Norwich City almost ready to look up
Norwich City could reach their own magic number this weekend if they come away from Crystal Palace with all three points – and move into an automatic promotion spot in the Championship.
If the Canaries extend their remarkable away record on Saturday they will top 50 points – the mark stats suggest should be enough to beat relegation.
Manager Paul Lambert has always insisted that survival would remain his only target until it was assured, openly refusing to discuss the prospect of promotion until May.
City are currently locked on 47 points with second-placed Cardiff and fourth-placed side Swansea.
The battle is one of the tightest in years, with only two points covering the five teams who are chasing leaders QPR.
And while City are in the thick of it, the manager has always claimed that reaching 'roughly' the 50-point mark was the first hurdle to be jumped.
The statistics suggest that if City win this weekend that job is complete – with the double bonus of even a draw being good enough to claim a top-two place on a weekend when many of their nearest rivals are in FA Cup action.
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In the Championship's 18 years, the average points total required to beat the drop to League One has been 49.17, while the average for teams who have actually gone down is 47.77.
Since the 1992-93 season, only five teams have topped 50 points and still gone down, including Leicester and Millwall, who were relegated with 52 points in 2007-08 and 1995-96 respectively.
Lambert has used talk of survival as a way of keeping down expectations among City fans, who have seen their team's fortunes transformed in the 17 months since he arrived.
Much of that is down to their away form, which is the best in the Championship.
And it's that which the bookmakers believe will leave them in a play-off spot – at worst – come the end of the regular season.
All of the major bookmakers have QPR as odds on to take the Championship title, with Cardiff rated second favourites.
Then it's a close-run thing between Nottingham Forest and Norwich – and it's much the same with the straight promotion odds.