Could the Black Cats’ fate be sealed this week­end? Here are the sce­nar­ios

The Chronicle - - Safc - By JAMES HUNTER @JHun­terChron

SUN­DER­LAND’S rel­e­ga­tion to League One ap­pears only a mat­ter of time, and it could be con­firmed as early as this week­end.

The Black Cats have en­dured an­other wretched cam­paign, are rock bot­tom of the Cham­pi­onship, and the prospect of back-to-back rel­e­ga­tions is loom­ing hav­ing crashed out of the Premier League 12 months ago.

Sun­der­land have spent only one sea­son in the third tier in the club’s 139-year his­tory, back in 1987-88, but it is al­most cer­tain to be back at that level next term.

The math­e­mat­ics still show that Chris Coleman’s side has a chance of sur­vival, but real­is­ti­cally it is a ques­tion of when rather than if rel­e­ga­tion is rub­ber-stamped.

We take a look at what would need to hap­pen for rel­e­ga­tion to be con­firmed on Satur­day.

CAN SUN­DER­LAND BE REL­E­GATED ON SATUR­DAY?

Yes – but not if they beat Bur­ton Al­bion. Beat the Brew­ers, and Sun­der­land will stay in the sur­vival race – math­e­mat­i­cally, at least.

BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T WIN?

If Sun­der­land drop points against Bur­ton, they could be rel­e­gated on Satur­day if other re­sults go against them.

SOUNDS OMI­NOUS. WHAT WOULD NEED TO HAP­PEN?

If Sun­der­land fail to beat Bur­ton, and both Birm­ing­ham City and Bolton Wan­der­ers bet­ter the Black Cats’ re­sult – ie Sun­der­land draw and they both win, or Sun­der­land lose and they avoid de­feat – Chris Coleman’s side will be rel­e­gated.

AND WHO DO BIRM­ING­HAM AND BOLTON PLAY?

Both have tough games, with Birm­ing­ham at home to Sh­effield United, while Bolton are away to Premier League-bound Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Wolves.

IS THAT THE ONLY SCE­NARIO THAT REL­E­GA­TION CAN BE RUB­BER-STAMPED?

No. If Sun­der­land lose, Barns­ley also come into the equa­tion.

A win for the Tykes at Leeds United would mean that EI­THER Birm­ing­ham or Bolton avoid­ing de­feat would be enough to send Sun­der­land down.

THAT’S STILL A LOT OF IFS, BUTS, AND MAYBES

In­deed. With three games to go, and so many teams still in­volved, there are a lot of per­mu­ta­tions.

SO WHAT IS LIKELY TO HAP­PEN?

The chances are that Sun­der­land’s rel­e­ga­tion will not be con­firmed this week­end and they will re­ceive an­other stay of ex­e­cu­tion – ei­ther under their own power by com­plet­ing a League dou­ble over Bur­ton or, fail­ing that, thanks to other teams do­ing them favours else­where.

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