A few weeks ago, it seemed like Newcastle was all but certain to not only gain promotion, but also win the Championship. Fast forward to today and that outlook is a lot less bright.
Brighton has leapfrogged the Magpies and have already secured promotion. Newcastle can still catch Albion, but it will be nearly impossible. Continuing to make life on Tyneside stressful are Reading and Huddersfield.
Reading sit just six points down of Newcastle follow Monday’s results. Huddersfield find themselves seven points back, but with an extra game to play over both Reading and Newcastle.
With just three games remaining, well four for Huddersfield, we are going to take a look at how Newcastle can secure promotion or even win the league.
Win the League:
Newcastle would need to win all three of their final games to make this one happen outright. With matches against Preston, Cardiff and Barnsley, that is not out of the question, but based on the recent form of the team, it seems unlikely that the Toon can really take all nine points. At the same time, it would need Brighton to pick up just two points from its final three games. Albion has Norwich, Bristol City and Aston Villa left on the docket. It is probably safe to assume that the Seagulls will grab at least one win from that slate.
There is one scenario where Newcastle does not need to win every game, but it would come down to a tie breaker for the title. If Brighton lost all three games it has remaining and Newcastle takes seven points, then the Magpies and Seagulls would find themselves tied for points on the season at 92. Newcastle would win the title on goal difference, as the two squads are even now, but with three straight losses for Brighton, it would have to drop and no losses for Rafa Benitez’s group.
The title chase is just about over. I’m rating this one as highly unlikely.
Now to the more likely scenario. Newcastle is actually very close to making this one happen. A win over the next three games would all but seal the fate of Reading and Huddersfield. If Newcastle win one game and lose the other two, then Reading would only be able to draw even with the Magpies. Seeing as Newcastle has a 35 goal advantage in goal difference over the Royals, it is safe to say that Reading will not be a threat. Huddersfield could still catch up though, if it happens to win its next four games. Fulham, Birmingham City, Wolverhampton and Cardiff are all winnable games for the Terriers, but that seems like a very tall task.
To ensure that no one can pass them, Newcastle need at least two wins. Two wins will put this all to bed. A win and two draws would almost certainly do it as well, with Newcastle only able to be matched in points by Huddersfield. The Magpies boast a 37 goal difference, compared to a five goal difference for Huddersfield. Five points would all but end this. Two wins make it impossible to be caught.
Wins against Barnsley and Preston at home seem likely. The likelihood is that Newcastle will still return to the Premier League.