Tyne-Wear foes Newcastle and Sunderland haven’t enjoyed the best of starts to the campaign, and both find themselves much closer to the head of the relegation betting than either would like.
Determining which one is more likely to be demoted to the Championship next season, however, is a difficult task.
Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland are the shorter price of the two striped enemies, available to back at 9/4 to go down with bwin, while the Toon weigh in at a beefier 5/1, but there’s a case to argue that either price, if not both, will see punters rewarded.
Not a lot separates these two teams in terms of both geography and quality, with similar flaws undermining their aspirations for a comfortable season of mid-table security.
A chronic inability to score goals is sure to hinder both this term. The Magpies failed to really address their striking deficiencies in the summer, drafting in Loic Remy alone.
Injuries and off-field concerns mean that the start to his St James’ Park career has been a stuttering one, heaping the pressure on Papiss Cisse to deliver.
This has been telling as, up until Hatem Ben Arfa’s 86th-minute winner against Fulham, the Toon were verging on three league games played and no goals scored. This is an issue that requires urgent addressing if the club have designs on staying clear of the bottom three.
Looking at the creative talent in their squad, it looks as though they should be able to do this; the likes of Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko will ensure they carve out chances. If they can get their strikers working then they’ll most likely survive.
The Black Cats’ problems are slightly tougher to extinguish.
Having the loosest cannon in the management game at the helm is going to do more long-term harm than good and his approach to signing players this summer hasn’t been the most cool-headed.
After deciding that his initial crop of players was, by and large, insufficient to survive in the Premier League, he axed the majority and replaced them with individuals who aren’t upgrades on those that came before them; they’re just his signings, not someone else’s.
Their performance against Crystal Palace was disjointed and inept at both ends of the field. They still depend far too much on Steven Fletcher for goals and they’ve got plenty of defensive concerns too.
While there is definitely cause to argue that both north-east clubs will be relegated this season, it’s fair to state one almost certainly will and, of the pair, Sunderland look the most likely.