Eleven games to go: The next six matches
With the season finishing in about three months, that can feel like enough time for teams to change their fortunes around. Considering our current 13th place in the table, however, eleven matches remaining does not feel like much time as we could strengthen our survival chances but could crumble under the pressure and weaken. As we lie in 13th place at this stage, the objective is clear which is to get as many points as we can and try to place as little reliance as possible on the teams around us failing to get the points which they need. It is also at the time of the season where I would happily to accept three points in a match with a poor performance.
Earlier this week, many people have understandably written off West Brom’s chances of survival. With having to heavily rely on Daniel Sturridge to score goals and remain injury free, it appears he has already failed the latter objective. This, in theory, leaves two remaining relegation places. We are now at the time in the season where the run-in fixtures of all the relegation candidates are getting observed constantly as people speculate and predict where the all-important points are going to come from.
24/02 – Bournemouth (Away)
Coming up next week is something of a crucial game away at Bournemouth. I call it a crucial game because we will overtake Bournemouth (on goal difference) if we come away with the three points at Dean Court. We won on our last visit to Dean Court courtesy of an amazing performance by Rob Elliot. With Bournemouth also out of the FA Cup and, therefore, have a two week break just like us, it is possible that confidence and overall quality of the players will have more of an affect compared to energy levels on the day.
03/03 – Liverpool (Away)
Rafa Benitez will return to the red part of Merseyside with a Newcastle side who have only won once at Anfield out of the previous 23 attempts in all competitions. However, I will always try to look on the positive side: Jurgen Klopp has never beaten the Magpies with any of his three attempts (with two of them ending as draws). Liverpool do have occasional tendency to slip up (like Steven Gerrard) against smaller teams considering the recent surprise defeats against Swansea and West Brom. On the basis that we consistently come away empty handed from Anfield, I would accept a draw without hesitation.
10/03 – Southampton (Home)
As Southampton currently stand in the relegation zone, the Saints, at this rate, are marching into the Championship. The sacking of Puel and appointment of Pellegrino following Puel’s 8th place finish and runner-up finish in the League Cup seems incredibly stupid now. Something more baffling is that with the likes of Slaven Bilic and Paul Clement available, Pellegrino is yet to be given his P45. Who knows? Maybe Southampton plan to bring in the best manager in the league by whisking John Carver away from the assistant manager’s post at West Brom but on a more serious note, if the Saints fail to act on this in the near future, I would accept nothing less than the three points on offer in this game.
16/03 – Tottenham (Away)
Hooray! Our first trip to Wembley since the FA Cup Semi-Finals in 2000. Who are we coming up against? Harry Kane, Dele ‘diving’ Alli and Christian Eriksen. [Sigh] And here’s some of their defence: Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. On the positive side, we have won on our last three trips to Tottenham and the last time they beat us in North London, Yoan Gouffran scored his first Newcastle goal but Spurs were helped by a Gareth Bale double which strangely feels like a long time ago.
31/03 – Huddersfield (Home)
It is no secret that Huddersfield’s form away from home has been amongst the worst in the division. On top of that, many people have predicted that, despite their 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth, they are going to be a likely fatality come the end of the season to signify an immediate return to the Championship. Even with this match still being six weeks away, I can sense this being a must win for us. No offence to Huddersfield but they are a small club when compared with everyone else in the division and they haven’t exactly been a surprise package so this is a match where anything less than a win will be a disappointment.
07/04 – Leicester (Away)
Immediate thoughts on this is that the King Power Stadium is a difficult place to go to but it is a match where a shock result is far from an impossible task. With Claude Puel steadying the Leicester ship after replacing Craig Shakespeare, the target of qualifying for Europe, at this moment in time is still alive. We will find out in due course over the coming weeks as to whether that target is still a realistic one for the Foxes. However, should they fail to pick up the points before this match, the players may believe that they have nothing to play for and look for an early holiday. As far as this match is concerned, I feel that is too early to be drawing up any kind of prediction as to how this match will plan out in April.