Newcastle United Face a Stern but Winnable Test Against Everton
An unlikely win would remove a small amount of pressure on the Magpies' trip to Goodison Park, as the third spot would become theirs to lose.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the Citizens came out 2-0 winners courtesy of some Yaya Toure magic.
After a promising season, Newcastle United now need a little luck to close out the year among the Premier League's elite four teams.
As it stands, here is the table:
Heading into the final week, Newcastle will now need at least one of the teams above them to drop points of some description (all right clever, not the Manchester ones) to have any chance at filling out the UEFA Champions League entry form next season.
On the bright side, their task is now extremely simple: win and hope.
Their remaining fixture promises to be one fraught with danger and difficulty in equal measure. Everton have won half of their games at home and taken some major scalps, including Tottenham and title chasers Manchester City, by keeping clean sheets.
Meanwhile, seven of Newcastle's 10 losses have come from outside the North East.
To make things harder for the Magpies, Everton are in the rare situation of controlling whether they finish the season ahead of Liverpool. Because of the Scousers' comprehensive 4-1 victory over battling Chelsea, expect the Toffees to come out with the same kind of passion you'd expect from a team battling relegation.
When these sides last met, Newcastle emerged 2-1 winners after some wizardry from Ryan Taylor. It's unlikely that Taylor will walk out onto the field with the 10 other starters, so any similar effort will have to come from elsewhere.
Fortunately, since then, Papiss Cisse has arrived and set the Premier League alight with his introduction for the ages. On a similar vein, Hatem Ben Arfa has also found his silky touch once again.
It was at Goodison Park that Ben Arfa made his Premier League debut. In that game, he dazzled fans with a wonder-goal to guide Newcastle to a 1-0 win.
An injury to Steve Harper in the same game allowed Tim Krul to take the field. He, too, has since gone from strength to strength and has been an integral part of Newcastle's superb season to date.
Questions about Demba Ba will be asked, about whether this will be the week the Senegalese striker puts his name in the record books. Despite a lengthy barren patch, Ba has been getting closer to that elusive goal, and fans wouldn't complain if he broke his drought this week.
On the bright side, Newcastle United have only lost consecutively once this season: back when Danny Simpson and James Perch were used as centre-backs.
Almost as encouraging is that they have only gone two or more games without a win three times this season.
They owe this to a strong ability to bounce back from hard results this season. Fans will be hoping for some of that one last time before the transfer window opens.
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