Under-strength team controversy fans flames before relegation D-Day

IT IS worth at least &pound;30m to clubs, is the difference between heartbreak and sweet relief for fans, and will probably decide the fate of at least two managers. With so much riding on the Premier League survival scrap, it is little wonder that emotions are getting heated ahead of Sunday&rsquo;s showdown.<br /><br />Debate has centred on whether Hull City &ndash; one of four teams in danger of following West Brom out of the top flight &ndash; could be handed a favour by Manchester United in their all-important final fixture. With the title already sewn up and focus firmly on Wednesday&rsquo;s Champions League final, United seem certain to field a reserve XI for a match that, for them, is of little consequence.<br /><br />For Hull, victory will guarantee survival, leading to rumours of survival rivals Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough plotting legal action if United deliberately field a weakened line-up. Those reports were swiftly denied, but Premier League chiefs yesterday sought to divert a row by endorsing United&rsquo;s right to rest the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. &ldquo;You have to be realistic,&rdquo; said chief executive Richard Scudamore. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve got a squad, and therefore you can&rsquo;t argue that they deploy the benefit of that squad in a game on Sunday.&rdquo;<br /><br />Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia &ndash; who needs a win to ensure safety and improve his chances of keeping the job &ndash; will get no such favours from second-placed Chelsea, with opposite number Guus Hiddink promising to exercise first-teamers for next weekend&rsquo;s FA Cup final. &ldquo;If I rest too many people then I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s good preparation for Wembley,&rdquo; the Dutchman said.Newcastle and temporary manager Alan Shearer &ndash; for whom a draw could be enough but will depend on other results &ndash; have also been warned to expect a tussle at Aston Villa, whose goalkeeper Brad Friedel said: &ldquo;We&rsquo;re still fighting for fifth and that might not bode well for Newcastle.&rdquo;<br /><br />Middlesbrough, in 19th place, are all but condemned, needing a win and the defeat of at least two rivals to stand any chance of survival. That unlikely scenario has been made even less plausible by an injury to star man Stewart Downing that will keep the winger out of England&rsquo;s World Cup qualifiers next month.<br /><br />Hull manager Phil Brown, meanwhile, had his own typically eccentric take on the debate over resting players. At the last minute he cancelled yesterday&rsquo;s planned media day, gave his players the day off and invited them to put the simmering controversy to one side and join him for a round of golf.<br /><br />&nbsp;<strong>SURVIVAL SUNDAY </strong> TV DETAILS<br /><br /><strong>ASTON VILLA v NEWCASTLE</strong><br />Sky Sports 1, ko 4pm<br /><strong>HULL v MAN UTD</strong><br />Sky Sports 3, ko 4pm<br /><strong>SUNDERLAND v CHELSEA</strong><br />Sky Sports Interactive, ko 4pm<br /><strong>WEST HAM v MIDDLESBROUGH</strong><br />Setanta Sports 1, ko 4pm&nbsp;<!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment-->