Will the North East’s ‘Big Three’ all be in the Premier League Next Season?

As the second half of the season continues, it is clear that there remains much to play for at every level of the English football league ladder.

But what of the ‘Big Three’ north east clubs? While Newcastle United are of course pushing hard to regain their Premier League status, Sunderland and Middlesbrough have the contrasting challenge of trying to maintain their place in the top flight.

Here we assess where the three teams stand as the latest round of matches in 2017 get underway.

Newcastle United

While the Magpies had a bumpy start to life in the Championship with back-to-back defeats to Fulham and surprise package Huddersfield Town, Rafa Benitez turned things around to the point that it looked like his side would cruise back to the Premier League.

However, recent defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers have damaged the promotion charge and allowed Brighton and Hove Albion to take the top spot.

While there is obvious prestige to finishing as champions, perhaps the key statistic for Newcastle fans is the gap between themselves and the dreaded play-off places. Will they be able to do enough to secure a top-two spot and automatic promotion?

Sunderland

Considering their fortunes this season, it is safe to say Sunderland’s fans have really endured a challenging few months. On top of this, a survey conducted by Voucherbox found they are paying a total of £441.75 to travel to and watch games at the Stadium of Light and a whopping £1,202.70 to follow the team away. A lot of money for what has been on offer.

It seemed David Moyes had a thankless task on his hands at the start of the season when it came to helping the team avoid the drop. However, victories over fellow relegation candidates Hull City, a win against Leicester City and a surprise draw with Liverpool mean they remain in touching distance of safety.

One thing is for certain – their talismanic striker Jermaine Defoe will be crucial to any hopes they have of staying in the Premier League.

Middlesbrough

Without pulling up too many trees, Middlesbrough have enjoyed a reasonable start to life back in the Premier League since their promotion last May.

Built around a solid defence, they have managed to avoid slipping into the relegation places and have a healthy goal difference compared to those around them. Throw in away draws at Manchester City and Arsenal and the picture is a healthy one.

However, concerns remain regarding the effectiveness of their attacking options and their run-in in April and May – which includes games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool – means they will want to pick up as many points as possible before then.

The Verdict

With a relative embarrassment of riches in Championship terms, it is hard to see Newcastle failing to secure an automatic spot and an immediate return back to the top flight.

In contrast, while Sunderland and Middlesbrough will be scrapping for every point to maintain their Premier League status, at this point it is hard to see both surviving the gruelling relegation battle that most likely awaits them in the next few months.

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