Author: David Archer
2016/17 Premier League
Published: 12:24 30/04/2013
Aston Villa decimated Sunderland last night with a 6-1 victory that took them level with the Black Cats in the Premier League table, on 37 points, some five points above the relegation zone. A hat-trick by Christian Benteke was the icing on the cake for Aston Villa against a lack-lustre Sunderland side, pale shadows of the team that have recent back-to-back wins against Newcastle United and Everton. The emphatic win has lifted Villa’s standing in the League table, whilst compounding the anxieties of Newcastle United and Sunderland.
Sunderland’s charismatic new manager, Paolo Di Canio, suffered an additional blow when Stephane Sessegnon, who scored goals in the previous two matches, was sent off after a high challenge on Yacouba Sylla. With Steven Fletcher, Sunderland’s leading goal scorer, out of action with injury Sunderland now has a distinct lack of creative goal scorers in a pivotal time for the side as they remain vulnerable in the relegation battle. Di Canio’s response to this dismal situation is to fight his corner, and he plans to appeal Sessegnon’s three-match ban, saying “If he did something really silly, I’m not going to appeal because you run the risk that they could extend it by another game. So for sure we are going to appeal. We want to try because it’s clear he didn’t go out to do damage”.
Sunderland’s depleted side will face Stoke on Monday and then Southampton in a further home game, with the final match of the season away to Tottenham Hotspurs on May 19.
QPR and Reading are certainties now for relegation, sharing 25 points apiece, with Wigan third placed on 32 points. Wigan does have a game in hand against its rivals but, following Aston Villa’s win last night, the gap between Wigan and those scraping in above the relegation zone – Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Sunderland - is now 5 points.
On the back of this, bookmaker BetVictor offers odds of 2/5 that Wigan will be heading to League One next season. The two North East sides remain vulnerable to relegation, however, and Paddy Power offers odds of 13/2 that Newcastle – with remaining fixtures against West Ham, QPR and Arsenal - will go down, and odds of 14/1 that Sunderland will suffer the same fate. Aston Villa, despite last night’s emphatic performance, is still not safe from the circling sharks and Paddy Power reckons there is a 13/2 chance that they will be relegated.
This tense situation is likely to continue until the last matches of the season, on May 19, when Wigan plays at home to Aston Villa, Newcastle plays Arsenal and Sunderland plays Spurs. A group of Aston Villa fans is planning to walk 89 miles to Wigan for the final match, in a show of support for their team, but Villa manager Paul Lambert will hope that the boost of the recent victory against Sunderland will carry through to remaining matches - against Norwich, Chelsea and Wigan – and render such extreme endeavour unnecessary. This battle against relegation continues to command immense interest and is likely to gather pace in the forthcoming 19 days.
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