It is often the relegation six-pointers that are the difference between who stays up and who takes the drop.
When it comes to Newcastle United this season, they have certainly chosen the right clubs to take points off.
In 13 games against the current top 11 in the Premier League, Rafa and his players have taken only two points from a possible 39.
In 13 games against those other clubs in the current bottom nine, NUFC have taken 23 points from a possible 39.
This is how the Premier League table looks now:
A record of 0 wins, 2 draws, 11 defeats for Newcastle against the better clubs, whereas 6 wins, 5 draws, 2 defeats in the relegation six-pointers against the bottom nine occupants.
That is the good news, the bad news is that of the 12 matches Newcastle have remaining, only three of those are against fellow relegation strugglers in the bottom nine. Those games are Southampton, Huddersfield and West Brom – normally you would say that at least it is a positive that these are all at home but Newcastle have actually looked better a lot of the time on their travels.
Only one other club in the bottom nine has only three matches left against bottom nine opponents and that is West Ham.
In contrast, Swansea have six whilst Stoke and Huddersfield have five each.
I know people go on about playing teams at the bottom can be tough towards the end of the season but that is a bit of a cliche, they are down there for a reason!
There are some real opportunities there as well, as in March/April you have Huddersfield play Swansea, Palace, Newcastle and Brighton four games in a row, whilst in February/March you have Swansea facing Brighton, West Ham, Huddersfield and Southampton one after the other.
I don’t want to worry you too much but whilst Swansea have half of their matches against six of the other eight clubs in the bottom nine, Newcastle have to face every club in the top 11 with the exception of Man City and Burnley.
Rafa Benitez has to get his team to shake off the disappointment of recent home draws against the likes of Swansea and Brighton, by making sure they get nine points from those home games against Southampton, Huddersfield and West Brom.
That can provide a platform to then hopefully lift their form against the better teams and get a few bonus points from there as well.
Don’t want to overstate it too much but if those three home matches don’t produce at least seven points, preferably nine, Newcastle United will be on the edge.
Remaining matches between the bottom nine Premier League clubs:
Swansea (A), Southampton (H), Stoke (H)
Stoke (A), Swansea (H), Huddersfield (H), Palace (A)
Huddersfield (A), Brighton (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (H)
Stoke (H), Newcastle (A), Swansea (A), West Ham (A)
Southampton (H), Huddersfield (H), West Brom (H)
Brighton (A), West Ham (H), Huddersfield (A), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Stoke (H)
Brighton (H), Southampton (A), West Ham (A), Palace (H), Swansea (A)
West Brom (A), Swansea (H), Palace (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (A)
Huddersfield (H), Swansea (H), Newcastle (A), Palace (A)