LONDON • Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has claimed that it is worth betting on Newcastle United to beat Crystal Palace today because Alan Pardew's side will have "all been on the pop" to celebrate reaching the FA Cup final.
In an attempt to sting Palace into action on Pardew's first return to St James' Park since he left as manager in December 2014, Allardyce wrote off their chances against Sunderland's relegation rivals.
He also questioned the Palace players' preparations and willingness to put their bodies on the line.
Palace face Manchester United at Wembley on May 21 after beating Watford 2-1 in their semi-final last Sunday, and Allardyce said: "Newcastle will win on Saturday. I'd have a bet on that if I could. Palace are in the FA Cup final and they would all have been celebrating, they would all have been on the pop. They won't be mentally ready for it and neither will Alan because he'll be thinking about the final now, not about Newcastle away."
Allardyce hopes to be proven wrong and Palace, who are not yet mathematically safe from relegation, play with freedom.
"Alan could say, 'Off you go lads, go and play today and relax, the result doesn't matter as much', and they might win," he said. "But it could go the other way, 'I've had a good couple of days off and I don't want to get injured for the final, I might just stay out of that tackle.' Who knows? I suspect it might be the latter."
Sunderland are out of the relegation zone on goal difference with four games left. They are in a battle with Newcastle and Norwich City to avoid being the two clubs to join Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
NEWCASTLE V CRYSTAL PALACE
Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 9.55pm