Mark Lawrenson has forecast Newcastle United will be in a relegation battle this year, writing in his latest BBC Premier League predictions column.
The former Liverpool defender made the depressing prediction for Magpies fans ahead of their clash at Manchester United on Sunday (7pm).
Lawrenson thinks it will a be 2-0 home win for the Red Devils – but that wasn’t the only damning verdict he handed to Steve Bruce’s side.
Lawrenson: Newcastle ‘only team they can catch’
He said: “Newcastle are the team everyone in the bottom three thinks they can catch.
“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.”
Relegation rat race
Newcastle go into the weekend just six points above the drop zone.
However, it’s a bold statement to say Newcastle are the only club in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle.
Brighton and Hove Albion are only a point above the Toon, followed by Burnley (two), and Crystal Palace and Southampton (four).
If we’re picking out teams from that pack, Southampton’s form is most concerning.
The Saints have lost their last six league fixtures, including the 9-0 humiliation by Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Palace have only won once in their past six outings, inevitably against Newcastle at St James’ Park earlier this month.
Burnley and Brighton’s situation looks more positive for their fans. In particular the Seagulls, who remain undefeated in six league games.
However, despite Lawrenson’s upsetting prophecy, only one of the three clubs below Newcastle are gaining ground on them.
Fulham have picked up four points from their last two games, gradually cutting the gap to six points. However, West Bromwich Albion are still 12 points behind the Magpies, while Sheffield United lag by 14.
After the severe test coming up at Old Trafford, Newcastle’s fixture list looks much easier on the eye.
After hosting Wolverhampton Wanderers they travel to West Brom to take on another struggling Black Country side.
A tough test against Aston Villa at St James’ Park is followed by another ‘six-pointer’ – at one of Lawrenson’s former sides, Brighton.
Nine points from those games would certainly make Lawrenson’s words look a tad premature. And wouldn’t Newcastle fans just love it?
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