Sky Sports Point Finger At Boro!

Last updated : 12 March 2009 By Boro Mad's final shake-up

11th - Tottenham
12th - Bolton
13th - Sunderland
14th - Blackburn
15th - Hull City
16th - Portsmouth
17th - Newcastle
18th - Middlesbrough
19th - Stoke
20th - West Brom

Sky look at the North-East trio, and claim Middlesbrough will miss out on safety. We'll just have to prove them WRONG!


Why they'll survive: When recently defeating title-chasing Liverpool, Boro broke their almost nine-hour scoring drought and deservedly recorded a first league victory since stunning Aston Villa on 9th November.

Tuncay Sanli, Jeremie Aliadiere and Stewart Downing tore Liverpool to shreds at The Riverside and the attacking trio undoubtedly possess the ability to keep Gareth Southgate's side in the division, demonstrating what Boro have been missing when persisting with Afonso Alves.

Southgate - one of the Premier League's longest serving managers - also appears to enjoy undying faith from chairman Steve Gibson, releasing the potential 'sack' pressure that other bosses could be feeling.

Boro have Premier League experience in abundance and that should serve them well, while the club have proved they can turn it on when it counts.
Why they won't: While the win over Liverpool was impressive, Wednesday's drubbing at Tottenham was startlingly poor and epitomised season-long shortcomings.

After a bright start, Boro had premature sights on a place in the top seven, but the wheels have well and truly come up.

Alves and company badly lack goals and, depending on your point of view, Gibson could be seen to have offered Southgate an extended lease of life when the likes of Portsmouth, Tottenham and Blackburn have acted.

A final five fixtures involving trips to Arsenal, local rivals Newcastle and West Ham, accompanied by home matches with Manchester United and Aston Villa, would send a shiver down the spine of any supporters, let alone the dwindling numbers who turn out at The Riverside.

Star man: Stewart Downing is certain to leave the club before the start of 2009/10, with Tottenham a likely destination, and the Teessider will be keen to ensure he does not leave his hometown club on the back of relegation.

Predicted finish: 18th

SKY BET odds to go down: 11/8


Why they'll survive: An expensively assembled squad, which possess quality and experience in abundance and is backed by passionate support should be enough.

While there is the 'too big to go down' adage, a Magpies team which contains the likes of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff should be well equipped to survive.

And when other sets of fans may throw in the towel and accept defeat, the Newcastle faithful will never allow their players to offer anything less than 100 per cent.

Newcastle's squad was assembled with plans to move back towards the European places under former boss Kevin Keegan and, on paper, it should steer well clear of relegation.

There is also the chance to directly influence the results of relegation rivals as the final 10 fixtures serve up matches against Hull City, Stoke, Tottenham and Portsmouth.

Why they won't: Newcastle seem unable to avoid self destructing. A season, which began with such optimism under Keegan has served up unbelievable drama.

Keegan resigned and was replaced by Joe Kinnear, who is now recovering from heart surgery as Chris Hughton is left in caretaker charge, while owner Mike Ashley announced he was to sell the club amidst protests against his reign, only to then backtrack after failing to find a buyer. You could not make it up and no club could maintain stability under that whirlwind.

Meanwhile, on the field, injuries have ravaged the Magpies as Owen and Martins have spent time on the sidelines, and Newcastle lost to Manchester United on Wednesday when missing Barton, Danny Guthrie, Nicky Butt and the suspended Kevin Nolan.

The opportunity to upset Hull et al will be welcomed, but the flip side is that defeats could spell trouble.

They are also preparing for the toughest final set of fixtures as Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea lie in wait, to name a few, before a final day trip to Aston Villa.

Star man: Michael Owen. If the forward can regain full match fitness he is a world class finisher.

Predicted finish: 17th
SKY BET odds to go down: 15/8


Why they'll survive: Ricky Sbragia - who has done an excellent job since replacing Roy Keane in December - announced after Tuesday's defeat at Liverpool that he wants 10 more points, from the 30 available, in order to guarantee survival.

The Black Cats boss' estimation does not look too wide of the mark and it is difficult to imagine that the neccesary haul will not be collected.

Sunderland have all of their away fixtures with the 'Big Four' out of the way - although Manchester United and Chelsea, on the final day of the season, are still to travel to the North East - making it difficult to imagine that three wins and a draw cannot be found.

When both fit, Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse have formed a formidable striking partnership, which guarantees the goals others are lacking.

Centre-back Anton Ferdinand, and midfielders Dean Whitehead and Grant Leadbitter can also be relied upon for dependable performances and goalkeeper Marton Fulop, despite his gaffe at Anfield, is keeping British-record signing Craig Gordon on the bench.

Why they won't: A worrying inconsistency haunts the 14th-placed Black Cats as the club seems incapable of producing a winning run, meaning there will be concerns that a rut of defeats could be lurking around the corner.

Sbragia's inexperience at the top level could also be found out when the going gets tough and the aforementioned meeting with Chelsea on 24th May could prove devastating if things go down to the wire.

Star man: Kenwyne Jones has struggled with fitness, but the Trinidad & Tobago international remains a handful for any side and should offer the goals for survival.

Predicted finish: 13th
SKY BET odds to go down: 8/1