Newcastle United should have one eye on vulnerable Spurs' fifth place

Make no mistake, after a season battling an injury crisis like no other, finishing sixth in the Premier League would be a major achievement for Eddie Howe and Newcastle United.

The Magpies are currently locked in a three-way battle for a Europa League spot with Chelsea and Manchester United with just three games of the season to go. It's very much in Newcastle's hands too, with Howe's men two points ahead of their two rivals - and with a game against Manchester United at Old Trafford to come.

After a campaign which has seen all sorts of difficulties thrown into Howe's path - injuries, Sandro Tonali's ban and FFP constrictions meaning they were unable to act in the January transfer window - finishing in the top six should go down as an impressive feat. But while we're rightly concerned with the battle for sixth, have we taken our eye off an even bigger prize?

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The odds may be against it, but on current form there is no reason why Newcastle should not be targetting fifth place. Tottenham's chances of making the top four have all-but disappeared as Ange Postecoglou's side have suffered a big dip in form at exactly the wrong time.

A maximum return in their final three games would see Newcastle hit the 65-point mark - and with Spurs currently on 60 that means they would need two wins to guarantee fifth. However they have won just two of their last eight Premier League games - against Luton Town and Nottingham Forest - as the North London club have seen their season disentegrate.

Newcastle dismantled Postecoglou's men 4-0 at St James' Park last month, and they have suffered defeats to Chelsea, Liverpool and arch-rivals Arsenal in recent weeks, with title-chasing Manchester City still to play. On the flipside, their other two remaining games are against already-relegated Sheffield United and Saturday's home tie with a Burnley side battling for survival, and fresh from a 4-1 defeat to United.

Tottenham have kept just one Premier League clean sheet in 2024 and while they have had injuries - who hasn't? - they have lost their momentum at the worst time of the campaign.

Of course to stand any real chance of catching Spurs, Newcastle must win their remaining three games, starting against Brighton at St James' Park this Saturday. Win that and next Wednesday's 'six-pointer' against Manchester United at Old Trafford and sixth will be theirs for the taking.

Chelsea have hit form too, and with Forest, Brighton and Bournemouth to play, could be Newcastle's biggest worry, but if they take care of their own fixtures then Howe and Co need not worry about the sides behind them.

Catching Spurs may still be a long shot, but Newcastle have given themselves a strong chance, and that alone is another reason for optimism for next season.