By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes
Sam Allardyce has predicted that Newcastle will win at least two of their three remaining Premier League matches of the season.
The Sunderland manager is convinced that Rafael Benitez’s team are the major threat to his own club’s chances of top-flight surivival, even though the Magpies are a point behind 18th-placed Norwich and have played a game more.
Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich are locked in a three-way battle to stay in the Premier League, with two of them set to join relegated Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
Benitez’s side are 19th in the top flight on 30 points but have accumulated five points in their last three matches and are just one point behind 17th placed Sunderland, who also have a game in hand on the Magpies, and Norwich.
Newcastle’s three remaining matches are against FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace, Villa and title chasers Tottenham.
Allardyce has suggested Palace will not try as hard as they should to beat Newcastle this weekend as he looks to provoke Alan Pardew’s side into helping Sunderland’s survival push.
“Newcastle will win on Saturday, I’d have a bet on that if I could,” said Allardyce as quoted by the Telegraph, ahead of Sunderland’s trip to Stoke City on Saturday. “Newcastle pose the bigger threat [than Norwich] to our survival.
“I think they’ll beat Palace and they’ve got Villa, then it depends on what Spurs do there. So I think they’ll win at least two.”
Allardyce claimed Palace’s players will have been partying all week and will not be willing to put their bodies on the line against Newcastle out of fear of picking up an injury.
“Palace are in the FA Cup final and they would all have been celebrating, they would all have been on the pop [alcohol],” Allardyce told the Telegraph. “They won’t be mentally ready for it and neither will Alan [Pardew], because he’ll be thinking about the final now, not thinking about Newcastle away.
“You’re not going to stop the lads celebrating having got through to a final, particularly Crystal Palace, because it’s such a good achievement for the club, the fans, Alan and the owner, there is such euphoria around the place.
“It may well serve in reverse. He could say, ‘Off you go lads, go and play today and relax, the result doesn’t matter as much’ and they might win.
“But it could go the other way, ‘Ooh, I’ve had a good couple of days off and I don’t want to get injured for the final, I might just stay out of that tackle’. Who knows? I suspect it might be the latter.”
In other Newcastle news, the club are preparing a summer move for a 26-year-old Arsenal international.