Jermaine Jenas has given his verdict on whether Newcastle United or Sunderland will beat relegation this season – and it isn’t good news for his old club.
The former Magpies midfielder watched the Tyne-Wear derby with interest as the battle at the bottom of the Premier League warmed up.
The 1-1 draw did neither side much good, given Norwich City’s win at the weekend, and leaves Newcastle second-bottom, three points behind the Canaries who they face next week.
Sunderland, meanwhile, are also still in the relegation zone, but are a point better off than their North East rivals.
And while Jenas thinks that Rafa Benitez’s arrival has given Newcastle a chance of beating the drop, he still feels Sunderland have the better chance.
Jenas said: “If I am looking for reasons for optimism on Tyneside, the person who gives me most confidence from a Newcastle perspective is Benitez.
“I think his arrival has already had a huge positive impact - not so much in performances (yet) but more in terms of the belief he has instilled in the club. The fans seem to be massively behind him, which I didn’t necessarily expect, but they do love a big name up there and he certainly fits that bill.
“A lot is made of Rafa’s ability to get teams organised and, while I haven’t seen huge evidence of that yet, what he also brings is a calm head on the touchline.
“It would have been easy to panic going 1-0 down in the derby – and I’m sure plenty in the stadium were doing just that – but Benitez was incredibly patient. He made the right substitutions at the right times and it paid off in the end.
“Overall I thought it was a good derby. It may not have been top quality football, but in terms of what I’ve seen from Newcastle this season, it was chalk and cheese.
“I saw hope and effort and work-rate, but the problem is that those things only get you so far.
“Newcastle have lacked quality all season, and not even Benitez can change that at this stage.
“Meanwhile, Sunderland look organised, they have strength in depth and they’ve got a striker (Jermain Defoe) who will put the ball in the back of the net when they need him to. Plus, I think it’s only a matter of time before they start getting clean sheets.
“As a former Newcastle player it hurts me to say it, but I think if anyone is going to stay up out of those two teams, it will be Sunderland.