Can Newcastle United achieve the impossible?
With the bottom of the Premier League bunching up, worries abound that Newcastle United will be sucked into the relegation battle and manage what seemed impossible and go down.
Bookies odds have been slashed but how realistic is the potential for disaster?
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Our resident anorak takes a look at the prospects for the remaining fixtures of the season, starting with our own:
Newcastle United (Leicester (A), West Brom (H), QPR (A), West Ham (H))
Once again in the Mike Ashley era, Newcastle have faced struggles in the second half of the season. Looking back, it was only the Championship year and one of Pardew’s seasons that we have not.
After the latest run of 7 defeats and only 2 wins in 15, it is hard to see where the next point is coming from. Leicester are resurgent, Tony Pulis rarely fails to put out a side lacking effort. QPR will be fighting for their lives and will be remembered as being the team that put us down in 1978 with 10 points from the turn of the year, 11 points now with 3 points for a win.
How John Carver must covet those extra 2 points!
Last up sees the ever popular Allardyce return to St James’ Park in perhaps his last match in charge of the Hammers. He will surely aim for a win to kickstart his career after an Ashley-funded holiday home in Spain.
Aston Villa (Everton (H), West Ham (H), Southampton (A), Burnley (H))
With 3 wins in 7 under Sherwood, combined with the prospect of an FA Cup final, there will be confidence in the camp that they can scrape to safety, despite the occasional relegation among finalists.
Everton may still seek to secure top 10, West Ham have undergone a slump with only 1 win in 12 and Southampton away will be tricky. With 3 games out of 4 at home, including Burnley on the final day, 4 or more points is achievable. Who will David Cameron be supporting at Upton Park?
Hull City (Arsenal (H), Burnley (H), Spurs (A), Man Utd (H))
Steve Bruce has been in relegation trouble before, having gone down with Birmingham and survived on the final day with Wigan. Burnley at home looks like an opportunity for points but with 3 games against Champions or Europa League aspirations, they could falter.
Steve Harper will want to do his bit to avoid a personal repeat of our relegation in 2009 when they just survived despite only 1 win in their last 20. How ironic if he sent us down, with Hull surviving as they did in 2009 when a Howard Webb howler in the home Hull fixture cost Ashley dear!
Valuable recent wins against Liverpool and Palace could be vital.
Leicester City (Chelsea (H), Newcastle (H), Southampton (H), Sunderland (A), QPR (H))
The Premier League computer has generated a run which sees 4 of the last 5 games at home, 3 of them against some of the 4 worst performing teams in 2015. Another former Newcastle coach, Nigel Pearson, had looked doomed before a 4 game winning streak. Form and fixtures suggest probable safety.
Sunderland (Southampton (H), Everton (A), Leicester (H), Arsenal (A), Chelsea (A))
This is a real test for Dick Advocaat. Leicester at home looks to be their best bet with a vague hope that Chelsea will have borrowed Newcastle’s flip flops. With only 1 win in 10, that being against you know who, it will be a big effort to stay up.
QPR (Liverpool (A), Man City (A), Newcastle (H), Leicester (A))
Another team for who things look particularly bleak, particularly since 3 of the games are away. 2 wins in 17 is a disastrous record, despite showing some fight in a few of those matches. Memories flood back of Barton being dismissed against Liverpool in our last relegation. They will surely pin their hopes on a huge effort, particularly against us and Leicester, if the latter are safe by then. They will consider us as the best hope for 3 points.
Burnley (West Ham (A), Hull (A), Stoke (H), Villa (A))
Another team with an unfortunate run away. 2 wins in 18 highlights the limitations of their resource but it has been an experience and structurally, they will not be decimated by relegation. They may be worth a punt to bounce back next year.
Current points total (before Leicester v Chelsea tonight)
32 Aston Villa
Unless Chelsea fail to win the league and Arsenal fail to finish in the top 4, Newcastle should be safe with the current points total. The match at Leicester looks pivotal. A win would make us safe, defeat would bring another team within touching distance.
Any point will be valuable, and dropped points adding to the tension. Thoughts inevitably go back to 2009, Hull being saved by our poor run, Sunderland escaping due to a rare win for Ricky Sbragia at Sunderland with 5 matches left.
In a season where he may claim to have saved Palace, Pardew (and Carver’s) 5 in a row could be even more costly than just local pride – a reminder, despite the Mackems losing at home against the same opponents on the last day as 2009, Chelsea, they were safe and we were not.
Interestingly, against our remaining opponents; Gouffran, Sissoko and Cisse have been instrumental in recent years. Our future is in unpredictable hands, not least the Mackems.
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