Newcastle on a roll and there’s still hope for Sunderland
The fierce rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland goes back to the Industrial Revolution and beyond and there is certainly no love lost between fans of the two football clubs these days.
And at the moment it’s the Magpie supporters who hold the bragging rights. Sunderland may have won the most recent Wear-Tyne derby, but it’s Newcastle who are riding high in the Premier League, while the Black Cats look up at them from the foot of the table.
Alan Pardew’s team are on such a good run – five wins from their last six games – that they are now down to 33/1 with Coral to finish in the top four, something the manager is happy to embrace as a challenge for the club.
Now up to sixth after their clinical dismantling of relegation strugglers Crystal Palace in London on Saturday, just six points behind the leaders, Newcastle should at the very least finish in the top half of the table (1/4 with Coral) and without the European distractions that derailed their Premiership campaign last season, they have every right to be more ambitious than that.
Sunderland’s fight against the drop received another blow on Saturday when they failed to turn superior possession into a home victory over Norwich.
Clubs at the bottom of the Premiership at Christmas are invariably relegated come May, but Sunderland may well be an exception and Coral’s 5/4 that they survive is extremely tempting.
In the first place, new boss Gus Poyet has them playing some decent stuff and they have perhaps been unfortunate not to have picked up a few more points than they have since the Uruguayan took over from Paulo Di Canio.
Secondly, they are just one of seven or eight clubs you could see going down and it’s tight enough in the bottom half of the table for situations to change very quickly in the coming weeks and months.
Palace (30/100), Sunderland (4/7) and Fulham (11/10) are Coral’s three favourites to be demoted, but can anybody say with confidence that Cardiff (5/2), West Ham (3/1), Hull (7/2), Norwich (4/1) or even West Brom (11/2) won’t be involved in the final scrap?
And thirdly, if survival is mostly dependant on home form, no team has a better fixture list in the second half of the season than Sunderland – of their remaining ten games at the Stadium of Light, the only visitors in the top eight are Everton.