Arsenal’s two-time league champion Alan Smith has predicted in the Telegraph that Sunderland will join Burnley and Queens Park Rangers on their way to the Championship.
The Premier League’s relegation dogfight is reaching its climax as teams run out of games in order to collect enough points to preserve their top-flight status.
Last weekend’s set of fixtures saw three of the bottom seven pick up victories, meaning that Burnley and QPR are all-but gone, with their fate likely to be sealed this weekend.
The remaining spot is a straight fight between Aston Villa, Leicester City, Hull City, Newcastle United and Sunderland, with the latter undoubtedly having the toughest run-in.
Predicting the results of the bottom teams, Smith feels the Black Cats will beat Everton this weekend but pick up just one more point afterwards - which won't be enough.
“Everton (a).Boosted by last week’s win against Southampton, Dick Advocaat forgets about subtlety to throw everything at it - Win,” he predicted.
“Leicester (h).The physical approach does not work as well against a team well equipped to deal with the rough stuff - Draw”
“Arsenal (a). If the home side breaks through early, this could turn into a cricket score to severely dent team morale - Lose”
“Chelsea (a). On the day Chelsea receive the Premier League trophy, the visitors are incapable of spoiling the party – Lose.”
“Total points: 37 Verdict: Relegated”
Can Sunderland get out of trouble?
Dick Advocaat’s arrival as boss has delivered seven points from five matches, but the problem they face is the form of their relegation rivals - minus Newcastle United - has been just as good.
The Black Cats face three tough away games, and they arguably need at least one win to go along with a must-win home encounter with Leicester City the following weekend.
All eyes will be on Hull City’s home clash with Burley on Saturday, as a Tigers slip-up could provide Sunderland with their best chance of being replaced by one of the others.
Villa, the Foxes and Newcastle have favourable home matches remaining, and despite the Magpies' dreadful form, one more win should see them survive by the skin of their teeth.