For so long, the Premier League fixtures have been easy.
Well, easy when it comes to knowing who you wanted to win, or rather, lose.
Simply look to see who West Brom, Stoke and Southampton were playing, then wishing the best to whoever was the opposition(s).
To be fair, they rarely let us down.
Sadly, it also often means swallowing your pride and wanting the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea to win, but needs must.
With only defeats to Liverpool and Man City since mid-December and in particular, four wins in the last six [three wins in last three], the goalposts have suddenly shifted.
Rafa says he still won’t feel safe until Newcastle are on 40+ points but when the bookies have you as high as 500/1 to go down, I think the rest of us can have at least one eye on where this season could realistically end up…when looking up.
These are the weekend’s games and then there is the current Premier League table before Southampton kick-off against Chelsea…
Southampton v Chelsea 12.30pm
Burnley v Leicester 3pm
Crystal Palace v Brighton 3pm
Huddersfield v Watford 3pm
Swansea v Everton 3pm
Liverpool v Bournemouth 5.30pm
Tottenham v Man City 7.45pm
Newcastle United v Arsenal 1.30pm
Man Utd v West Brom 4pm
West Ham v Stoke 8pm
I look at this Premier League table now and see Newcastle’s potential highs and lows depending on how they get on compared to this group of clubs…
Burnley in seventh down to West Ham in 14th. It isn’t impossible for the likes of Swansea, Huddersfield or Palace to catch Newcastle but very unlikely.
Closing an 11 point gap on Burnley is also very very unlikely but this is my show and I am allowed a little artistic license.
Certainly West Ham (14th) four points behind and Leicester (8th) five points ahead, are clubs that Newcastle could feasibly swap positions with.
If NUFC did end up 14th it would mean £13.3m prize money due specifically to the league placing, whilst 8th would equal £24.7m, so straight away that would be hopefully an extra £11.4m Rafa would have to play with this summer (if Newcastle end up 8th compared to 14th).
Whilst Burnley might be just that little bit too far away, no reason why Newcastle can’t end up best of the rest. Certainly we have seen nothing from either of the two clubs directly ahead of them to fear.
In fact, if Rafa’s team had beaten either Leicester or Everton at St James Park, they would already now be ahead of that respective opponent.
Burnley play Leicester this afternoon, so a no-brainer for me that we should want the home team to win, meaning Newcastle could move to within only two points of the Foxes if beating Arsenal.
As for Everton, I suppose that a few weeks ago I would have been forced to want Fat Sam’s team to beat Swansea but happily, I can now cheer on the Welshies this afternoon. Newcastle would then travel to Goodison Park a week on Monday actually ahead of the scousers on goal difference, if Everton lose and Newcastle win.
Directly below Newcastle are Bournemouth and Watford, so I suppose it is a case of wanting Eddie Howe’s team to lose the 5.30pm game at Anfield, whilst I would happily now take Huddersfield winning at home to Watford – which wouldn’t have been the case a week or two ago.
I’m not counting on anything just yet but I don’t see any reason why as Newcastle fans we can’t aspire to a top eight placing after such a tough season, when we even got stick for standing by our manager! Everybody from mackems to the clueless media, not understanding the challenges Rafa had to face, due mainly to lack from backing from Mike Ashley.
The United boss has successfully navigated those hazards and now together we can look up the league rather than always down.
Then wonder if that can carry on into next season and muse on what could be possible if finally Rafa Benitez is able to bring in the players that he wants.