Portsmouth v Sunderland, Premier League, May 18, 2009
Results on Saturday have gone the way of Pompey and the home side come into this game knowing that Premier League safety has been secured. The South Coasters can now look forward to their seventh successive season of top-flight football despite the uncertainty that surrounds the club.
Chairman Sasha Gaydamak admitted in the News of the World this weekend that the sale of Portsmouth will be at a large financial loss to the owner. The rumour-mill has already swung into overdrive with speculation being that Gaydamak stands to lose a whopping Â£30m on the sale of the club.
Yet, Pompey can now go into this match with a freedom that will be the envy of their visitors and for a number of players this could be the last time they grace Fratton Park. Sol Campbell, Nwankwo Kanu (2/1 to score in 90 minutes), Sean Davis and Herman Hreidarsson (11/1 to pick up the first booking) are all entering the final weeks of their contracts and Portsmouth will not be renewing their deals.
Whilst there will be a palpable sense of relief and emotion at Portsmouth, Sunderland still need a win to finally pull themselves out of danger. Ricky Sbragiaâ€™s side are just two points off the relegation zone and could still go down if they lose this match, and are then defeated on the final day of the campaign at home to Chelsea.
Sunderlandâ€™s recent form has been woeful and they are lucky to be playing in a season when the points total for survival in the Premier League is so low. They have been defeated in six of their last eight games, with the win over Hull and last weekâ€™s goalless draw with Bolton potentially worth around 60 million pounds to the Black Cats.
Despite having an improved squad of players this season, Sunderland have really struggled at times and have failed to show the necessary grit to get out of relegation trouble. Whilst the front pair of Djibril Cisse (2/1 to score) and Kenwyne Jones (15/2 to be the first goalscorer) looked strong earlier in the campaign, water-cooler talk of a rift between the pair is now rife, with the strike-partners barely passing to each other these days. Unsurprisingly, the pair have each scored just one goal in the last 11 games.
Questions have to be asked of Ricky Sbragia as well, and one canâ€™t help thinking that a bigger name boss (e.g. Slaven Bilic who was linked in the papers this morning) should have been brought in when Roy Keane left.
A point for Sunderland (draw at 9/4) almost assures the Black Cats of the Premier League status next term, although mathematically they could still fall on the last day. While a victory at Fratton Park brings with it the guarantee that they can see out the final day of the season in the security of their top flight position.
Will this be the day when Sunderlandâ€™s players finally put in a battling performance?
101gg predicts: Portsmouth 1 â€“ Sunderland 1 (11/2)
Full match odds here.