Having made a real mess out of their Premier League campaign, Newcastle United are in a position to fight for their lives on the final day of the season, with only a win guaranteeing survival. Meanwhile, the Hammers have nothing to play for, but they will want to at least end the season on a high following some disappointing showings in the past few months.
Newcastle United fans probably couldn’t even picture their team battling to avoid the drop in the wildest dreams at a time when Alan Pardew decided to leave St James’ Park and take over the reigns at Crystal Palace. Probably thinking that the Magpies would be safe from the drop whatever happens, Mike Ashley opted to keep John Carver until the end of the season, but that could prove his worst decision in years if Newcastle get relegated on the final day of the league campaign. The Magpies have been utterly disappointing since Pardew left, slipping to the danger zone, and they are in all sorts of problems after taking just one point from last ten league fixtures. The St James’ Park outfit are well aware that they will avoid the drop by defeating West Ham on Sunday, but that is easier said than done given their latest performances. There are no doubts the hosts will be under intense pressure in case Hull take the lead against what is likely to be a second string Manchester United side, but at least the hosts will have a couple important players back to the side. The likes of Siem de Jong and Mike Williamson return from injury and suspension respectively, but Papiss Cisse remains sidelined through a knee problem.
Following a brilliant start to the Premiership season, West Ham didn’t have much to cheer about after Christmas, but at least they have done enough to avoid the relegation tussle. The Hammers can still finish in the top 10 positions if they better Everton’s result on the final day of the season and that should be enough incentive for the visitors to give their best when facing relegation threatened Newcastle United. Numerous injuries and suspensions appear to have derailed West Ham’s European bid, with even Sam Allardyce’s position in the dugout now under threat after he received a great deal of praise in the opening exchanges. The biggest problem has been a major dip in form of key players Song, Downing and Sakho, while the Hammers remained a tough nut to crack in spite of serious problems at the back. With James Tomkins returning to the side after recovering from injury, West Ham defenders can be trusted to make life difficult for Newcastle and the hosts could find it hard to test the impressive Adrian Martinez. Meanwhile, James Collins is back to the infirmary after suffering a calf strain, but Kevin Nolan returns.
The hosts will be very low on confidence after losing nine of last ten matches and they will struggle to break rock-solid West Ham at St James’ Park. The Hammers can play without any pressure even if they wouldn’t mind winning this game, and under 2.5 goals appears to be a safe bet.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 5/4
Bookmaker: William Hill