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ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

The Relegation Scrap: Hull still alive going into the final day

It's a three-horse race for the final relegation place in the Premier League as we enter the final week.

Burnley and Queens Park Rangers have already been relegated, while results on Saturday ensured that both Aston Villa and Leicester City will be playing top-flight football next season.

Points: 37 (one game in hand); Goal difference minus-20
Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (a), Chelsea (a)

The point Sunderland gained in a 0-0 draw at home to Leicester City on Saturday was certainly a step in the right direction, but they remain a point short of survival in the Premier League table. Had they beaten the Foxes then they could be planning for next season.

As it is, they have two games to get the one point they need. The problem, however, is that they have to go to both Arsenal and Chelsea. The Gunners may need to win the game to ensure automatic qualification for the Champions League, subject to their result at Manchester United on Sunday. And Chelsea will want to finish with a victory before they are handed the Premier League trophy.

That said, Sunderland have promising recent history against the big clubs in the run-in. Last season they became, and are still, the only team ever to win a Premier League game against a Jose Mourinho side at Stamford Bridge. That victory came in another great escape, when they also won at Man United and drew at Man City in the final weeks. Could we see something of a repeat?

The only way Sunderland can be relegated is if they are beaten in both their remaining matches, and Hull beat Man United. Newcastle would also need to pick up something against West Ham, and that would only be a point should Sunderland lose by a combined total of five goals or more in their two matches (which would put Newcastle above them on goal difference first if points are equal, and goals scored if goal difference is equal). If Sunderland were to lose the two matches by a combined total of four goals or fewer, then they could only be relegated if both Hull and Newcastle win.

Position: 17th
Points: 36; Goal difference minus-25
Remaining fixture: West Ham (h)

Everything looked to be coming up roses for Newcastle when Emmanuel Riviere put the Magpies in front at already-relegated Queens Park Rangers. But it was a different story in the second half as Matt Phillips and Leroy Fer earned a 2-1 win to turn the screw on John Carver's men once again.

It leaves a very precarious state of affairs. On the final day they host a West Ham side who may be safely in midtable but have become essentially rudderless with manager Sam Allardyce's contract to expire in a few weeks. However, what better way for Big Sam to get revenge for his sacking at Newcastle by owner Mike Ashley in 2008 than to go up to St James' and relegate his team?

Only victory against West Ham can guarantee safety; any other result and they are relying on results elsewhere to stay up.

If Newcastle draw against West Ham, then they must hope Hull do not beat Man United. If Hull do beat Man United combined with a Newcastle draw, then Carver's team would be relegated unless Sunderland have lost by a combined total of at least five goals to Arsenal and Chelsea. 

If Newcastle lose at home to West Ham, then they would be relegated if Hull beat Man United.

Steve Bruce knows the price of Hull's damaging home defeat to Burnley.


Position: 18th
Points: 34; Goal difference minus-18
Remaining fixtures: Man United (h)

It's not looking good for Hull City, whose second stint in the Premier League is odds-on to come to an end after two years, just as it did in 2010. 

On Saturday, they put in a valiant display, but went down 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. As has so often been the case for the Tigers this season, a failure to take their chances cost them dearly, with Nikica Jelavic hitting the bar when the game was goalless.

So it's back to the KC Stadium, where the Tigers will host Manchester United. They will hope the Red Devils have nothing to play for and are unable to catch Arsenal in third for an automatic place in the Champions League group stage. When Hull stayed up in 2008-09, they played Man United at home on the final day. OK, so they lost to United that day ...  they are going to have to do better this time.

At least Hull know they simply have to win, nothing else will do. Though granted, they also have to rely on others to do them a favour.

If Hull do beat Manchester United, then they will be safe if either Sunderland lose to both Arsenal and Chelsea, or if Newcastle fail to win at home to West Ham. Hull's superior goal difference gives them the added chance that a draw for Newcastle could see the Magpies go down on a tiebreaker.

Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.


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