Former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder Julio Arca fears the worst for both his old clubs as they fight for their Premier League lives.
The 36-year-old Argentinian, who represented the Black Cats and Boro with distinction before injury forced his premature retirement from the professional game, is hoping for a miracle with the north-east rivals teetering on a precipice.
Arca has seen David Moyes' Sunderland, who lost 1-0 to their rivals from Teesside in midweek, drag themselves back from the brink of disaster in each of the last four seasons, but suspects they have played with fire once too often as they head into Saturday's home clash with Bournemouth.
He said: "It's sad to see Sunderland again at the bottom of the league after in the last three or four seasons escaping right at the end. I think this year, it's extremely hard.
"After the defeat against Middlesbrough the other day, I don't think their chances are high now. They haven't been playing well, they are not scoring many goals, apart from [Jermain] Defoe, and they are finding it hard this season.
"The change of manager, he has been finding it hard as well some of the players haven't adapted quickly enough to the Premier League, and the Premier League is a hard league.
"It's getting better and better every year and if you are not good enough, you pay the consequences."
Sunderland head into the weekend 12 points adrift of safety with just five games to play, while Boro, who host Manchester City on Sunday, are six points better off, but have just four remaining fixtures in which to save themselves.
Arca said: "Middlesbrough will get some confidence from winning the derby. But again, six points behind now, they have got Manchester City coming at the weekend, so it's a hard task.
"But if one of them has got a chance, Middlesbrough have the bigger chance."
Arca knows from painful experience how tough the Sky Bet Championship can be and he has warned both clubs returning at the first attempt - as neighbours Newcastle have just done - would be far from straightforward.
He said: "The Championship is getting better and better, like the Premier League. There is more money involved now, clubs are paying more money for players, wages are increasing there, so they can afford to bring in better players.
"It's a hard league, it's not easy to get out. Newcastle have done really well, but they invested money and that's the difference. If you want to go for the league, you need to invest money."