Day of reckoning in the North East
Posted 19th May 2009
The Premier League will finish on Sunday with two teams from the North East relegated. Middlesbrough are hot relegation favourites to join West Bromwich Albion in the Championship next season, but Newcastle United, Hull City and Sunderland can also drop through the trapdoor and it is guaranteed to be a tense climax to the season in the region.
Middlesbrough travel to West Ham United knowing they must win to have any hope of survival. They need not only three points from Upton Park, but also for Hull and Newcastle to lose, as well as making up a four goal difference on the Tigers – if Boro beat West Ham 2-0, they need Hull to suffer a 3-0 reverse against Manchester United.
It is therefore not surprising that Gareth Southgate's outfit have been given a 1 in 25 chance of survival by punters, although I suspect their fate will be sealed by themselves rather than results not going their way.
Boro have won twice away all season and have scored at least two goals on only six occasions. A draw is perhaps the best they can hope for from their trip to Upton Park.
Hull will surely slip to their 15th defeat in 21 games against the Champions (regardless of what team they field) but expect them to survive.
Newcastle know they must get a point from their visit to Villa Park. A draw for Hull would mean the Magpies must win and that is too much to expect, even though Martin O'Neill's men have been on the slide recently. Newcastle will struggle to cope with the pressure and will be left reflecting on a turbulent season that ends in relegation.
All this means Sunderland will be safe, despite their final day defeat at Chelsea. They are another team in a state of flux and although each of the North East outfits who survive will celebrate, none, apart from Hull, will be truly satisfied. Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland will all expect much better next season. For Newcastle and Middlesbrough, their aims could well be promotion back to the Premier League.