A collective sigh of relief will have been heard around Newcastle and numerous parts of the country on Wednesday evening following Wigan Athletic’s 3-2 defeat at home to Swansea City, leaving the Latics with a mountain to climb in their Premier League survival bid.
With QPR and Reading’s fate sealed, Roberto Martinez’s men currently occupy the final relegation position, three points adrift of the Magpies, who have a great chance to increase the gap with a win in their penultimate league match at Loftus Road on Sunday.
Wigan’s lapse in midweek will have given United a boost amid an abysmal run of form that has seen them pick up just one win from their last seven league games, including 3-0 and 6-0 whitewashes at home to Sunderland and Liverpool respectively.
The season certainly hasn’t panned out quite how many Newcastle fans would have expected after their excellent campaign last year in which they managed to finish in fifth place, four points shy of the top four – a stark contrast to the relegation battle in which they’re now embroiled.
Of course, the same can be said for QPR, who, having seen their Premier League status secured on the final day last year, were looking to kick on this term, particularly having signed a number of high-profile players in the summer.
Instead, it’s been an absolutely disastrous 2012/2013 for the Rs, who have picked up maximum points on just four occasions and have found themselves in the bottom three for almost the entire campaign as a return to the Championship in August awaits them.
They head into the weekend without a win in their last seven outings, five of which ended in defeat in what has been a limp end to the campaign, and one chairman Tony Fernandes will have learnt a harsh lesson from.
Harry Redknapp’s men are priced as outsiders to collect the win in their final home match of the season at 21/10, with the draw at 12/5, while just a second success on the road for the visitors – a result that could prove vital in their bid to beat the drop – is available at 5/4.
If recent meetings between the two sides are anything to go by, we shouldn’t expect a thriller in west London as just five goals have been scored in the last five encounters, three of which ended in narrow 1-0 victories for the Magpies (the other two finished 1-1 and 0-0).
QPR’s 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal last weekend, in which Theo Walcott scored inside the first minute, was their fourth successive match without a goal and their 15th blank this season, unsurprisingly leaving them as the league’s lowest scorers with just 29 goals.
Newcastle’s goalless draw away at West Ham was their second successive match without notching, so backing under 1.5 goals this weekend is worth considering at 5/2, particularly as this bet would have paid out in four of the last five meetings between the clubs, while a safer play is under 2.5 goals at 87/100.
No player for either side has managed double figures in terms of league goals this season, with Papiss Cisse leading the way on eight, so backing against both teams to score at 11/10, as was the case in Newcastle’s narrow one-goal success back in December, could prove fruitful.
With the importance of this match significantly different for both clubs, and given the fact that QPR haven’t beaten their visitors in their last seven matches, an away win with under 2.5 goals looks a great bet at 17/4.
Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Newcastle to win a game of three or fewer goals would return a cool £85.
And such a result would almost certainly maintain the Magpies’ top-flight status and allow them to consign the memory of a difficult campaign to the dustbin.