Both Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion are on the cusp of Premier League survival ahead of their meeting at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday evening.
Pepe Mel's West Brom are all but assured of their top-flight status for another season, with only an implausible 19-goal swing in goal difference allowing them to be caught be 18th-placed Norwich City (7-15-14). Hosts Sunderland (9-8-19) know a draw against the Baggies would see them in a similar position going into the final matchday, while a win would guarantee their safety. Three points would seem likely for the north-east club, who have picked up 10 in their last four games to escape near-certain relegation in a remarkable run that has seen them draw with Manchester City, beat both Chelsea and Manchester United, and hammer four past lowly Cardiff City.
"We are not over the line yet but it will be a shame if we don't stay up now," said Sunderland manager Gus Poyet. "It would be crazy to lose this opportunity. What we have done in the last four games is unique. Miracle was the word I used a few weeks ago. Apparently every now and again it happens.
"How easy would it have been for those players to give up and start thinking about next year, about the next challenge and the next club? But they are here, fighting for the club and the fans. They don't want to go down. They are not going to accept it. That makes me feel very proud."
West Brom have been much-improved since the arrival of Mel, and their only defeats in their last six have come against Manchester City and Arsenal. Only remarkable 3-3 draws with both Cardiff and Tottenham Hotspur have prevented the Baggies from securing their top-flight status earlier, although Mel admitted there are going to be a lot of changes in the summer transfer window regardless.
"There are 13 players who are going to be out of contract," he said. "It's like making up a new team so West Brom has a lot of work to do. After the Stoke City game we have a meeting and then we will have a meeting whether I'll be there next season. I can tell you now I'd really like to be with West Bromwich Albion next season.
"For me, the West Brom supporters are the best. They are very, very kind to me. But all focus is on the next match. This is why I would be happy to continue together. And the really important thing is that the club know what I feel and what I believe. I will have a meeting with the chairman and express what I want in order for me to continue."
Sunderland have injury doubts over Ki Sung-Yeung (knee), Carlos Cuellar (hamstring), Steven Fletcher (ankle) and Keiren Westwood (shoulder), while West Brom have concerns over the fitness of Steven Reid (hip) and Liam Ridgewell (knee), and are missing Zoltan Gera with a long-term hamstring injury.
West Brom ran out comfortable 3-0 winners when these teams met back in September, with the Black Cats failing to register a shot on target.
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