Norwich City’s battle for survival could come down to goal difference
- Credit: PA
Any point is a prisoner in the end of season run-in. Deputy sports editor mark armstrong looks at where City's battle could be won and lost as they look to preserve their prized Premier League status
Whatever Alex Neil needs to do to save City from relegation, there is one simple question: where will the points come from?
Whether he continues to chop and change, whether he sticks rather than twists, the only thing that matters is that there are three worse teams than Norwich come May 15.
And to ensure that, City need more points than them. That's the easy calculation, but where Sherlock Holmes' deduction skills come in useful is working out where.
You can't imagine City picking up less than maximum points from matches at home to Sunderland and Newcastle and still surviving.
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Collect fewer than six points from these two fixtures and you really start to struggle to see where City are going to accumulate a competitive points total to keep them in the division.
Only the most optimistic of fans would suggest City can upset the odds against Manchester City this weekend whilst a trip to the Hawthorns isn't the type of fixture that a team bereft of confidence will relish. Don't expect Tony's Pulis' side to show much charity, particularly now that Saido Berahino has picked his tools up again.
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City's season is then likely to be defined in the next four matches including games against the North-East pair. Anything less than 10 points will make it almost impossible for City to stay up.
City's last three games are daunting to say the least – with both Arsenal and Manchester United chasing the title and/or Champions League places, getting any change out of these two looks beyond City on recent form.
Who knows which Everton side are going to turn up on the last day? If Romelu Lukaku fancies it then he could have a field day against City's back line.
By my calculations that gives City a total of 34 points, but don't fret just yet.
Whilst Sunderland have arguably got the best man for a relegation scrap in Sam Allardyce, it is tempered by a very tricky run-in.
They will be desperately hoping to continue the hex they have held over Newcastle later this month otherwise it's difficult to see where too many more points are going to come from.
The big imponderable with Newcastle is who will be taking charge until the end of the season. Keep Steve McClaren and Norwich probably won't have too much to worry about given their recent capitulations.
Get a David Moyes in to get them sorted defensively and it's a very different situation. Ten points from their remaining 10 games looks achievable and would take them level on points with Norwich according to my calculations.
It could then all come down to goal difference. With the margins so thin there is a reason a certain Scottish manager referred to this part of the season as 'squeaky bum time'.
Hold tight and enjoy the ride.
Norwich – 10 points – Total 34 - Final position 17th (safe) on goal difference
Manchester City (h) Lose
WBA (a) Lose
Newcastle (h) Win
Crystal Palace (a) Draw
Sunderland (h) Win
Watford (h) Win
Arsenal (a) Lose
Man United (h) Lose
Everton (a) Lose
Newcastle – 10 points – Total 34 - Final position 18th (relegated) on goal difference
Leicester (a) Lose
Sunderland (h) Draw
Norwich (a) Lose
Southampton (a) Lose
Swansea (h) Win
Liverpool (a) Lose
Crystal Palace (h) Win
Aston Villa (a) Win
Tottenham (h) Lose
Man City (h) – date TBC Lose
Sunderland – 7 points – Total 32 - Final position 19th (relegated)
Newcastle (a) Draw
WBA (h) Win
Leicester (h) Lose
Norwich (a) Lose
Arsenal (h) Lose
Stoke (a) Lose
Chelsea (h) Lose
Watford (h) Win
Everton (h) – date TBC Draw
Do you agree with the predictions? Can City avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth? Leave your comments below.