Friday, May 11, 2012

Survival Sunday

I don't think I've seen anything like it on television, but Sunday is football's Survival Sunday, and seven of the ten games in the Premiership will air live on television Stateside, while three games are streamed online. All seven televised games have importance.

To think about it, imagine the NBA using a system where the top two teams in the East and West in the D-League advance to the NBA, and the bottom two teams in each conference are dumped to the D-League. In that case, it would be Charlotte and Washington (East) and New Orleans and Sacramento (West) to the D-League, while Austin and the D-Fenders (Los Angeles) (West) and Springfield, MA and Bismarck, ND (East) replace the two dumped teams in the NBA for next year.

Wolverhampton and Blackburn are dumped. 38 points are needed to avoid relegation.

It's Survival Sunday, seven games broadcast on Disney and News Corp channels combined make this bigger than Week 17 of the NFL, when only five games air on their final day of the season, and the Thursday night game is not available locally.

ESPN2: Queens Park Rangers at Manchester City. A tie by Tony Fernandes' team (he is the owner of Caterham in F1 also) might be all he needs to avoid relegation because a Bolton win and QPR loss would equal relegation after a season up top. A City win would all but earn them the Premiership.

FX: Manchester United at Sunderland. A United win gives them the Premiership if City ties, a United tie is good enough if City loses, or if they can pull off a nine-goal move in the goal differential in their favour.

Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports Carolinas*): Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion. Arsenal is one point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, and another point ahead of Newcastle United for the third and final Group Stage slot in the UEFA Champions League. A must-win game since a tie could put Arsenal out of the most watched league in sport.

Fox Soccer: Fulham at Tottenham Hotspur. The "Spurs" need to win and an Arsenal tie to at least make it to the Champions League, or tie and have Arsenal lose by two or more goals to assure a Champions League slot. Again, the fate between the second-tier Europa League and the Champions League falls in this match (see note).

Speed: Blackburn Rovers at Chelsea. The Rovers are relegated, and Chelsea needs a final tune-up for the most watched event in the world Saturday. The pre-game show will not air because this airs after the Formula One Gran Premio Santander de España, so the game could be joined in progress should a red flag cause a delay during the Montmelo F1 race -- ironic considering Sauber has just agreed to a marketing deal with Chelsea. Chelsea is assured the Group Stage of the Europa League as a result of winning the InBev FA Cup. But a win next Saturday against Bayern München will give them Champions League group stage status as defending champions.

Fox Soccer Plus: Bolton Wanderers at Stoke City. Bolton needs a win to have any chance at avoiding relegation. A win and a Queens Park Rangers loss will seal the deal to preserve their wanted slot.

Fuel: Swansea City at Liverpool. A game at the Anfield for the team whose fate is known -- third qualifying round for the Europa League, and John Henry isn't happy. He's cut their spending money for the "relegation" just like he did for his other high-profile sports venture, and collapses by two of this three major sports teams he owns last fall (the Boston Red Sox' major September collapse and Roush Fenway Racing being run down by Smoke in the final weeks of the Chase) has put him under the gun.

My, oh my! Seven games, important ones to see who stays and who goes, who wins the Premiership, and the last slot in the Champions League will be determined next week in the most watched event of the year next week! What does this say?

The Newcastle United at Everton game will not be televised in the United States and will be available via pay streaming only -- this game is the third crucial game in the battle to see who goes into the Champions League and who is pushed to Europa, and who makes it to the Champions League. And if that's not enough, only the team that wins the three-team battle for third among Arsenal, Tottenham, and Newcastle is guaranteed the Champions League slot; the team that is fourth will make UEFA Qualifying stage if Chelsea loses the UEFA Champions League Final at Bayern München next Saturday (2 PM EDT, Fox). A Chelsea win next Saturday relegates that fourth place team to the Europa League.

* Bobby and the Hadleys' Regional Sports Network is Fox Sports Carolinas.
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