Sheffield United (H) in third round
League Cup: lost 0-4 v Tottenham Hotspur (H) in third round
Top scorer: Christian Benteke (11)
Expected to be a season of progress after last year's struggle, things have turned very sour at Villa Park for manager Paul Lambert. The 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace was a fourth successive loss and saw Aston Villa's opponents go above them - not so worrying in isolation but certainly a desperate cause for concern when part of a growing pattern. For, in December too, Villa lost four games in a row - scoring once - while, in February, the Midlanders took just one point from four games and again scored just once in those matches. Some of the worst performances have been reserved for the home crowd with 10 league defeats at home adding to nine from last season and eight the year before that. And, while there is still the occasional stunning win, like the recent 1-0 beating of Chelsea, Lambert looks largely clueless when top scorer Christian Benteke is out injured.
15 SWANSEA CITY (P34 W8 D9 L17 F45 A50 Pts 33)
Run-in: 19-Apr Newcastle United (A), 26-Apr Aston Villa (H), 03-May Southampton (H), 11-May Sunderland (A)
FA Cup: lost 1-3 v Everton (A) on fifth round
League Cup: lost 1-3 v Birmingham City (A) in third round
Europe: lost 1-3 on agg v Napoli (0-0h, 1-3a) in Last 32 Europa League
Top scorer: Wilfried Bony (20)
Having coped with second season syndrome admirably by winning the League Cup and finishing top half, third time has certainly not been a charm for Swansea City. The Welsh club slipped to a 17th league defeat of the season against Chelsea yesterday to remain deep in trouble at the wrong end of the Premier League table in the same season in which they beat Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla. Those days already seem long ago now, though, with the lack of goals and lack of confidence evident in having drawn a blank in their last two outings. Still happy to dominate possession under new manager Garry Monk, the Swans desperately need to find a cutting edge outside of the talent of top scorer Wilfried Bony to win two of their last four games. Fortunately for Monk's men, the fixtures do not look too daunting with the woefully out-of-form Newcastle United up next.
16 WEST BROMWICH ALBION (P33 W6 D15 L12 F40 A51 Pts 33)
Run-in: 21-Apr Manchester City (A), 26-Apr West Ham United (H), 04-May Arsenal (A), 07-May Sunderland (A), 11-May Stoke City (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-2 v Crystal Palace (H) in third round
League Cup: lost 3-4 on pens (after 1-1 aet) v Arsenal (H) in third round
Top scorer: Saido Berahino (8)
Draw specialists West Bromwich Albion remain deep in relegation trouble - and the Baggies have no-one to blame but themselves. Yes, a run of three unbeaten games at this stage of the season is precious enough - but it really could have been so much better than five points over the past two weeks for the Midlands club. First, just over two weeks ago, Thievy Bifouma scored in the 94th minute to put West Brom 3-2 up against relegation rivals Cardiff City, only for Mats Moller Daehli to equalise even later for the Welsh club. And now, just this weekend gone, the Hawthorns bore witness to a second 3-3 draw - but only after the home side had blitzed into a three-goal lead against Tottenham Hotspur. Those dropped points could prove vital in the final reckoning although Pepe Mel's side still have a couple of winnable home games against mid-table clubs in the run-in.
17 NORWICH CITY (P34 W8 D8 L18 F26 A53 Pts 32)
Run-in: 20-Apr Liverpool (H), 26-Apr Manchester United (A), 04-May Chelsea (A), 11-May Arsenal (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-3 v Fulham (A) in third round replay, following 1-1
League Cup: lost 0-4 v Manchester United (A) in fourth round
Top scorer: Gary Hooper (7)
Norwich City are perilously close to going down - not only my perspective but even that of their new manager Neil Adams which is surely never good to hear. In their first game since replacing Chris Hughton at a ridiculously late stage of the season, the Canaries lost 1-0 to Fulham on Saturday, allowing their opponents to move within two points of them. And, now City must get some sort of result in their final four fixtures - each of which come against teams in the top seven. It really is looking forlorn for the East Anglians having hit just 26 all season and none in their last three games. Of course, much of the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of £8.5m striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel who scored on the opening day - and then not at all since. But, harsh as it may sound, Norwich have a squad chock full of players who will always struggle at this level.
18 FULHAM (P34 W9 D3 L22 F34 A74 Pts 30)
Run-in: 19-Apr Tottenham Hotspur (A), 26-Apr Hull City (H), 03-May Stoke City (A), 11-May Crystal Palace (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-1 aet v Sheffield United (H) in fourth round replay
League Cup: lost 3-4 v Leicester City (A) in fourth round
Top scorer: Steve Sidwell (7)
Almost two-thirds of Fulham's league games this season have ended in defeat but, amazingly, the Cottagers still have a pretty good chance of staying up after victory in the biggest six-pointer of the season so far against Norwich City. Following his late winner last week against Aston Villa, Colombian Hugo Rodallega struck just before half time against the Canaries to put the west Londoners within two points of their opponents - and with a better set of fixtures in the run-in. Going through three managers and a heap of players usually spells disaster for a club in a Premier League season but Fulham have proven to be the exception in a relegation battle before - and, in the demanding German Felix Magath, the club's new owner Shahid Khan appears to have made a better choice than when René Meulensteen was briefly in charge.
19 CARDIFF CITY (P34 W7 D8 L19 F30 A64 Pts 29)
Run-in: 19-Apr Stoke City (H), 27-Apr Sunderland (A), 03-May Newcastle United (A), 11-May Chelsea (H)
FA Cup: lost 1-2 v Wigan Athletic (H) in fifth round
League Cup: lost 2-3 v West Ham United (A) in third round
Top scorer: Fraizer Campbell (9)
Cardiff City kept their hopes alive of surviving in their debut Premier League season after sneaking a 1-0 win away at Southampton thanks to Juan Cala's second half strike. But the Bluebirds remain exactly where they started the day - down in 19th place - having failed to win consecutive league matches all season. Nevertheless, the Welsh club have largely stayed in touch with those above them and a little run now would most likely keep them up, something which would be a decent achievement by Ole Gunnar Solskjær in his first assignment in England. Their run-in fixtures would certainly seem to offer the opportunity to string a few wins together - but, if Cardiff ultimately do fail, they need only back to the vital Christmas period where they took just one point from 21 while the Malky Mackay's ill-fated position as manager remained totally in flux. The lack of a genuine goalscorer has been a major weakness all season long - midfielder Jordan Mutch is top Premier League scorer with seven.
20 SUNDERLAND (P32 W6 D7 L19 F29 A54 Pts 25)
Run-in: 16-Apr Manchester City (A), 20-Apr Chelsea (A), 27-Apr Cardiff City (H), 03-Apr Manchester United (A), 07-May West Bromwich Albion (H), 11-May Swansea City (H)
FA Cup: lost 0-3 v Hull City (A) on QF
League Cup: lost 1-3 v Manchester City at Wembley in Final
Top scorer: Adam Johnson (10)
Following just one point from their last eight games, Sunderland have now matched their wretched run from the start of the season which saw unpredictable fascist Paulo di Canio replaced by Gus Poyet. And, with Manchester City away and Chelsea away next on the fixture list, it is difficult to see the gloom over Wearside lifting any time soon. That trip to Wembley at the end of February for a first Cup final since 1992 seems a long time ago now and, while Poyet's men still have games in hand as a result of their creditable cup exploits, they are also running out of games - and fast. A fourth relegation from the top flight since 1997 beckons then although, at least for their sake, the Black Cats will depart having completed a first league double over north east rivals Newcastle United since 1967.
Already promoted: Leicester City
Leicester City edged their way to the Championship title with their 90th point of the season coming in a hard-fought 1-1 draw away at Reading tonight. The Foxes were beaten in the playoff semi finals in heartbreaking fashion last season but came back stronger in this campaign, the highlight of which was a 21-match unbeaten run featuring nine straight wins.
Burnley also failed to win at the weekend, going down 1-0 at home to Middlesbrough for only their second home defeat of the season - although, like buses, they have come together. Nevertheless, Sean Dyche's Clarets remain in good shape for a return to the top flight as they still sit eight points clear of the chasing pack with just four games left.
Steve McClaren's Derby County therefore look like they will have settle for the playoffs alongside Harry Redknapp's big-spending Queens Park Rangers. The other two places are not as easy to predict but Wigan Athletic are in pole position for one of them if they can recover from their FA Cup exertions while the Latics' next opponents Reading slipped into sixth on goal difference ahead of Brighton & Hove Albion and Ipswich Town. Bournemouth, in ninth, are the real surprise package in the division, and have a genuine chance of extending their season, as they sit just two points off sixth following a recent six-game winning run.
At the other end of the table, Barnsley are currently bottom but are level on points with Yeovil Town have a game in hand against fellow strugglers Charlton Athletic. Nevertheless, the Tykes have much work to do as they - and the Glovers - are four points adrift of Millwall who are third bottom and five away from Charlton.
Early season leaders Blackpool had a truly awful run of 17 games without a win between December and March, and remain in trouble just two points above the drop zone - while neither Doncaster Rovers nor Birmingham City will feel safe yet, sitting as they do just a point further clear.
LEAGUE ONE Table
Already promoted: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers ensured their first sojourn at the third level of English football in 25 years would not extended beyond a single season after gaining promotion on Saturday by beating Crewe Alexandra 2-0. Kenny Jackett's men suffered a wobble over the Christmas period but have won 14 and lost just one of their 17 fixtures since 11th January.
Brentford look likely to join the Midlanders in the Championship despite a 1-0 defeat at Swindon Town at the weekend. With four games left, the Bees remain seven points clear of third-placed Leyton Orient who recorded a stunning 5-1 win over Gillingham to leapfrog Rotherham United. The Millers had drawn 0-0 in a Yorkshire derby with Bradford City on Friday night.
Preston North End also celebrated the certainty of a top six finish with a 6-1 thumping of struggling Carlisle United, while Football League Trophy winners Peterborough United remain favourites for the final playoff spot after a 1-0 win over Coventry City.
At the bottom, Stevenage are beginning to run out of the games and Shrewsbury Town remain two points adrift though with a better goal difference than most of the clubs immediately above them. Crewe and Carlisle currently fill the other two relegation places but they are level on 43 points with Notts County with Tranmere Rovers and Colchester United only a further three points further ahead.
LEAGUE TWO Table
Scunthorpe United moved to the top of the ever-changing League Two table after a 2-2 draw with Bury extended their unbeaten run to an amazing 26 league games. The Iron, on 76 points, are a point ahead of second-placed Rochdale who have hit a roadblock at the worst time of the season after failing to score in the last three games. Chesterfield are in the third automatic spot on 74 points after victory at Hartlepool United at the weekend.
Then there is a gap to Fleetwood Town in fourth on 69 points and Burton Albion in fifth on 68 - and then another gap to Southend United and Oxford United in the last two playoff spots on 62 points. York City, unbeaten in 13, are just outside the top seven on 61 - but Plymouth Argyle's hopes have faded after a third defeat in four on Saturday.
Fellow Devon outfit Torquay United look even more forlorn, still seven points adrift at the bottom despite a 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers. The gap to Northampton Town remains after the Cobblers won 1-0 for a second week in a row - but at least that means several other teams have been dragged into the scrap. Wycombe Wanderers are now outside of the drop zone on goal difference only while Bristol Rovers, Exeter City, Morecambe, Hartlepool - and even Accrington Stanley on 50 points - have no guarantees of playing in the Football League next season.
FOOTBALL CONFERENCE Table
Already relegated: Hyde, Tamworth
The champagne remains on ice at Luton Town after the Hatters were beaten 3-2 by Braintree Town in an early Saturday kick-off. But, even though second-placed Cambridge United took full advantage of the slip-up with a 7-2 thrashing of rock-bottom Hyde, Luton's lead remains a steady 10 points with four games remaining.
Cambridge are at least certain of a playoff spot and Grimsby Town, in third, look set to join them. The final two spots - currently occupied by Gateshead, on 71 points, and Halifax Town on 70 - look less clear cut with Braintree, on 68, still threatening after their shock win at Kenilworth Road. Seventh-placed Alfreton Town, on 66 points, are also still in contention but they are hamstrung by a negative goal difference and poor form.
At the bottom, Hyde have won just once - 2-0 away at Welling United in January - and recorded just 10 points all season. That is a massive 23 points adrift of second-bottom Tamworth whose own relegation was confirmed on Saturday after a 2-0 reverse at Southport made it just one point from their last 27. The last two spots will go to the wire though, with Dartford, on 44 points, and Hereford United, on 45, chasing down Aldershot Town, also on 45, and Chester, on 49. All of those teams have just three games left.