Newcastle United face a battle for their Premier League survival.
The Magpies are currently 16th, one point clear of 18th-placed Southampton and level with Cardiff City, but ahead on goal difference, with just 12 games of the season to go.
Newcastle’s run-in: Huddersfield Town (H), Burnley (H), West Ham (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester City (A), Southampton (H), Brighton & Hove Albion (A), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A).
Newcastle are fortunate that they only play two top-six teams between now and the end of the season.
Games against Arsenal and Liverpool are not likely to glean any points for the Magpies, meaning Rafael Benitez’s side are better off focusing on taking points from the teams around them.
The visit of Huddersfield Town next weekend could well set the tone. The Terriers are rock-bottom and 14 points off Cardiff. In short, they need a miracle. Newcastle should take all three points. Even in their current predicament, it would be a shock if they didn’t.
The visit of Burnley, in 15th, is likely to be a cagey affair and could well be a draw, while West Ham will expect to win at the London Stadium when Newcastle visit.
There is scope for United taking a point off Everton, but trips to Bournemouth and the Gunners are unlikely to see any return.
Crystal Palace, though, could well be a scalp taken, and three points against Roy Hodgson’s men would be a major boost, with tough clashes against Leicester, Southampton, Brighton and the Reds thereafter.
A return of one point from a possible 12 there seems the likeliest outcome – a draw with the Saints, also scrapping, would not do either side a favour but is the most foreseeable result.
A trip to London to face Fulham on the final day could well be full of drama but the Cottagers are already eight points adrift and may well be relegated beforehand. Three points for the Magpies would seem a banker if Claudio Ranieri’s men are already contemplating life in the Championship.
Predicted points: 12 – Newcastle finish on 37 points
Much like Southampton – who Football FanCast predict to end the season with 36 points – Newcastle are set to fall short of the 40-point mark which is routinely said to guarantee survival.
However, there really appears to be only one spot to fill in the bottom three.
Huddersfield and Fulham are surely doomed, barring a miracle or a bizarre twist of fate, leaving the likes of Southampton, Newcastle and Cardiff, as well as perhaps Burnley, Brighton and Crystal Palace, all battling to avoid finishing 18th.
If FFC’s predictions are correct, Newcastle will finish above Southampton, and that may well be enough.
The two sides play each other on April 20th and that game could well determine which of the two drops through the trapdoor into the Championship, provided Cardiff do not implode and take the spot for themselves.