Paul Merson was looking forward to Newcastle ‘staring relegation in the face come Tuesday night’ but his plans have gone off the rails a little.

Sky Sports have published Merson’s thoughts about Newcastle v Manchester City but the former Arsenal player made his prediction before the weekend, so he had to guess what position the respective clubs would be in after Saturday’s matches.

Paul Merson was fantasising that a Norwich win against Sunderland and defeat for the Magpies against Swansea, would have left Newcastle going in against Manchester City nine points from safety and a far inferior goal difference which effectively would have made the gap 10 points.

He says he can’t ‘see past a City victory’ at St James Park, which if results last weekend had gone as he hoped, would after tonight have left Newcastle nine points (and even worse goal difference) behind the Canaries with only four games remaining. That scenario would effectively have meant relegation all but secured for United.

This just shows how pivotal last weekend was, in terms of giving Newcastle fresh hope of proving Paul Merson wrong.

Instead of relegation certainties, if Newcastle beat Manchester City by two or more goals and defy Merson’s predicted outcome again, then amazingly we are out of the relegation zone – at least for the time being.

Of course beating Manchester City is a big ask – though not impossible.

The fact that Aston Villa and Norwich have both drawn 0-0 with Man City this season, whilst Sunderland were unlucky to lose 1-0 after having more attempts at goal, shots on target and corners, tells us this isn’t mission impossible.

Paul Merson says that Manchester City will be ‘going all out for three points’ against Newcastle and to an extent of course that is true – but the fact they play Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final in seven days time will surely be occupying the minds of everybody connected with Manchester City.

If it was Newcastle United in that position then I know I would be finding it hard to keep a grip!

Rafa Benitez conjured up a clean sheet and a win on Saturday to give him a starting point and the last four games have seen Newcastle score in each one, those seven goals suggesting that scoring goals isn’t quite as big a problem as it was under Steve McClaren, now that we have a decent manager looking after team affairs.

Let’s hope Paul Merson is as disappointed tonight as no doubt he was after Saturday’s relegation match outcomes.

Paul Merson talking to Sky Sports:

“Depending on results, Newcastle could well be staring relegation in the face come Tuesday night.

“Defeat to Swansea and a Norwich victory against Sunderland at the weekend would see Rafael Benitez’s side nine points adrift of safety with five games to play.

“It’s also a crucial game for City in the race for the top-four places so they will be going all out for three points at St James’ Park.

“It’s difficult to see past a City victory, with Manuel Pellegrini’s side securing all three points.”