Newcastle v Portsmouth, Premier League, April 27, 2009
Alan Shearerâ€™s arrival at St Jamesâ€™ Park was supposed to provide the catalyst for Newcastle to avoid the dreaded drop to the Championship.
After three games, Shearer appears to be going the same way as a number of former false Messiahs at Newcastle and the nightmare is dawning that the club will spend next season in the Championship. (Newcastle are 8/11 to be relegated.)
The former Toon number nine has overseen defeats to Chelsea and Spurs with a point sandwiched in between at Stoke thanks to Andrew Carrollâ€™s late header. Shearer now faces a daunting task to keep his beloved club in the Premier League and the remaining home games have been targeted as a springboard for a â€œGreat Escape.â€
Most worrying of all, Shearerâ€™s sides have appeared to be a little lopsided with a number of players playing out of position. Last week at White Hart Lane Newcastle started with a 3-5-2 and then switched to a 4-4-2 before looking most dangerous when they had three strikers on the pitch towards the end of the game.
The triumvirate of Obafemi Martins (6/4 to score), Michael Owen (6/5 to score) and Mark Viduka were credited with keeping Newcastle up under Kevin Keegan last season and if Shearer is going to take a gamble this seems the most likely solution.
Such is Newcastleâ€™s current form (without a win since early February at West Brom) combined with their beleaguered league position that there is an air of desperation about this match. They simply have to win (the Toon are 10/11 to win) and the three points is all that matter.
Judging by Portsmouthâ€™s performance at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, a committed Newcastle side could get the points they desperately need. Pompeyâ€™s players didnâ€™t look like a team determined to beat the drop and the fact they are on 37 points may have lulled their players into a false sense of security.
Without exaggeration, this is Newcastleâ€™s biggest game of the season the remaining home games against Pompey, Middlesbrough and Fulham have to generate nine points since away games at Liverpool and Aston Villa are likely to see two defeats.
The Toon Army will no doubt play their part and Shearer, after last week, will likely keep it simple, it is time for some pampered well-paid footballers to produce the goods or they will be playing Championship football next season.
101predicts: Newcastle 2 – Portsmouth 1 (15/2)
Full match odds here.