Firmly entrenched in a relegation battle for the second successive season, we are again at that oh too familiar juncture, where ‘every game is a cup final’.
With only six wins from 26 league games, the odds seem stacked against the North-East side getting to the magic 40 points mark.
In the last 12 league games, Newcastle have picked up 14 points, roughly the number they’ll need, give or take, to escape relegation to the Championship for the second time in their Premier League history.
So where will these points come from?
An obvious answer, home games will be the key to Newcastle’s survival, especially against those around them.
With home advantage over Bournemouth, Sunderland and Swansea, you’d usually expect nine points in the bag.
Yet defeating The Mackems anywhere is becoming a task in itself, whilst Bournemouth have picked up 15 of their 28 points on the road, compared to Newcastle’s seven from 24.
As for Swansea, their form has improved in the New Year, losing only one of their last five league games and so that won’t be easy.
But those are the three you look to win, no matter what the form book says.
Crystal Palace is 50/50. Even though their results have dipped – without a win since before Christmas and losing six of their last seven games – Alan Pardew is all too familiar with The Magpies’ current squad and this could be the difference-maker in getting a result on Tyneside.
Same as Spurs, who can’t seem to beat Newcastle at home but have strolled to three points at St James’ Park in recent visits.
Finally, even though they’ve lost their last two games, Newcastle’s untrustworthy defence will surely not withstand any semblance of pressure from the likes of Sergio Aguero and co. Man City, the ‘bogey’ team, along with everyone else these days.
Prediction: 9 points – Wins against Bournemouth, Swansea and Palace are the best bet, as form always goes out the window against Sunderland and Spurs at home. Man City seems a no-hoper as usual, no matter what the venue.
The big two: Norwich and Aston Villa. These are must, MUST win games for Newcastle, especially when you think home games won’t be enough to see them over the line.
Steve McClaren has to think ‘we will go there and win’, otherwise don’t bother showing up. That right there is six points against two teams who will still be bogged down in the mire come May. Villa will probably already be gone.
As for Stoke and Southampton, there is no reason Steve McClaren shouldn’t expect to go to both and get at least a point, if not all three. Stoke have shown rotten form over the last few months and in all honesty should’ve lost at St. James Park had it not been for Jack Butland’s heroics. Southampton are a decent side and have hit some superb form, so this is the least likely out of the two.
As for Liverpool, who knows?
Nobody really expects much. Liverpool are a bit like Spurs in recent memory, only the other way round; The Magpies’ seem to be able to get a result at home to The Reds but can’t seem to do anything right at Anfield.
Prediction: 7 points – Win away at Villa and Norwich, hope to get something somewhere else. Away form has been horrid for years now, so even asking for two wins away from St. James Park is a tall order.
How these games will be won
It’s not rocket science, or maybe it is with Newcastle. Owners of one of the worst defences in the league, there is no doubt that goals will be scored at both ends. It’s simply going to be a case of The Magpies outscoring their opposition and the midfield and strikers working their socks off to help out the fragile back four, especially at set pieces.
So can they survive?
16 points should be enough, but you never know. It looks as though Villa are all but down, whilst Sunderland are at least showing some fight. The Toon look in freefall but it was the same this time last year and they managed to get out of the bottom three in time. With a little (or a lot) of luck and a healthy squad (again, luck) there should be enough to get out of there this year as well.
Then there needs to be some serious changes or we’ll be saying the same thing next year too.
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