Pundits Predict: Sunderland vs Everton to Settle Relegation Battle

Ever since the full time whistle blew against Chelsea at the weekend, all of Wearside has been counting down to tonight’s action. There is a sense that another season of top-flight football will be confirmed tonight, both in Sunderland and in the national press, who’ve billed tonight as the night Newcastle and Norwich’s fate will be sealed.

For starters, Sky opted to screen the action alongside Chelsea’s trip to Liverpool, and Soccer Saturday regular Paul Merson believes it’ll be party time come the final whistle on Wearside. Previewing the game, he said:

“Everton have shot a bolt. I watched them against Leicester and they were atrocious. They still have something to play for - they are playing for their manager's job!”

“Victory for Sunderland, meanwhile, condemns Norwich and Newcastle to relegation and the way they are playing at the minute I can't see past them. The job will be done and Big Sam keeps a club up once again... if anyone else had been appointed Sunderland simply wouldn't have survived”

Opting for a 3-1 victory for the home side, it’s hard to argue with Merson’s analysis of Sam Allardyce’s work. The former West Ham manager, who divided opinion amongst Sunderland fans at every managerial departure, was the standout choice to replace Dick Advocaat, and he’s within touching distance of proving why.

On Saturday’s Match of the Day, the backing was similarly optimistic in Sunderland’s favour. Throughout Newcastle’s revival, having Allardyce on the touchline and, more importantly, Jermain Defoe up front, swayed their pundit’s backing.

Looking ahead to tonight’s potential decider, Kevin Kilbane and Ian Wright both backed Sunderland to end this year’s survival race once and for all when Everton come to visit.

But this isn’t just a case of being swept up in the emotion of Saturday’s win. Sunderland have been beaten once in their last nine outings, against then-Champions-to-be Leicester City. They’re a side hard to break down and difficult to beat. Vito Mannone is back to his absolute best, reminiscent of the form that earned him Player of the Year in 2013/14. We’re ninth in the Premier League’s form table, above Tottenam, Chelsea and, importantly, tonight’s guests Everton, who sit 14th.

The win against Bournemouth at the end of April their first league win since beating Aston Villa on March 1st, a winless streak that included a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Merseyside rivals Liverpool.

Of course, it would be a very Sunderland thing to do to throw away a chance like this, but surely there’ll be parties in the streets come full time. Please!

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