BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson predicts that Newcastle United will be in the thick of a relegation battle come the end of the season.
The Magpies currently sit 17th in the Premier League standings. They are six points clear of the drop zone but there are still many to play for this term.
The Tynesiders made a decent start to their league campaign and were in 12th spot midway through December. But they have picked up just eight points from their last 13 games and have plummeted down the table.
A nine-match winless run drained the players of confidence. Victories over Everton and Southampton stopped the rot but there is still doom and gloom hanging over St James’ Park.
They face a trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United on Sunday. Lawrenson feels the Red Devils will win 2-0. And, in his latest BBC Premier League predictions column, has some bad news for the Toon Army.
“Newcastle are the team everyone in the bottom three thinks they can catch,” he wrote. “Realistically, they are the only other team who could still be dragged into the relegation places.
“The Magpies are not playing well – and that gives the sides below them hope that, if they keep going, they can catch them.
“I don’t see anything happening at Old Trafford to change that.”
Fulham are their closest challenges, with 19 points to Newcastle’s 25. West Brom have 13 and Sheffield United have taken just 11 in 2020-2021.
It seems likely that the Cottagers are the only side capable of overhauling the men in black and white.
Newcastle may be in danger of being sucked into a battle for top-flight survival but other clubs may join them. Brighton are only one point better off than Steve Bruce’s team.
The difference is, Graham Potter’s men have now found their form and are on an excellent run. The south-coast outfit have won three and drawn three of their last six outings.
There is always a possibility that they could stumble but 11 draws already this season shows they are tough to beat. Burnley have 27 points but, like Brighton, have showed improved form in recent weeks.
Sean Dyche’s outfit are unbeaten in three and took the scalp of champions Liverpool in January. The two clubs directly above Newcastle must come into the equation.
But with the bottom three rarely winning games, it might take less than the ‘magic 40-point mark’ to survive this season.