Football

Hull City and Newcastle United face final day nerves in fight to stay in England's top flight

Reuters/Andrew Yates

Hull City and Newcastle United go into their final games against Manchester United and West Ham United respectively knowing that their futures in the English Premier League are in jeopardy. Newcastle will avoid the drop to the Championship - the second tier of professional football - with victory. A draw will not be good enough for Newcastle if Hull beat Manchester United.

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Three weeks ago, Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge over Crystal Palace.

The English crown was clinched on 2 May with three games to spare.

Since then Chelsea have drawn 1-1 at home with Liverpool and on 18 May, they lost 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion.

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Chelsea boss José Mourinho managed to inject the needle into what should be a placed period by blaming Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool for not being strong enough to battle to the final day.

Well there's no such inertia at the other end of the table.

The Hull City boss Steve Bruce said a fortnight ago before the clash against Burnley that the relegation dogfight would go down to the wire. He has been proved correct.

Sunderland secured their top flight status on 20 May with a 0-0 draw at Arsenal. That means that Hull and Newcastle United remain the candidates for the drop.

Hull must win at home to Manchester United on Sunday and hope that Newcastle fail to beat West Ham United.

Newcastle will begin the day two points above the relegation zone, but Hull's superior goal difference (-18 to -25) means that if the two teams finish level on points, it is Bruce's men who will stay up.

The scenario echoes that of the final day of the 2008-09 season, when Hull avoided the drop despite losing 1-0 at home to Manchester United and Newcastle were relegated after going down 1-0 at Aston Villa.

Bruce has never beaten his former club Manchester United in his 17-year managerial career, but he believes the supporters at the KC Stadium could inspire his players.

"It's a big positive that this game is at home," said the former United captain, whose side have lost their last three matches.

"We've got one of the giants of English football coming to us and we hope that with the fans right behind us and the players ready for the challenge ahead, we can upset the applecart. We have to believe that there is one final twist in this and it needs to go our way."

Newcastle have been abject of late. They have taken one out of a possible 30 points. During the sequence they have fallen from 11th place to the drop zone.

Newcastle's fans - known fondly as the Toon Army - have stepped up their protests against unpopular owner Mike Ashley in recent weeks and manager John Carver has admitted that he cannot bring himself to contemplate the thought of relegation.

"It doesn't even bear thinking about, to be quite honest," said the 50-year-old Englishman. "It's not something that's in my mind. I've seen what's happened in the past. It wasn't nice. If it did happen, it would be unbearable and I don't know how long it would take to get over it."

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