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Rafas run in

Long gone are the days of European football for the traveling toon army, and beloved heroes and icons like Keegan (above who currently features in The Ultimate European Knight –  William Hill’s tribute to the best of Europe’s elite over the years) have been pushed aside by the hierarchy.

Now we’re left with yet another relegation run in, albeit with a world class manager at the helm and a trip back to his former club this weekend, is it too late for Rafa to turn it around and make it yet another great escape for the club in recent years

If he does and hangs around we could well see a return to further up the table and trips abroad but for now the run down begins..

Liverpool (away) – Saturday, April 23

Traditionally, Anfield is a ground that Newcastle get absolutely nothing from. But all is not well on Merseyside, where Jurgen Klopp has found a squad singularly unsuited to the type of football he wants.

I’m still not convinced that United will end their long wait for a win at Anfield but a precious point would be enough to send Newcastle into the final three games with their tails up and a bit of belief that they can preserve their Premier League status. Again, it all depends on whether Rafa has conjured up a formula to look a bit more convincing on their travels.

Crystal Palace (home) – Saturday, April 30

Alan Pardew’s first game back at St James’ Park is going to be a spicy affair but there might be more riding on it than a desire to put a former manager for whom their is little love lost on Tyneside in his place.

United will need something from this one and while Palace have matchwinners and look dangerous on their day – Yohan Cabaye, Emmanuel Adebayor and Yannick Bolasie are fine players, for example – Newcastle will hope for something.

There is always a shock in the run-in and this might be the day when things don’t go their way at home, though.

Villa (away) – Saturday, May 7

Here is the opportunity. Newcastle probably need two away wins from their final games to be sure and the trip to Villa – where they have plenty of history to correct – should be the one where they lay to rest the ghosts of 2008/9.

Villa will be playing with the freedom of the condemned but Newcastle should have too much for them – provided Rafa has found that way to unlock his team on their travels, that is.

Spurs (home) – Saturday, May 15

By this point, there could be plenty in play for both sides. If Spurs are fighting for the title – and that’s a big if, because they have a history of dissolving long before the pressure gets too high – then they will come to St James’ Park full of hope.

This is Newcastle’s hardest home game remaining. None of last season’s top four have to come to United and it is at home where they are going to be able to secure their safety. But on this day, I think they’ll fall.

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