Norwich City, Newcastle and Sunderland prepare for Premier League countdown
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As the Premier League season turns into the finishing straight David Freezer takes a look at the challenge facing Norwich City and their main rivals in the battle to avoid the drop, Newcastle United and Sunderland.
For good or for bad, football and finance now go hand in hand in the land of Premier League riches.
Enjoying the fortunes of your football team on the pitch has evolved with the gold rush that English football has benefited from since the early 1990s.
That evolution peaks once again this summer when the top flight's latest money-spinning TV deal comes into action – guaranteeing the team which finishes bottom next season more than £90million.
Money in the bank shouldn't be a worry for supporters but headline transfer fees and a generation of fans growing up with football management computer games have seen pounds become as prevalent as discussing your club's players.
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All of which has built to a tipping point which is pouring pressure on Norwich City, Sunderland and Newcastle as they battle for the final seat on next season's Premier League boat.
In the coming weeks two of those teams will slip into the Championship and know that they will immediately be at a financial disadvantage when, or if, they return to the top tier.
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Those who remain in the promised land of the world's most watched league – with an estimated global reach of 730 million homes – will then have already banked a year of fresh wealth.
That new deal, for the next three seasons, has reached an eye-watering total of around £8billion.
Premier League football is big business and clubs must be as savvy off the pitch as they are on it if they are to achieve success.
Despite those off-field connotations however, it is on the pitch – or should that be on TV screens? – that we will see the drama unfold.
Currently the Canaries sit in the driving seat in that crucial 17th place but are clinging to the steering wheel by their fingertips after a damaging 3-0 loss to Sunderland.
That moved the Black Cats to within a point of City and with a game in hand – opening up the chance for Newcastle to move out of the relegation zone on Tuesday.
Despite another spirited performance from Rafa Benitez's side, a 1-1 draw with Manchester City was not enough to see the Magpies take full advantage of their game in hand. They remain two points adrift in 19th ahead of a tough trip to in-form Liverpool on Saturday, where a win would move them out of the bottom three, with Norwich not playing.
Sunderland then host Arsenal, who still need to secure Champions League qualification, on Sunday. A draw would be enough for the Black Cats to get above City, courtesy of a better goal difference.
With the following weekend seeing Newcastle host Crystal Palace and Sunderland travel to Stoke at 3pm on the Saturday, ahead of the Canaries' game at Arsenal at 5.30pm, the permutations are many.
City could next kick-off anything from 19th place and four points from safety at worst, through to still having a one-point cushion.
Strap in – this could well be a bumpy ride.