Soon upon us is another make or break weekend, this time things are closer and becoming much more final. John Carver’s battle cry that they are all cup finals now reminds us that our FA Cup record under Ashley is hardly spectacular. 

Back in January this site warned against the possibility of relegation and asked the hierarchy of the club to take notice when deciding on a managerial appointment. Now, we are among the prime contenders to play league football in Milton Keynes for the first time next season. 

Instead of heading to Wembley, Newcastle are heading a few miles down the road to QPR. There promises to be an emotional meeting of supporters at Kings Cross too, Hull City playing out their part 10 miles away at Spurs. 

In the meantime, the other main players are coming the other way, via Newcastle as Leicester change connections to visit Sunderland. Elsewhere, Villa supporters will be travelling through neighbouring Euston on their way to Southampton. 

Just as a reminder, this is how the bottom of the table looks:

 

Southampton v Villa
The Saints are doing their best to avoid the Europa League, which curiously Villa have qualified for, their F Cup final opponents having already qualified for the Champions League. 

Villa are surely just about safe, although goal difference is a worry. With a team playing for Wembley places, a win in either of their two games will make them totally safe, the last match against Burnley being a fairly safe bet for 3 points. 

Southampton are without a win in 4 whilst revitalised Villa have only one defeat in 5. Smart money will be on a draw. 

Sunderland v Leicester
With Dick Advocaat at the helm, the Mackems have shown their neighbours what sort of quality is available among interim managers. Away games to follow against Arsenal and Chelsea make it a tough run in and this last home fixture becomes crucial. 

Sunderland are on something of a run with only 1 defeat in 5. Leicester have similarly impressed with 5 wins in 7. Following this, the last day of the sees them host QPR who have nothing to play for but pride, which was seemingly absent in their 6-0 defeat against Manchester City. 

Although both may have been seen as surprise packages to go down before the weekend, it goes without saying that both teams can’t win. Therefore, whatever the results elsewhere, the losers (if there is one) are guaranteed to be within a win of the last relegation slot. If drawn, Sunderland will still be. 

It’s a tough one to call, Leicester having the edge on form but Sunderland’s goal difference being 6 worse than Hull make this a REALLY must win for them. On the crest of the wave, you would have to back Leicester to take something from the game. 

Spurs v Hull
A few weeks ago, this would have been dead easy to call, Spurs romping to a home win. Like Southampton, however, the hosts are doing their best to try and let Southampton overtake them for the Europa League, having only won once in the last 6. 

Hull, on the other hand, have had some curious patterns, their last 4 wins coming in pairs. At no stage this season have they won 3 games in 6. Steve Bruce has been here before, taking Birmingham City down in 2006, narrowly avoiding the drop with Wigan 2 years later. 

With Manchester United in the last game of the season, Spurs becomes a “must win” match and it would be no surprise if they did get the points to give them bragging rights at Kings Cross. However, smart money will probably be on a draw which will keep the pressure on Newcastle and one of Sunderland or Leicester. 

QPR v Newcastle
For the time being, destiny remains in Newcastle’s hands. Looking at the form books, these are the worst two teams in the Premier League over the last couple of months. QPR have shown spirit at times, not least in the 3-3 draw with Villa. Newcastle have shown little but finally gained a first point in 9 games last weekend. 

Put in context, both sides have only won twice since the turn of the year. QPR without a home win since December take on a Newcastle side without an away goal since February.

These teams have some history. QPR produced the win at St James’ Park in 1979 that sent us down. When Newcastle last narrowly escaped relegation in 2013, it will be remembered that we won at Loftus Road in the penultimate weekend to secure safety. At first sight, the omens are good. 

QPR are the only side we can still do the double over. With 9 players out of contract at the end of the season as well as injuries, the home side are hardly likely to be trying to impress the home club, with reduced wages on offer in the Championship. 

Does that mean anything? When we were relegated in 2009, we also only had one double that season. That was against West Brom who finished bottom and we went down with them. 

Heart says that we will get a victory at Loftus Road, the betting slip says a 2-1 away win with Austin scoring first for the hosts and the best coach in the Premier League masterminding a comeback. That would replicate Remy’s goal before joining us in the summer and with the same score line as 2013. Cisse’s return makes that feasible. 

This time though, we may not be secure going into the last game. Where we lost against West Ham at home in 2009 and drew in 2013. With the worst goal difference of the relegation candidates being effectively worth a point, we may need favours from Chelsea and/or Manchester United on the last day. 

On the plus side, none of our relegations since the end of World War 2 have come when the last match of the season is at home. It has to be between Steve Bruce and the Mackems, doesn’t it?