Five players who could be key in the relegation battle

Aston Villa, QPR, Wigan, Reading and Southampton currently look to be the sides who will be fighting it out to avoid the drop.

Which of their players could be key in the final months of the season?

Jack Cork

Southampton's recent results have not been good, but their performances have often merited more and their relatively new manager Mauricio Pochettino just has to hope that eventually things go their way in games they play well in. Cork has been a key performer in recent months, and his midfield partnership with Morgan Schneiderlin has been amongst the most impressive in the league, and if those two continue to play well, Southampton have every chance of staying up.

James McCarthy

Wigan's young midfielder was so impressive in the first half of the season that a flood of speculation came in linking him to Arsenal and Chelsea. Whilst that has died down a little, McCarthy's importance to his side is as clear as ever, and he will be needed to drive the team forward if they are to avoid relegation once again. With Wigan in sparkling form as they progressed to the FA Cup semi-finals at the weekend, if McCarthy and his teammates can carry that form into the Premier League they should be able to guarantee themselves safety once again.

Christian Benteke

Who Aston Villa's key man is could not be more clear, with Benteke the only real bright spark in what has been a slog of a season for Paul Lambert's side. Benteke might well leave in the summer no matter which division Villa are in, but their fans will be hoping he can fire them to safety before he departs.

Adrian Mariappa

Things are not looking good for Reading, with Brian McDermott's departure coming on the back on an awful run of form that has left them on the precipice of a Premier League exit. Whoever the new man is will need to sort out his team's defence quickly, and Mariappa might well be central to this. The 26 year old and will need to be at his best if Reading are to tighten up a defence that hasn't kept a clean sheet this year.

Loic Remy

Despite only being at the club since January, it seems clear that QPR will be relying on Loic Remy's goals to stay in the Premier League this year. The French striker has three in five games so far, and QPR have only lost once - to Manchester United - since he has joined the team. If Remy can continue his fine start until the end of the season, QPR might just pull off the most remarkable of escapes.

image: © little-pete

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch