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Breaking Down the European Scenarios for Newcastle

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As you know by now, Newcastle United have qualified for some sort of European competition for the 2012-13 season, a fantastic accomplishment indeed. Which competition is still up in the air with 1 game remaining in the season, but Chelsea's loss to Liverpool Tuesday did clear up the picture a bit. We now know what needs to happen in order for Newcastle to go through to the UEFA Champions League, rather than Europa. To be clear, Europa is a great prize for a club in the second year of their current stint in the top flight, but as long as they're in this situation, they might as well push for a ticket to the big dance, right? Let's take a quick look at the relevant players in the table before we move on:

3 Arsenal 37 66 24
4 Tottenham Hotspur 37 65 23
5 Newcastle United 37 64 7

As you can see, Newcastle are behind the other two teams in terms of both points and goal differential. The goal differential cannot be made up, so although there is a scenario where Tottenham and Newcastle could be level on points, Newcastle would still finish 5th. In other words, the Toon will need to win their final game to have any hope of finishing above 5th and in a possible Champions League spot.

I say possible because Chelsea's continued participation in the current Champions League season could throw a wrench into the qualification. If Chelsea win the Champions League final on May 19, they will gain automatic entry into the Group Stage of the competition for next season, and 4th place will go to the Europa League.

If Chelsea win on May 19:

3rd place qualifies for the Champions League Group Stage
4th place qualifies for the Europa League Group Stage
5th place qualifies for the Europa League Playoff Round

If Chelsea lose on May 19:

3rd place qualifies for the Champions League Group Stage
4th place qualifies for the Champions League Playoff Round
5th place qualifies for the Europa League Playoff Round

We'll get into what each round means when we know exactly which competition Newcastle have qualified for. As we stated above, Newcastle need to win to make something happen, but they'll need some help. Here are the scenarios. (H/T to Howard the Drake for doing a lot of the legwork on this)

Newcastle loss or draw = 5th place

Newcastle win plus:
Arsenal win or draw and Tottenham Hotspur win = 5th place
Arsenal win and Tottenham Hotspur draw or loss = 4th place
Arsenal draw and Tottenham Hotspur draw or loss = 4th place
Arsenal loss and Tottenham Hotspur win = 4th place
Arsenal loss and Tottenham Hotspur draw or loss = 3rd place

There are 27 possible outcomes on Saturday. Assuming that each team has an equally likely chance to win, lose, or draw (they don't, but we'll get into that in a minute), the odds that Newcastle finishes in a certain position are:

3rd place: 2/27, or about 7.4%
4th place: 5/27, or about 18.5%
5th place 20/27, or about 74%

Of course, not every game has an equal chance of finishing as a win, draw, or loss. Newcastle supporters have been ruing the luck of the schedule that has them facing Everton on the final day, but the other two teams are also playing top 10 teams in good form. Let's take a look at each matchup.

Newcastle United visit Everton, currently 7th place and 6th in the form table (Newcastle are 4th). Newcastle are 8-3-7 on the road, and Everton are 9-3-6 at home. Betfair has Newcastle at 13:4, Everton at 7:3, and a draw at 11:3.

Spurs stay home to play Fulham, currently 9th place and 2nd in the form table (Spurs are 11th). Spurs are 12-3-3 at home, and Fulham are 4-5-9 on the road (yeesh). Betfair has Fulham at 9:1, Tottenham Hotspur at 5:3, and a draw at 5:1.

Arsenal visit West Bromwich Albion, currently 10th place and 5th in the form table (Gunners are 9th). Arsenal are 8-3-7 on the road, and West Brom are 6-3-9 at home. Betfair has WBA at 11:2, Arsenal at 5:3, and a draw at 25:6.

Obviously betting odds should be taken with a grain of salt. Not only are they the subjective opinions of lackeys working for large firms, they are designed to induce gambling, not to predict outcomes. Still, the numbers have basically confirmed what we already know: that both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are favorites to win their games, or at the very least, gain points. I disagree with the oddsmakers making Everton a favorite in the Newcastle game, but there's no doubt it will be a tough fixture.

At the end of the day, it seems very likely that Newcastle will finish fifth, and the odds of finishing third appear to be very slim indeed (somewhere between 0 and 7.4 percent). We've said this before, but it bears repeating: the very fact that we're talking about a potential third place finish with just one match left to play is nothing short of amazing.