With only ten games to go in the league this season, Newcastle sit in 6th position, higher than any of their doubters, or even most optimistic fans, could have predicted.
A top-five finish would provide guaranteed European football next year, although depending on the F.A Cup finalists, it may yet be that finishing 6th or even 7th would still mean blowing the cobwebs of our passports.
After their mid-week win against Everton, Liverpool are now only two points behind Newcastle, and with the teams to meet on 1st April, will Newcastle be able to hold off the competition and claim 6th spot by the end of the season?
After four games without a win, Newcastle take on Norwich at St James’ Park this weekend. A vital opportunity to get three points and guarantee Liverpool will remain at arms length.
Speaking to Liverpool fans, it would appear that many don’t really care about the league any more. After winning the Carling Cup they have already guaranteed qualification for Europe, and sitting some way off a Champions League spot, it would seem that the F.A Cup is where their priorities lie.
For us, this can only be a good thing. When the teams meet in April it is likely to decide 6th spot, but with games against Chelsea and Manchester City still to come, Newcastle will do well to hold on until the end of the season.
Our remaining games are as follows:
Man City (h)
In our remaining 10 games we play 6 of the current bottom half; games that earlier in the season we would have won at a canter. To remain in the fight for the top 6, points need to be taken at regular intervals between now and the end of the season, something which we have struggled to do in the last few months.
If I had to predict how many points we will get from out remaining games, I would say around 16.
Wins against Norwich, Bolton, Stoke and Wigan; Draws against West Brom, Liverpool, Swansea and Everton; Defeats against Chelsea and Manchester City
16 points would take us to 60 points, which has been enough to finish 6th or higher in four of the last five seasons.
Meanwhile, Liverpool play:
Predicting their results, I would have them to get around 19 points, beating QPR, Wigan, Villa, Fulham, West Brom; Drawing against us, Blackburn and Swansea; and only falling to defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
This would put Liverpool on 61 points, finishing one point ahead of us based on my predictions.
Liverpool definitely have the easier of the run-ins, although both Newcastle and Liverpool play two relegation candidates- as everyone knows, come the end of the season form can be turned on its head, as whilst teams at the bottom are fighting for survival, mid table teams have very little to play for.
Hopefully we are able to put together a bit of a run of form, replicating our form from earlier in the season. This, coupled with any complacency from Liverpool, should they choose to focus on the F.A Cup might be enough to secure 6th or 7th, and with it hopefully a Europa League spot.
Of course it is going to end up being the F.A Cup final which decides the fate of us and whether or not we make Europe, but finishing as high up the league as we can should still be a priority.
Howay the lads!