Sunderland are braced for survival battle to go to the last day at Watford
The Sunderland camp is braced for the relegation fight to go to the wire and the club's fate to finally be decided in next weekend's clash at Watford.
Mathematically, Sunderland could either be safe or doomed after Wednesday’s visit of Everton, which is the Black Cats’ game in hand on Newcastle United.
If Sunderland beat Chelsea today and both Newcastle and Norwich fail to emerge victorious against Aston Villa and Manchester United respectively, then another three points against Everton would rubber-stamp their place in next season’s Premier League.
However, if Sunderland lose both games and Newcatle beat Villa today, then Sam Allardyce’s men would be condemned to relegation.
Both scenarios look unlikely though, with Allardyce and his troops prepared for a nerve-wracking final week of the season to be decided on the last day at Vicarage Road.
“I can’t call it either way,” said Allardyce.
“All we’ve got to do is try our best and have no regrets at the end of these three games - no ‘if only’s’.
“At this moment in time, I think it’ll go to the last day.
“I hope I’m wrong and we win these two games, which might be enough.
“But my gut feeling says it will.
“I hope the players are going to prove me wrong and win the two games and see if that’s enough. It may well be if we beat Chelsea and Everton.”
Allardyce’s main objective from back-to-back home games is to be above Newcastle and Norwich - even if it’s on goal difference - heading into the final day and ensure Sunderland’s fate remains in their own hands.
However, if Sunderland are to do that, they will need to record a first Stadium of Light victory since February after drawing a blank in each of their last three home games.
Performances have not been a problem on Wearside over recent months, yet Sunderland’s win total on their own turf remains a pitiful four games - the second worst tally in the league.
“The form and performances have been very, very good,” added Allardyce.
“In fact, they’ve been right up there - we totally dominated West Brom for 90 minutes and still didn’t score.
“We blitzed Arsenal in the second half and still didn’t score.
“And we were right up there with Leicester until we missed the best chance of the game to make it 1-1.
“We haven’t got a problem with the form. We’ve got a problem with our finishing and end product and that’s what we’ve got to get right.
“I have to be concerned about it because it’s remarkable we haven’t scored a goal in the last three games based on the chances we’ve created.”