By the time we reach the Stoke v Newcastle clash on 2 March, six of United’s seven relegation rivals will have only 10 matches remaining to try and secure their Premier League lives.
Due to the postponement of the Manchester City home game and the fact that the Stoke game falls on a Wednesday, Newcastle will have played two matches less than everybody by the time the final whistle goes at matches on Tuesday 1 March, apart from Swansea – the Welsh club playing on Wednesday 2 March as well, at Arsenal.
Knowing how your competitors have got on before you play can sometimes be a positive, though in the highly pressurised Premier League relegation battle this season, I doubt that is the case.
The positive (they could all pick up no points) or negative (they could all pick up maximum points) is that none of the relegation threatened sides play each other in these two rounds of matches, apart from West Brom v Crystal Palace (who also play Sunderland).
Assuming that WBA v Palace game is a draw and Palace beat Sunderland, this table below is the very best case scenario of how the Premier League would look for those eight clubs by the time of Stoke v Newcastle (all the clubs would have played 28 matches by that point, apart from Newcastle (26) and Swansea (27)).
Number of points before each team:
36 Crystal Palace
33 West Brom
16 Aston Villa
However, if the worst happens in all of the games then this is how the table would look before the Stoke v Newcastle match (Assuming Sunderland beat Palace and Palace beat West Brom):
35 Crystal Palace
35 West Brom
22 Aston Villa
All of the fixtures for the next two matches of the bottom eight teams are below – but I can’t help but think that Newcastle’s survival, or not, is going to rely on finishing above both Norwich and Sunderland.
I just feel that the other clubs, as well as having at least three points more than Newcastle, have a bit more about them than any of the bottom four.
Assuming Villa are already goners, I think the four games involving Norwich and the mackems could be key in our survival chances.
If one or both of them manages to get four or more points from their next couple of games then, especially taking Newcastle’s shocking goal difference into account (worse than all but Villa’s), then the odds start looking really stacked against us.
On the other hand, if they pick up only a point each at the most and Newcastle go to Stoke and win, the release of pressure on the Newcastle team would be immense.
A lot of ifs and buts, though one thing looks very likely, the relegation for better or worse will look a lot clearer once the fixture below have been played over the course of the next week.
Sat 27 February
West Ham v Sunderland 12.45pm
Leicester v Norwich 3pm
Stoke v Aston Villa 3pm
Watford v Bournemouth 3pm
West Brom v Crystal Palace 5.30pm
Sunday 28 February
Spurs v Swansea 2.05pm
Tuesday 1 March
Aston Villa v Everton 7.45pm
Bournemouth v Southampton 7.45pm
Leicester v West Brom 7.45pm
Norwich v Chelsea 7.45pm
Sunderland v Crystal Palace 7.45pm
Wednesday 2 March
Arsenal v Swansea 7.45pm
Stoke City v Newcastle 7.45pm