Sixteen points after as many weeks of the Premier League, and a 19-point difference from the Table-topping Leicester City: this season has certainly not gone to plan so far for Newcastle United.
A run of just one win from their opening 12 matches of the Premier League campaign had left Newcastle staring at the prospect of a grim battle to avoid the drop. However, after two fantastic wins in our last two games, against Liverpool and Tottenham, Newcastle will feel that a top-12 finish come the turn of the year is within their reach.
There are still three games left to be played in 2015, against Aston Villa, Everton, and West Brom respectively – they are all teams that we have the capabilities of beating, but we all know that Newcastle have a habit of disappointing.
First up: Aston Villa. Villa lost 2-0 at home to Arsenal last weekend and are rooted to the bottom on six points, just half that of 19th-placed Sunderland. Should Newcastle beat Villa, then they will move 13 points clear of the Birmingham outfit heading into Christmas, and will effectively round off a revival which has brightened the spirits of what was becoming a very disengaged Toon fanbase.
Then following week sees us up against Everton, quite obviously the toughest of the three fixtures. From our last five games against Everton, Newcastle have only managed one win. The Toffees are sitting quite comfortably in mid-table, and the bookies will not doubt be backing the away side, especially considering Romelu Lukaku’s current form. Then again, no one was backing us against their city rivals two weeks ago, or even at Tottenham on Sunday.
The last game of the 2015 will be against West Brom. Just like Everton, they are above Newcastle in the Table, although only by four points. We would be foolish to consider ourselves obvious favourites, with the Brummies having only lost two of their last seven games (against Leicester and Man United). Our recent record against West Brom looks favorable (2 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss in last five), but I guess the picture will be much clearer after our next two matches.
This year’s Premier League has without doubt been of the most bizarre campaigns in the league’s history. No longer is there a clearly established top-four in English football, and the rise of the likes of Leicester, Watford and (hate to say it), Crystal Palace, serves to show the increasing competitiveness of English football.
The UK-licensed bookie TonyBet is giving Newcastle 8/5 odds at being relegated, which is way too high to be comforting – but the three upcoming games are nine potential points right there. If the Toon can secure them, maybe the team can start to build up on that confidence and get on the right track. After all, the Premier League is full of surprises this year – maybe Newcastle can become one of them.