The relegation run in has effectively started, although there are plenty of games to go. The league is falling into 3 parts. The Champions League group are at least 6 points ahead of the Europa potentials. 

Next comes the intermediate group, those who could qualify for the Europa League but who look safe. Based on recent form, the cut off point is Chelsea, making this a 7 point band. Below them, starting at Palace, is the relegation zone. 

For each team we provide remaining fixtures. These are naturally divided into home and away. The fixtures are colour coded as to which level the opposition are in, CL, Europa, Relegation, colours equating to a traffic light system. 

There are a lot of variables between now and the end o f the season so our system is not perfect – we are admitting that up front. However, we have assumed that playing teams also in the green zone, at the bottom, will result in a home win, away matches in defeat. Home matches against Europa yellows are tagged as draws. We have also assumed that teams will not win away. From this we have a projected points total. 

Yes, some of the teams will cause upsets against top teams still in cup competitions and with fixture congestion. Likewise, home advantage can be nullified by organisation, motivation or even injuries. 

What the colour coding does highlight is the importance of key games.

So Palace have come to a junction where Pardew has got past his honeymoon phase. As supporters of West Ham, Charlton and Newcastle might have predicted, the Eagles have crash landed. 3 points in 10 games make home draws questionable but with 3 lowly teams on the road, there is a chance to compensate. 

In theory, Palace should have enough to avoid the drop but wait and see. 3 of his last 4 fixtures are against former teams, Sunderland were his nemesis at Newcastle. At least the walk from dugout to tunnel is usually short.

Tony Pulis’s warriors failed to fight in their recent fixture at St James’ Park but the manager has been here before. Already on 32 points, home games against Palace and Norwich should provide them with enough to get by.

Eddie Howe’s team remain a largely unknown quantity. Those home games that should be draws are against teams capable of form, Chelsea and Liverpool scoring 11 between them last weekend. However, Villa and Newcastle away provide some chance to make up lost ground. Survival looks likely.

Under Guidolin, we have perhaps seen the start of a short term fix. Whilst the next two home games should provide wins, points on the board can soon be caught up. Ultimately, the fixture at St James’ Park could effectively be their decider unless West Ham are out of contention for the Europa League.

With only 3 wins in the last 15 games, Norwich need inspiration from somewhere. The two winnable home games still seem tough with the North East competition having strengthened on the playing side. 

Often losing through naivety this season, the relative inexperience of their young Scottish manager leads us to doubt they have enough to survive.

Remaining fixtures at home are critical to Newcastle’s prospects. If he is still in charge, McClaren can not afford to let Sunderland win their 7th local derby on the trot. The mackems would almost inevitably leapfrog their neighbours and add to Sam’s already inflated ego. 

Anything other than 4 home wins will undoubtedly mean that the Villa Park, the scene of our last relegation, becomes absolutely crucial.

Again that match at St James’ Park is crucial. However, Stoke and Watford are likely to be out of contention for anything whilst Chelsea should provide a carnival atmosphere for the departures of Hiddink and Terry. 

Although on the precipice, the right two results could lead to another of Sunderland’s great escapes.

It may be a tired joke but after 2009, we can not resist this musical tribute to Villa here. Sadly, it may be a short goodbye for the summer months only. 

No doubt there will be twists and turns. The managerial merry go round could continue. Every surprise result will shift the balance one way or another. Every 6 pointer becomes crucial.

We are in for an emotional roller coaster.