Newcastle's fate in Sunderland's hands
09 May 2016, 07:54
Birmingham - Newcastle United will be helpless this week to control their own destiny in the scramble for Premier League survival and could be down before they kick another ball.
Yet manager Rafa Benitez insists his side have not given up hope despite a huge change in momentum in the relegation scrap on Saturday.
Newcastle's goalless draw at already-relegated Aston Villa combined with local rivals Sunderland's dramatic 3-2 win against Chelsea means the Magpies' immediate future is out of their hands.
One victory for Sunderland in either of their final two games against Everton and Watford will condemn Newcastle to Championship football next season and even a point for the Wearside club will leave Benitez's side needing to beat Tottenham Hotspur on the final day to stay up.
"It is bad and simple," said Benitez after seeing his side lack the cutting edge to beat Villa, the Premier League's worst team.
"We have to wait and after try to win depending on what they do during the week," the Spaniard added.
"I think it can be done. Obviously it depends on them (Sunderland) more than us but still, if they cannot win the next game then in our last one we will have to fight, try to get three points and see what can happen.
"Everybody is disappointed. It's normal now so the only thing you can say is to try to be ready for training and recovering and ready for the week, because we still have to play a game and we want to get three points.
"The important thing is that if they (Sunderland) don't get the result we have to be ready."
Sunderland's victory against Chelsea leaves them in the box seat for survival with more points, more games left and more inviting fixtures than their fierce rivals.
Norwich could also still survive and send both north-east clubs down, but the Canaries, like Newcastle, are now hoping for two poor Sunderland results.
And Benitez admitted that the tension of fighting to survive got to his side at Villa Park.
"We didn't play well, maybe because we had too much anxiety. The players were too tense and we couldn't do what we wanted.
"In the second half there was a better reaction and the team had some chances and at least we were there close to the box, pushing and pushing."
Villa fans revelled in Newcastle's misfortune; the chance to make life more miserable for another huge club the only thing left to amuse them after their own dismal campaign.
Fans booed their usual targets, including Joleon Lescott and Leandro Bacuna and several hundred staged a protest against the Birmingham club's hierarchy before kick-off.
But during the game the atmosphere was more light-hearted.
By defending resolutely and preventing a Newcastle goal despite several good chances, Villa avoided setting a new club record of 12 straight league defeats.
"They worked tirelessly against an extremely good Newcastle team," said caretaker manager Eric Black.
"With the players they have got, we knew we would be in for a difficult day defensively but I thought the players coped extremely well against them.
"We talked all week about the supporters because this club is going to need support behind it, next year especially.
"I thought last week at Watford we edged toward them but today we took another step. I think the response from the supporters was breathtaking.
"We never knew what was going to happen but I think they saw the players had continued from last week and worked tirelessly. We took a little step toward them."